Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dyeing Cotton Batting

Dyeing day! I cut a Twin-sized piece of bleached cotton batting into 8 large pieces, blanketed the entire kitchen in plastic wrap, and went at it like a little kid with a new set of finger paints!

I created a colorway in greens and yellows:


And another in oranges:



Today I used RIT dyes because I was hoping to decrease my workload a tad. And while I enjoyed it, this process was actually a lot of work for 8 pieces of batting... my hands ache and need a gallon of moisturizer, my back is stiff from leaning over the sink rinsing and rinsing and rinsing. Oh, and did I mention the rinsing?

I first soaked each piece of batting in hot water to open the fibers and after I mixed my colors, I dipped, dripped, poured and squeezed color though each one individually. For the first couple of pieces, I really did try to follow the directions I'd read on the RIT web site but it simply wasn't working for me so finally I just winged it and things picked up right away.

After sloshing the batting around in various colors for a while, I put each one in the microwave- separately- in a disposable plastic container, with its liquid included (do NOT wring fabric out and then nuke it, it could easily catch on fire!), covered it loosely and microwaved it for 1 minute.

When each piece came out of the microwave oven, I rinsed it- a lot! Did I mention that? - in warm water until the water ran clear, then dropped it into the washing machine for a brief run on a gentle cycle. I usually use Synthrapol to clean dyed fabric if I have to wash it (a step I like to avoid if at all possible) but this time I just used a little Tide in each load.

Then they all hung on the line outside for a few hours until the sky started rumbling with thunder.

I ironed them but this step was not really necessary. Also, it did flatten the beautiful nubbly texture of the batting, but I think if I need to get some of that back all I'll have to do is throw it back in the washing machine for a short spin.

The only bad note of the day was when I tried to mix one of my yellows with a navy blue that- as it turns out- had as much red in it as blue. Notice the horrible green mess at the bottom of the pile in the "green/yellow" photo? Yeah... imagine sickly army green with huge spots of blue dye so dark they read as black and you might come close to how ugly this piece of batting is. Really. I might even use it to clean the gutters next weekend- and I bet it improves the color. It's that bad.

But the other seven pieces seem to have come through with attractive, bright colors. The batting itself held up well, too, although some of the pieces that needed more rinsing than others are showing some thin spots. That's ok, this stuff won't be used for construction of a quilt- probably most of it will get cut up and sewn into little appliqués and whatnot.

And speaking of appliqué, yesterday I finally finished a quilt I had started a few months back as part of a class taught by Jane LaFazio, hosted by Joggles.com.

The class was called Art Quilt Explorations and one of the assignments was to create an appliqué animal quilt. Since hummers are some of my favorite creatures ever, it was a natural fit.

However, after I'd fused all the pieces of the bird and grass onto the quilt and started stitching, I realized my skill level with the sewing machine could easily fray the edges, so I stitched what I was comfortable with and then put it aside until the day I felt confident enough to finish it without ruining it.

That day was yesterday! And oh well- I did fray the edges, somewhat. More practice will be necessary there, I guess. But I also trimmed and bound the piece (I used machine-wrapped cording for that), and then fused fabric and a label to the back to cover my messy stitch work. The piece is finally complete and I'm thrilled! It measures a modest 14" x 19" but it's one of the most work-intensive quilts I've done so far (and I guess that's not saying a lot... I only have about 7-8 quilts under my belt, to date).

EDIT: I should have mentioned but failed to (and for that, I sincerely apologize to Dianne Giancola, the RIT dye rep who demo'd the technique!) that this is not a technique I developed myself. I first saw dyed cotton batting when our local PBS station recently aired episode 312-3 of Quilting Arts TV.
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