slideshowGarnet.jpgslideshowSapphire AndGold.jpgslideshowAmethyst.jpgslideshowPearl.jpgslideshowEmerald.jpgslideshowCarnelian.jpg
  • Creating Color

    It’s that time of year to dye fabric – for me and half the other quilters of the world. Many of us seem to blog about it too; here’s my version.

    I started dyeing my own fabric several years ago and have made adjustments to my method over time. When I first learned to dye I used fat-quarter yards of fabric in 20 oz. solo cups, and the low-water immersion method. It’s a good introduction to dyeing, but what I learned over the winter months when using the fabrics is that a ¼ yard of any given color often isn’t enough when you get into making a quilt of good size. The following year I dyed a minimum of ½ yard cuts and now my minimum is one yard of any color and up to two yards. Now when I dye a fabulous color and / or come up with an excellent design idea I have enough fabric to execute it.

    (Side note: I'm thinking these colorful panels would make a really cool surround to the patio table!)

    Skinny Yards

    I cut (or should I say “tore”) my one-yard pieces differently this time. I call them “skinny yards” (compare to fat quarters). I took two-yard long pieces of fabric and tore them down the center lengthwise to produce 2 one-yard pieces measuring ~22” wide X ~72” long. The reason for this is so I’ll have enough length for borders without seaming.Multicolor1_blog_creating_color

    Written Recipes

    Every year as I work I meticulously write down my dye recipes and how many yards I made. Sometimes I even go back in to make notes on the results, especially if I like something. The following year when I go to dye again, do you think I can remember or replicate what I did? Uhhhmmmm . . . . . . no. If I dyed more often I might better remember what I did the last time, but I really only do about two sessions per year. Dyeing is a summer sport.

    This year in addition to writing my recipes in a notebook I took the time to write the recipe notes on the selvedge of each piece. I can tear off the selvedges and have both a visual and written record of my colors.

    From Kona to Pimatex

    This year I decided to make a complete switch from using Kona cotton to using Pimatex to make my quilts. I’ve used both in the past and have a variety of colors and yardages of each. When I first started out I used Kona cotton, which I still think is a decent fabric. It’s good quality with a nice soft hand. Pimatex has a higher thread count and tighter weave. I think it’s a step up in overall quality and now that I’m creating better work I want what I consider a more sophisticated quality fabric to execute it. In addition, I don’t want to mix the two fabrics together in one quilt so I need to dye myself a good selection of colors in the Pimatex.



    Another change I made was to use larger bins for dyeing my one-yard pieces. I’ve used the large self-sealing plastic bag method and it works quite well. The fabric comes out with a mottled appearance, which I like, but is not what I wanted this time. I wanted these colors to be more evenly distributed throughout. There is still some vague mottling and variation in these fabrics but overall a much more even distribution of dye.




    This dyeing session I set out to create a full spectrum color palette in a range of values. I want saturated deep colors and also medium values and light tints.

    Some medium values; I need to go even lighter

    I also set my sights on creating shades of grays. For some reason I have it in my head to incorporate more gray in my work – maybe because it helps to set off the color? I don’t know.

    It took a few tries for me to get bold enough to use a very diluted dye bath to get the light tint that I want. In the process I accumulated a good value range, so that is a plus.

    My final batch of gray tints came closest to what I was going for. I found the largest plastic storage containers I could find around the house (as in, I dumped out everything that was currently neatly organized inside of them) and was able to minimally fold the one-yard pieces for better overall, even coverage. I also took extra time to refold the fabric and agitate the containers to give the fabric a good bath.


    NewBlack3_blog_creating_color BetterBlack_blog_creating_color
    (L) 'New Black' in 3 gradations - the final tint was even and just what I was looking for
    (R) 'Better Black' in 2 shades - the light tint is a beautiful steel gray with even coverage

    The first couple of pieces were done in smaller tubs. You can see that the colors in the dye mixture kind of separated. It gives an interesting look and I'm sure to be using these. The results of the final tints were really close to what I had envisioned – close enough to keep me happy!


    So, all in all, a number of changes were made. All of these decisions were made with a specific quilt idea in mind. Now that I have a varied supply of Pimatex colors I’m eager to start cutting and stitching and implementing my ideas. I will most likely assess my palette a do some more fabric dyeing to fill in any gaps.

    Until next time -


  • The Ambivalent Blogger

    ambivalent, adj. having conflicting feelings about something (e.g. simultaneously attracted and repelled) or characterized by or expressing such feelings

    That's me, the ambivalent blogger. I love reading other blogs (attracted) yet not so excited about writing my own (repelled). I think it's largely due to the fact that it takes me way too long to get a post done. I don't have the knack that some others seem to have for quickly writing pithy comments, post a couple of pictures and be done with it. I write, then think, then edit, then take forever to resize and upload some photos. All the time thinking, "I could be in the studio making something" and worse, "What a dork I am."  Maybe if I did it more often I would get the whole system down. I know I'm "supposed" to blog as part of a scheme to get my art and my name out there. I get it, and I'm trying to do all those "supposed to do" things, but really, I'd rather be in my studio.

    Actually, I have been in my studio and here is what I've been doing. I've been obsessively making these tiny aprons as part of a developing series on Women's Work. I have a couple of hundred made by now and it's hard to fathom how long it really takes to make so many. So I just keep plugging away because my concept involves lots and lots of these.

    Apron_layout_detail Apron_Bundles

    Each apron symbolizes all the mundane tasks that have traditionally been relegated to women. It started out as a complaint of sorts, but as I have been working along it has transformed to also encompass an expression of homage. I note my feelings of ambivalence on this topic too. It's complicated (what isn't?) and eventually I suppose I will need to write a whole artist's statement about it.

    As expected this post has taken me quite awhile and my day is slipping through my fingers. I'm going to go set up to do some painting with thickened dyes - backgrounds for some aprons.

    Until next time -


  • Dyeing Day Follow Up

    At last - my results from last week's dyeing day. It takes me awhile, what can I say?

    All my dyed fabric sat overnight "batching". It's always fun after rinsing to get the big reveal. I was particularly eager to unwrap the shibori from the pipes to see what happened.

    Shibori_ready_to_unwrap_July_blog All wrapped up and soaked with dye, it's hard to get any idea of the final result. This is part of the fun!

    Love_my_utility_sink_July_blog This is the utility sink in the basement where I do my sloppy work. I had it installed a couple of years ago and it's one of the best investments I've made. I show it to you just because I still love it so much!

    So, everything is unwrapped, rinsed very briefly in the sink, then put into the washer for a cold rinse. I used to rinse, rinse, rinse by hand, but now I leave the tedious work to my washing machine. After a cold rinse in the machine I run a hot-water wash with synthrapol to remove any unreacted dye particles. Then into the dryer, and ........... TA DA!

    Dyed_fabric_ready_to_iron_July_blog The fabric is ready to press. This part is fun too because I get to fondle the fabric and really see the final results. And here are the final results.

    Shibori_sample_group_July_blog This is a grouping of the shibori pieces. They are overlapped for the picture, but are all 3 to 4 times larger than shown. I was extremely pleased with the results. Some were tied with a heavy twine and some with a very small gauge string and that makes a difference in the pattern achieved. I tied the first one or two in a more straight and controlled fashion. After that I really gave the fabric a twist as I wrapped and that gave a much more random and interesting line. The blues have a look of reflective water that is quite beautiful. I really love them all! These first time samples are small; next time I plan to dye larger pieces.

    Green_gradations_July_blog Terra_cotta_gradation_July_blog

    Here are the two gradated sets I dyed. The green is made by combining cobalt blue with deep yellow. I made an 8-stage gradation, but by the time you get to the lighter tints there is so little difference that it hardly seems worth it. I might just do six next time. The terra cotta was a real mash-up of dyes. Half way through I added some more orange which changes things (for the better, I think). Of course, that is not scientific at all, but this was a fun dyeing day, not science class!

    So there you have it. Spending a day dyeing fabric is always fun and time well spent. It adds new colors to my fabric palette that are ready to use when inspiration strikes. Susan's work that day was quite different from what I did. Check out Susan's blog to see her final results, and as always I owe her my gratitude for getting me going, teaching me a new technique, generously sharing tools and materials and always being a supportive collaborator!

    Until next time -



  • Dyeing Day

    This week I got together with my friend Susan to do some fabric dyeing. I've been in somewhat of a studio slump lately so a fun day of messing around with fabric dyes was just the kick I needed! I had a bunch of dyes already mixed up and stored in my fridge so I took those, along with my other supplies. All I forgot was my fabric! Good thing we live close by one another, I was able to run home for the pile of fabric I had presorted the night before.

    Susan is always miles ahead of me in trying out new dyeing and surface design techniques and best of all she likes to share her knowledge. This week she showed me a shibori wrapping technique that I've been wanting to try. I think it will give me a textured look that I can use in my next Split Circles quilt. For my wrapped pieces I used some fabric that I had dyed previously as my base fabric.

    Preparing_the_wrap_blog_copy All_wrapped_up_blog_copy Soda_soaking_blog_copy

    Using perforated PVC pipe, I wrapped and tied a half dozen pieces of various colors. Then they went into a bucket of soda ash solution to prepare them for dyeing.

    Ready_to_dye_blog_copyHere they are, ready to go. The colors I used to overdye were generally in the same color family as the original fabric, e.g. cobalt blue over sky blue, maroon brown over golden yellow. Once these were overdyed I wrapped them in plastic to 'batch' overnight.

    From there I decided to make some color gradations. Once again, Susan to my aid! She has all the recipes memorized so she took me through it. I did an 8-stage green gradation first because you can never have too much green. Then I mixed my own version of terra cotta, and after that randomly dyed some extra pieces of fabric. Here are all the mixes soaking and then quickly wrung out to transport home for rinsing at another time.

    My_Gradations_blog_copy Waiting_for_a_rinse_blog_copy

    Susan had her own plan for the day, working on some fabrics she had previously dyed and mono-printed. Check out Susan's blog to see all the interesting results she came up with. Did I mention that we did this outdoors on one of the hottest days on record? Cool Both of us were too hot and exhausted to rinse and wash that night. I'll post my finished results next time. I will say that unwrapping the shibori is one of the most exciting parts of the process!

    Until next time -


Copyright © 2017 Martha Hall Textile Art Login