Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What Do I Need and Where Do I Get It? Tie-Dye Resources

No idea what picture this was before it disappeared!

It's always nice to have some lists handy of where to get stuff.


  • The key thing here: if you are doing tie-dye on cotton (or some other natural fibers), use Procion-MX dyes (several suppliers offer their own brands of Procion-MX dyes). Never never never use "all-purpose" dyes like RIT that are available in supermarkets and craft stores.
  • In case you're wondering, I get all my dyes, chemicals, and most of my supplies (squeeze bottles, etc.) from Dharma Trading Company (Dharma is one of the main suppliers for professional textile crafts. They are in San Rafael, CA, so if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, even standard shipping only takes a couple of days if you order from their website).

White Stuff

  • I get most of my white stuff from Dharma. Those doggie shirts are soooo cute!
  • Your local Goodwill store is a great place to get white things you can't find at Dharma. Who cares if there is a little stain on it?
  • Watch stores like Target and Mervyn's for end-of-season sales on basics like white kids' shirts (turtlenecks, the latest beaded-neckline styles, and so on). Even if it's not on sale, there are often cheap white clothes available that will look great tie-dyed!
  • IKEA is a great source for white stuff for the home, especially couches with slipcovers! It's a good place to get white sheets, too.


Some of my favorite books on tie-dye:

  • "Tie Dye To Die For & Batik You Can't Resist!" available from Dharma
  • "Tie Dye, Back By Popular Demand" by Virginia Gleser available from Dharma or (sometimes) Harmony (she is the Harmony matriarch)


Both of these DVDs are really useful and well worth getting.
  • "Learn How to Tie Dye: Complete 3 Volume Set" available from Dharma or Amazon
  • "The Art of Tie-Dye"available from Dharma or Amazon


See the blog sidebar for my constantly-growing collection of useful links.

Tie-Dyeing the Furniture, Part 2

In a comment on my Tie-Dyeing the Furniture post, Anonymous said...

Oh wow I just love the furniture! I was pondering the possibility of tie-dying my two couches (that don't match...) and it gave me great hope to see yours! Now if I can just have the patience to try it myself.


After I did my couches, I went looking for others on the internet. I was surprised to find only a couple, and they were quite different from what I had done. I liked these ones by Wahmpee, and this one from Dye-abolical Designs. These are very different styles, so you can get a better idea of what you might like.

Really, patience isn't the main requirement, so much as the promise to yourself to really go for it and to like whatever you end up with! It's a bit of an investment, since those slipcovers range in price from $60 and up. That's not counting dyes, which can add up, especially for the really dark colors like navy that require extra dye powder per amount of water. But as long as you like what you end up with, or are willing to cheerfully throw away your investment if you really don't like it, it's well worth the effort. For my house, it makes a huge and positive change!

One tip: do some tie-dye on cheap cotton t-shirts first, with the pattern, dyes and colors you plan to use for the slipcovers. You can drape them over your furniture like swatches. You may find that you want to change the colors or pattern before doing the real thing. And hey, you can wear the shirts, or you can give them away if you hate them!

It also helps a lot to have a friend or two join you. It makes the folding and dyeing go much faster (and it's more fun, of course!), and they can help muscle the stuff around as well--it's really heavy when wet, and the slipcovers are quite large and awkward to fold.

Patience actually is helpful for a couple things: 1) letting it sit wet in the dye overnight, and 2) for ironing the slipcovers when they are washed out and finished! It's a lot to iron, but they just don't look very good until they are ironed. It's cotton, after all, and ironing makes a big difference.

If you are serious about getting the look, but don't want to do it yourself, Wahmpee does custom work, or I can. But where's the fun in having someone else do it if you can do it yourself?

Hm, I wonder how my couches would look in brown swirls to match my dog's brown t-shirt? Another project!

Monday, February 25, 2008

In Stitches

I just went to the Market at Stitches West with some friends last weekend. Though I haven't done any real knitting in many years (I used to be a serious knitting addict before I started having hand problems), I enjoyed it quite a bit. Picture about a hundred yarn and related stores all crammed into a convention hall, with all their yarns draped beautifully amid the knitted-up sample sweaters and scarves and socks. Yup, just like tie-dye, it's all about COLORS, and lots of them.

I particularly liked the offerings from Strickwear.com. Candace Eisner Strick, the designer, has a really wonderful sense of color and design (that rainbow stole in my photo looks much better in person and on her website).

One thing I noticed that is different from when I had gone before (several years ago) is that hand-dyed, variegated yarns are really dominant now. It makes sense if you think about recent trends in knitting.

The average knitters are younger than before, but have lots of other things to do. So simpler patterns to knit (such as plain stockinette knitting) and easy, small projects to complete, such as socks and scarves, are more important.

Variegated yarns provide lots of colors in a project (here are some more examples) without the knitter's having to deal with multiple balls of yarn (or two, at most) and switching colors in and out. You also don't have to choose your own color combinations--it's already professionally chosen for you, right in that one skein of yarn.

And finally, in a setting like Stitches, those gorgeous hanks of brightly-colored fibers are really eye-catching and display very well, drawing the shopper from across the hall. So do the sweaters, either on the displays or on the shoppers. I really enjoyed the display booth from Mountain Colors Hand-Painted Yarns. They had their entire line out for fondling!

Many of those hanks looked like they had been tie-dyed, and the Mountain Colors booth even showed photos of their people dyeing their yarns with squeeze bottles--it looked a lot like my tie-dyeing! I've been thinking (a little) about getting some white wool and dyeing some myself, and many others have as well. Dharma even carries yarn for dyeing.

Ooh, I'm drooling now... maybe I'll have to do some knitting again...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Dreaming in Color

Tie-Dyeing the Sheets

I recently started playing with dyeing sheets, because a lot of what I really like about tie-dye is how you can get such interesting patterns from doing various folds. Here are a few I did recently.

I now use the one above as a tablecloth.

The picture above is a twin size sheet set: fitted, flat, and pillowcase. These are 120 thread-count cotton sheets from IKEA. They are "natural" (unbleached) in color, but they dye up pretty nicely and are inexpensive enough for lots of experimentation!

Here's my latest experiment: another twin flat 120 thread-count cotton sheet from IKEA. This one is destined to be an elegant tablecloth.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Irrestistible Stitch Resist

Stitch resist, one type of shibori dyeing, is fun because you can better control where the white lines are. However, it's more work than the usual tying and dying.

Generally I stitch with dental floss, pull it tight, wrap the extra floss around the gathers, and then put a couple of rubber bands over that for a good white line.


It's certainly possible to do hearts and other symmetric shapes without stitching, but I find that I get a much cleaner, crisper, and more uniform heart with stitching. And it's just one quick line of stitching, so I find that it's worth the small amount of extra work.


Letters can be a lot more complicated than hearts, so stitching works well for them. Here are pillows I made with letters on them.

After I stitched the outline of the K and pulled the stitching tight, I just banded up the rest of the pillow case like a bullseye pattern. Below you see the back of the K pillow (the distorted bullseye) and a side view of the pillowcase that shows how I applied bands of colors.

This M worked particularly well.

When I was feeling really ambitious, I did entire words on 12" throw pillows! These three took quite a while. The worst part was removing the stitching and rubber bands when I wanted to wash them out.

Other Shapes

You can get really creative with stitch resist. In this rainbow heart and bears tapestry, the bear faces are stitched, as is the inner heart and the inner line of the outer heart. I didn't want to take chances that my folding or tying might slip--stitching makes it much more secure.

One Color

A friend brought back this blue floral stitch resist tapestry back from China. It's about 4 feet by 4 feet and all stitch resist, probably vat dyed.

Here is a view of the right side of a corner with the wrong side of a different corner. The pattern differs based on which side the stitching is on!

I dyed this shirt after seeing the tapestry. It's hard to get the very fine detail of the tapestry onto t-shirt fabric, but it's still one of my favorite shirts.

The vine pattern goes around the back of the neck. For the stem, I folded along the line and did a running stitch through both layers of fabric, which gives it that double-line appearance. The more faded leaves are where I didn't manage to pull and tie my stitching tight enough.