Gradated Fabric Dying
by: Kathy Somers
Dying your own gradated fabric medleys opens up many varied design possibilities and presents wonderful new opportunities for depth effects in your quilting. Dying is actually quite simple and fun, even for beginners. The following procedure will dye up to eight yards of fabric in eight equal lengths.
First, you will need some tools and materials and first on the list is buckets. You will need eight 5 gallon buckets. I use 5 gallon pickle buckets from a friend who owns a deli and he was glad to get rid of them. Paint is also often sold to contractors in these, as well as joint compound, so it would be a good idea to contact construction firms in your area, as well. Most are only too happy to dispose of these easily. For each batch, you will also need:
|Procion fiber-reactive dye
|4 cups of uniodized salt (plain common salt)
|1 cup of soda ash (sodium carbonate, available from dye and swimming pool suppliers) -- can also use twice the amount of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda in a pinch
|4-8 yards of white, non-permanent press, 100% cotton muslin fabric
|measuring spoons and cups (Tablespoon, teaspoon, one cup and four cup)
|dust mask, rubber gloves and old clothes
|newspaper or plastic sheet to protect floor
|stick for stirring
Wash your fabric first in hot water and detergent (no bleach) to remove any finish. Leave damp and cut or tear into 8 equal pieces.
Put one gallon of warm water in each bucket. Each bucket should have the same temperature water in it (about 95 degrees). Stir 1/2 cup of salt into each bucket until dissolved.
Determine the correct amount of dye powder. Generally, it is twice the amount that would give you the darkest shade of your progression. Some recipes are listed here (T.= Tablespoon, t.= teaspoon):
Being careful not to breathe the dust, measure the correct amount of dye powder into a small amount of warm water in a container that holds four cups. Stir till dissolved. Add more warm water to make two cups.
Measure out and pour one cup of the dye mix into the first bucket. You should have exactly one cup of the dye mix left. To this, add one cup of warm water to bring the level back up to two cups and stir.
Pour one cup of the diluted mix into the second bucket. Again, add one cup of water to bring the dye mix back up to two cups. Repeat in this manner, measuring very carefully each time. Notice that the dye mix is becoming increasingly diluted. When you have added dye to all eight buckets, you will have one cup of very dilute dye mix left. Discard this.
Stir all eight buckets and add the fabric, placing one equal length in each bucket. Stir to distribute fabric in the bucket, making sure that there are no air bubbles.
Stir every ten minutes to redistribute the fabric and keep the dye from settling.
After thirty minutes, add eight Tablespoons of soda ash to four cups of hot water and stir to dissolve. Pour one cup of this into each of the first four buckets and stir. Repeat with the second four buckets. This will set the dye. Continue to stir the buckets every ten minutes for an hour longer.
After 90 minutes of dying, remove the fabrics from the dye baths, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Rinse each separately in warm water several times to remove most of the excess dye and squeeze again. The water should almost run clear. Take care that the darker fabrics do not come into contact with the lighter fabrics.
To complete the process, machine wash fabrics in a long, hot cycle, using detergent. Dry fabrics in the dryer, iron, fold and the fabric is ready to use.
There are many ways to use your new fabrics. You can use them to add depth to a background or to add three dimensional effects to the shapes in your quilts. Try fading the background (negative space) of the entire quilt from the center out or from side to side. Use three shades to add dimension to shapes such as Baby's Blocks. One effect that works well is to fade the background from left to right and the block design itself from right to left. The contrast seems to disappear in the center, but it adds interesting depth to both sides as the contrast increases.
Another way is to shade sections of each block to give the impressions of depth to your work:
[Pattern: Cotton Candy Baskets]
One rule of thumb is that the lighter shades will seem to advance towards you while the darker shades will seem to recede. Now that you are not paying though the nose for gradated fabric, you can afford to experiment...
For further information, contact:
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