Dyeing just a part of life for fabric artists

Gjeneve Hopkinson of Whitewater works with an assortment of fabric dyes during an art quilters workshop at the Fabric Arts Studio, 2297 Tall Grass, Unit 9.

When a group of art quilters assembles for a fabric dyeing session, the scene soon can look shockingly like a hog-butchering operation.

Heavy plastic tarps cover utility tables, and those dyeing their yards of cloth raise stained arms to their task. Red pigment trickles down their appendages, drying to the color of blood.

It’s a messy activity, to say the least. But the outcome is worth the hassle, according to those who choose to physically apply color to cloth. It may have something to do with today’s do-it-yourself craze.

They can’t resist the suspense in applying various dyes to fabric specially prepared to absorb and hold the color, then rinsing and drying it to reveal striking patterns and gradations. Oohs and ahhs follow.

Fiber artist Beverly Hart is one of those who enjoys dyeing fabrics.

“There is always serendipity with dyeing, but I have learned to control the process to some extent,” says Hart of Spanish Fork, Utah.

She works full time as a clinical social worker, but Hart says she spends her spare time in her home dyeing studio.

Actually, she has two studios side-by-side, each measuring 12 feet by 13 feet. She describes one as a “dry studio” for cutting and sewing and quilting. The other is a “wet studio” with double sinks and a cement floor to accommodate her dye projects.

Hart was in Grand Junction this summer teaching her techniques at the newly relocated Fabric Arts Studio, 2297 Tall Grass, Unit 9.

Recycled pop bottles were filled with dyes of all colors on the tables where students applied their choices. They wore rubber gloves, aprons and old clothing when working with the assorted chemicals and other ingredients. One essential ingredient is soda ash (sodium carbonate), Hart explains, because that product is necessary to make the dyes adhere permanently to the fabric.

For a beginning dyer, the cost to acquire supplies can be substantial, Hart says. But once those are accumulated, most will last for a long time.

She treated her students to a quick process for dyeing a premade silk scarf. After adding dye of their choice, they stuffed the scarf into a plastic container, put the container into a larger plastic bag and “cooked” it in a microwave oven.

Over a 3–3½ minute timeframe, students were directed to open the oven door every 45 seconds to prevent the concoction from exploding or burning. Afterward, the scarf was rinsed in hot water, cooled and then dried to reveal the finished color pattern.

A caveat here: It’s not a good idea to use your regular kitchen microwave for dyeing fabric, Hart says. She recommends purchasing one that you can dedicate exclusively to your artwork.

That is the case at the state-of-the-art Fabric Arts Studio, where owner Jane Aldoretta has assembled all sorts of supplies and appliances (including a microwave) for artists’ use. She gives lessons on a mid-arm quilting machine, which she also rents by the hour. Individuals and groups can also rent studio and classroom space.

She previously operated her studio in another part of the city, then closed it for a time. Aldoretta moved into a new building and reopened earlier this year with a considerably larger space.

She now has room for 20 people to work at a time, as well as an area for carry-in dining. Aldoretta sells many specialty supplies and offers a small retail shop in her entry way.

For details and directions to this artists’ playhouse, go to http://www.fabricartsstudio.com, or call 970-263-7907.

And remember, it’s OK to be messy here. In fact, it’s encouraged.

E-mail Sherida.Warner @gjsentinel.com.


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