Saturday, June 7, 2008


Today I found the time to try out an idea I've had in the back of my mind for a long time. It has to do with discharge dyeing (color removal) by using a Clorox bleach pen. I was THRILLED with the results! Let me give you a bit of background before I continue with descriptions of my successful project.
A year ago, I created a large quilt that consisted of thirteen 6" wide x 80" long strips of my hand-dyes. I call the method of dyeing to create these strips"dip and flip". I folded the long strips in half (the long way), then carefully rolled them to look much like a gauze bandage. I placed each roll into a cup (only half way up the roll) of either blue, green, or violet dye. After 30 minutes, I carefully picked up each roll and flipped it into a cup of black. When finished, these strips had fabulous mottled colors which reminded me of the ocean. I pieced the strips together, sandwiched my batting and backing together and proceeded to free-motion an ocean scene over the entire piece. The main characters were rockfish (thanks to Laura Lee Fritz for her continuous line drawing), crab, octopus, and jellyfish. It was one of the most difficult quilts I have done because it was directional. I used my trusty old Bernina, and fitting this quilt (about 7'x7') into the throat was fine until I got to the left side of the quilt. It was way too bulky! So I had to flip the quilt upside down and now had to free-motion the sea creatures upside down too! Does that ever mess with the old brain! Anyway, a true labor of love BUT quite disappointing as the background strips were so busy that the figures didn't show up. The backing was a semi-solid hand-dyed gray, so fortunately the figures were easily seen from the wrong side. I heard many comments that mentioned how the back looked great, impressive stitching, etc., etc., but I knew deep down that the front of the quilt just didn't work.
So, after living with what I thought was a finished quilt for about 3 months, I finally got up the courage to continue on...this time with discharging. I knew if could pull out the color inside each object, that it would then be seen. Using a small, stiff, angled brush, I hand painted the thickened substance from Clorox bleach pens (don't use directly from the blobs!) inside the stitching of each fish, and continued on with the other objects too. Yes, they popped out and I was much happier! But what I noticed was that the colors left behind varied dependent upon the base color. Because I had such a blend of colors on the original piece, I was getting some amazing colorations. Where I stitched a fish on two strips of different colors, the discharged piece left a complexity of colors that could not be predicted. Or could it? I put it into my "idea bank" to try a similar but smaller quilted piece using a palette of dark hand-dyes as the base pieces. Here's the steps I went through:
1. I mixed up a set of red, yellow, blue and black dyes. In this case it was my bright group: lemon yellow, fuschia, turquoise, and better black (Dharma colors). I wanted a palette of 10 colors from these so measured and mixed my RYB's into 10 cups to get a beautiful spectrum of colors. Since I wanted dark colors, I added an equal amount of black to each.
2. Now I set to dye up my 10 fat quarters, and from these I pieced together a 20"x24" piece that had a combination of 2" squares, sashing pieces, and a central square with a circle in the middle. The piece was DARK but at this stage I was very happy with it as the colors went so well together.
3. After sandwiching together my batting and backing, I free-motioned one of my typical leaf scenes using a dark thread.
4. Instead of painting on the bleach pen substance (labor intensive!), I decided to put it into one of my tiny bottles with a metal tip (5mm) and squeeze it into the enclosed leaf shapes. (Always work in a well-ventilated area when using bleach!!!) This still was a bit labor intensive but the piece was much smaller, so only took about an hour.
5. Ahhhhhh! The base colors were coming through and it was like light, in different shades, was popping through the cloth. My eyes couldn't decide what to focus on...the colors, the leaf shapes, or the quilted pattern behind it all.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot...Last winter I did this process on another piece too. I have featured it as the headliner on my blog. It was all in grays and blacks, with people stitched throughout, and I later bleached out all the people. It loved how it turned out and it now resides in the home of my brother and his family!

I know I will be doing more pieces with this process and hope to share it others!

No comments: