My whole family have been nagging me to take a bit of time each week to do something I want to do, and despite many previous attempts to do just this, I have never been very successful until the last two weeks. In my last post I mentioned a day spent researching for some textile work in Grimsby, and then last week I had a play day at home with my good friend Judith Burnett as a personal tutor and companion for a day of dyeing. Judith teaches dying and surface decoration amongst other things, and she is VERY good at it.
We turned my kitchen into a haven of colour and luscious looking liquids in which steeped scrunkled fabrics of all varieties (natural fibres), lace, yarn and threads. We used Ann Johnston’s Colour By Accident as our kicking off point, which for those that don’t know is a wonderful little recipe book for creative dyeing without fuss. Layers of scrunkled fabric are wedged into a plastic pot and covered in dye mixture (procion dyes), then soda ash solution is added. The next layer of scrunkled fabric goes in and more dye (we used different colours as per her “parfait” method) and soda ash solution. The final layer is added with and the final dye solution and soda ash, it is all left for at lest an hour, and then the washing out begins. First cold, then hot (with a dash of washing up liquid), then cold again, and all the excess dye is washed away.
The colours and patterns looked great in their wet state, but it wasn’t until the next day that I managed to iron out the pieces and WOW! Never have I been so keen to iron anything in my life. The colours and patterns created by the scrunkling and dying and in some cases over-dyeing were gorgeous. You are all probably saying “yeah, yeah, been there, done that”, but I hadn’t and it was a revelation!
There was an awful lot of ripping up old sheets, rummaging through ancient stashes of unknown-and-possibly-dyeable fabrics and threads, and searching for snippets of stained and torn lace fragments. Judith was well prepared and knew what to expect, but I would have gone on experimenting all evening (we started at 9.30am and it was now 6pm!) if it had not been necessary to clear the decks so I could feed the family – teenage boys are always starving. We made miles of dyed fabrics, none of which did I make notes on as to their fibre content, precise dye mix or any other potentially useful information, we just revelled in the joy of colour and the wonder of the patterns.
Whether it was worn out sheets, scraps of silk, dishcloth cotton, muslin and scrim, rust stained linen, or silk georgette, we had a ball. If you get the chance to do a day with Judith, jump at it. She runs classes at the Husqvarna Studio in Nottingham, and at Camelot Crafts in Radcliffe On Trent.