A Workshop on Dyeing

“It’ll be fun!” my friend said, telling me about a class being taught through the Kuwait Textile Arts Association.

“Ummm. I don’t think so. I don’t like getting all messy,” I said, hating myself even as I said it for sounding so prissy.

“You know how much fabric we buy that she (the instructor) makes – we might as well learn how to do it ourselves,” she went on, encouraging me. She knows I will give in; sometimes my first response is just negative.

So there we were, in a sun-drenched location, on one of the prettiest days in Kuwait, four of us in our raggedy clothes because yes, it was going to get a little messy. The instructor made it all so easy – charts with exact measurements, equipment labled with how much to add of what . . . it was fun, and mostly, it was easy. We are all totally into color, and we got to do a little experimentation.

First, we chose one color and did gradations, six fabrics from very light to very dark. I asked if I could use two colors, blue-violet and a little black, because I wanted to end up with a very Dark Iris color, and I wanted cold icy blues to dark cold purples. The results exceeded my every expectation:


I wish you could see the entire pieces – they have so much flow, motion and texture. Perfect for a cold, wintery quilt with sparks of green, blue and even turquoise in the icy purple. I could see snow capped mountains, icy streams, distant mountains, rising mists . . . these are perfect Alaskan colors.

We worked in teams, and as we worked on my partner’s colors, a spoon flipped, and the cup full of dye spun out of her hand, spiralling the spatter on me, the wall, the table, the floor – it was everywhere, a brilliant sapphire blue. I was wearing my oldest jean skirt (I could barely zip it) so honestly, it just didn’t matter. It took us forever to clean it all up. My poor friend kept saying “Sorry. Sorry. I’m so sorry,” and finally, as we were both down on our hands and knees sopping up sapphire blue I started laughing and said “Friend, I am down here on my knees just thanking God it was YOU that did it and not me!” If we hadn’t been laughing so hard, we probably could have cleaned up faster, but even the spill was a lot of fun. I had blue toes when I got home! I looked like something out of Braveheart!


The next exercise we did had to do with color families, using two dyes, six fabrics, and varying the proportions from one end of the spectrum to the other. I chose yellow to fushia. The results totally wowed me:


And then – the grand finale – direct application dye. We had squirt bottles, and could apply the dye wherever and however we wanted. We could mix, we could scrunch, we could try anything. It was, it was like being a kid again. My result is like something out of the 1970’s – I totally love it!


I seem to do a lot of quilts with seas in them, and my hands are itching to get busy on another one. These fabrics are inspiration for both sea and sand . . . love those orangey sand colors, too.

If you have a chance to take this class, grab it and run! It is SO much fun!

Mystery Quilt Mayhem (Part 1)

I admit it. I am a control freak. I did a couple mystery quilts early on in my quilting life and found myself looking at those quilts critically ever after, wishing I had used a darker color here, a lighter color there, etc. I am choosy. I like making choices, and I like enough contrast in just the right places to make a quilt work.

So when our Q8 Quilters announced a mystery quilt, for me it was all like “Ho Hum” until she started telling us about it. 

Our first month, we have to make a 20 inch block (20 1/2 inches unfinished) that can be turned on point. We will need about 4 yards of one fabric for the background. We choose our own colors, our own theme – Hey! This sounds interesting, and as challenging as we want it to be. In spite of myself, I was already planning my 20″ block.

I did all the math. I drew it out on my squared paper. I gathered my fabrics and carefully decided where I wanted them to fall in the pattern. I chose a Lone Star Center, because I have all these beautiful snowflake patterns in blue and silver, and I am dying to use them in a very wintery quilt.

It went together fine, and then I placed the insets by machine. Hmmm. Not so good. I did a Lone Star as my second ever quilt (I know, I know, fools rush in) which was in Seminole Colors as a graduation quilt for my son and I remember piecing and repiecing to get all the diamonds to line up. I did all the inset squares and triangles by hand. Now I remember why.

When I finish, my heart sinks. No matter how careful I was, no matter how I planned and measured – the square is more like 24 inches than 20. I don’t know how that happened.

As I am looking at it, and it looks all wonky, I see that I scorched a section as I was ironing. I quickly call my friend who knows everything about home things, and she gave me several suggestions. I tried the baking soda suggestion, and then, as I was rinsing the baking powder out, further disaster struck – my focus fabric, an Alaska-at-midnight blue with silver stars ran all over the crystal pristine white and silver that was to work as a snowflake. Horrors!

It was late in the day. I know there is too much wrong here to salvage, and, thankfully, I have a lot of the fabric; I can do it again.

The next day I started again, using a half inche less in every diamond measurement. I changed a couple fabrics, and I think I like the result. I also set in the setting triangles and squares by hand. Piece of cake.

I had to add a frame to bring it to 20 inches, but I was pleased to come as close as I did, working with so many seams, diagonals and a fixed block size. If anyone knows where there is a chart to tell you what size diamonds to use to get size X Lone Star block, please let me know.

Here are the results:

The one on the top is the one I will use as the Mystery Quilt center. The one on the bottom . . . it needs a little work. I don’t think I will trash it, but I need to think about it for a while.