Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fabric dyeing the easy way

I know spring has officially started, but I’ve still been diddling around with snowflake designs (and truth be told, there are still some Christmas winter decorations lingering around the house), so please forgive the aseasonality of the fabrics shown here.

Some time ago Michael5000 posted on his fabric dyeing experiments, including tie-dyeing on top of white-on-white print fabrics. The white ink resisted the dye, so the printed design popped out on top of the dye work. Seemed pretty cool, so I filed the idea away and it’s been rattling round the back of the brain ever since.

That said, I’m not really one for getting out sloppy buckets of dye—an art teacher once accurately observed that I was “one of those kids who didn’t like to get their hands dirty.” Even in kindergarten I refused to finger-paint, and I suspect the relative cleanliness of quilting contributed to its appeal to me as a craft form. At university, though, I had dyed a sheet set with a packet of washing-machine dye—tidy enough, as long as one remained vigilant against other students popping the machine open in mid-dye. Now that access to my washing machine of choice is limited to other members of the household (most of whom lack opposable thumbs), it’d be even easier…

I’ve been collecting snowflake prints with aqua and turquoise backgrounds for a quilt I’m working on, and I’ve managed to assemble quite a stash of them.


That’s just a snapshot of a few of the fabrics I’ve “catalogued”; I’ve searched far and wide (and raided the Mother’s stash) to accumulate similar prints to broaden the range. The more tones of blue-green there are, the better they’ll all work together (though I’ll probably save the apple-green print and some others for different projects). A few fabrics with lighter backgrounds will help the design I have in mind, but white-on-white wasn’t part of the plan—until I found some cool snowflake prints that reminded me of Michael’s dye job.

white-on-white snowflake prints

So I fired up the washing machine, dropped in a pack of turquoise Jacquard iDye, and turned my fingers a lovely Smurf blue while dissolving the packet—see, I’m not afraid of getting my hands dirty! (But next time, use a paint stirrer or something, clever one.) Then in went the fabric. Despite both fabrics being made by Maywood Studio, the one on the right in the photo above was a little yellower than the other, so I figured they’d come out slightly different shades. And sure enough:

overdyed snowflake print 2

overdyed snowflake print 1

The white ink on the bottom fabric resisted the dye more than the top one, so they don’t really look like they came from the same batch. The dye coverage was fairly even too. And now I’ve got two custom fabrics to add to my snowflake stash—and maybe I’ll have the quilt together in time for next winter.