Over-dyeing black-and-white prints is a concept that has intrigued me for years. I was inspire by an article on the Marcus Fabrics website by Lisa Shepard Stewart and then discovered another article by Lisa on the RIT dye site where she overdyed zebra prints. I’ve wanted to experiment with this technique, so I finally did, making the Log Cabin block in Valerie Krueger’s Get Comfy quilt (American Patchwork & Quilting, April 2015, page 98). While Valerie’s quilt is very traditional in fabric colors, I made a version of the Log Cabin block using black-and-white prints for the “lights” of the block and the same prints overdyed for the strips for the “darks”.
Since I was only dyeing enough fabric for a few blocks, I used a disposable plastic container and the microwave technique outlined on the RIT studio website. I used powder dye, but only used a portion of the pouch as I wanted this light shade.
While I was thrilled with the results, I did learn several things, so here are some tips to ensure your success:
1. You may find that different fabrics, even if they’re 100% cotton, may take dye differently, resulting in a different hue of your color. As you can see below, all of the fabrics dyed beautifully, but one came out a slightly different shade than the others.
2. Match the amount of fabric you’re dyeing to the technique you’re using, because if you want the same intensity of color for each piece, they should be put into the same bath for the same length of time. So if you’re doing yardage or multiple larger pieces, use the stovetop method, pail method, or washing machine method and follow the instructions on the packaging or website for those techniques.
3. If you’re using a partial pouch of powder dye, measure your powder dye, don’t just eyeball it. The chances that you’ll make the next dye bath the same exact color is slim if you’re guessing. When the one fabric came out a different color, I thought maybe I needed to make a new dye bath. The result was some beautiful more-darkly-dyed fabric, as I was guessing at how much powder to add. Unfortunately, neither piece came out the same color as the other cut strips shown.
4. If you’re dyeing fabric for piecing, dye the fabric before cutting, as you’re putting fabric into a hot-water bath which might cause shrinkage plus you can expect your fabric to ravel a bit as you handle it during the process.
5. Do as they say: wear gloves!! Teal fingers aren’t attractive (at least not on me!), though mine only lasted a day. There’s a phrase that says, “If you can’t be a good example, be a horrible reminder.” Let me be your horrible reminder.
Next up, I might have to try to dye white-on-white prints! I’ll keep you posted…