disperse dyes

I've gotten some comments about disperse dyes. I have to admit that when I first tried them, it was part of my critique group's 'play days', and just seemed like yet another fiber toy that mostly distracted me rather than helped my art.

Part of that was, I now see, a fear of polyester. Coming from the traditional side of quilting, I had been indoctrinated with the mantra of 'natural fibers only'. In fact, 100% cotton only. A couple of years ago I branched out into silk, and haven't looked back. After all, the things I make are probably never going to be washed, aren't used to comfort sick children, why worry about what they're made of so much?

So I'm embracing other fibers. Even polyester, which does have its own advantages--you can seal the edges, the hand can be nice, some have a good sheen. And I like the look of disperse dyes.

This piece is 8"x6". The disperse dyes were painted onto a sheet of regular copy paper. I was going for a sunset scene, something to turn into a landscape. This was the first print (they do get a little lighter with each successive print), on a shiny white polyester about medium weight.
I had still more blue slash pieces (see my website if you don't know about the blue slash series) with steam-a-seam2 on them, and the color was right, so they found their way onto this piece. I backed it with a piece of felt and quilted both the diagonal stream lines on it (the piece is named 'Downstream'), and horizontal lines for variation.

But what I like most about disperse dyes is their ability to be subtle. I don't know of another way to achieve this with paint. Maybe you could do it with printing from a computer image. But each image is slightly different, and you can repeat if you need to. I'm working on a couple of other pieces where I have printed more than once on the fabric with the same sheet. I've also overprinted with different sheets.

My only complaint with disperse dyes is that the color on the paper isn't necessarily the color you see when it prints, particularly with the greens. But that can lead to happy accidents. Or a piece to save for another day.

They do not change the hand of the fabric any. I got mine from ProChem; I mixed up the powders several months ago and am still using them. They are getting a little weaker and may be almost ready to throw out. But the papers are good until you use them. And after all the prints have been made off them, they still could be used for collages or mixed media work.

So give them a try. ProChem has instructions on their site, it's the transfer printing method I think.


the buckeye in August

The buckeye is one of the first trees in our yard to show signs of fall. The weather has been hot and dry lately, but it still is usual for the green to be disappearing from the buckeye by now--some leaves are completely yellow, others are starting to turn. The buckeyes continue to grow. By the time of the September piece, I expect the leaves to be falling off the tree.

So this month I wanted to celebrate the leaves yet again, while they're still in their shiny glory (the fall leaves are usually not very flashy on this tree). The background fabric this time is a polyester satin. I haven't usually used non-natural fibers, but then I discovered the process of transfers of disperse dyes. You paint the dyes onto sheets of paper (regular printer paper), let it dry. Then you can iron the design onto polyester fabric (it doesn't work on cotton or silk unless they have been painted first). The effect is more etherial than direct painting would be, and you can make multiple identical (although maybe fainter) prints--as I did on this piece, the tree shape was repeated.

It can be a little disconcerting to use the dyes, as the color they appear on the paper is not the color they print always. By the way, I got the dyes from ProChem.

The leaf shapes are cut from the same silk as the background fabric of the July block--dyed and painted. I fused them on, then quilted parallel lines diagonally over the surface. The words this month say 'August falls leaf by leaf.'

Autumn really starts quite early here, if you define autumn as involving seed ripening and plants dying back--the early spring bloomers are already gone. It's like a reminder of our own life cycle--the end is around the corner, we just don't know how far the corner is. But you have to stop and celebrate the moment, too. The moment when some leaves are still green, the fruit is still immature, the dry flies are rubbing their wings every night.