I come from a long line of sign writers and am happiest with a brush and some paint! Add
paint to fabric and I get really excited!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fabric Dyeing

I think this session of fabric dyeing is over. At least for a few days. I have managed to build up my stash quite a bit and as I worked, I have loosely developed several projects. Thus, I now know what other colorways I need to dye going forward. These will be smaller amounts of each. Or at least, I think they will be. Once I start the process, I just seem to keep adding to the dye pots and all of a sudden I have dyed a LOT of fabric.

I rarely stop at one layer of color on each fabric. If I don’t mix more secondary and tertiary colors and add them in the initial dyeing, I do one of many processes to increase their layers and complexity.

One thing I do is put the fabrics through a second soda ash pre-soak and then over-dye them with a second color or colorway. Usually I will fold them or twist them a different way so that I maximize the base color(s).

Sometimes I discharge dye the pieces by scrunching the fabric on a piece of PVC pipe holding the folds in place with elastic bands and then I paint some diluted bleach on them.

Sometimes I have already used this same process to add layers of opaque paint. And then I repeat the process with a bleach solution. The yellow and brown piece in the bottom left hand picture is one such piece.

The blue piece below is one I painted several very watery shades of blue opaque paint using the PVC scrunching method. After the first dye, it was a very nondescript piece of blue, but now I think it is perfect water fabric.

I had dyed a piece of fabric green by folding it accordion style and using bright yellow and royal blue dye powder. It was exactly what I wanted as a piece to build on. I cut it in half and treated each piece in a different manner.

The piece on the right is what I achieved after the first dyeing. The piece on the left is the other half of the green piece after I scrunched it on PVC pipe and brushed it with a bleach solution. Now the layers of yellow are more obvious.

The piece on the right on the photo below is the result of over-dyeing that green fabric above with red and a small quantity of orange dye. Again, exactly what I was aiming for.

All of these fabrics are now ready to use as it, or to have stamping, stencilling, rubbings, screen prints, etc added to them. I have a few new carved stamps waiting to be tried and there a few favorite commercial stamps that appear and re-appear in my pieces that I will use as well.

I am really hoping the deck furniture can go out soon (please!) so I can set up my outdoor studio area. I love taking my work outdoors and using that wonderful natural light as I continue adding layers to my fabrics.


  1. Jennifer these are scrumptious fabrics. I would love to spend a dyeing day with you! I am very lazy to get around to dyeing, but could sure use the fabrics to work with.
    Do you use a regular bleach and if so, do you use a neutralizer afterwards?

  2. Jennifer VienneauApril 22, 2013 at 8:36 PM

    Thanks, Holly! Dyeing is addictive, I have to say. I generally have a rough idea of what I might be looking for and then I just get carried away. It is so much fun! When I just don’t want to dig out my discharge chemicals, I use regular bleach in a 50/50 ratio with water. I soak it in a neutralizing bath and immediately wash it in hot water. Now that the weather is getting better for traveling, you will have to plan a trip to Moncton and we will pull out the dye stuffs and do some gelli printing while it sets. I was mentally cleaning my cupboards today and realized I have some flour that needs to be tossed so am thinking some flour paste printing might be fun, too. My time frees up more in the summer - maybe I can plan a playdate?