Brenda H Smith - Contemporary Quilt Art

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    Hand-dying fabric
Thermal screens

Photos on fabric
Hand-dying Fabric

I use Procion MX dyes and prepared for dying (PFD) cotton fabrics.  Dyers muslin works well for experimenting, but I prefer the tighter weave and brighter colors that I get on Pima cotton.  For a heavier weight fabric, Kona cotton also dyes well. 

There are innumerable ways and recipes for hand-dying cotton fabric.  I use a variety of techniques, depending on what I want my fabric to look like.  The longer I experiment, the more I learn and can more closely achieve what I am trying to accomplish.  I usually use a low water immersion method (see Ann Johnston’s book, Color by Accident), which gives a fractured look to the dyed fabric.  Her color parfait method is wonderful for blending colors into one another and is the method I used for dying the fabrics for my quilt Wildfire!.

Photo of hand-dyed fabrics

I manipulate fabric by scrunching it in a ball, folding it in a variety of ways, or just dropping it loosely in a plastic bowl.  When I want more control blending different colors together on one piece of fabric, I fold the fabric accordion-style or scrunch it across its width and lay it in a plastic tray.  I pour dye solution over the wet fabric in strips where I want pure colors; the dyes will bleed and blend into each other between these strips.  I am careful in choosing what colors I place next to each other and avoid complements or close complements that can turn into muddy browns. Once I have added the dye solution and activator (soda ash) to my fabric, the reaction begins. The more I move the fabric with the dye, the smoother and more evenly the color will distribute through the fabric. 

I generally cure my fabrics in plastic zipper type bags (1 gallon size for fat quarters or half yards and the giant 1 ½ gallon for 1 yard pieces).  Adriene Buffington’s book, Hand-dyed Fabric Made Easy, is a great place to begin if you have not tried dying fabrics yet.  It is available through Dharma Trading, a source for most of what you will need to get started.

Sources: 
Hand-dyed Fabric Made Easy, Adriene Buffington.  1996.  That Patchwork Place.
Complex Cloth, Jane Dunnewold.  1996.  Fiber Studio Press and That Patchwork Place.
Color by Accident, Ann Johnston.  1997.  Self-published.
Dyeing to Quilt, Joyce Mori and Cynthia Myerberg.  1997.  The Quilt Digest Press.

 

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Thermal Screens

Thermo fax supplies

Please contact me if you are interested in custom thermofax screens from your black and white photocopies.

Thermal screens produce an effect similar to silk-screens, but with less work. The drawback is that you need access to a thermofax machine, which was developed to make transparencies (remember those old mimeographs from grade school?).  No longer made, reconditioned machines are available from Welsh Products Inc., eBay, and other sources. The screen is a polyester mesh backed with a plastic film that melts away when layered with a black and white photocopy and passed through the thermofax.  Anything black in the image burns the film away, leaving a screen that can be used with silk-screen or other printing paints.  I have been making quilts using these thermal screened images for several years – Mothers and Daughters and many of the quilts in my tree series use fabrics that I screen painted in this way.  My husband is also having a great time making T-shirts.

Photos on Fabric Top
During my early experiments with printing images on fabric, I used Bubble Jet set to pre-treat a fine-woven cotton fabric.  Backed with freezer paper and cut to 8 ½ by 11 inches in size, the photo prints beautifully and remains color-fast, even if it gets wet.  I moved up to an Epson wide carriage printer that will print on my fabric up to 13” wide and 39” long.  The Ultrachrome inks are washable, even without pre-treating the fabric.  After printing my photo on fabric, I let it cure for a few days and usually rinse it out in water because there can be some migrant ink.  Since I generally wet and block my quilts after I make them (I have 4 cats and a lot of pet hair ends up on my pieces while I am working), I want to be sure that the color will not run. 

My cat Mousehound

My studio assistant, Mousehound

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All images © Brenda H. Smith
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