Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Vat Dyeing

I had the opportunity to take a class in vat dyeing on Saturday. I always wanted to try it but hesitated because of the lye that was used in the process. My friend Denny recently took this workshop and loved it - felt very comfortable with it so I decided to jump in. 4 of the 6 gals in Fiber Junkies all signed up - we were off and running. We did 2 pieces the first being a test piece. The process in a nutshell; you work with fabric, usually silk or cotton dyed with an acid or mx dye both of which can be discharged. A vat dye mix, some paste and I assume discharge of some sort is then applied to surface through screening or stamps. The vat dye image removes color underneath and replaces it with the color of the vat dye. This is done through the final step of steaming.
The paste mix is quite gummy and easy to apply. We all brought stamps and other kinds of imagery to use in the first step.
Here is my piece before it was steamed.
The next step is to get them ready for the steamer. They are layered with fabric in between so no piece touches another. This is done while the dyes are still wet.
After being rolled up in fabric, they are then rolled in paper to capture any excess moisture that might accumulate on the package from the steam.
The steamer is quite sophisticated with double gas burners. It has a rod the pieces are initially rolled on making for an easy placement in the steamer.
Here is my piece after steaming - the colors quite vibrant.
Next piece was more involved; we carved stamps out of pieces of insulation board using a wood burning tool. We all wore masks and worked outside as the fumes from insulation board are not good. Since I have no drawing skills, I used this wonderful stencil created by Mary Stori - it worked out so well. The pieces of board were cut the width of the scarf so we could have a nice design that fit perfectly.

The idea was to remove as much of the background so the color of the scarf would show. I had a hard time with that concept until I actually saw the finished product and then the lightbulb went on! I just kept burning away as Charlie, our instructor told me to.

Charlie had dyed a beautiful assortment of silk satin scarfs, choosing a color was difficult - just so many luscious colors.
Kate did a wonderful design she drew with a sharpie first and then burned it out
and her scarf....before steaming.
After wrapping and steaming once again we were ready for the water soak.
We were all so anxious to see the results - even though they only had to be soaked for 10 minutes, it was the longest ten minutes ever!
Denny's came out beautiful; she worked with rayon as she's allergic to silk. It was interesting to see how the process worked on rayon and it turned out wonderful.
Here'e Kates - beautiful and her favorite colors.
This is Val's drawing as she was transferring it to the insulation board.
She worked with a cranberry colored silk and did a lot of overlapping - and the results were wonderful - no surprise there. Val is our resident artist; everything she does is magical!
And my cat-tails, before steaming which were also overlapped...
and the finished piece I'm doing a happy dance as I'm very pleased with the results and even more so to find the technique fun and comfortable to work with.
And the resident cat - Rudy, I'm a cat lover so he became my pal that day. I have to say that
Charlie Slate in Greenville, SC does a beautiful job with this class. I am looking forward to taking another workshop from her.


  1. Oh, that looks fun! Your scarf turned out beautiful.

  2. Amazing always fascinated by the various dying processes.

  3. What a wonderful day, I wish I could have been there. Your pieces are terrific.

  4. Thank you all....it really was such a fun day and great class. I had my doubts about the process because of the "lye" used in the process....we never saw any lye and perhaps it was part of the paste mix....don't know but I felt very comfortable doing it.

  5. Your cat-tails and colour scheme provide a good balance of simplicity and complexity; great results!