Fabric dyeing adventures with Mary Lamb Nehring

My friend & fellow textile artist Mary Lamb Nehring hosted me in July for a quick and dirty art cloth workshop. I’d always been curious about surface design techniques that involve dyes, but didn’t want to make the investment in the studio and supply needs necessary. It was great going to Mary’s studio and playing around with her techniques. If you want to know more about Mary’s art cloth & quilts plus art to wear, visit her web site @ www.marylambnehring.com

Here’s the process and product from a morning at Mary’s house . . .

Before all else, safety first!

Mary has this amazing contraption she made out of a clear storage container that she cut two armholes into – this way she can mix the Vat Discharge dyes we will eventually use to do the second layer of dyeing. This is a paste-like mixture which needs to be prepped ahead of time and can be used like printing ink with a brayer (more on that later).

The dyeing process is two part: first, using MX dyes (which can be painted on like silk paints) . . .

Nuke it!

Samples drying . . .

After the mx dyed fabrics are dry, the next step is using the Vat Discharge Dyes (in paste form) that Mary mixed up earlier. I really liked this part of the process because it felt like I was right back in the printmaking studio @ CCAD! Here’s the set up with the silk, dyes, brayers and stencils. You can use things like bubblewrap, plastic doilies, corrugated cardboard and so on. The vat discharge dyes both burn out the color of the fabric you are printing on as well as print color onto the fabric, so it’s this interesting mix of burning out and adding in color.

After you’ve applied the dyes, you have to accordion pleat~wrap the piece of fabric prior to the final step of being heat set in the pressure cooker. Pressure cookers scare me, and the drama of the moment was heighten by the toxic steam escaping (hence the lovely respiration masks Mary and me sported!).

Examples of the finished product:

I love the fabric I made, and plan on using it in future embellished pieces. Most likely, however, I will not be going to the expense and labor of turning the garage into a dyeing studio as Mary has admirably done. If you haven’t tried this before, it is pretty amazing!

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