Overdyeing Silk

Dyeing things gives me such a rush. It feels like magic, and also like haha! I got what I wanted for next to nothing!

A sewing friend who was moving away (a long time ago now) gave me some silk (crepe de chine?) from her fabric stash. Silk! I’ve never sewed with silk before. But I was stumped. The colors are all very, very pale, and I just couldn’t imagine myself wearing them. Paleness tends to wash me out. Months later I had a brainflash. What if I dyed the silk? But silk. Silk! It took me a long time to work up my nerve.

Finally, months after that, I started with a small piece and used the old Easter egg/ Kool Aid dye technique.

Initially I was going to try some embroidery or resist or something to give it some more interest, but then decided to keep it simple. I ended up really liking the color. Warning, though—-this was German Easter egg dye. PAAS will work the same, but I find their colors to be a bit, well, Easter eggy—whereas this green was nice and grassy. You can always mix your PAAS or Kool-Aid colors to get something a bit more nuanced. I think there are even tutorials out there on mixing Kool-Aid colors—-usually with regards to yarn dyeing.

On to silk batch #2. I was a little bolder this time with several larger pieces of pale blue, and decided for an indigo color using two shades of Deka fabric dye.

I didn’t use a full load of dye, but the fabric didn’t take the color as deeply as I’d expected. The blue I ended up with was beautiful but dried a good bit lighter than I wanted:

I really liked the mottled effect I got in this first dye job:

I dyed it one more time to get a deeper color. It doesn’t show up quite true in this photo (below), but I really like the way it turned out–it’s just a tiny bit deeper than the middle tone. The mottled effect is gone, though. I’m planning to make another Anda dress out of the fabric. Wish me luck! My most recent sewing projects have not been going very well.

For tips on overdyeing, check out this previous post.  For more of my adventures in fiber art, click here.

Overdyed Pashmina Shawl

This was a fairly simple and oh-so-satisfying project. I bought the pashmina (silk and cashmere) for a few dollars at a thrift store and used it as a sort of throw in my son’s room when he was a baby. It was just the right color at the time, but after it outlived its usefulness, I felt obligated to wear it.

The problem was, it just wasn’t my color, so I never did. It seemed too luxurious to get rid of, so finally I decided to overdye it. I had to choose a color that was in the same vein but deeper. This coral color (Deka calls it “Hibiscus”) seemed just right, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. The color is very slightly uneven, but to me that’s just part of the charm of hand-dyeing.

I have to confess, though, that I’m still a little lost as to how to wear a pashmina shawl—maybe I should look for an online tute? The beading is also a little fancy for my taste. I could remove it, but that feels a little drastic. In the meantime, the shawl is keeping me warm at home.

For tips on overdyeing, see my post How to Overdye. If you’re in the US, I recommend dharma trading for supplies and directions. Remember: only try this with natural fibers, and please not with anything precious, because you never know what your results will be.

I threw in a few other things while the dye was ready, including this tablecloth from the thrift store here:

You may remember it from this earlier post. I love the dipped-in-Kool-Aid look it has here—so much more interesting than the brown on white. I’m planning to make some travel sacks for my daughter to pack her shoes and dirty laundry in. This always seems to be an issue when we travel, and it’s nice to have something handy and cute to use.

Speaking of fiber arts, the haiku sweater is off the needles (woowoo!) and Amy Karol had this great post on knitting attitudes the other day. And by the way she seems to have found a similar cookie thing like ours (where you can print letters) at Williams Sonoma. She’s a much more patient mommy than I am because she let the kids do a bajillion different words. I’m inspired.

Also, regarding fiber arts, I was totally happy to see the return of annekata. She had quit blogging for awhile, but she’s back!

Candy Rainbow Patchwork-In-Progress

You may remember seeing the fabrics for this patchwork here. I’m calling it the Candy Rainbow for now because the colors are so bright and sweet they remind me of a collection of Jolly Ranchers. It’s fitting, because the duvet cover is for my daughter (7), who loves candy better than just about anything.

The inspiration came from a couple of places. First, from this one, which needed a sister. I wanted it to be different and feminine but using many of the same fabrics. My daughter really wanted some florals and some pink, so I incorporated those. The florals are new fabrics, and the pink is scraps from a dress I made for her. The darkest orange is left over from an infant shopping cart cover that never worked, and the rest of the fabrics are scraps from commercial and self-dyed/ batiked crib sheets.

Second inspiration: Malka’s strips and bricks baby quilt. I love the simple shapes here. There’s something really satisfying about it, and the colors match the vibe my daughter wanted. By the way, Malka has this pattern for sale here if you want it.

So our loose design is a riff on these ideas. At first my daughter was totally adamant that there be no white, but she’s relented a bit and seems willing to let me put in some white bands. I just thought we needed a bit of a breather from all that saturated color.

I’m sewing these strips together to make the full width of the bed (queen-size). Then I’ll be cutting the sewn strips different lengths, separating them by bands of white.

As usual, the project changes shape as I work on it. I was thinking of going in this direction:

But then I didn’t really like the way the “stacks” seem to float in the design.

Little Miss and I agreed on something more like this:

I like the way the strips in this version are beginning to look like books on a shelf.

I had a really good writing week last week and got all excited. This week has been a bit tougher. Currently reading Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.

Hand-Dyed Patchwork Duvet Cover

It’s finished! The duvet cover I started lo these many months ago is now on my son’s bed. His bed is a bunk, though, very difficult to photograph, so this bed had to stand in.

This duvet cover started out life as my son’s cribsheets, which I hand-dyed and batiked. Also thrown in are scraps from curtains I made for his room and the pieces from a failed attempt at a shopping cart cover and leftovers from his baby sling. For more information about how this cover was made, check out these posts: this one on the batik, this one on his original room, this one about the design for the bed cover, and here and here about the patchwork process.

I’m really excited with how it turned out. It just glows. The little man really likes it, too.

Here’s another view.

And below, a couple of detail shots:

On to other duvet covers for the rest of the family!

FYI I recently joined Pinterest, a social networking site where you can “pin” images from the web into an account so you can look at your favorite things together in one place. Other people can see them, too, so if you’re interested in seeing what I’ve pinned, click here. I seem fixated on quilts lately, so that’s most of what you’ll see. Be forewarned, if you’re addicted to beautiful images, like I am, it’s a bit of a dangerous site.

How to Overdye

I did this project a long time ago, but I thought of it recently after seeing this blog post about overdyed rugs. I made these curtains when I was first living in Boston. I moved there with no job, no furniture, and very little money. If you missed the post with paintings of my apartment there, check it out.

Cash was short, and fabric stores were really hard to get to for someone relying on public transportation, so I started sewing with things I found at the thrift store.

For some reason, I can’t remember why, I was determined to have red curtains for our living room. So determined the curtains be red that I dyed sheets and stitched curtains out of them by hand because I had no machine. Well, we did have some crazy boy neighbors who had a gigantic telescope which they swore they weren’t using to spy on us.

Anyway, tips on overdyeing.

1) Start with natural fibers in a pale color, or discharge first

These sheets/ curtains are 100% cotton and were originally a peachy color. You can also start with a deeper color and opt to soak your fabric in a bleach solution to remove the original color. This is called discharging. If you’re going that route, you’ll be better off with a fabric that is still fairly new, as the bleach will weaken the fibers a good bit. And I wouldn’t try discharging fabric for a heavy-wear item, such as a handbag, or something that will need a lot of washing, because again, the fabric will be more fragile.

2) Select dye color carefully

Remember that the color you start with, however pale, will influence the dye color, and the result will be different from what you’d get from dyeing plain white fabric. You’re layering color. A basic knowledge of the color wheel is useful here.

As a general rule of thumb, overdyeing is going to work better if the original color is in the same color family as the dye color. For example, my peachy sheets and the red dye color are both warm colors. Had I chosen to dye them blue, the peach would have tempered that blue, making it a little muddy. Not necessarily a bad thing, but a little unpredictable.

3) Follow dye instructions

Skip grocery store dye, which fades and bleeds a lot when you wash, and use procion dyes like those found at dharmatrading. For more even color, soak the item in clear water first before dipping it into the dye.

4) Have open-ended expectations

This is not an exact science. Chances are, your end product will not look the way you pictured it, and it’s best if you’re okay with that from the beginning. Also, don’t dye something precious. That’s why thrift store-finds are a perfect choice here. If it doesn’t turn out, you don’t get your heart broken.

For more reading about dyeing:

Read my earlier posts about getting started with dyes here (animal fibers) and here (plant fibers). Also check out these posts from ohfransson: discharging here and overdyeing here.

Wish I knew what to do with these old curtains. I can’t toss them, but I don’t really have much of a red thing going on in our current place. The vintage cream floral fabric came from a garage sale in Contoocook, VT, the same place where I got the braided rug “kit.”

It’s been a slow week creatively. I limped through a little writing and inched along on my son’s bedcover (almost finished!), but it took everything out of me just to keep the kids clean, fed, homeworked, and back and forth to school and home. Still, I have to keep in mind that even limping and inching are moving toward my goals. Have a great weekend. It’s sunny here and above freezing, which means spring fever is visiting us once again.

Frühlingsfieber/ Patchwork Sneak Peek

Give me a couple of days of sunshiny, above-freezing weather, and I’m delirious with Fruehlingsfieber (spring fever). I’m superstitious even as I write this that Jack Frost is reading and will surely punish me for hoping spring is really on its way. I know the sunshine can’t last, but if gray weather will teach you anything (and actually, I think it can teach a lot, more on that some other time) it’s to make hay while the sun shines. Go out! Enjoy it! This is what the Germans do and so am I.

I’m also feeling the creative sap flowing. Recently I’ve been getting deeper and deeper back into my YA novel and motoring through chapters as fast as I can, trying not to look back and overpolish before I’ve got a complete draft. It’s a totally new way of working for me, and I have to ask myself why I never tried it before. I guess I just wasn’t ready.

Meanwhile I’m getting further and further along on the self-dyed patchwork I started awhile back. I’m so excited about the way it’s coming together. Hope I can share it in full soon. It’s for my son (3) and he’s loving it, which is just the best.

Above is a little peak from the back. Do you notice those finished edges? I realized since it wasn’t going to be quilted that I needed to do something to keep it from fraying. So I’m zigzagging every last little seam. Yep. Crazy, isn’t it? But somehow so satisfying. Aren’t you proud of me for being such a stickler?

A few more random updates:

  • just finished The Hunger Games trilogy. Whew! What a ride! I can’t believe it took me so long to pick them up. Although, it’s kind of nice to be able to read the whole trilogy at once rather than wait for a year or so in between installments. This isn’t my “normal” favorite type of read, but these were way way awesome, very fine writing in addition to the exciting plotlines. They were also progressively engrossing. By the second half of the third novel the world just sort of fell away, dinner went uncooked, children made messes.
  • just discovered a new-to-me design-y/ crafty/ arty blog with a good sense of humor that I’m really enjoying: aesthetic outburst. Thanks go to Meg of elsie marley for the hot tip.
  • oh, um, in case you were trying to reach any of those links on my “projects” or “writing exercise” pages, they have now been fixed. Gotta tell me when these things are messed up, okay?
  • enjoyed this opinion piece by Mark Bittman in the NY Times re: the new dietary guidelines. It’s called “Is ‘Eat Real Food’ Unthinkable?”

Getting Started with Dyes, Part II: Plant Fibers

 

In my last installment on dyeing I wrote about animal fibers. Today, it’s plant fibers.

Plant fibers include cotton and linen. Synthetics generally don’t take dye all that well, at least not when I’ve tried them, so I tend to stay away from them. If your fabric has a small synthetic content, that’s okay, but anything above 25% I would avoid.

The best dyes I’ve found for plant fibers are what are called procion dyes. These are available at dharma trading, where I’ve gotten a lot of dye materials. They have reasonable prices and lots of information on their website.

I used to use grocery store dyes, but I got tired of the lackluster hues, the constant fading, and the lack of color range. With procion dyes, once you dye your fabric, it stays dyed, with no worrying about washing it with other items. There are a million colors to choose from, and the colors just glow. I think you can also use procion dyes on animal fibers, but I haven’t tried that.

The image above is of a patchwork made of self-dyed and commercial fabric (the fabric I dyed is the teal and the lighter orange). And good news! I should have some more to share on that project soon. It’s coming together.

I did a post on faux batik with procion dyes here. Another project with hand-dyed fabrics: my washcloth hand puppets.

Malka Dubrawsky has a wonderful book on dyes and batik called Color Your Cloth. She also has a very inspiring blog, and she sells her hand-dyed and batiked fabrics and other creations on etsy. Her stuff is very modern and cool.

Another book worth checking out (I discovered it through Malka’s blog) is Surface Design for Fabric by Proctor and Lew. It’s out of print but available used through online outlets. I bought mine through half.com. It’s like a textbook for fabric decoration: dyeing, tie-dyeing, batik, printing. You name it, it’s got it.

Yet another book with information about dyeing and other techniques is Textile Arts: Multicultural Traditions by Margo Singer and Mary Spyrou. This book is an overview of several textile techniques, including batik and tie-dye, with sample project instructions for each technique. I used to check this one out over and over again at the county library when I was a teenager, and now I own it.

This should get you going. I recommend starting with one or two colors to get your bearings first. And as always, dye with an open mind. You never know what your end product will look like exactly, and that’s part of the fun.