Category Archives: fiber

Batik: First Experiments

batik fabrics at amyhoodarts.com

I spent about a week (off and on) dyeing batik fabrics. When I first wanted to learn how to dye, it was with batik as the ultimate goal. Batik is a resist method–you apply wax to the fabric, to protect it from being dyed–but it feels a lot like printmaking. Printmaking and fabric are two of my favorite things. I decided to practice and use the results to make my son a quilt. He chose the colors (green and orange) and I discussed ideas with him, but this was my project. I’m using Color Your Cloth by Malka Dubrawsky as my guide, but I used low-immersion dyeing, which results in a textured color rather than uniform.

I started simply, by applying wax to white fabric and dyeing once.

batik fabrics at amyhoodarts.com

The circles were made with the plastic tube from the inside of a bundle of produce bags, and the triangles were made by fashioning cardboard into a triangle. I was aiming for orange for the bottom, but I learned that deep yellow creates a better orange than lemon yellow. This is a reddish orange.

Then I applied wax to dyed fabric, discharged the color from the unwaxed areas, and dyed again. This is so much fun.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

This fabric was dyed green before wax was applied (using a cardboard rectangle). Then I discharged it and dyed it black. I was using the wax out on the deck and by the time I got to this piece, the sun had warmed it a little overmuch and it was a little runnier than it should have been. I just went with it. My son and I love this fabric.

batik cloth at amyhoodarts.com

This was also dyed green, wax applied with the end of a cardboard paper tube, discharged, and dyed orange. It vibrates (complementary colors will do that) but my son really likes it.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

This fabric was created by dyeing cloth green, adding wax, discharging, adding wax again, and dyeing deep yellow. HOW COOL IS THAT? You get three colors on one piece of cloth! This is the only piece I tried that with this time but it’s definitely something I’ll explore more.

I did three yards by dyeing, adding wax, and overdyeing.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

This first one was dyed turquoise before applying wax, then dyed lemon yellow. This was a little iffy from the get-go because I was putting a lighter color over a darker one. It’s very subtle. I thought about adding wax again and then dyeing the whole thing something darker, but my son likes this, so I kept it. Wax was applied with a potato masher.

I used a different potato masher for these next two.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

Lemon yellow overdyed with cerulean blue.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

Lemon yellow overdyed with light red. This has some circles mixed in too.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

These last two were overdyed together in orange. The top one was dyed light grey, wax was applied with a cardboard diamond, the fabric was discharged, and dyed orange. The bottom one was dyed turquoise, wax applied with a cardboard rectangle, and dyed orange after discharging. The bottom one is a bit more of a rusty orange because the fabric still had a slight turquoise tinge.

I learned so much experimenting like this! I like applying wax with cardboard–something about how the cardboard absorbs the wax a bit made it easier for me, after practice, to control how much wax transferred to the fabric. The metal potato mashers were actually a little more difficult to control. I decided early on to embrace the unpredictability with this process, though. I don’t mind wayward drips of wax; I think it adds to the interest. I really love the effects that can be had using discharging, because you’re not limited to colors that mix well together.

The whole process is time-consuming, uses a lot of water for rinsing and boiling, and is physically wearying! If you ever wondered why hand-produced batik fabric is so expensive, there you go. I have a great space in the basement with a utility sink, second washer, lots of concrete floor space, and a table and shelves. My son called it my “lab.” That’s where I dye, rinse, and discharge, although it’s probably not ventilated quite well enough for the bleaching process. I was applying wax on the deck but then moved indoors to my art studio area, which was a little better on my back, too.

Like I said, though, it’s time-consuming, and I didn’t do any sewing. So now it’s time to shift back to that. My daughter’s quilt just needs quilting–I needed that to sit while I thought about it though. It’ll be the biggest quilt I’ve done and I’m a bit daunted at doing it in my home machine. That’s first on the list, though, above piecing my son’s. I definitely have the dyeing bug though.

First Experiments with Dyeing

I am behind on everything, y’all. To make things more difficult, I ended up in the ER early Thursday morning with a UTI, because those typically hit me hard and fast. So I lost a day there and now I’m on heavy-duty antibiotics that make me feel almost as awful as doxycycline did when I was being treated for Lyme. I’d set aside Thursday for dyeing but that obviously didn’t happen, so I pushed through on Friday because otherwise I’d have had to wait a week for another free chunk of time. Ta-da! Here are the results.

hand-dyed value bundles at amyhoodarts.com

I decided my first experiments would be for a quilt for my daughter. She requested pink, green, and purple. I thought about how to vary the values (because we all know color gets the credit but value does the work, right?), and decided instead of varying it amongst the colors, I’d value it within each color. I used the recipe “value parfait” from Color by Accident, which I borrowed from my fiber arts guild library. Low-water immersion dyeing uses less water (at least for the dyeing part; rinsing and washing is still very water heavy), so the dye isn’t always taken up evenly. This allows for some texture and variation. The value parfait is kind of cool–you add fabric and soda ash at different intervals, so that there’s less dye available to be taken up by each successive piece of fabric. So you start with full-strength dye but naturally get a value gradation. Neat, isn’t it? I’m using just primaries, too, so the green and purple were mixed. My daughter is happy with these colors, and now I just need to decide upon a design. Also, I’m not sure I can bother making any quilts from now on unless I’ve dyed the fabric myself, help.

I began with ten yards of fabric, so for the final yard, I went for something specific for a project I have in mind. I actually could have split it up; I don’t need the full yard. But by that time I was tired and probably not thinking clearly (these meds, I’m telling you; awful).

gold hand-dyed fabric at amyhoodarts.com

This was dyed using mostly dark yellow dye, with a dash of red and blue and some light yellow drizzled on. This one was pretty cool to watch–the color changed dramatically once the soda ash hit it. I think there’s two ways to approach dyeing fabric. One is very perfectionist, using full-water immersion and testing mixtures, aiming for predictable results. The other is a little looser, with some “let’s see what happens” attitude. I think I may end up somewhere in the middle. I can’t wait to dye more, but I need more fabric and I need more time. As I said, I’m behind in so much right now!

I’m also wondering, because I can’t possibly use all the fabric I might want to dye, if there’s a market for selling my own hand-dyed fabric. Thoughts?

Weaving Process For a Preschooler

That cold-and-cough virus has been running through my kids for more than a week now, and G is the last to get it. When the kids are sick, the TV tends to be on more than normal (normal = hardly at all), and Thursday morning (when I felt badly, too, and needed to crawl back into bed) G and I ended up watching a meh sort of kids’ show, but it showed how spiders (animated ones, anyway) weave a web. Later that day, I asked G if she’d like to try weaving like a spider, too. 9We ended up with two different methods; materials are listed separately for each.)

Materials: Inner hoop of an embroidery hoop, yarn, strips of fabric cut about 1″ wide

I happened to have a 7″ hoop on hand, but larger would probably be even better. I began by tying a length of yarn straight across the diameter of the hoop. I added two more pieces, for six “wedges” total, but you could do more for an older child. (G is three.)

I held the hoop for her, and she began weaving the fabric strip over, under, over, under. With this set-up, it was easy for her to see where the fabric should go next, because the wedges were so defined. And with me holding the hoop, she could use both hands, almost like she was sewing the fabric through the holes.

When she reached the end of one strip, I just knotted on a new one and she kept going. The end result doesn’t look like much, but it is–it’s a really helpful step on the way to learning the weaving process. (G was quite pleased with herself.)

Materials: Cardboard, x-acto knife and metal ruler (for cutting), yarn, stapler, paper strips

Next, I created a more traditional weaving set-up for her by cutting out the center of a sturdy cardboard rectangle. Then I looped yarn around, tied it, and stapled it down. This time I cut 1″ strips of paper.

The yarn is doubled, so I reminded her to go over or under both pieces of yarn, not through the middle. She knew just what to do, reciting “over” and “under” as she worked.

I held the frame up for her, which again made it easier for her to work the strips through. The paper isn’t attached, so we can take it out and do it again, for more practice, or use fabric strips next time.

The top strip of blue paper is woven through the yarn that goes around the top of the cardboard–she wanted to weave one there, too. By the time she was ready to stop, she’d really gotten comfortable with the motion of weaving. This is propped up in the living room, ready for when she wants to go back to it, or take out the papers and start over–much like you might use lacing cards again and again, as part of the process of learning a new skill.

Painting With Wool

Materials: Rectangles of wool felt (to act as the “canvas”), wool roving in various colors (such as this)

This past weekend was the third session of the parent/child class N and I are taking at a local art museum. We spent the entire time in the galleries, looking and drawing with various media, and our last stop was the Greek/Roman galleries, where we used colored wool roving to create our image. I don’t have any in-process photos of this, because it’s really hard to take photos while doing, but it’s pretty straightforward.

First, though, we were to pick a piece to focus on as our inspiration. N chose a piece utterly devoid of color…

This is one of the short sides of a marble sarcophagus. We had many colors of roving to choose from; N chose red, yellow, and green. Just as felt pieces will stick to one another (such as on a felt board), the wool roving will stick to the felt “canvas.” You gently rub the roving between your hands, moving them back and forth. You can tease it out a bit, and gently mush (not a technical term!) the wool into the felt. You’re just rubbing it enough to adhere some of the fibers together–a very gentle felting.

This is N with his piece in the museum. He thought he was done, but then he decided to add more. (Despite the look on his face, he really does enjoy these classes!)

He focused on the animal (which he called a saber tooth tiger), which is the yellow, with red legs; the person below it; and the tree above. The instructor had us hold our pieces of felt up to make sure nothing fell off; otherwise we needed to rub a bit more to make it stick.

This is probably the simplest entry to working with roving I can think of. It’s not wet felting, it’s not needle felting, it’s just…hands and wool. Simple. It doesn’t allow for much (any?) detail, so it’s a good choice for a loose project. I would think, given more time than we had in class, it would be very soothing, to simply work the wool into a design on the felt. (Can you tell I knit? I think wool is very soothing!)

Have you tried wool painting before? Or, do you have a favorite way to work with wool with children?