South Charlton

I’m working with the WhichCraft group to make Textile panels for their renovated Village Hall here in South Charlton.

The panels will be in appliqué and stitch and will feature the local landscape, flora and fauna. To make them unique to the venue the group had the task of dyeing a range of natural fabrics with colours appropriate to the locality.

I love doing this dye workshop- it’s so exciting to see how quickly fabrics can be transformed and, in this gorgeous rural setting it was important that there would be no dye waste to get rid of as they are not on mains water or drainage.

So what did we do? I prepped the dyes and auxiliaries in my workshop so I just had to add the washing soda and chemical water to the powder- this means there’s no noxious chemicals for participants to breathe and the dye is really strong and fresh.

Everyone was kitted our with protective gloves and aprons. We wetted out the fabric in a washing soda solution to ensure good colour take up. The dye bottles were given a good shake to ensure all the powder dissolved in the liquids.

The wetted out fabric was scrunched up (#technical term!) and placed in the plastic tub. Then we added the dye a few drops at a time, building up layers of different colours.

Because the fabric is wet, the colours blend into one another making luscious patterns on the surface.

We used different types of fabrics- cotton velvet, sheeting, lace and silk. The velvet took quite a lot of dye and needed to be flipped over to ensure dye went right through the fabric.

There is very little waste dye liquid with this method- any remaining in the bowl can be soaked up with another piece of fabric giving interesting tertiary colours.

Once we were happy with the colours added the fabric was wrapped in a plastic bag ready to take back to my workshop. The best colours are achieved if the fabric cures in the bag for at least 24 hours. This keeps the fabric damp and lets the dye really soak into the fibres.

There were one or two dyed digits but overall very little mess !

These fabrics were left for a couple of days, then rinsed in several changes of cold water until no more dye came out. To save water as I do this, I try to wash out like colours together.

(there were all the plastic bags to rinse out too so they can be reused next time!)

Then everything gets hung out to dry!

So now we have our fabrics- I will finalise the designs and draw them out to scale so that when we next meet we can begin the appliqué – we’ll be using free machine embroidery to piece the images together. In the next workshop we will get the sewing machines whirring and see what we can create.

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