Jo, one of our members, told us that as a seamstress, she wanted to learn to dye as a means of changing the colour of a fabric without changing the texture, in the way that using acrylics or bonding does.She also wanted the choice of colour range that is not available commercially, so she set about finding a quick and easy way of dyeing fabric herself.
The first piece she showed us was one she made not long after joining the Guild three years ago, and came about as a result of the Chairman's "Stitch-a-Month" Challenge. The idea was to put the 12 stitch samples into a book, however Jo decided that she would make them into a hanging.
She dyed the pieces of fabric that she was stitching onto, as well as the background fabric, which you can see is made of many strips of different fabric stitched together.
Jo got the rusty effect on her fabric by tying it round a scaffolding pole - not, as someone said to me later, by walking twenty miles to a rocky outcrop to find a horse-shoe nail sticking out of an ancient gatepost, which is fine, but not that practical when you have other things going on in your life, as Jo did while she was making this piece.
Jo told us that she had chosen red and purple as her background colours because she needed to get strength from them as she was going through a difficult time.
As Jo said, she wanted to find an easy way of dyeing, with a big colour range, so she chose to use...Dylon dyes!
She buys them from the cheapest place she can find (usually Boyes - there's one in Brighouse) and decants them into cheap secure containers. She can then use as little or as much as she wants, saving what is left for future use.
Jo prepares the fabric for dyeing by washing it, in case any stiffening has been added in the manufacturing process. She then puts it in a bowl of hot salty water. Hot water opens the fibres and lets in the salt, which is a fixing agent.
She puts the dye into about 100ml of salt water which is just off the boil, adds the fabric and agitates it, then leaving it in a bowl or plastic freezer bag (let the water cool first!) for between 2 hours and overnight, agitating them occasionally. To finish the process, Jo rinses the fabric, washes it, and then rinses it again. It is quite colourfast but she wouldn't offer us any guarantees!
She demonstrated that different fabrics take in more or less dye depending on their natural fibre content, with cottons taking dye in more successfully than fabrics rich in polyester, as can be seen in the picture below.
The result of this is that one dye bath of different fabrics can give a wide range of colours in the same family, which will give a harmonious finish to a piece.
Jo also brought samples of other fabrics she had dyed, using two colours and making several dye baths with different quantities of the two colours in them.
This technique had been used in a stitched collage of a moorland scene using some manipulated fabric.
This sample shows the different effects that can be used by random application of dye.
We all went away re-enthused about dyeing our own fabrics without having to faff about with microwaves, face-masks and urea...