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Saturday 6 April 2013

Into the Blue

Everything is blue, my Dorset buttons, some once brightly coloured little pegs. Even my fingers, and it's not just because it's so cold outside. Rather, it's because I've been on an indigo dyeing course, and unbeknown to me, there was a small hole in one of my rubber gloves.

The course was run by my old patchwork & quilting tutor, and it did not disappoint, although at times, it felt as if I had been transported back to school chemistry lessons. (It came as quite a surprise to discover that I'd be dealing with chemicals such as Caustic soda and Sodium Hydrosulphite!).

Of course, it is possible to indigo dye at home, but you do need decent facilities – preferably a dedicated utility area, with a large sink to rinse out the the excess dye, drying areas, and somewhere to store and mix the chemicals, but who really has that much spare space? Certainly not me, so a fully equipped art studio was the ideal environment to start, even though the real skill is in how artfully you twist, fold and tie the fabric, which can be done pretty much anywhere and then taken along to class.

My attempts at Shibori (twisting, stitching, folding, compressing and tying fabric) were mixed, but then I am a beginner. The patterns in the above three pictures were achieved by twisting silks and linens then  either stitching them into place, or binding them with jewellery wire. In some cases, beads were inserted in between the twists to create another barrier (or resist) to the dye.

The above image proves that more effort doesn't necessarily produce better results. I spent hours wrapping cocktail sticks in pieces of knotted string, thinking It would give me a repeated twiglet like pattern. Instead, all I got is this drippy, mottled sludge!

My attempts at folding fabric and placing objects between the layers to produce interesting effects, needs work too. You can – just about – see the impression of some Dorset buttons, in the above pic, but I really should have left the fabric to dry completely, and settle into crisp, sharp lines but impatience got the better of me. (When I look at this fabric, I can't help but think of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake in their matching stone wash denim heyday).

Now, I just have to do something with my indigo dyed fabrics, but part of me is reluctant to cut into them, as even the less successful ones, feel so precious to me. I have a large patchwork cushion in mind. I'd like it to feature raw edges (almost as if you're looking at the reverse of the patchwork in places) and then build up layers of fabric in other areas. I also want to include Kantha stitching (or some very simple Shashiko, if I'm feeling brave) but perhaps I'm letting my ambition and imagination run away with me! This one definitely needs more thinking about before I pick up my rotary cutter.


PS: I'm linking up with Nat at Made in Home, why not join in?


  1. I think they are beautiful! I can see why you will have to give it some thought before committing yourself to cutting into the fabrics. I bought myself a book about indigo with Christmas money and now I've seen your lovely results I'm itching to use it:-)

  2. I think they could be amazing patchwork! I went on a dying spree 2 years ago & stil have yet to cut into my favorite bits...

  3. It's lovely and unique and probably has a lot fewer chemicals in it than machine printed fabric. Love it!

  4. I am ally interested in making my own fabric so that's a great, instructive post! Thanks for linking in!

  5. Beautiful! I love blue and I think you did a fantastic job with the dyeing. Lol about the Britney Spears and Justin Timerlake's reference!


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