In case you've been living in a convent for the last 20 years and haven't heard of this, let me recap the technique. You soda-soak multiple pieces of plain white fabric (or I suppose you could use previously dyed or even commercially printed fabrics, if you wanted) and mix up as many colors of dye as you'd like. I ended up with eleven pieces of cotton muslin and I used eight dye colors: yellow, orange, red, a couple of blues, purple and then a couple of greens.
Once your fabric is prepared with mordant (I use mine wet but you could do this with dry fabrics, too), you wad up one piece of fabric, stuff it into the bottom of a large jar- I stole one of my "sun tea" jars from the kitchen, although I obviously won't ever make tea in it again- and pour the first dye color on top of it.Then you wad up the next piece of fabric, stuff it in the jar and pour the next color on top. I started with the lightest colors first and worked my way through to the darkest hued colors like the blues and purple. You continue on this way layering fabrics and dyes until the jar is full. Cap the jar and let it batch overnight.
I was going to let my fabrics sit for a few days to batch, but I'll be honest... when I saw the next day that it looked like the dye had turned black in the jar, I freaked out a little, and began the rinse-out right away. I needn't have been so scared. The results were spectacular and remind me of images I've seen taken by the Hubble Space Telescope! These are some of my favorites.
The complex patterning I achieved, as well as the amazing color combinations made me think that I might never want to dye fabrics with any other method.
I have no idea what I'll do with these fabrics... it seems a shame to either use them as backgrounds and have most of their beauty covered up, or worse, cut them up and lose the detail of the patterning and color shifting. I wonder... if I framed them as is and called them art, would anyone believe me?
As for re-imagining, remember this piece?
The idea I had originally was that I wanted to recreate the two paper pieces in the above photo in fabric so that I could stitch them onto the background pictured.
I worked a large piece of fabric nearly to death, adding stamping, batiking, dyeing and overdyeing until I achieved an almost exact match for the colors of the square spiral elements. I figured at that point that I would mask off spiral motifs on the new piece of fabric and then use an olive green fabric paint to achieve the deeper green background that surrounds the spirals.
And then I foolishly, out of curiosity, laid the paper pieces on top of the new fabric and suddenly, I no longer wanted to place this on it's original quilt top.
They just look too much like they belonged together, don't they? So now I'm stumped and will have to re-imagine this piece. Do I go with my original plan, batik and overpaint this piece, trim it to size and add it to the original quilt top? Or do I blaze forward with the design above and actually stitch the paper pieces directly to it? I'm not sure, yet.
On other fronts, the AC unit is almost installed in the garage, and the attic has been insulated above it. Now to get the garage door installed (delayed three weeks at the factory because I want windows installed in it), the garage rewired and the sink put in.
Also, some folks have been asking me about my commission piece. I can't show you anything but I can tell you that in the beginning, my client and I were thinking about one large piece in the bedroom but we've since decided instead on five long, narrow pieces for the front entry hallway. And now that I've seen how spectacular the jar dyeing was, I may just modify that technique and use it to dye these five pieces.
The sun is finally shining and I have to go get in it!