Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fabric Dyeing: Under Penny's Tutelage

jill here.... On a very recent road trip to Galesburg, Illinois I met up with our Funquilters (more currently named Quilters By Design).  Most of these quilters are Chicago based but Penny, Knox College retired professor, was willing to share her fabric dyeing talents. Initially, we showed our newest projects with lively discussion and of course, there was delicious food!  What fun to have the love and support of this shared quilting adventure.  It's always interesting to hear other's opinions on how to solve design/quilting dilemmas;  years of experience pays off with the buddy system.  Great food for thought and not a calorie consumed!  Later in the afternoon, we began our dyeing instruction.

First off, we had to choose two or three colors .  There were four of us dyeing so the process potential bordered on a colorful circus.  Penny reigned us in, remained calm and offered us direction.

Largely influenced by a Carol Soderlund  workshop.
 Penny maintains notebooks with the recipes.
Mary Beth displays a swatch book :
this is one of three color reference guides
with the codes to create the colors. 
A page from the guide..
Janis contemplating color possibilities.
This is not an easy decision!

That's the perfect one!

After nourishment, we moved to the basement "wet studio". To help the process along, Penny soaked the laundered fabric in soda ash;  this changes the ph of the fibers to better accept the dye.

Sharon contemplates a bucket of soda ash.

Jill saving the soda ash solution for another day.

Penny begins the mixing.  It's a very accurate process
based on weight (the dye) and volume (the liquid) in
relationship to the amount of fabric being dyed. 

This is truly a test of math and science....
two of those subjects many of us try to avoid.
If high school had only used it in this context!

The application begins...

The massage is important for over all saturation!

Janis smiling through the 15 minute massage.
Her arms and hands had a workout with the indigo.

Sharon chose a slightly different process.  Penny assists folding
the extra large backing fabric.  

On top of the plastic covered ping pong table, they begin
pleating the fabric.  This will create vertical striations.

The fabric is scrunched to a manageable size (well, sort of).

Sharon began the dye application , starting with the blue.
She added a green and a teal to complete this design.
The coverage will have variation and bleeding of the analogous colors,
based on the folds and saturation.

The covered fabrics remained in their baths overnight.  In the morning, Penny rinsed the fabrics in preparation for the final cleansing.

The utility sink proves invaluable to these messy experiments.

Looks like it worked!

All the multicolored fabrics were rinsed and laundered together.
A small amount of liquid detergent was added to the
final wash/ rinse.
Once the fabric was slightly damp dried,  we operated
Penny's mangle.  A blast from my past, this creature
pressed it all in less than a minute.  Who said our mothers
weren't efficient?  

Sharon's whole cloth quilt!  TA DA!

Clothes line beauty in idyllic Galesburg.

Goddesses of beauty! 

Thanks, Penny for another addictive adventure!


  1. That looks like a lot of fun! I'm glad I don't have the space for a dirty project like that, or I would be addicted for sure!

  2. So that's how it is done! Thank you for sharing your colorful adventure!


We really love hearing from you! All comments are being moderated due to inappropriate comments being posted. We will attempt to post your comments in a timely fashion.