*this post was the second i ever published on this blog--way back in june, 2004. i'm republishing it because today is ella's birthday!--so there is no actual sewing going on here today--but since this is about fabric, technically it is still sewing.
"poor fabrics, what happened? this is so sudden. they seemed fine just yesterday."
i became obsessed with dyEing fabrics several years ago, when i spent two whole days trying to find quilt fabric that wasn't calico/kitty/country feedsack. i turned in desperation to dyEing my own muslin, and after just one session i was HOOKED.
the key was using the right ingredients. RIT is notorious for bleeding and fading--turns out, it isn't the right class of dye for the things most of us are trying to work on. it was the good people at dharma trading company who showed me the light. they set me up with two systems for professional fabric dyEing: one is fiber reactive dyE, and the other was "pigment dyE", a.k.a. paint.
i made several test runs to learn how the products worked, and then i spent a weekend playing. i ended up with enough cool fabrics to finish the quilt i was working on and to make another one too.
most people are intimidated by professional dyes, and i can understand that--there are a few variables that can make things seem sort of complicated. but if you'd like to try your hand at fabric design (known to those who do it as "surface design") you don't need any fancy ingredients or equipment. you can start with just some ordinary paints and any fabric or clothing you have. some examples of the cool effects you can create with just paint are in my fabrics album.
if you use non-fabric paint, you need to add some fabric medium to it so that it won't wash off--you can get fabric medium at most craft and fabric stores. you usually need to heat set paint--you can iron it, which only takes a few minutes, but if you have a big piece to set then throwing it into the dryer is easier. if you use your home dryer, run it on hot for at least an hour (if you use a commercial dryer, you can usually get away with 35-40 minutes).
don't judge your piece until after you've heat set and then rinsed it--the fabric tends to feel stiff until you remove the excess paint.
now, go make a mess!