Dying Fabric for the Lake Washington Quilt: Part 3

So here’s the third and final installation  in the “Lake Washington Art Quilt” saga (dying fabric & creation of) …

I’m happy with the final outcome of the water fabric for “Lake Washington”, and started free-hand machine quilting the sky and water (piers and background).


But I don’t have the right color of fabrics for the hydrangea bushes in the foreground.  The only fabric I could find in my stash (besides piecing millions of tiny petals from individual fabrics) was this one…


Not at all the color of the blue hydrangeas I love so much in the Seattle area!  So…having blue dye still left over I decided to experiment by over-dying the fabric.


I tried two different strengths of dye with the soda ash solution, and placed cuts of the hydrangea fabric into containers.  After curing at least 4 hours, I rinsed them out, washed & dried them–and this was the result!  Much, much better…


So I began adding the hydrangea to the foreground, one flower at a time…


And then started the long task of outlining every little petal in different varigated blues, greens, and purples that I had in my lovely Sulky cotton thread stash…


The quilting took quite awhile over a few days–I had to take breaks or my eyes would go “buggy”!  (I need a neck and shoulder massage!!!)

But here’s the final result–not quite final–but at least quilted and ready to bind.


I’ll add another photo after it’s “really” done… 🙂

Happy Quilting!


Mulberry Patch Quilts

Dying Fabric for the Lake: Part 2

After the last few dying results not being exactly what I wanted, I thought I’d it try using a different preparation technique with each of two fabrics.

I neatly fan-folded a fat quarter of PFD cotton fabric, pressing each crease with my hot iron and then loosely hand tacked it all together with cotton thread and a loose running stitch).


I gathered the other fat quarter by hand sewing running stitches and pulling them…


Using my Procion Dye mixed in hot water, and adding it to a soda ash/water solution, I put each fabric into a large plastic container and poured the dye mixture over them, letting them set for at least four hours.

Here were the results:

Results: fan folding, ironing creases, & loose running stitch

Results: fan folding, ironing creases, stitching

Results: hand-stitching & gathering at ends

Results: hand-stitching & gathering at ends


They’re interesting, but way too dark.  And the gathering is very hard to get out.  So I tried once again, using the folding technique–this time using rubber bands instead of tacking stitch–with a lighter dye bath (not so heavy on the blue dye powder).


Second try–in the lighter dye bath


I was much happier with this result:


Results: lighter dye bath & folding


And I think it will work for my Lake Washington water fabric…


So, with that done…

I’m starting to put the landscape quilt together…


I’ll post again, as the quilt evolves…

Happy Quilting!


Mulberry Patch Quilts

Dying Fabric for a Lake

I’m starting a new art quilt.

A few years ago, while visiting my son in Seattle, I just happened to snap a photo of Lake Washington with bright blue hydrangea in full bloom in the foreground.  I’ve always wanted to make a landscape quilt from the photo, but I’m not quite sure how I’m going to go about it.hydrangeas seattle

I’ve procrastinated for quite awhile!

After hearing from a fellow quilter that she felt art quilts were easier than pieced quilts because you can always cover your mistakes, I took heart and decided to jump in and go ahead and see what happens.  If it fails it fails.

After pulling every hand-dyed and batik fabric I have (what a mess!), I was ready to start.

I found a pretty good sky fabric, something that might make do for the shoreline in the distance, and lots of hand dyes for the flowers, but the lake water had me stumped.  Nothing seemed right.

So late last night, I cut about a yard of my Kona PFD fabric and headed downstairs to see what I could come up with.

The first two pieces I tried were soaked in soda ash solution and placed (ringing wet) on the bottom of a large plastic pan.  I tried to “pinch” them into horizontal folds.

I mixed up two solutions of Procion Dye powder (two different blues) with hot water, and poured a little of each into the pan.  This allowed the dyes to “soak in” to the bottom of the fabric, leaving some lighter areas on top– hoping to replicate the light and shadow of rippling water.

After a few minutes, I swirled them into circles (like 2 cinnamon buns), picked them up & put each in a pint size wide mouth canning jar to sit for several hours.

Very late last night, after washing, drying and ironing…this is how the first two experiments turned out…


I wasn’t convinced that there were enough “ripples”, and the color was a bit more on the aqua side than I wanted. So I gave it another try.

This time I wrapped two fabrics around a PVC pole (sorry I forgot to take photos), and secured them with several rubber bands.  Then “scrunched” them down to the bottom of the tube, creating lots of lovely wrinkles…

Fabric4  Fabric5

The lines are more pronounced–but still not exactly as I had hoped.

I’ll experiment by laying each one on my landscape background with the rest of my design pieces and see what works, if any 🙂

More later…

Happy Quilting!


Mulberry Patch Quilts

Scarf Dyeing with Natural Plant Materials

I love the process of dyeing fabrics, and have been dyeing cotton fabrics for years using Procion Dye. So a couple years ago when some beautiful scarves caught my eye at a gift shop and I found out that they were made using natural plant materials, I knew I had to find out more.

I immediately searched for a class, and found one at Ohlbrich Gardens here in Madison taught by the talented and informative Shelly Ryan (The Wisconsin Gardener from PBS)–see this link for an even better tutorial!   If you get the chance, sign up for a class with her–she’s an amazing person!

We made several scarves that day.  I’ve recently gotten back into it, after being asked to teach a little workshop for a few friends. I hope you’ll give it a try as well…here’s how.

First, I purchased 100% silk scarves through Dharma Trading Company made especially for dying. They have many styles and sizes to choose from. The ones I used were “Habati 8mm hand rolled China 100% Silk”.   The protein-based silk fiber takes the plant dye beautifully, but is durable enough to stand up to the process.

You’ll also need:

Dye–plant material. You can use everything from flower petals, to leaves and ferns, to weeds; search your kitchen scraps for carrot peelings, red cabbage, onion skins, avacado; or your herbs and spice cabinets for tumeric, cinnamon, tea leaves; or even coffee grounds. The sky’s the limit!

Mordant–to bond the color to the fiber, you’ll need to have on hand either steel wire, copper wire, even a penny will work, or a spray deodorant that contains aluminum.

Acid-based liquid–to release the color from the plants–vinegar (white or cider, doesn’t matter), wine, fruit juice.

Also have on hand some sturdy plastic zip-lock bags (I used freezer quart-size), waterproof bowl or tray, rubber gloves, and a sharpie pen.

Scarfblog 2

Lay the silk scarf on your work surface with half on the surface and half hanging off. (This is the point where you would spray it lightly with the deodorant before adding plant materials if you’re not using steel or copper.) Layer the plant materials on top of one half of the scarf in any way you choose–you don’t need to worry about covering every square inch–just have fun. There’s no wrong way! Experiment! Use one or two things, or pile on a bunch of different things. My scarf (in photo) had red onion skins, turmeric (spice), cinnamon, coffee grounds, & shredded carrots on it!

Scarfblog 3

Fold the other half of the scarf on top of first half and from one short end start rolling it; then make it into a ball (or roll again like a cinnamon bun) and secure with the steel or copper wire. (Be sure the steel wire is not galvanized–we want it to “rust”.) If you used the deodorant spray earlier instead or the wire, you can use yarn or string to tie.

Scarfblog 4

You might want to write on your baggie with the sharpie pen what plant materials you used, in case you’re keeping track. Then place the scarf it in your baggie and add whatever acid-based liquid you want–I chose to use white vinegar, cheap & in my kitchen already. You only need 2-4 tablespoons! Just enough to thoroughly wet it.

Scarfblog 7

Then close up the baggie and place it in a waterproof bowl or other container–this is just a precaution, in case the bag should leak.

Now the HARD PART…you have to WAIT! Place the baggie away from kids & pets, and out of direct sunlight, and let it sit (cure) from 3 days to up to 2 weeks. I know it’s hard–but it will be worth it. I mark the “reveal” date on my calendar and try not to think about it…

When the “reveal” day is here, put on your plastic gloves (the vinegar might be a bit irritating to your skin) and over a lined wastebasket, or outside in the yard, “pour out” any remaining vinegar & shake out all the plant material. Now take the scarf outside and hang it over a tree branch or bush (or clothesline) and let it dry out for a few hours.

WAIT TIME AGAIN! Now you’ll bring it inside and just let it dry for about 2 weeks. I know, patience is a hard virtue!! But you will be rewarded…

After the two weeks is up you can wash your scarf in warm water (I like to use my sink with a little Woolite or mild detergent) and rinse it thoroughly. Then before it drys completely, iron it with a hot (silk setting) iron to set the color.

Scarfblog 12

That’s it! You have a beautiful hand-dyed scarf to wear or give as a gift. Here’s how the scarf turned out with the onion skins, etc.

Here are some other examples:

Dandelions, Raspberry Hibiscus Tea Leaves, Strawberry Tops, & the dreaded Garlic Mustard:

Scarfblog 5Scarfblog 13

What a great way to commemorate a special event (anniversary, birthday, funeral), by using flowers from a bouquet. My son sent me a dozen light pink roses for Mother’s Day, which unfortunately only last a week or two. So I used the fallen petals in this scarf along with other petals from the garden and some Seattle Chai Tea (because he lives in Seattle)…

Scarfblog 8Scarfblog 14

And finally, here’s a scarf made with celery and spinach leaves, oregano and turmeric, coffee grounds, and I threw in a few frozen blueberries just for fun…

Scarfblog 9

After folding over the second half of the scarf, I smashed it a bit with the flat side of a meat tenderizer just to make the juices come through a little more…

Scarfblog 10Scarfblog 15

I hope you’ll give dyeing scarves with natural plant materials a try. It’s really a lot of fun. I can’t wait to try other items from my garden and refrigerator–wonder what will happen with avocado? red cabbage? So many plants, so little time! 🙂

For more information, see Lauren Maple on PBS “Sewing with Nancy” segment.

Jelly Jar Fabric Dying Reveal…

It’s so hard waiting…but the time is here.  It’s been over 24 hours, and I can bring the jelly  jars to the sink and wash out the fabric.

One by one, open the jar and pour it out into the sink under hot water.  (Gloves are not absolutely necessary, but help when using the hot water)…


As you take them out of the jars, just rinse them and set them to air dry and they’re ready to re-use for the next time (that’s what I love about using jars–so much simpler than messy bags…

Rinsed jars and lids, ready for the next time

And some so dark it’s hard to see the color until they’re thoroughly rinsed out…Reveal3

After rinsing as much of the leftover dye (which is no longer active) under the faucet, start filling the sink up with hot water and adding similar colors together–agitating by hand, and squeezing out the water.  Then fill another sink with clean hot water & submerge again…


Until you notice the color of the water changing from a deep hue,


…to almost clear…


Then it’s time to take them to the washing machine.  Hot water, 3 Tbsp Synthropol, and 2 rinses.  After drying in the dryer, here’s what I have:


Next is ironing with a hot (cotton setting) iron, and enjoying the “eye candy”!!


It’s always a surprise–I got a lot more blues than expected!  But that’s OK…


Also notice some were more “mottled” than others due to the way they were submerged in the dye. I have a couple that will make great sky fabric because the dye didn’t completely get into all the the tight little folds of fabric I scrunched into the jar.


More colors to add to my stash for the next landscape art quilt!

Maybe I’ll try using up the leftover dye concentrate I didn’t use to see if I can come up with some other exciting combinations.  Next time!

Dying Fabric in Jelly Jars

I needed some new yellows for my next quilt art project, so I pulled out my notes to do some fabric dying in jelly jars–which I haven’t done for a few years.  I had a dye “kit” that I’d purchased from PRO Chemical & Dyes at a Quilt Expo.  It was similar to a “gradation kit”, and I think mine was “Earthy Blend”:

  • 10 gm PRO MX Mustard Yellow
  • 10 gm PRO MX Bordeaux
  • 10 gm PRO MX Deep Navy
  • 1 oz Synthrapol
  • 1 oz Soften-It

I already had the Urea, Salt (Kosher), Soda Ash in my stash of dying goodies.

I first learned this process from an article published in the Fall 1995 “American Quilter” magazine by Vimala McClure entitled “Pack a Peck of Pickled Pieces”.  I’ve put my own “twist” into it (made a several changes), but I give her full credit for the idea–and (although I haven’t seen it) suggest you consider purchasing her new book.  If you want to give this a try, you can purchase supplies online through Dharma Trading Company or PRO Chemical & Dye or your local quilt store might have them.  Be sure to read their safety directions and precautions carefully.

Process for Jelly Jar Dying

Fabric:  You’ll need 30 “fat eights” of 100% cotton fabric (just cut yardage into 9″ strips, and cut them in half to make approx. 9×11″ pieces).  You can purchase PFD (prepared for dying) fabric from your local quilt store or online, or if you want to use 100% cotton muslin from your stash) you’ll need to wash it in hot water with a little Synthrapol to prepare it to accept the dye.

Fabric Ready

Preparing the fabric with Soda Ash:  Create a soda ash solution by mixing 1 gallon of warm water with 1/2 cup of soda ash (or dye activator).  I mixed mine in a rinsed-out gallon milk jug–just use a funnel to get the soda ash in, add the cap, and shake to dissolve it.  Pour the soda ash solution into a small pail and submerge all your fat eighths of fabric into it — push the fabric down with a wooden spoon or stick so they’re completely submerged.  Let the fabric soak in this solution for 15-30 minutes.  (Note that the Soda Ash solution isn’t dangerous, but I wear rubber gloves because it can be irritating to your hands.)  After soaking, put on your gloves again and take out each fat eight from the solution, squeeze the solution out so it’s only damp, and line up your little balls of scrunched fabric in a dish pan or other water proof tray so they’re ready to go. (You can save the soda ash solution to use again by pouring it back into the jug.  I’m not sure how exactly when it is not longer useable, but it will be re-usable for at least a couple of weeks.)

I used a pail I someones use to pain (please excuse the dried on paint)

I used a pail I someones use to pain (please excuse the dried on paint)

Preparing the Chem Water:  Mix thoroughly in another gallon jug

  • 1 gallon warm water
  • 3 cups urea
  • 4 tsp. Calgon water softener (optional)

Pour some of the Chem water into three large glass jars (quart size works fine)–about a cup or so in each one.

NOTE:  I should say right up front that all the utensils, jars, measuring spoons, etc., that I use for fabric dying are dedicated ONLY for dying and are never again used in my kitchen!!

Preparing the Dye:  Now is the part you need to  use the most caution.  ProMX Reactive Dye (Procion) comes in a  very fine powder form (much like baby powder).  The moment it touches any moist surface it turns into a concentrated dye color.  So be sure you’re working in an area that’s completely covered and wear old clothes.  I do mine in our basement washroom, where I don’t care if it gets on the old cement or table.  Also, you can imagine what it would do to your lungs and inside of your nose if you were to breathe it in while in the powder form…  So as a precaution, WEAR RUBBER GLOVES (so you won’t have dyed hands), AND A FACE MASK — at least while mixing the powder into the chem water.  You might even want to wear protective eye covering.  This is the only time you’ll need the extra precautions on your face.

I used the 3 packets of dye that I got in my kit (or you would measure what you need from a jar of dye) and carefully mix it into each of the water-filled jars, one at a time.  Use a plastic spoon or other utensil you can throw away or easily rinse off to gently stir (you don’t want to kick up a dust cloud of dye!).  Then fill up the jars with the rest of the chem water (you may have some water left over, that’s OK).

Once the powdery dye is thoroughly mixed and you’ve replaced the covers back on the Procion jars (or disposed the plastic bags if you have the kit) the dye is no longer a problem and you can take off your mask and eye wear–but keep your gloves on.

You’ll have 3 quart jars:  A, B, & C.  These can be any colors you choose, mine were A=Mustard Yellow, B=Navy Blue, C=Bordeaux. In the photo below, I’m just starting to mix them in–after mixing I’d fill them to the top (it’s hard taking photos & dying fabric at the same time!!)  😉


Prepare the Jelly Jars:

Line up your glass jelly jars (lids off).  For the kit I was supposed to use 30 jars, but I ran out — no problem, I also used different size jars and plastic zip-lock bags. Anything waterproof with a lid will probably work.  I placed them all in a water proof tray, just in case some of the dye might leak out.  Put 1 tsp of salt into each off the jars.  Later, after we add our “recipe” of dye, be sure to stir to dissolve the salt.

Now the tedious part! Mixing the dyes–measuring them into the jars:

The Dye Recipe:  You need to use some kind of consistent method to measure and mix the dyes together in the jars to create 30 different colors of fat-eight fabric!  So exciting…

Here’s the chart I used from my purchased PRO Chemical Dye kit:

Jar #1 5 Tbsp 0 0
#2 4-1/2 T 1/2 T 0
#3 4 T 1 T 0
#4 3-1/2 T 1-1/2 T 0
#5 3 T 2 T 0
#6 2-1/2 T 2-1/2 T 0
#7 2 T 3 T 0
#8 1-1/2 T 3-1/2 T 0
#9 1 T 4 T 0
#10 1/2 T 4-1/5 T 0
#11 0 5 T 0
#12 0 4-1/2 T 1-2 T
#13 0 4 T 1 T
#14 0 3-1/2 T 1-1/2 T
#15 0 3 T 2 T
#16 0 2-1/2 T 2-1/2 T
#17 0 2 T 3 T
#18 0 1-1/2 T 3-1/2 T
#19 0 1 T 4 T
#20 0 1/2 T 4-1/2 T
#21 0 0 5 T
#22 1/2 T 0 4-1/2 T
#23 1 T 0 4 T
#24 1-1/2 T 0 3-1/2 T
#25 2 T 0 3 T
#26 2-1/2 T 0 2-1/2 T
#27 3 T 0 2 T
#28 3-1/2 T 0 1-1/2 T
#29 4 T 0 1 T
#30 4-1/2 T 0 1/2 T

Using measuring spoons (used only for dying) I measured 5 Tablespoons of Mustard Yellow from Jar A into jelly jar #1.  Then 4-1/2 Tbsp into jar #2, etc. Make sense? (Be sure to rinse your measuring spoons, etc., in-between colors–the dye is very concentrated and can “contaminate” your next color.)

Next, I went down the chart using JAR B (navy blue) and  put nothing in jar #1,  measured 1/2 Tbsp into jar #2, etc.

Finally–following the chart carefully, I measured the dye from JAR C into each container.

You’ll notice that there will be 5 Tablespoons of dye in each container (they all add up).  Be sure to dissolve the salt by stirring each jar–use a fresh plastic spoon or rinse between every few jars so you don’t contaminate colors from one jar to the next.

Now the FUN part!  Adding the fabric.

Keeping your gloves on, take one of the scrunched up damp fat eights and carefully push it into the first jelly jar so it soaks up the dye.  Screw on the lid fairly tightly and turn it upside-down.  Continue doing this for all 30 jars.

For the next two hours you’ll come back, put on your gloves, and turn the jars every 20 minutes or so.  So put in a DVD and set your timer.  After 20 minutes, go down and give each jar a little shake (to help the dye be absorbed) and turn them over.  Twenty-minutes later, go down and do it again.  Repeat until the 2 hours is up.

Submerge JJ

After that, is the HARDEST part:  Waiting:

Now the fabric has to “pickle” or cure.  So leave it alone for at least 24 hours (if the timing is inconvenient for you–don’t worry; you can let them sit up to 2 weeks.  (But I could never wait that long!).

I ran out of the smaller jars, so used other sizes I had on hand as well as zip lock bags.  Anything works, even washed out yogurt containers.

I ran out of the smaller jars, so used other sizes I had on hand as well as zip lock bags. Anything water tight will work…but never use the container again for anything but dying!

The reveal…to be continued…come back in 24 hours…

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Greetings from the cold tundra of Wisconsin!

I know, I know….spring is almost here.  But during this time of winter, after months and months of cold, snowy weather, it’s hard to believe.  Yesterday was glorious with sunshine, snow melting a bit, and a hint of spring…but today we’re anticipating 1-5 inches of snow overnight!

Such is Wisconsin and our “anything-can-happen” weather.

So what does a quilter do when they’ve been cooped up for months on end (that is, besides making quilts!)?…

...Snow dye, of course!

Snow dying is a way to dye fabric using snow!  I had forgotten I wanted to try this technique until I looked again at Pinterest and the board I have “Dying to Dye Fabric” with a link to Dharma Trading Company for their instructions:


So….I searched my stash for some white 100% cotton PFD (prepared for dying) fabric and cut 2 yards–one for each of two trays.  Using their directions, I soaked each yard in a soda ash solution for 10 minutes, squeezed out the solution, and set them in two plastic trays (found these from another project trying to grow seedlings in my basement–but it was too cold, didn’t work–but that’s another story).  I scrunched the fabric, making lots of peaks and valleys.

Next, the fun part — going in the back yard and finding some clean, fresh snow and piling it on top.

Then I poured the Procion Dye solution (see directions) over the snow!  I tried a blue and yellow on one tray–hoping for some greens to appear, and a turkey red and  orange on the other.

Now all I have to do is wait for the snow to melt, then cover them in plastic and bring them up to a warmer area (70 degrees plus) to let the cure overnight.

I’ll let you see the results tomorrow….. (to be continued)!