ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Recent Dyeing Episodes & The State of the Studio

A quilter from Waterloo, Ontario recently wrote with a specific idea for a piece of hand-dyed fabric she envisioned. She described it as light blue in the middle, surrounded by soft yellow, then golden yellow, then gold, rose, blue and purple. The colours are supposed to represent the colours associated with Healing Touch Therapy. I love requests like this as they stretch me to try new colour combinations and new ways of applying dye, so I said I would give this one a try. I am not quite sure I was successful, but I know that even if Wilma doesn't like the result, someone will see these fabrics in my "store" and love them. One thing that might be a problem is that my colours go from light blue in the middle and spread into the other colours she requested until you reach the end of the fabric. I think she might have been looking for something more like an aura or halo effect. I was using two meter pieces of cloth, so they are only about 42" wide but about 80" long. It was hard to move all those colours along the width of the fabric without them all mixing and becoming mud. In the photos the two meters are placed across a washline in my dungeon (er I mean basement), so what you see is only half of the piece of cloth. The half on the other side of the line is almost a mirror image of what you see here.
If you ask me, I think these would make great stitched landscapes.
But just because I enjoy these kinds of challenges, please don't refer clients to me who wish to have garments dyed! I get emails all the time, especially from young women, who want to dye their wedding dress to reincarnate it for another purpose, or mother's of the bride who find the colour of their dress is too much like the bridesmaids' dresses. I am not a garment dyer, and I don't work with synthetic fabrics. I would not touch a bridezilla's dress with a ten foot pole, and I am not even sure where you would find someone who would.

My last dyeing job a few weeks ago involved dyeing about 20 scarves to sell in the gift shop at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum during the show that Cathy Breedyk Law and I have hanging there until December. I also have some scarves for sale in the boutique at the Ottawa School of Art. The scarves are silk/rayon velvet, and have been dyed using a pole and the Bomaki Shibori method. They are rather hard to photograph as they have a wonderful sheen that seems to cause a bit of glare. Here they are.

I'm also prepping for the classes I'm teaching in the next two weeks, so my studio is a disaster. There is a separate container with supplies for each of the workshops I will be teaching. There isn't a place left to sit, in what is really only a 10'x12' studio. The studio should look rather neat once everything is moved to my car!

But the question is ... will all of it fit in my car?


  1. I love your fabric piece, it makes me want to try something like that this weekend. Definitely will be up at the crack of dawn Saturday a.m.! And I'm going to google Bomaki Shibori to find out what it is, I've never heard of it before. Thanks for some wonderful inspiration--

  2. Laura,
    I never get up at the crack of dawn willingly ;-))
    Bomaki Shibori has the lines of shibori going straight across, whereas Arashi Shibori has them going on a diagonal. Bomaki is super easy. I take a scarf and with a large basting stitch I sew it into a long tube. Sometimes I dye the tubed scarf and then slide it onto the pole (a drain pipe from the hardware store ... buy whatever size will accommodate the tubed scarf), scrunch it up, and just use a foam brush to touch the scrunched edges with another darker coloured dye (often black). Sometimes when I'm in a different mood, I soak the tubed scarf in soda ash solution, wring it, strip it on a pole, scrunch it up, and then use foam brushes to apply the dyes. I usually only use the latter method on multi-coloured scarves, where I am moving from one colour to another at various points along the scarf. Then I apply the darker colour just to the edges of the scrunches. You don't want your scarves too wet ... only as much dye as they will absorb.

  3. I learned that technique at a Jan Myers-Newbury one-day seminar, she showed us her finished products but we didn't have time to do everything. I liked how it had a nearly solid border around the horizontal lines. I'll try it this weekend, for sure. Shibori fabric is becoming an obsession w/me.

    And I wake up every day way too early (usually around 5:00), at least if I don't have to go to work I have something fun to look forward to.


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