A Wall Quilt to Dye For!

I have been working for a while on a new applique that I really love.  I’m not ready to tell you what it is quite yet, however I can share some of the steps I am going through to figure out the rest of the quilt.

Sometimes my creative mind just gets ahead of the marketplace.  I have a very clear picture in my mind of how I want this finished quilt to look.  The applique is cut and ready to go, so I know exactly what that looks like.   I know the colors I want to use for the rest of the quilt, and how I want to put them together.  Fantastic, right?  Not so much.  I have been looking for some of the background fabrics, and as far as I can tell, they have not been manufactured yet.  At least they are not for sale in my immediate area.  So I put this quilt aside for a bit, with the hopes that I would stumble upon that perfect fabric somewhere.

Well, I have not found it.  And I really want that quilt soon.  So I gave in and decided to dye fabric.  Now, I have dyed fabric before.  Every time I do, after all is done, I wonder why I dread doing it, and frankly this time was no different.  Now I have the perfect fabric for what I want to do, and again I am wondering why I didn’t just do this to begin with.  That is part of why I am writing this blog…  so I can go back and remind myself that it really is fun!

So here is my system…

Before dying, I cut my fabric into smaller, manageable pieces, and serged the edges before washing.  I do this so that I don’t have a lot of loose threads and fraying.  You could also use pinking shears or a zig zag stitch.  I then wash the fabric with Synthrapol to prepare for dying and dry it in the dryer.  Then, of course, I put on old clothes, just in case, and I cover my table with plastic.  I use some old plastic that I use when painting rooms (which are actually old plastic shower curtain liners we bought years ago) that I use for this.  Rubber gloves are a necessity.  If I am dying something large, I use the heavy ones they sell for doing dishes that come up my arms a ways, so that I can push the fabric deep into the water.

For this project, I was only dying a couple of fat quarter size pieces and a few pieces smaller than that, so disposable gloves like doctors or food handlers wear was sufficient.   I use some sort of tub or plastic container to put my smaller containers in, just to catch any over flow or splatters.  You can see my little pink tub in the picture.  I picked this up at a dollar store for, you guessed it, $1.

Plastic bin with small containers of fabric and dye

For these small pieces, I was using the low immersion style of dying.  This style will give me the patches of the white I was starting with to show that I want.  I used instructions for this found on the Dharma Trading Co. website and Procion MX Fiber Reactive dyes. Click here to see the instructions, as Dharma Trading are THE experts on all things about dye. (This is not an affiliate link!   I just think they are the best!)   I used small yogurt and frosting containers that I keep with my dye for this purpose.

The process

I dip the fabric in a soda ash solution, which will keep indefinitely if sealed.  Don’t store it in a plastic milk jug for long, as it will eat through.  Also, do not store in metal, as you will have a chemical reaction.  Glass containers are great.  Heavy plastic jugs such as vinegar comes in or a heavy plastic container with a tight fitting lid work well.  I use a heavy plastic gallon bucket from a deli with a lid.

In the following pictures you can see the “set-up” (if you can call it that!) and the final product.  Pieces in the dye cups are much darker than the finished pieces.  Once I rinse the excess dye out they will lighten up.  The darker finished pieces were ones that came out with too much white on the first go round.  I dyed them with the same method  again after washing them with Synthrapol and drying them.  I love how they came out!

Scrunched up hand dyed blue and white fabric for sunflower background before washing

Pieces of the hand dyed blue and white fabric after washing and pressing.  This shows all the dye pattern variations

The dye pattern that I think I will use for my next table runner.

Larger pieces of my favorite dye patterns from this batch.

Now that I have my fabric, I had better start sewing!   It is amazing how much more inspired I can become with just the right fabric!

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