07 March 2013

let's talk cotton

It's no secret that I'm a dedicated cotton girl. Love the stuff. It's my go to fabric for nearly everything I work on. (Although I am considering straying a bit. I'm researching options. More on that later.)

I'm often asked what kind of cotton I use, what kind of dyes. Many of you already know this but I thought I'd give it a little talk on the blog too because I still get shocked looks when I say this:

I don't dye my own fabric. I work on commercial solids.

I know, I know. Trust me, it took me a long time to be able to say it without an apology in my voice. After all, real fiber artists dye their own fabric, right?

Many do, yes. But not me. There are a lot of different reasons for this. But the main one that drove me toward that decision was time. I've got precious little as it is and I want to fill it with writing and printing and about a bazillion other things. I found that when I used to dye my own fabric, I was dyeing solids since I prefer those for my printing. They don't compete with whatever I do with the paint.

Somehow it started to seem foolish of me to spend all that time and money and effort to create something that looked nearly identical to what was already on the market.

So I spent several months experimenting with every brand I could get my hands on of commercial solids. I tend to research the snot out of things because once I find what I want, I don't stray. I found the solids offered at places like Joann's fabric to not be so great. Super thin and really really limited colors.

In the end, I found my commercial cotton soul mate in Robert Kaufman's Kona solids. (And no, I don't work for them so this is not a commercial.) They are a medium weight which makes stitching through them by hand comfortable and they have withstood every kind of surface design I've thrown at it. Including discharge, holds up like a champ.

Plus the colors. Oh my. The coooooooolllllloooooooorrrrrsssss. (Makes my heart go pitty-pat.)

My studio is stocked with it. I still get crooked looks and head tilts when I say I don't dye my own fabric but in all honesty, I can't get upset about it. This works from me. It's awesome stuff and I make no apologies.

My eye has begun to stray to other fabrics, mainly linen. I ordered a fabric sampler from Dharma to learn what is what with the different kinds. Yeah, I know that's fabric meant for dyeing but I think I might have a solution for conquering the dreaded white fabric without having to use dyes (I'm not a fan of the chemicals either.)

So there you have it. Will I never dye fabric again? Well no, I can't say that. Because if I've learned one thing it's that things evolve and stretch and you just never know. I might stumble into a new project and find that dyeing it is the only thing that will work. Commercial solids suit my needs really well right now so that's where I'm staying put.

Happy Printing! :)


Lisa said...

Fun! Nothing to apologize for! I stocked up on solids when the quilt store I worked for went out of business. They are some of my favorite working materials! I'm still in the dye and experiment stage personally and I'm trying to figure out projects for my snow dyes.

HollyM said...

Well, painters generally buy their paint already coloured. There are also many fibre artists who use commercial prints in their work.
I feel the same way and I love the Kona solids. I've been going toward using a lot more paint on fabric right now. So far, I've been picking up linens at the second hand store. Found some beautiful colors.

Kathy said...

Solid colors are so much harder for me to dye than random scrunches! It's well worth it to get good solids at the quilt store! And those Kaufman colors---sooooo many and I want them all! And then I want some more just so I won't run out of them!

Sea Air Arts - Deb H said...

I love the softly mottled semi solids that dye pots are good for but understand the need for a simple solid background for multiple layers of printing, painting and stitching. Just to throw in another fabric to consider, my favorite is bleached white silk noil. The beauty of it is it can be dyed with acid dyes and I use Gaywool which are non-toxic. The best of all options for me :-)

Jeannie said...

Even though I love to dye fabric, I buy solids. There is something about a stack of vibrant colors that gets the juices flowing. Have you tried the cotton/silk blend from RJR? Lovely to pet and stitch. I also like cotton sateen. Linen is wonderful to sew. You do have to watch for fraying. I picked up some linen/rayon blend in Seattle to dye and it has a wonderful feel to it. Have fun, I know you will! :)

Regina Dunn said...

So far in my art career(about 10 years), I've only dyed fabrics in a workshop. I love the pieces that came out of it and am still using some of them. But I don't have a good place to dye at home (not yet). So I've been painting fabrics instead and I've really loved the results. I'll have to try out the Kona solids as a starting fabric. Thanks for pointing them out. Do they discharge in interesting colors?