January 21, 2013

Tray dyeing and some quilting decisions

To make a backing for my shot cotton "Spectrum" quilt (see here and here), I decided to experiment with tray dyeing, a method of getting multiple colors on one piece of fabric that I hadn't tried before.  I've very happy with the results.  I picked up three color samples at the paint department of Lowes, and then used my swatch book from Carol Soderlund's class to match up a dye formula.   As you can see below, I got very close indeed! 
I was especially pleased because the dyeing circumstances were not ideal.  My dye concentrates were a couple of months old, including two weeks not refrigerated.  I did the dyeing in the basement, with an ambient temperature of about 58 degrees.  Many dyers don't do dyeing if they can't get the temperature up to 70 or warmer, but this convinces me that colder temperatures work just fine.  I did leave the dye on the fabric for 24 hours before washing out; if it had been warmer, I could have done a wash-out after four hours.  The other not-ideal factor was that I was using a fabric that doesn't take up the dye as well as the standard fabric I use for dyeing, so I just eyeballed putting in more dye on the lighter two colors; the darker blue looked fine when wet, and it did turn out dark enough.  The photo below shows my dyeing set up.  I happened to have a couple of long flat cardboard boxes from the butcher.  I cut out one end of each and taped them together into a long tray, then lined it with heavy plastic.  I doubled over the fabric, so the dark blue ended up in the center and the green on both ends.  I didn't intend for any white areas to be left, so I'll be more careful with that the next time.  I stapled the plastic down in the cardboard to have a smooth surface.  Unfortunately, that mean that some dye leaked through.  The cardboard is too warped to use again, and I messed up the surface of the pingpong table.  Well, live and learn.  There are a couple of other options for trays that I can try the next time I want to use this technique.

 Once I had the back sandwiched to the front, the next decisions were about quilting.  I decided to do straight-line quilting in two directions. (Click on this and other photos to see larger.)

This seemed not enough to me, but I didn't want to put more lines of machine stitching on the quilt--too harsh for the softness of the shot cotton.  After a number of different trials, I decided to hand-quilt the inner squares with a long stitch, using 2 strands of a variety of embroidery threads.  I'm staying with the color of the two rectangles that make up the inner square, but choosing for some contrast in value.  (Click on the photo to see this larger.)
I'm enjoying spending the extra time with the quilt, having the chance to look closely at every square.


  1. Hi Penny, Very inventive idea for a tray! When I was dyeing a very large piece of fabric, I made a frame from 2x4s, put it on the concrete driveway and lined it with heavy plastic. It worked great and no leaks or problems.
    You fabric is gorgeous.

  2. I'm loving this one... the greens are so rich!!!

  3. I love the colors you chose for dyeing. Too bad about the ping pong table, but it has now been called into a bigger purpose of supporting your cloth dyeing efforts.