Category Archives: experiments in dyeing and printing

Ice dyeing

This is something I have been wanting to try for a long time and then I found an online workshop by Lynda Heines which gave me all the information I could possibly need.  The principle requirement is to use  mainly non-pure colours, because the whole idea of ice dyeing is to make the colours split in order to produce the wonderful pattern variations this method produces.

Having soaked the cloth (I used old cotton sheeting) in soda ash, I  pushed the damp cloth along the table top into rough folds, placed it on to something with holes – I used a variety of flat sieves, plastic baskets I punched holes into and foil barbecue trays with holes – using 2 for each dye bath with the lot placed in a bowl or plastic cat litter tray.  I actually dyed two layers of fabric as well, finding that the lower one often dyed a darker colour.  Covered with ice cubes, I then sprinkled on the dry dye, using two or three colours each time.  Covered in plastic it needs to stay in a warmish place for 24 hours.

Top layer, midnight blue, neutral grey (pure), forest green.  (There is rather more green than this photo shows)


Bottom layer, red brown and violet navy:


This is actually my first attempt and I used only warm black:


Bottom layer, red brown, chocolate brown, golden yellow (pure):


Top layer, mustard, orange rust, charcoal, then as I wasn’t satisfied with it, I overdid with golden yellow, red brown, red orange:


This is a piece of muslin.  Bottom layer, mustard, orange rust, over dyed with chocolate brown:


Bottom layer, mustard, orange rust, charcoal:


I also tried some Itajime folding which produced some stunning results.

Square fan fold and small clamped circles, midnight blue, forest green, neutral grey:


Same fold, larger clamped circles, olive green, forest green, charcoal and small quantity lemon yellow (pure):


Cloth first folded diagonally, then into triangles, with a clamped triangle resist.  Teal and bronze:ice-dyeing11

Same as above, but using clothes pegs instead of a resist and clamps:


Fan fold, then triangle fold using pegs.  Midnight blue, forest green, neutral grey:


Diagonal fold, triangle fold, pegs.  Olive green, forest green, charcoal and small amount of lemon yellow.


I also dyed some embroidery yarn which worked really well and two t-shirts which I love:


And this is the one that went in the indigo bath:


Dyeing for quilt making

A catch-up exercise, having found lots of work I haven’t kept a record of on this blog.  Last year I did an online course with Elizabeth Barton on various aspects of dyeing cloth for quilt-making.  I didn’t get round to actually making any quilts, but I was particularly interested in Elizabeth’s methods for arashi dyeing (wrapping fabric around a pole, scrunching up tightly and then dyed.

First we dyed a series of greys to obtain different values:


I got as far as sketching this design for a quilt from a photo I had taken of the old pier in Brighton, but that’s it!



Then came the fun, arashi:





We also did some screen printing:





These are done using a resist, mainly cut pieces of paper.

Printing with leaves and other plant material:



Some of these pieces have found their way into various books and other works.


Indigo dyeing

Ann and I finally got together mid June to set up our indigo vat.  I had spent ages tying, binding, folding pieces of fabric.

This first example is half of a long piece of silk, already knotted, that I had bought at the flea market.  I have a feeling that it might have been a student’s sample piece as, when I came to pull open the knots, they didn’t all have the same amount of tension to them.  However, it makes a lovely scarf.

Shibori scarf

Here the lines have been over stitched and pulled tight, the centre circle stitched and bound.

Stitched and tied cotton

Different sized spider’s webs, each one bound tightly and knotted.

Spider's web

A piece of border anglaise, with the fabric caught up and bound tightly with elastic bands.

Bound with elastic bands

A piece of pale blue Japanese silk, arashi dyed (fabric folded lengthways, wrapped around a pole and compressed).

Arashi silk

A piece of Japanese lining silk, yellow at one end, folded into narrow folds around a piece of rope and tightly bound with string. It came out somewhat paler than I had hoped for, but is still interesting.

silk tied around rope

Cotton fabric previously dyed orange, folded into four lengthways and then into triangles which were wrapped and tied around a pole.

Triangle folds around pole

Itajime : Cotton fabric folded into triangles, clamped with rectangular blocks, two sides only lowered into the dye pot. Not as good as I hoped for, but the snowflake is a very difficult effect to achieve.


This is another pre dyed piece of cotton which I clamped with round blocks.  I am really pleased with the effect here.

Circular blocks

This piece was folded lengthways into four, stitched along the edge in a triangle shape and when the thread was pulled tight, the cloth at the centre was tightly bound. I also left it in the dye pot overnight in error, but am pleased with the density of colour.

Stitched and bound

Soya wax painted over the cloth, rubbed and cracked before dyeing.

Wax crackle.

Woodblock resist prints using soya wax.

Woodblock prints

A potato masher makes a good resist print, but I should have been more careful of the drips.

Potato masher prints

These are just a few of my pieces.  I also dyed a T-shirt which I had tied in mokume style (horizontal lines stitched off set from the previous line, pulled tight), which I love and wear all the time (photo to follow).

Shibori experiments

I’ve been doing some trials of shibori dyeing with Procion dyes, prior to doing some indigo dyeing with Ann.  I have also been researching methods of dyeing before my trip to Japan next month when I intend going to Arimatsu.

I first tried the spiderweb method, pinching and folding the fabric, then wrapping with threads.  It is very difficult to get the circles regular and really close to each other.  The first is on white fabric, using magenta and orange dye.

japanese shibori-9

The second is same colour dyes, but I then overdyed with yellow mixed with a little orange.

japanese shibori-8

The third uses magenta and turquoise dyes over a piece of mid blue previously dyed fabric.

japanese shibori-10

The following attempts the larch pattern, stitching semi-circular shapes across folded panels of fabric and pulling the threads tight.  I obviously didn’t pull the threads tight enough, as there should be more white showing with a better defined image.

japanese shibori-7

Here, the fabric is folded again and straight stitches sewn over the fold.  Again, not enough definition.

japanese shibori-6

In the following two pieces, the fabric was folded into triangles and wrapped around a pole for dyeing.  I’m really pleased with these.

japanese shibori-4

japanese shibori-5

Here I folded the fabric into strips, wrapped it around a length of fat cord and tied it tightly. The first is on cotton, the second on silk.  These have worked well too.

japanese shibori-12

japanese shibori-1

Finally, I experimented with Itajime.  This was just a piece of scrap cotton which was folded once lengthways and then into triangles, clamped with rectangular blocks.

japanese shibori-11

The following were done on Japanese paper, clamped with triangular blocks.

japanese shibori-2

japanese shibori-3

The pattern you obtain depends on which areas you put in the dye.  I can’t quite achieve the snowflake pattern which is so beautiful, but I’m hoping my trip to Japan will improve my execution.

Experiments with disperse dyes

I’ve been doing some experiments with disperse dyes after seeing a video from Linda Kemshall.  I have previously used clingfilm on wet painted paper to get wonderful crinkly patterns, but Linda wanted to take this on to fabric by using the same technique with disperse dyes, pushing it further by using eucalyptus leaves laid on top of the wet paper before covering with cling film.

The following are my own results, using Evolon as my synthetic fabric to print on to.

Eucalyptus dance



The central piece is the print, surrounded by panels of leaf printed cotton fabric.

The following are cards I made from further prints:



I backed each print with some lightweight interfacing before stitching with metallic thread and then stitched the panel on to the card.


Plant dyes

I have become more and more interested in trying out plant dyes, particularly as I have so many possibilities growing in the garden.  There were a couple of old red cabbages that had bolted, so having researched the web and found references to making bundles (thanks especially to Wendy Feldberg), this is how I decided to proceed.  All bundles were first soaked in a 20-25 % vinegar solution, then steamed for a couple of hours. turning the bundle over half way through.   I unwrapped them the following day.  I know some people leave them for much longer – I should experiment, but am impatient by nature!

Bundle one: Red cabbage leaves, including green ones up the stem,  2 calendula flowers, loose black tea leaves around rusted tongs.

4 pieces of fabric, from inner to outer: medium weight silk:


thin old sheeting: (the red marks bottom right are from a previous bit of printing)


silk organza:


silk, with some matted pieces of wire wool (already rusted) between these two last layers:


I used some knobbly wool and cotton string to bind the bundles, which you can really see in this last piece.  I neutralised the rust with baking soda solution,  but there is quite a patina on this last piece, so I am not sure what will happen.   I think the almost black colours come from the combination of rust and tea.

Bundle two : cabbage leaves, spent daffodil flowers,  pinch of black tea rolled and bound around a copper pipe.

Inner layer, silk.  The effect is much more subtle, but the colours are beautiful:


Outer layer was a thick curtain cotton that didn’t work very well.

Bundle three: red cabbage, spent daffodils, pinch of black tea, pomegranate skins, around copper pipe:

Inner layer silk:


I did think the pomegranate skins might need to be soaked, but they have left their mark, as well as the subtle blue from the cabbage.

Outer layer thin cotton sheeting:



Bundle four : I decided to over-dye some previously rusted fabrics, eucalyptus leaves on stem, pomegranate skins around copper pipe:

Inner layer small piece of cotton with faint rust marks:


silk organza:


Outer layer, muslin.  This is a part of it only:


Wools used for tying bundles: top round the iron tongs, bottom for the copper bundles.







adventures in dyeing and printing


February 25th

I’ve been experimenting with shibori dyeing – so far using two methods – either folding fabric lengthways and then twisting around a pole, or tacking a line of stitch and slipping the resulting pocket over a bottle, pushing down the fabric to give tight folds.


I also brushed hot soya wax onto the bottle one, then used a brush to apply Procion dyes.

The first image below is the twisted rope method on fine calico, lemon yellow, golden yellow, turquoise, medium blue.  the second is the waxed method on old sheeting, probably a mix of linen and cotton sheeting which was a pale green in colour. Same colour of dyes.



On this next one which again was the waxed method, I was left with a lot of white areas I didn’t like, so I overdyed in the appropriate areas with golden yellow and later added some flour paste which I crackled and painted with black acrylic.  Not totally successful.


Twisted rope on cotton, fuchsia and turquoise:


Twisted rope on linen/cotton sheeting,  fuchsia, turquoise and violet navy:


Sleeve over bottle, this time not waxed.  I’m not sure the wax actually  brings anything extra to this method.  fine linen/cotton sheeting:


Twisted cord on rather thick linen sheeting.  Here I twisted too tightly as the dye has not penetrated into the inside areas, leaving a lot of white fabric, golden yellow, bright scarlet, medium blue:


Twisted rope on fine calico, fuchsia, turquoise and violet navy:


Twisted rope on fine calico, bright scarlet and medium blue:

dye 6

Sleeve on bottle, linen/cotton, no wax,  rust orange, golden yellow, mustard and red brown:

Twisted rope on fine calico, same colours as above, but with addition of violet navy:



This was a piece of rather boring pale orange fabric which I overdyed and then applied flour paste to, scratching into it and crackling it once dry:


Towards the end of last year I experimented with screen printing, something I had done when I was about 20 at evening school, but never since.   In addition, I had never heard of breakdown printing, but it intruigued me.  All fabric was soaked in soda ash and dried before printing.

This screen had ferns pressed into the thickened blue  procion dyes on the screen which were removed  when dry and then printed with red:


Dye was allowed to drip down the screen in various colours.  This time I used uncoloured print paste on the dried screen:


Golden yellow was added to the print paste:


I drew circles of coloured print paste on to the screen and printed several times:


Sequin waste and bubble wrap were pressed into the wet screen, removed once dry:


Same screen, but it was breaking down further.  I then added black dye to bubble wrap and pressed this down on the printed fabric:


The print below was made from two screens, both made from thin interfacing.  the first was painted with acrylic paint, just leaving irregular lines for the thickened dye to print through.  The second used bird shapes cut from freezer paper, ironed on to the interfacing, which, once painted,  were peeled away to reveal shapes to which would print.  Both these screens were taped to the silkscreen before printing.


Here, I obtained the opposite effect by ironing bird shapes directly on to the silk screen so they acted as a resist.  I printed the screen with blue print paste over a  yellow breakdown screened fabric.


Grasses were placed on the fabric directly under the screen.  After the first pass of dyed paste they stuck to the frame and could be printed again:


This is part of the sheet I was using as a drop cloth where the dye as created interesting areas to be used for future projects:


I’ve also been doing some rusting.  Here I wrapped the fabric around wire wool, wetted it with vinegar solution and left it for a couple of days.  I then painted over with fabric paint.


This was blue dyed fabric wrapped around rusty mesh:


After rusting I applied acrylic paint to a pressed dill seedhead and printed it:


I also made a gelatine plate.  The quality of the print is quite unique to this type of printing.


And finally, this is black acrylic paint over flour paste.  I definitely need to experiment more with this, I love the texture and think it has a lot of potential.