6 Excellent Books on Fabric Dyeing and Painting

I love a good resource library, but sometimes it can be hard to weed out which books are worth buying and which are worth checking out from the library for a quick browse.  I  find a great resource depends on where my skill level  is as well the content of the book.  For example, when I first started dyeing fabric and trying surface design, it was extremely helpful to have defined projects or step by step technique “workshops.” Now, I find myself looking more for book focused on technique ideas and inspiration.  Wherever you are in fabric dyeing and printing, here is my 6 favorites books on fabric dyeing and printing/painting by skill level:  (FYI – This post contains Amazon affiliate links to the books I love.)

Starting out With some Direction

When I first started learning about dyeing fabric, I used this book a ton.  The focus is dyeing quilting cotton, and  I love that it gives you a clear path to follow when trying dyeing for the first time. The first chapter of the book discusses the basics of low water immersion dyeing.  The following chapters focus on gaining control of color.  This really is the trickiest part of fabric dyeing, once you get the process down.

Each chapter is filled with workshops that guide you through step by step dyeing sessions.  Here you get a chance to practice in very small amount of fabric: dyeing a color wheel with 3 primary colors, mixing colors to make neutrals, dyeing gradations.  I love that the workshops leave nothing to guess work.  Each one tell you exactly which colors to work with, what sized pieces to dye and how much dye to use.    Working through parts of this book helped me learn to mix dyes with purpose and gave me somewhere to start.  This book has been out of print for a while, but I picked up a used copy. This lovely book covers stamp making, stenciling and screen printing with tons of technique information and projects to try.  The book is completely project based with a set of projects for each different technique.

The photos are great, and  I love her clear explanations.  I find myself browsing through this book to better understand types of printmaking and to have techniques described with exact detail.  Its project focus makes it easy for someone who has never done printmaking to find a place to start.

Focusing on Techniques to Try

This book is an excellent compendium of what you can do with fabric paint and inks.  It covers all sorts of techniques ranging from stencilling, painting, marbling and more.  The layout of this book is great — so clear, and with tons of process and end result pictures.  Ms. Rezendes does an excellent job of concisely explaining many techniques, pointing out troubleshooting tips, and covering additional topics ranging  from setting up a good working space to discussing how to use the different techniques.  Because this book is solely technique based, it is wonderful for someone who has an idea of what they want their fabric or end product to look like, but needs some inspiration on getting there.  I highly recommend it as a resource.

As of late, this has been my go to resource for fabric dyeing.  But wasn’t until I had spent some time working through Dyeing to Quilt, that I really got into this book.  The focus of this book is low water immersion dyeing, going through the basics and then alternate ways to dye multiple pieces of fabric while manipulate and blend the color in interesting ways. I love this book because Ms. Johnston is a wealth of information on the subject of dyeing. She gives so much detail on the basics of dyeing fabric and the why behind each added component that affects how to fabric turns out.  Definitely an excellent resource to have on hand.  Her video on low water immersion dyeing is excellent as well.

Taking it Farther

True to its name, this book approaches fabric painting and dyeing from an artistic perspective.  Jane Dunnewold creates beautiful multi layered hand-dyed and hand-printed fabric with a looser, more organic feel.  This book covers the many techniques that she uses in such detail.

For example, she has a whole chapter on removing color (discharge methods) covering seven different methods, ranging from everyday products to less commonly used products like thiox.  Throughout the book, she combines all of these methods with lots of process background information and tips for success.   I love that this book also covers combining different techniques to make truly unique cloth.  I find myself picking it out before trying a new technique to see  it from a different perspective.  Jane Dunnewold is an expert in her field and I have found her approach to dyeing fabric invaluable.  It appears that this book is out of print on Amazon.  But the kindle version is currently free as I post this!

I first came across this book in an Indigo Dyeing Workshop last year.  It extensively covers Japanese resist dyeing and is broken down into three sections – the history of shibori, the techniques used, and how it is being used today in Japan.  The technique section is the most detailed I have come across for shibori – it is broken down into sections on binding, stitching, folding and pole wrapping and each section has detailed drawings and images of the resist patterns.  There are at least 60 different techniques with variations that are discussed.  The gallery of pattern ideas contains 200 images.  This is one of those books that will continue to be a valuable resource over time.

So those are my favorite books on fabric dyeing and painting.  Any that you recommend?