I get at least one query a week via my Etsy shop to do some sort of custom dyeing. I’ve been asked to dye dark things lighter, to dye a blanket (who knows what her definition of blanket is), to dye upholstery fabric, do dye wedding dresses, groomsmen shirts…..you name it and I’ve probably been asked to dye it.
I always say “no”. Actually I say “I’m really sorry but I only dye my own fabric.” In my head I say “Not a snowball’s chance in ……”
Why is that? Most of the people who contact me do not have the first idea of what dyeing fabric involves and how many variables there are to consider. They aren’t quilters or fiber artists like you. They are like my non-arty friends who think that dyeing is magic and that anything can be dyed exactly the way they envision.
I stopped dyeing garments after finding out on Amy’s sweatshirt that a label reading 50/50 is actually 100% cotton and a sweatshirt that was supposed to be pale pink became dark fuchsia. (She was REALLY nice about that.) Other garments, like shirts and dresses, are simply too risky. Most people don’t even know the fiber content and even if the garment is cotton they don’t understand that the thread and zippers are polyester and will not dye. Of course there’s also a huge shrinkage risk too.
The general public just doesn’t understand that every fabric, even if they are all 100% cotton, might dye differently. Some take dye great and some do not. Their expectations are for perfect and we know that perfect doesn’t often happen in fabric dyeing. That’s why I love it in the first place! So, I say “no” so special requests.
Until my friend Becky asked me to help her with a very sentimental project. Becky is a great quilter and understands the risks with dyeing and she was willing to accept whatever came of the project. Becky got a “yes”.
She requested the Under the Sea gradient on her fabric. She took part of it and split it into 2 pieces and wrapped 18 x 24 canvases to hang on the wall.
And has pretty beaded tassels on the corners.
So, why is this sentimental?
Becky has always had a keen interested in her family history. She has an amazing collection of quilts made by her grandmother in Kansas (where Becky grew up) and has documented them in her own book. Becky’s sister has never been all that interested in family treasures until recently. Her sister visited and Becky showed her the quilts again. She was moved and thanked Becky for saving them.
Becky had one other treasure that meant a lot to both of them. That treasure is a set of sheets that she and her sister slept under when they stayed with their Grandmother. They both have great memories of staying there.
Becky wanted her sister to have something tangible from these memories but she wanted it to be something she could she and use every day. She asked me if I would dye the sheet. Of course we knew it was 100% cotton and Becky was willing to take the risk. It was a good risk! The sheet fabric dyed beautifully and she will be shipping these treasures off to her sister this week.
This is what makes fabric dyeing so rewarding for me. Just seeing what you do with the fabric amazes me every day.