Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ombre Dyeing Cotton

There has been unbeknownst to me a new trend in clothing -- those with a gradation of color across one surface of the garment as in a dress that has a bodice that is white on the top going through the greys and being black at the waste. There has been some talk of this on the Dyerslist which is my favorite dye listing.

So, it seemed like the proper thing to document how I do this "ombre" dyeing on cottons. All of the references I found on Google showed how to do it on silks with acid dyes. With acid dyes, if you want the solid colors, you would most likely use a pot on the stove. You can gradate the color by allowing part of the fabric to sit in the dye longer than other parts of the fabric, just holding part out and dipping down to get some color. It is not that difficult to get the gradation. I have also done this with a skein of yarn as well. When doing the yarn, I kept part of the yarn in the original dye bath for the longest and would slowly lower the yarn and add a bit of water as well.

An art quilting friend commissioned me (I really don't do commisions except as a favor to friends) to create a taupey gradated single piece of cotton 45" x 60" inches. First I did a normal gradation to show her a series of colors so that she could pick out the one she liked the best (she bought all those too!). She picked one and I created several cups of dyes in different gradations of the one color. I then pretreated the fabric with soda ash. In this case I didn't use pfd fabric but used a commercial moda white which does have some sort of finish on it. The finish inhibits the dyes from taking quite as quickly (wouldn't be good if you wanted a really dark gradation as it doesn't dye with the intensity of the pfd cottons). I also painted the whole piece of fabric with a print paste mixture. This will also inhibit the dyes from taking quite as quickly. I then started painting the fabric with those large Japanese brushes you can get from Dharma Trading as they hold lots of dye. I painted as rapidly as I could from light to dark so there would not be too much of a line. I then let it sit for about 8 hours at 70 degrees and washed it out.

I currently have another "commission" outstanding to do this with two colors -- also pale. This time I will probably use the direct dyeing technique of mixing the soda ash with the dyes at the time I am applying them. This recipe is 4:1 bicarbonate of soda to soda ash. I hope this will slow down the process a bit more.

This is the final piece that was done with the fabric I dyed. The quilt is called Swamp Angel and was done by quilt artist Caren Betlinski. You can see all the ribbons it won in our local quilt show! It also was accepted into Paducah AQS show the following year. She used all my hand dyes in this piece and then did extensive thread painting which is her signature style. I always get a big kick out of seeing my fabrics in the various artworks of my friends. When I was selling from a shop a few years ago, occasionally I would see people with a quilt with fabric that I recognized as mine and that would give me a big kick as well!

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