Nearly 100% of the instances when I try to describe what I do (to non-craft people) in my Rags Paper Stitches business result in the comment, “Oh, you tie dye T-shirts.” No, I do not. The following picture shows an assortment of repurposed vintage damask table linens and doilies that I snow dyed last winter with a four color blend.
I recently made the decision to phase out my small stash of commercially printed fabrics for a number of reasons. One, if I am to earn a living off of my own dyed fabrics, I should use what I make. Another reason, the commercial print designs, nice as many of them are, are someone else’s design. I have lost interest in incorporating someone else’s work in mine; I know that is expected with commercial fabric, it is just not me anymore. I enjoy creating my own colors and patterns through dyeing fabric, plain and simple. I still use solid colors of fabrics not readily available for me to dye, and I use a fair amount of cast off clothing to add texture and pattern I cannot achieve through my own dyed wares.
The most succinct way I can think of to describe my craft is “art cloth.” Much of my fabric gets dyed in solid colors, but I also make a fair amount of blends, using two to four colors in one dye bath. The colors do not get added all at once. The fabric might get scrunched, folded, and rearranged with each color addition. I sometimes use ice or snow in my dye process to achieve stunning effects with color blending. Then there is my own special “end-of-the-day” technique that uses all of the colors that I’ve mixed for a dye session – anywhere from 15 to 25 in one large piece of fabric.
There are many more dye techniques I haven’t tried yet, not to mention further surface design by painting, stamping, screen printing, etc.
Now back to that tie-dye thing. There are some wonderful surface pattern effects that result from tying fabric in certain ways – shibori, for example, and vastly different from what the psychedelic crowd did to t-shirts. Fabric dyeing is not solely 1960s era t-shirts. I do not sell t-shirts at the county fairs or Grateful Dead concerts.