If you're a regular reader of my blog, you will have seen the Traveller's Blanket that I've been making. I loved the soft, warm flannel this is made of, so I decided I would make some rag quilts from old sheets and nightwear. In New Zealand, these are made from flannelette (very similar to flannel).
This tutorial is written for anyone who is thinking the same was as I am. NO special equipment is needed - you need access to a sewing machine, however, and basic sewing skills. That's all. We're going to overdye the fabrics with colours of our choice, and this first part of the tutorial will show you how to do this. You can buy fabric dye (Procion is the best type) from some craft shops or buy online from Tillia Dyes (www.tillia.co.nz). You will also need soda ash, which is the dye fixative.
I bought some (mainly odd) sheets and some nightwear from op shops. ("op" stands for opportunity, if you're not a Kiwi). The most I paid for anything was $8 for a pair of double sheets with pillowcases. I bought plenty - this is enough for a number of quilts.
Mostly, the goods you buy will have been washed - we're going to wash the fabric in very hot water after dyeing so don't worry too much about washing everything first. For the first quilt, which is for me, I am using the nightie at the front, the blue sheet on the right, and the pillowcases from the floral sheet set on the left. I've cut one of the floral sheets in half to use as the middle layer instead of batting. First, I tore all the seams off to give me fabric pieces or strips. Don't worry about the size of these at this stage.
1. Clear the bench. You don't want any plates, cutlery or food around where you're working.
2. Cover the whole bench with a good layer of newspaper. I have a good mixing jar (on left) that has 100ml gradations and a tight-fitting lid, ideal for mixing dye in; some disposable cups, disposable gloves, a measuring spoon and a range of green and purple dyes.
Wet the first fabric that you're dyeing - this is the nightie I'm using here - and again, hot water is best as it penetrates the fabric more easily and ensures that it's wet through. Yes, you can dye dry fabric but it doesn't work as well. Pour the dye into the first bag, and have the wet (but squeezed) fabric handy.
6. Open the wet fabric out to put it in the bag with the dye. If it goes in in a ball, the dye will have trouble getting through all the layers.
7. Squadge (that's a technical term - just kidding! it's the noise the dye and fabric makes as you squeeze it) the fabric around in the dye. You can do this from the outside of the bag, or stick your (gloved) hands right in these so that the dye gets into the fabric evenly.
See why we need all that newspaper?
10. I'm using half a double sheet for the centre layer, and this is too big to fit in a bag. I have some of these plastic bins that I bought from The Warehouse for $6 each, so I'm using one of these for this large piece. This time, I need 500 mls (2 cups) of dye liquid, and the same of soda ash.
11. This is how it looks. The colour is Grape with some Blu-Violet added to link it in with the pillowcase pieces which will be on the back and front of the quilt. You are going to see this layer, which is why I'm dyeing it. Unlike a conventional quilt where the batting is hidden inbetween the layers, it's visible in this one. How? You'll see in Part 2, when we come to put the layers together and start sewing the quilt.