At Quilt Market I met a wonderful quilt artist named Kim Eichler-Messmer. She is out with a new book about dying your own fabric for your quilts. Kim had a few of her own quilts with her and they are simply lovely. The ones I saw were generally large blocks in rich tones. The kind of quilts that you put in your home as a piece of art that you can still nap under.
The instructions are meticulous and for the total beginner she gives detailed instructions that allows you to ease into the dying process without having to buy tons of equipment and set up a wet room in your house. Later in the book she expands and gives more challenging recipes and procedures for the quilter who has dyed a little already or is not afraid of taking on the challenge.
Kim gave a really inspiring presentation about fabric dying. So much that fabric dyes and a bolt of Kona PFD (prepared for dying) cotton is now topping my wish list.
Kim’s book is available in specialty quilt shops and also on Amazon.
How do you feel that dyeing your own fabric adds to your quilting?
I dye my own fabric because I want to have complete control over the colors I use. When I first learned how to sew, about 24 years ago, I was really disappointed by the fabric choices available and it stopped me from wanting to make things. So when I learned how to dye fabric, it was a like a whole new world opened up and I could make whatever fabric I wanted. Even though there are so many more options now, I still dye my own fabric because I think hand-dyed fabric adds a nice depth to a quilt and it’s one of the most important parts of my design process.
Do you have a piece of advise for quilters who have never tried dyeing before and who may be a little intimidated by the process?
Start small and don’t sweat it. As long as you get all of the necessary dye ingredients in there, you will end up with some great hand dyed fabric. Also, don’t try to dye all of the fabric for a quilt, just start with a fat quarter. A fat quarter, or regular 1/4 yard, is a really manageable size to dye when you’re first learning. You can dye that amount in a quart size container and it isn’t too time consuming to wash out. And if the color doesn’t come out exactly how you want, you haven’t used a lot of fabric and you can try again on another fat quarter. In my book, “Modern Color – An Illustrated Guide to Dyeing Fabric for Modern Quilts”, I tried to make it very straightforward and easy for beginners. The dye techniques get more complicated as you go through the book, but all of the instructions are clear and the techniques build on each other.
What is your personal favorite dyeing technique right now? Why?
I have been really excited lately about painting dyes on my fabric. I have been making quilts based on landscapes and for about a year I have been hand painting all of the skies to create a watercolor effect with the dye. It’s a lot more time consuming than dyeing fabric a solid color, but the dyes blend together really beautifully and create some stunning skies.
If you could work with only one color scheme for the next two years, which colors would you pick?
That would be really hard for me. I like all of the colors. I don’t think I could stick with just one color scheme. I know that’s a terrible answer, but it’s true.
Where and how do you get the ideas and inspirations for your quilts?
I am always inspired by the landscape around me. I grew up spending a lot of time outside and my family took big road trips every winter and summer break. I would often just stare out the window for miles as we drove across the country. Even now I try to pay close attention to the landscape and notice how the sky and land change colors with time of day, weather, and seasons. A lot of my quilts are based on direct observation of landscape and my own photographs. I also love traditional quilts and love coming up with quilts based on traditional patterns. All of the quilts in my book are based on traditional patterns. With those I love the challenge of coming up with fresh color palettes and changing scale or position to make the pattern feel modern.
Can you tell us about a project that you are working on right now?
I have a ton of photographs that I’ve taken of the sky and I’m working on formatting them for digital printing through spoonflower. I have dozens of sketches of traditional quilt patterns made with sky fabric. I’m really excited about the possibilities of juxtaposing new technology, digitally printed photographic fabric, with traditional patterns.
Do you have a project brewing in the back of your mind that you hope to complete one day? What is it?
I really don’t. When I get an idea, I tend to just go for it.
Is there a quilting related skill that you particularly want to learn or improve?
I would love to be better at handwork. I don’t have the patience for needle turned applique or hand quilting, but I love how both of them look.
If people want to learn more about your work, where can they find you online?
Best of luck with all your art, Kim. And thank you for taking the time to talk to us!