Shibori Dyeing Experiments on Canvas

Mix a bit of free time with some fabric dye and soda ash and exciting things can happen! This last month I set aside some time to play around with some fabric dyeing techniques on canvas.  I am a planner at heart, so free experimenting time is not something that happens often, especially with the few hours I scrap together each week for fabric dyeing and sewing.  Not only was this so fun, but I gained a better understanding of how canvas dyes a bit differently than quilting weight cotton.  Shibori techniques turned out a bit looser and the dye had a tendency to migrate down the warp or weft of the fabric more distinctly.  Here is what went down in my fabric dyeing space:

Prepping the Fabric

First up was mixing the dye solutions.  I use Procion MX dyes for most of my fabric dyeing.  And for this batch of dyeing, I made up a blue, magenta red, and black solution.  For each set of dyed fabric below, I mixed a color solution and poured it on the fabric.  After about 15 min., I set it by adding a soda ash solution, and let it process for an hour.  Afterwards, I rinsed the fabric well and washed it on hot with Syntrapol.  Most of this process has come from one of my favorite fabric dyeing books:  Color by Accident by Ann Johnson.

Next, I prepared my fabric for the dye baths.  I worked many with canvas except for my square bundle on the front right of the picture below.  Some of the canvas I folded and clipped or tied.  Other pieces I left flat.

Dyeing with Two Colors

Now time to experiment!  . First up were 2 pieces of flat fabric.  I laid them on a tray and after first wetting them with soda ash solution, I squeezed drops of blue dye solution on them, making “dots”.  Once these processed and were rinsed.  I overdyed them in magenta/red.

For this little bundle, I scrunched the canvas into a ball and wound string about it.  I then dyed it blue using low water immersion dying (just using a little bit of dye and working it into the fabric to give it a mottled appearance).  Once done, I overdyed it in magenta.

I did not use straight blue and magenta on these two fabrics (except for the blue “dots”).  I mixed both with a small amount of black too mute the colors some.  Here are how they came out.  I am lukewarm on the spots, but I do love the second piece!  I think adding the black to the solution gave it a rich deeper color.

A couple of shibori blues

Next up was some tied canvas.  I gently pleated/scrunched two pieces of fabric and wound string around them at the same intervals.  Then, I dyed them in a tray using a solution of blue with a bit of black. Finished result:  This fabric ended up being interesting.  I expected crisper stripe lines, like you would get with quilting cotton, but with the canvas, they ended up being much more mottled and looser.  The stripes on my two pieces match up, so I may try sewing this into a tote bag.

For the clipped piece, I accordion folded a piece of canvas and clipped it at regular intervals on both sides.  I poured a dye solution of blue with bit higher percentage of black on top.This was my favorite.  I love the small squares and the color!

Red gridwork

Last, I dyed a large piece of quilting cotton, the only lightweight fabric of the group. This piece was accordion folded into a long strip and then accordion folded the other direction to make a small square which I tied and then dipped the edges into magenta red dye (no black – other than that small drip right there…arghh!).

The grid on this turned out great! It definitely dye with much crisper fold lines than the canvas.

And that’s a wrap!  I have a batch of new fabrics to use and a better understanding of dyeing canvas.  A successful dyeing session for sure!