How To Dye Your Own Fabrics – Why I Dye

Why Do I Dye?

I have been teaching machine sewing for over twelve years and have been dyeing my own fabrics for most of that time, both for my students and for my own creations.

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My nearest, decent, fabric shop is an hour’s train ride away. They sell a wide selection of plain and printed fabrics in most of the well-known ranges, but often I cannot find exactly what I want. This is no reflection on the shop, but since I have discovered fabric dyeing, shop-bought fabrics seem pale and uninteresting. They just cannot deliver the zing that my home-produced, procion-dyed fabrics can.

The variety and intensity of the coloured fabrics you can produce are entirely under your control.

Wall hanging for the local Brickworks Museum shop

Wall hanging for the local Brickworks Museum shop

A Whole New World of Colour

When you visit a fabric shop, or even buy on-line, your choice is limited to whatever is on offer. But once you get the hang of dyeing, you can create whatever colour you want and even a good many that you didn’t want – at first…

One of the most exciting things about dyeing is the element of surprise. When you’re not in need of any particular colour and you just allow yourself to experiment, you will be amazed at what you can come up with. Some pieces you may not like at all, but you can change them. If you’re using a good quality fabric – and we’ll get to that in a minute – you can overdye any that are not quite your thing, until they’re just right.

A Safe and Easy Process

Dyeing is not difficult. There are chemicals involved, and a fair amount of mess, but with a bit of care and attention to detail, home dyeing is easily achievable by almost anyone. Very little specialist equipment is required and you probably have most of the general equipment already. Anything you don’t have can usually be picked up cheaply at a supermarket or discount store.

Economy

Commercially-dyed and printed fabrics are expensive and, as long as labour prices in the Far East continue to rise, the price will keep on rising. High quality mercerized cotton fabric, ready prepared for dyeing and printing (PFD), if you buy it in lengths of at least 10 yards (or metres), can work out at less than half the price, per metre, than commercial fabrics. And it is usually 60” wide; instead of the traditional 45” width of those you buy.

I buy my dyeing fabric, in 60m bolts, from a former mill town in the North of England. I am not under any misapprehension that it is woven there any longer, but it is heartening to be able to buy it in the same country!

Initial outlay for dyes and chemicals, can be quite expensive, but you need only three basic primary colours to begin with, and black. I say begin with, but I have been dyeing for over five years now and still only buy basic primaries and black. I may buy a different shade of primary occasionally to mix things up a bit, but I still prefer to experiment with mixing my own colours rather than buy ready-mixed.

The Procion dyes I buy are very economical and a little goes a long way, as you will find when you start to clean up after a dye session.

All the other equipment you will need is cheap and readily available, if indeed, you don’t have it already.

So give dyeing a go – you’ll love it!

This post is an excerpt from my new eBook ‘How to Dye Your Own Fabric’. If you’d like to get the book for yourself I’ve given you the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/How-Dye-Your-Own-Fabric-ebook/dp/B00K5VCUAW/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1399575598&sr=1-6&keywords=dyeing+fabric

 

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How to Get Started in Machine Embroidery – Getting Wound up

In a recent post I talked about the best type of bobbin arrangement for machine embroidery. Today, I’d like to talk about the bobbins themselves.

Getting Wound Up

The thing about bobbins is that they must be correctly wound. A bobbin that is not correctly wound will cause you no end of problems.

So how can you tell whether it’s wound correctly?

First of all you will have read your sewing machine instruction manual to make sure that you’ve threaded it right for bobbin winding. You must wind enough thread onto the bobbin; too little and the wind will be too loose causing slippage on the reel and a poor stitch construction, too much and the bobbin will not run freely in the case causing tension problems.

Bobbin winding on a Bernina 230

Bobbin winding on a Bernina 230

So how do you know its wound properly? The depth of the thread should be even from the top to the bottom of the bobbin and not bunched up at either extremity. There should be no ends or loops of threads poking out and it should look completely smooth. If that’s the way yours looks, you’re doing it right.

Correctly Wound Bobbin

Correctly Wound Bobbin

But if it looks like the one below, there is something wrong.

Incorrectly Wound Bobbin

Incorrectly Wound Bobbin

If your bobbin doesn’t look quite right, don’t just tell yourself ‘It’ll be OK’, because it won’t. You’ll suffer thread breakages, you’ll risk a bird’s nest of threads under your needle plate and it will all be a pain and may put you off before you’ve even got started. It really is worth getting this bit right.

The other really important thing is, and this causes a myriad of problems, is bobbin threading. Now in most drop-in bobbin machines, the threading is similar, it’s easy to do and there are even a few little arrows to help you. Some even cut the thread off for you and automatically bring it to the top of the needle bed when you start sewing. But you must make sure that the bobbin is in the right way round or there will be no tension on the bobbin thread. This may cause poor stitch construction and thread or even needle breakage. Take time to check.

Fixed drop-in Bobbin Threading

Fixed drop-in Bobbin Threading

The same is true of vertically mounted bobbins, they must be properly threaded. There are no arrows to help you here but it will all be in your instruction manual. Please take time to check.

Bobbin Case from front

Bobbin Case from front

On a final note, if you have one of the bobbin cases that has a separate little lug specifically for free-machine embroidery, please use it, despite its small and insignificant appearance, it will make a huge difference to your bobbin tension.

Bobbin Case with Lug Threaded for Machine Embroidery

Bobbin Case with Lug Threaded for Machine Embroidery

This post is an excerpt from my craft eBook ‘How to Get Started in Free Machine Embroidery’ If your interested in getting a copy, here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/How-Get-Started-Free-Machine-Embroidery-ebook/dp/B00HHCTPW8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1392985700&sr=1-1&keywords=free+machine+embroidery

Hold on Tight. New Direction Coming Up!

Before you ask – I’m not about to move into another shop or artist’s studio that I can’t afford. Nope. With lots of help and encouragement from my lovely other half, I have been developing some new wall hangings.

Those of you who know me know of my passions for free embroidery and hand-dyed fabrics and, up to now I have been incorporating these into cushions. But lately I have been finding the cushion format a little restrictive, both in size and content. So here are a few things I’ve been working on lately.

Wall hanging for the local Brickworks Museum shop

Wall hanging for the local Brickworks Museum shop

This is intended for our local Bursledon Brickworks Museum shop where I am a volunteer. Note the fossilized fish on the bottom left!

Seascape Hanging

Seascape Hanging

This is part of a larger work which is as yet unfinished and will have a few more deep sea surprises!

These wall hangings appeal to me because of the movement I can invoke with quite simple stitching techniques and the surprises I can add in the form of quirky applique!

Watch this space for the finished article!

Bag Worship from the Old to the New

I love bags. Or to be more precise – I love making bags. I look on them as a portable canvas to display my ideas and inspirations. But they are not just ornamental as a wall hanging would be, but useful too.

Here are a few that I’ve made. The first one is a recent make put together after a shopping trip in Chichester where I saw some lovely soft leather bags made of off-cuts arranges in a tessalated pattern. But this one is made in my hand dyed fabrics from the ‘Brights’ range using Cerulean Blue, Acid Lemon and Magenta.

Tessalated Bag in Bright hand dyed fabrics

 

This bag has boxed corners and a blue lining and says – no shouts – summer to me – a phenomenon that is at last happening in the UK after the deluges of April!

The next bag is one made several years ago when my dyeing skills were still in their infancy. I used calico for everything and could only afford the basic primaries. But I loved freearm embroidery and covering all my projects in fanciful images of fruit and veg. I had the idea that I might ask our local fruit shop to sell them but didn’t think that the customers would pay more for the bag than the merchandise so chickened out and kept them for myself.

I have many more ideas for bags from the buildings of British towns that I am so fond of to the drawings of Wildlife illustrator, Charley Harper to the Traction engines that surround me in my Brickworks studio. I love to make and I love to share those makes and ideas.

Watch this space!