Artist Lisa Call - Structures

Artist Lisa Call - © Structures

Dyeing Fabric

How to dye 60-100 yards of fabric in a few hours


Lisa Call creates bold geometric contemporary textile paintings composed of her richly colored hand dyed fabric

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Lisa Call:

As promised here is my first post with some more details about how I dye my fabric. These are not going to be presented in any sort of logical order but instead the order I felt like writing about them. So look for several dyeing posts over the next few weeks, in between other content.

First off my dyeing fabric process is based on Ann Johnston’s book Color By Accident. All credit for this basic technique belongs to her. Although I have to admit to never actually reading this book as I took a workshop with Ann and learned how to do this first hand.

I will not be repeating the information she has in her book. I strongly recommend you buy it and read it for yourself. But I will be talking about how I’ve modified her techniques to work for me.

To dye 60-100 yards of fabric in a few hours I used her technique of stacking fabrics one on top of another in the same bin. So follow the directions I have on the DIY website for the first layer of fabric. After a while take a second yard of fabric and lay it on top of the first and mush it around to soak up all the dye leftover from the first piece. Wait a bit and add the soda ash. Repeat for as many layers as you want noting that they get lighter as you add more fabric.

This bin has 3 different yellows:

Lisa Call - Dyeing fabric

Note that you will not get a perfect gradation of colors as you do this. Some dye molecules are larger than others so they bond quicker with the fabrics. It will probably take you some time and experimenting to see what happens and to anticipate these changes. But as with all of my dyeing I’m not looking for reproducible results, just gorgeous fabric. When your dark red has a light green 4 layers above it is at first puzzling. But you will eventually learn that reds are the first to go. Over time you learn to adjust for this in the process to get the colors you want.

With 4 layers of fabric in each bin (I dye 1 yard pieces) I only need 20 bins to hold 80 yards. Here’s what my table looked like after my last session (note that I don’t use fancy expensive containers for my dyeing – look for the freebies at garage sales – it doesn’t have look pretty – but remember – do not use any containers or equipment from your kitchen):


Lisa Call - dyeing fabric

Dye Table - Lisa Call artist

It takes me 3-4 hours to do the initial dyeing. I then let it cure over night and I find it works best if it sits in the sun at some point. In another post I’ll describe how I rinse all of this out as efficiently as possible.

Lisa Call - dyeing fabric

Curing Fabric - artist Lisa Call

Part 2 – Next week

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