Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sky cloth: hits and misses

Sky fabric for my next Cityscape?

Making my most recent cityscape, Montmartre #1, I began with a beautifully mottled, pale grey hand-dye for the sky, shown at left. Because it wasn't the right shape, I cut it apart and re-stitched it so that it fit. I told myself I could live with two vertical seams in the sky.

I couldn't.

Mid-way through the project, I stopped to dye six different pale greys, finally settling on something called "nickel". It was okay, but it didn't have the beautiful mottling that suggests clouds in the sky.

I had tried ice dyeing this past summer (see my post of September 9) and was struck by the unusual patterning produced with this method. "What if," I wondered, "I used different grey dyes to produce a sky with subtle colours and an interesting, mottled texture?"

It was not a success. I was reminded that grey dyes are often created by mixing together dyes in complementary colours. What looks like a grey dye when dissolved in water is actually made of granules of different dyes: yellow, blue, red, orange, green, etc. If the powdered dye is applied directly to wet cloth, it splits into its various components. So, while the result was vibrant and interesting, even psychedelic, it wasn't the sky I had in mind.

Today I tried some low immersion dyeing, again using pale greys. This time I limited myself to charcoal, nickel, and safari grey, alone and in combination. This technique uses a small amount of liquid, and little agitation of the fabric. The result is more or less mottled, depending on the amount of agitation. Only 1/16 tsp of dye to a half-yard of cotton.

Of course I could paint cloth to look like sky, but I do like the serendipitous textures achieved with low immersion dyeing.

I'm excited about refining my dyeing skills in an on-line class in January with Elizabeth Barton, through Quilt Liz is a very skilled teacher, and promises to show us how to best use our hand-dyed fabrics, patterned and solid, light and dark, bright and dull, warm and cool. The class is titled Dyeing to Design, and is now fully registered, but will be offered again in April. And I have subscribed to the dyer's list, a forum for dyers, beginners and experts alike. I have a lot to learn.

No comments: