On Saturday I finally got to dyeing the stitched samples I’ve been making as experiments with fabric manipulation and shibori patterns. I decided in the end to go with Procion dyes, because I have all the ingredients to hand already,  and I didn’t want to be experimenting with the dyeing part as well (although I ended up mixing methods in a bit of an ad hoc way, even so).

I soaked the stitched samples for half an hour in soda solution, then mixed up the dye – I was aiming for a rusty colour and I followed a suggestion in Tray Dyeing (by Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan) – 1 part Golden Yellow, 1 part Scarlet, 1/2 part Turquoise. It looked a bit brown so I added a little more of the red and yellow. I mixed it in a small bucket with salt solution and warm water and in went the samples. Then half an hour later I got cold feet about using a single colour and decided to tip the lot into a tray and splodge a bit of Marine Violet over it for good measure!

I wrapped it in towels as it’s a little chilly here and left it for about 6 hours before rinsing. At that point the samples looked so solidly dark I couldn’t believe that the stitching had actually resisted – I was quite prepared to open them up and find that the dye had seeped all the way through.

dyed resists before untying

But no, like magic, when the threads were snipped and unravelled there were patterns within!

removing the stitching and wrapping

dyed stitch resists

Unstitching the bundles took some time, and I’ve learned that it is not sensible to use a cotton thread that will end up the same colour as the fabric, and especially don’t do this when you have used overstitching and can’t just pull out the thread in one go! White (and even black) polyester thread was easy to see and much easier to remove.

I was glad of my small sketches of the original stitching – I knew I’d have forgotten by this time how I had made the different patterns. I like the wrapped effects, but I’m especially enchanted by the ghosts of stitches that are no longer there but have left their trace on the fabric.

embroidery stitch resists

I’ve uploaded more pics to Flickr, showing each of the samples on its own.

dyeing and unstitching the resists

28 thoughts on “dyeing and unstitching the resists

  • August 25, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    These are beautiful!! Simply beautiful

  • August 25, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Fantastic patterns. I agree that I really like how the technique combines both regularity and artifacts of irregularity.

  • August 25, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Fantastic results Fiona. I never manage to get white areas because I use cold water acid dyes and I think they seep in to the fabric. Were these cold or hot water dyes?

  • August 25, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Wow! These are wonderful Fiona! What great results.

  • August 25, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    The patterns look gorgeous and the colours are all rusty and wonderful! These are very successful experiments I think!

  • August 25, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    These are wonderful! Isn’t it fun to open them up and discover that it did work after all?

  • August 26, 2008 at 1:13 am

    Thats such a beautiful background colour. Its not a coulur I would think of using but it so rich.

  • August 26, 2008 at 2:23 am

    Oh Fiona, these are wonderful!!! I love the effects and the color is perfect.

  • August 26, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Removing the stitches must have been so exciting! I love how they’ve turned out.

  • August 26, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Absolutely wonderful. As you said the ghost stitches are brilliant and yes, notes, sketches, as many as you can if you’re like me with a memory like a sieve………

  • August 26, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    simply great!
    these could be patched together and embellished further…
    neki desu

  • August 26, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    And what a good idea to do sketches of the stitching.

  • August 27, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Stunning, Fiona, just stunning. How satisfied you must feel.

  • August 28, 2008 at 2:57 am

    it is like magic isn’t it? all that stitching yielded beautiful results!
    patience is the key to removing the stitches…

  • August 28, 2008 at 9:02 am

    These are stunning – you must be thrilled with them!

  • August 28, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    These are really gorgeous!! Just before I ripped up the workroom I was thinking I’d stitch some resists for the dyeing party last Sunday, but it didn’t get done in time.

    I’m inspired by your examples!

  • August 31, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Ewwwwwwwww: I just love what you’ve done! Thanks for sharing your process.


  • September 2, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Amazing patterns! and what a wonderful earthy colour.

  • September 10, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Hi I really love your samples and the colour is so rich. Stitch resist is something I love but never have the patience to do!

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  • December 13, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    How long did you set your stitch length to? Also, what is the function of the soda?
    Thanks for sharing your ideas – they’re fantastic.

  • February 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Alexandra, they were handstitched. I think with a running stitch, for example, the stitches would be about 2 to 3 mm long with similar gaps between. The soda is needed to make an alkaline solution in which the Procion dyes can bond with the fibre. A chemical reaction takes place when the soda meets the dye and water, without it almost all the colour would wash out when the fabric was rinsed.

  • February 5, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    Great results. I have tried this with procion dyes and haven’t been able to get significant white undyed areas. I had great success with indigo, so I have to figure out why the different dyes give such different results(or lack of!). Have you done more of this?

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  • February 9, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    thanks very much for replying personally to me….I will follow up and keep posting my attempts.

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