Fabric Dyeing Resources

on May 6 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 8 Comments

Guess what?! We’re celebrating our sixth year anniversary at Sew,Mama,Sew! on May 7th! Six years of beautiful fabric and excellent customer service… Six years of fun tutorials and community building for sewists around the world. Thanks for growing with us!

Candy from Candied Fabrics has done a whole series of fun, informative posts for us lately. Here’s her introduction, and here’s information on the Organic Prepared for Dyeing (PFD) Fabric Test she ran in conjunction with our new line of 100% Organic Cotton Solids from Robert Kaufman. She followed the test up with the comprehensive Primary Tints: A Beginning Fabric Dyeing Tutorial; Candy makes the whole dyeing process look easy and fun!

Today Candy is back with a roundup of Fabric Dyeing Resources, so everything you need to know is just a click away:

I’m here to wrap up my little series on fabric dyeing here at Sew,Mama,Sew! (Part 1, Part 2) with a roundup of fabric dyeing resources on the internet. Before I do that, I’d love to share some questions/comments I received on my beginning fabric dyeing tutorial and my responses to them, because if one person writes it, who knows how many more people had the same thought and didn’t comment?:

Questions + Answers:

    • Laurel asks: “…Is the 30 minute soak in warm water enough to preshrink the material?”
      Laurel, the soaking at the beginning is just to make sure the fiber is wet all the through. All the shrinking will take place at the end, when the fabric is dried!
    • Erica shares: “You can also use Kool Aid (unsweetened) and vinegar. Great to do with kids.”
      Erica, sorry, but Kool Aid and vinegar (plus heat) will only dye proteins (wool and silk). When you use Kool Aid with cotton, all you’re doing is staining the fabric; the colors will not be intense and will wash out over time. If you mix up the dye powders into solutions beforehand, you can very successfully help even very young kids dye t-shirts, etc. I’ve done this with my kids’ classrooms every year since my 13 year old was in daycare! (Here’s a picture of the results from a couple of years ago. It’s a lot of fun and the kids will years later tell me how they loved their shirt they dyed with me.)

  • Celeste chimes in with: “This is wonderful information. I’ve always used urea to make up my dye stocks. I guess that this is unnecessary with your method described here. I cannot wait for summer to come so we can dye outside.”
    Celeste, I know, I used to use urea too, but have found it to be completely unnecessary! There are many ways to dye, and most people learn one method and then modify it. Sometimes, something that is necessary in one dyeing method becomes superfluous in another. Each dyeing protocol you come upon works for that particular person, but there is more than one to “dye a cat!” Urea has two functions in dyeing with Procion MX fiber reactive dyes. First, it helps dissolve the dye powders, but because I use a blender to do this, the physical action I get from the blender blades dissolves the dyes very effectively without urea. Secondly, it acts as a “humectant” keeping the fiber moist for longer, because the chemical reaction of the dye binding to the fiber only occurs when there is water in the fiber. If I were painting with the dye on a single layer of stretched fabric in a cool area, I would want to extend the “batching” time (the time when the fiber is moist and the dye is reacting with the cotton) and using urea in this instance would be called for. But as my fabric sits all crumpled up in a container the fiber doesn’t dry out so, again, the urea was unnecessary.

Resources:

  • Dyers List: How did I learn all that about urea? From a wonderful list-serve I’ve belonged to for 11 years now, the Dyers List. Waaaaaay back, when the internet was a baby, we didn’t have pretty sites filled with pictures, but we did have list serves: People subscribing to receive emails from a group where a particular topic was discussed. I have no idea how I discovered this group, but it is an invaluable resource. You can ask really esoteric questions about something dye related and, guaranteed, someone will have already thought about it, experimented, and is willing to share their info, thoughts and results with you. There is an extensive archive, where you can search for answers to questions like you have that have been asked before. After joining the group, it’s probably best to start there. If you can’t find your answers in the archives though, send your question in and you’ll probably have a few different answers before the day is out!
  • Complex Cloth + Jane Dunnewold: Another list serve that is a bit broader than specifically fabric dyeing is the Complex Cloth list. This group is inspired by the work of the spectacular textile artist Jane Dunnewold who wrote the book Complex Cloth which combines fabric dyeing with other surface design elements like silk screening, mono printing, discharge and over dyeing, to name a few. This group is a great place to discuss these techniques, and Jane’s site has a some fabric dyeing how-to’s, as well as some incredibly beautiful art cloth!
  • Paula Burch: The website that is the “go-to” for me nowadays, is the one written and maintained by Paula Burch. She’s been adding to her website since the 1990’s, there is so much info there! She now also has a Facebook page. Paula is an incredible generous woman who shares information with so many people; I’d love to meet her in person some day.
  • Dharma Trading and ProChemical & Dye: For lots of elementary dyeing technique information, you need go no further than the sites of the two major companies that sell dyes and accessories in the small amounts we need; Dharma Trading and ProChemical & Dye. They both have many project sheets on how to use all of their products.
  • Worldwide Buying Resources: For those folks not in the United States that want to buy dyes, Paula Burch has an extensive listing of online sites located in other countries to save on shipping, etc.
  • Vicki Welsh + Brenda Gael Smith: Two bloggers who share a lot about their fabric dyeing techniques are Vicki Welsh and Brenda Gael Smith.

    Brenda’s work.

    Brenda and Vicki also make lots of gorgeous quilts with their hand dyed fabrics as well.

  • Melody Johnson + Caryl Bryer Fallert: And speaking of gorgeous quilts made with hand dyed fabrics, I can NOT write a post without mentioning Melody Johnson and Caryl Bryer Fallert. These ladies were my introduction to art quilts, with their stunning, multi-award winning quilts in the late 1980’s and ‘90’s all done with their own hand dyed fabrics. Their seminal work showed me that quilters can have their own distinctive style, and using a palette of color you create yourself is one large aspect of that. I’ve worked for years to achieve my own style, and I’d like to think that my ability to dye my own fabric for my own specific purposes has helped me towards that goal.

Some of Candy’s fabrics.

I hope you have enjoyed a peek into the mind of a fabric dyer… The sites I’ve shared with you have both incredible eye candy and, more importantly, lots of fabulous information. What are you waiting for?!

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8 Responses to Fabric Dyeing Resources

  1. Brenda says:

    Is tie dye coming back? I’ve been hearing a lot about it lately.

  2. Basteta says:

    I got everything I needed for the “doodle” pillow from Dharma Trading. This is a great resource. Saving theses tutorials for later, thanks Candy!

    Reminder: Be careful to NOT dye things that shouldn’t be dyed. Like garage floors. Long story, many hours of clean up.

  3. Cheryl says:

    What a great post! I’m ready to dive in and start, something that has been on my to-do list. Thanks so much for the list of resources, I know they will come in handy!

  4. Laine says:

    Thanks Candy for the great posts here! I’ve been following you for a while and have gained such valuable information and ideas.

  5. Vicki says:

    Excellent tutorial! I just finished my first dye batch with just 2 gradations for each color. I did a purple, green and orange/coral as well. Some of the pieces turned out splotchy with the color not very evenly distributed, so I’ll have to figure out what I did wrong. Overall, I’m very pleased and ready for another try. Thanks so much!

  6. Candy says:

    Seanna: yup, I started with the 3 primaries. That’s one of the reasons I wrote the tutorial I did; you can do soooo much with those 3 dyes, I recommend starting with those!

  7. Seanna Lea says:

    I’ve contemplated going to ProChem and I even used to get the catalog. When you were starting, did you just buy one or two die colors? When I was painting, I was told that to start I only needed to buy 3 or 4 colors of paint and I was wondering if die was similar in that fashion.

  8. thank you Candy for all your great advice. it’s a wonderful thing you do, bringing color to our world! And happy birthday and happy mother’s day to SMS, the mother of all sewing blogs!! I’ve learned so much from you and all your followers.

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