Monday, July 13, 2009

Gradation Dyeing, Because It's Fun!





This week's dyeing experiments have gone very smoothly and it's only Monday. I hope that bodes well for the rest of the week. Is there anything prettier than puddles of brightly colored fabrics in their little containers, waiting to be washed and dried?

These Procion MX dyes I’ve been working with are spectacularly vivid and beautiful. Every time I pull another piece of fabric out of the washing machine and shake it out to examine it, I am in awe of the dramatic effects one can achieve.

Yesterday and today, I followed along with a book published by C & T Publishing called “Fast, Fun & Easy Fabric Dyeing: Create Colorful Fabric for Quilts, Crafts & Wearables.” The book was written by Lynn Koolish, an incredibly talented textile artist who encourages the very thing I’ve been doing: experimenting with quantities, fabrics, and various compression techniques. The book is easy to follow and keeps the process from becoming too scary. And so far, there hasn’t been a question I’ve asked myself that wasn’t answered by this book.

Taking a lesson from Ms. Koolish (and adapting it slightly), I did a 2-color, 6-step “mostly solid” color gradation. I started with bleached white muslin and essentially blended one color into another on six different pieces of fabric. (Buy the book to learn the technique; you won’t be sorry, I promise.) Yesterday I got the fabrics into their dye baths and allowed them to batch overnight, and today was dedicated to rinsing and washing everything and then, of course, hanging it all on the line to dry.



For my first attempt, I chose Magenta and Lemon Yellow as my starting colors, hoping to blend them into a vibrant orange. I’m very happy to report that it worked perfectly; I am fond of all of the pieces I finished today, but particularly of the mid-range colors, as they reached a tone and brightness I’ve been trying to achieve in fabric for a while.



As you can see in the photo, each piece looks remarkably as if it was tie-dyed, the result of being scrunched into a small container to batch set. This effect varied from piece to piece, with some showing strong "tie-dying" and others showing less. I absolutely love the way the dyes split to reveal not only both of my starting colors, but the full range of colors in between magenta and yellow.

I also dyed one large scrap of the muslin with some of last week’s left over green dye, and another with yesterday’s left over magenta/yellow dye, blended together. Again, I found it fascinating in this piece how, despite carefully mixing both the magenta and the lemon yellow solutions together in one container before pouring it onto my fabric, the dyes still manage to break apart from one another and strut their stuff as individual colors.





Can you tell how completely absorbing this process is for me? These days I am really feeling grateful for my previous experience with mixing colors because if I’d had to learn both the technical side of dyeing and the lessons needed to understand how colors will behave with one another, I might be pulling my hair out right now. Still, if you’re a newcomer to color-mixing, there are a million excellent sites on the web designed to help you better understand it, as well as those, like DickBlick, that offer color recipes for MX dyes. Personally, I’m taking notes and keeping records like mad.

Later in the week, I’ll be trying dye thickening and painting. I’ve been reading about using 100% aloe gel as a substitute thickener for sodium alginate, so I’ll give that a spin on some PFD wholecloth.

Also, don’t forget to comment here to be entered in my free fabric and goodies give-away!

Happy creating!
- Judi

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