Ice dye vest top

digital print ice dye top

I used to do a lot of dress making for myself, then quilting took over and I haven’t done anything for years. With my recent interest in fabric design for digital printing I was inspired to get my patterns out and make something again with this cotton knit material that started life as an ice dyed fabric.

ice dyeing

I photographed the finished fabric and then manipulated it in Photoshop so that I had a mirrored image that I could use for a repeat pattern. I then had this digitally printed by Spoonflower on an organic cotton knit. I haven’t done much sewing with knits so I chose a simple pattern, but I still had to adapt it so that I could the arms and neckline using a knit binding instead of a traditional bias binding that the pattern called for. I was able to watch a class on Craftsy to help with this: “Sewing fashion knits” by Linda Lee.

 

I got out my old Janome overlocker which again I haven’t used for years and was delighted to find that it worked perfectly.

I made bound armholes and neckline following the directions in Linda’s class and found these gave a really nice finish. The soft colours of the print look great with jeans, although I think it’s look great with something white too. Now I’ve done this I am keen to experiment with more of my iced dyed fabrics and maybe even some of my hand dyes too. If anyone wants to make their own version of this top or anything else for that matter the fabric design is available in my Spoonflower shop in a wide range of different fabrics http://www.spoonflower.com/profiles/anne_renata

digital print ice dye top

 

 

Ice Dyeing

This last week I have been experimenting with ice dyeing. It’s not the most obvious thing to be doing in the tropics but a good supply of ice cubes and crushed ice instead of snow works very well.

Ice dyed fabric

Ice dyed fabric

There’s a good tutorial on ice dyeing on the Dharma Trading website and I used this as my guide. Basically the ice covered fabric needs to sit on a rack in a container where the liquid from the melted ice and dye can drain away. I looked around to see what I could use and found that some old flower pots in the garden were ideal and some round, metal kitchen racks were the prefect fit to go inside the pot.

fabric arranged on a rack in the pot.

fabric pre-soaked in soda ash is arranged on a rack in the pot.

The pot is deep enough to allow a good layer of ice to cover all the fabric. I found that a mixture of ice cubes and crushed ice worked very well and didn’t melt too quickly.

the fabric layered in the pot and covered in a mix of ice cubes and crushed ice.

the fabric layered in the pot and covered in a mix of ice cubes and crushed ice.

On top of this I sprinkled the powdered dye. I use Procion MX fabric dyes for all my dyeing, and when applying the dye to the surface of the ice using a small nylon sieve helps give a more even distribution of colour. Using more than one colour gives a more interesting effect, but I found that some colours worked much better than others and you need to make sure to add enough dye powder to give the fabric a good colour.

a mix of blue and golden yellow dyes

a mix of blue and golden yellow dyes

red, fuchsia and gold dyes, looks good enough to eat!

red, fuchsia and gold dyes, looks good enough to eat!

I left these to sit overnight to allow all the ice to melt. Here I used a colander suspended over a pot and this also worked well.

The last traces of ice slowly melting

The last traces of ice slowly melting

I left the fabric to sit overnight until all of the ice had melted. Then comes the fun of seeing how the fabrics have turned out.

The results are unpredictable and beautiful as the dyes blend and mingle almost like watercolours to create delicate and subtle colour variations.

reds, pinks and yellow

reds, pinks and yellow

darks greens and blue

darks greens and blue

To avoid having white or very pale colour in the background you can also use a piece of fabric that has already been dyed. These fabrics will be wonderful for art quilts, appliqué, or even some contemporary patchwork or quilting design and I can’t wait to use them.

Beautiful greens

Beautiful greens

more hand dyes

A spent a few days last week dyeing fabrics as some of my stock of certain colours was starting to get low. I tend to use more greens in my work than anything else and I always need dark greens for backgrounds and borders and bright, vibrant greens for foliage. These fabrics are often very hard to find in commercial fabrics and sometimes I will dye a piece of fabric several times to get just the colour and texture I want.

some of my recently dyed greens

some of my recently dyed greens

I also like to use dark blue-blacks for backgrounds and borders and these too have a much more interesting depth of colour to them after a couple of dyes. Paler colours are also great for backgrounds.

dark blue and greysLately I’ve been using more reds, oranges and golds which are great for sunset scenes or vibrant tropical flowers, and look striking on a dark background. When I have done the Festival of Quilts in the UK my greens are always the first to get snapped up, but here in Brunei  people seem to love these bright colours. Maybe it’s the tropical climate.

These vibrant oranges and reds are great for sunsets or tropical flowers.

These vibrant oranges and reds are great for sunsets or tropical flowers.

In my last batch of dyeing I also did some paler pinks and purples which are also lovely for flower appliqué. They make me think of delicate wild flowers in the Spring time.

pastel pinks and purples

Flying Home

It has been an awful long time since I updated my blog but one of my new year’s resolutions for 2016 is to try and write more regularly, so here goes with my first post for 2016.

I recently tried out a new technique using up scraps of leftover hand dyed fabrics. They were just thin strips which I would normally have thrown away. I laid them out and fused them onto a piece of backing fabric. As the fabric scraps I had were oranges, golds and reds I created a sunset sky and then as I liked the effect I added dark blues for sea.

narrow fabric strips laid out on background

Like this there were a lot of raw edges exposed so next came the fun part. I got out a selection of various threads: rayon, polyester, cotton, some plain some variegated and of different weights too and free motion stitched across the surface. The stitching helps to blend the colours.

free motion stitching on background using a variety of threads The scene needed something else so I added the silhouette of an egret which I’d photographed on the beach a few weeks ago and created a pattern using #EQ7.

silhouette of egret on stitched background Finally a layer of batting and backing and more free motion stitching and a narrow binding to finish off the project.

Egret flying home across the south China sea

Flying Home

Isle of Wight landscapes

While I was at The Festival of Quilts last year I was impressed by the beautiful landscape quilts by Kathleen Matthews. I bought her book “Stitched Textile Landscapes” but it is only now, six months later that I have had a  go at trying out her techniques, and this is what I came up with, inspired by some photos taken on the Isle of Wight when I was back there a couple of years ago.

This is the place where I was born and grew up so it has many fond memories for me.

My inspiration photo and a selection of my hand dyed fabrics for the background. The pieces were first pinned and then stitched in place, quite a fiddly job with all the small pieces.

The background assembled and stitched in place. It looks quite plain at this stage although already you get the feeling of depth. The fun part comes with the free motion stitching which really brings the design to life.

I used mostly rayon threads for the free motion embroidery, but a few cotton and polyester threads too, depending on what colours I needed for the look I wanted.

I was really pleased with the way this turned out so I decided to try another one based on another Isle of Wight photo. This time the view from Forelands beach where I used to live, looking across to Whitecliff Bay and Culver Down. I used to look out on this every day and have always wanted to make something inspired by this view.

The first stages before the thread embellishment. I didn’t have any hand dyed fabric the right colour for the sea but found a piece of piece of cloth I painted years ago which was just perfect.

The finished piece. I think there might have to be a series of these as I’m really enjoying making them and I have heaps of photos for inspiration and it makes quite a nice change to be doing work inspired by a different location, although this technique would probably work for some of my rain forest designs too.

If at first you don’t succeed ……

Sometimes when you’re dyeing fabric the colours don’t always come out quite as you expect or as you want them to. The good thing is that almost always you can dye them again. Earlier in the year I was experimenting trying to get some good, rich chestnut browns but ended up with some very uninspiring dull oranges instead. Last week I decided to try over-dyeing these fabrics using dark brown, black or dark blue and ended up with these lovely autumnal pieces.

Just perfect for autumn leaves.

In my most recent batch of dyeing I was also experimenting with some yellow and blue combinations for foliage effects. For some reason the blue I used was very weak and completely washed out leaving me with a lot of bright yellow fabrics. I over-dyed these with a muted green and some black and got some gorgeous textured prints, which are going to be just perfect for backgrounds.

Artful Fabric Dyeing

Since I first started dyeing my own fabric as part of my City and Guilds course and discovering that it is something I love doing, I have dyed many, many yards of fabric, bought numerous books and done several online courses, but recently I haven’t been so happy with the results. It seems that every single person who writes about dyeing or does a class has a different method and dye recipe. The consequence is that I seem to have got confused trying all the different methods and am no longer sure what works best for me. There are so many variables when it comes to mixing the dyes, what quantity to use, how long to leave them how much water to use etc. and there is a huge variation between the different methods.

I find Linda Johansen’s Fabric Dyer’s Dictionary is useful when I want to dye a specific colour for something and sometimes I want fabrics without too much texture and colour variation, but I was looking for something that would give a bit more exciting results for other projects. Ann Johnston’s “Color by Accident” is another good book but I was still looking for a slightly different and more intuitive approach.

At the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham this year, I bought yet another book on dyeing in the hope that it might help me with my dilemma, “Tray Dyeing” by Leslie Morgan and Claire Benn. I found the book inspiring and I liked the fact that they approach the subject as artists rather than scientists, giving plenty of directions but also encouraging one to experiment.

I just mixed several colours to start as I wanted to see how these would turn out before dyeing a lot of fabric. I used golden yellow, a medium blue, turquoise and a little black, and made use of cheap local calico which I’d prewashed.

They recommend leaving a minimum of four hours and even better overnight, so as I was impatient to see the results I only left them to sit for four hours before rinsing. Straight away I could see that the fabrics looked very promising and I liked most of the results.

Golden yellow on its own.

Blue and turquoise.

Golden yellow and blue

Golden yellow and back.

The good thing about dyeing is that you can always overdue something that doesn’t turn out too well. I had a pale lemon yellow from a gradation I did which was a bit insipid, adding golden yellow really gave it some zing!

This yellow and blue also turned out well.

Now to go and buy some more fabric and try out some more combinations, and of course if you don’t like the results first time you can always dye them again.

“Tumbling Birds” – The finished quilt

After several months and many, many hours of work my “Birds and Flowers” quilt is finally finished and hopefully on its way to Birmingham (or maybe even already there).

Virtually all the applique was done with Aurifil 50 wt cotton thread and I used the same for the quilting. I actually did this part quite quickly because I when I first started to quilt the design it wasn’t looking so good with lumps and bumps all over the place so I wanted to get it finished and smooth again.

Before the quilting was done I also added some hand embroidery to make the stems for the little pink flowers.

Also to add a bit of interest to the larger leaves.

And hand dyed cotton thread on the tail feathers.

A section of the finished quilt. 

 Another section of the quilt showing some of the embroidery detail.

 

Jungle Leaves

I recently signed up for a Craftsy class with Gloria Loughman called “Linear Landscape Quilts”. It’s  a really good class and the first sections on choosing colour schemes and fabric painting are almost a class on their own. To make her “linear landscapes” she uses two layers of fabric and a clever raw edge applique technique which reveals slithers of the underneath fabric to create the effect of contours. The landscape she created is very appealing but as I watched the video I realized that this technique could be adapted for things other than landscapes so I decided to try it out on one of my own designs.

My inspiration was this jungle plant which grows in the Sarawak rain forest and has beautiful curved and ribbed leaves.

My first piece is a close up study of these leaves using some of my hand dyed fabrics.

I was happy with the way that this first piece turned out so I decided to try it on a larger design using the complete leaves.

I used a bright green for the base, with a darker green for the main part of the leaf, and made three pieces like this. It’s  time consuming but very effective.

Birds and Flowers stitched

After many hours work I have finally finished machine stitching all the bird and flower applique. Here are a few photos showing some details.

I used mostly Aurfil 50wt thread for the applique as I wanted something subtle that wouldn’t stand out too much but blend with my hand dyed fabrics.

Detail of some of the flowers. The next step will be hand embroidery to add stems and detail to some of the leaves and the tail feathers.