Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fabric Dyeing For Quilters

I have returned from my 5 whirlwind days in Fall River at Pro Chem and have tried to debrief my brain. The amount of information that Carol Soderlund has in her brain and has accumulated over the years is mind boggling, and she is willing to share it all. I’m not sure where to start, so I will just begin.

I will try and recap the remainder of the 5 days to give you a feeling for the overall experience . At the outset, I want to say that this is THE BEST workshop I have ever taken and Carol Soderlund is the most organized, generous and knowledgeable teacher. That being said:


A bird’s eye view of the classroom which is also the dyeing room for us.


Including a washer and dryer, along with many sinks.

Every day, Carol would lecture at least part of the morning and usually again in the afternoon, and then demo what we were to do. Her explanations covered making up dye solutions, preparation of the fiber, dye setting, mottled, solid, low immersion dyeing, depth of shade, dyeing by calculations as well as dyeing using her charts and the most fascinating of all was the 3D Color Theory. We learned about dyeing to get the exact color we wanted as well as dyeing to achieve various effects and to explore.

The ultimate goal for most was to assemble the bible of fabric swatches.


This notebook contains over 1000 1inch color swatches. This can be used to precisely dye fabric to the desired color.prochem25

We would begin our day between 8:30 and 9AM. Before you knew it, it was lunch time. Lunch was included in the workshop fee. It turned out to be a wonderful cross-section of the ethnicity of the area, which has a very big Portuguese population. Lunch ranged from pizzas, subs, wraps,lasagna and pockets along with salads and chips and cookies. It was well needed energy and a respite. We often continued our explorations at least until 6PM when we were all told to GO HOME!. One night we did stay for dinner and another night we worked in the conference room at the hotel working on our books.

Oh the books. It would have been an insurmountable task to dye all of that fabric, cut it and create the book by your self. We were put into 3 teams to do the dyeing and cutting. prochem29 Carol’s instructions for keeping the swatches in an ordered manner with labels and envelopes and pre-printed sheets was instrumental in compiling this compendium.

Carol is demonstrating how to prepare the dye solutions for gradation dyeing,

prochem10and the resulting fabric strips.


Here are some fabrics that were dyed during the week by various class members. Below are pieces dyed by my deskmate Angela. She’s a weaver and wasn’t as impressed with her exercise of 2 different shades of the same color as we were! She was showered with ideas of what to do with that beautiful fabric.


Anne, another non-quilter, produced a beautiful piece of cloth using low immersion dyeing. You may know Anne from her company that produces hand-dyed threads, only available through retail needlepoint stores. If you go to her website you can see the various threads and where you can buy them.

Gloriana Threads


Susan wanted to share with us what happens when you dye a shirt without soaking the dye in fixative! Oops!


And just in case you didn’t think we had any fun during the week – our fearless leader:


Thank you to ProChem for their hospitality. Thank you to Carol for sharing her knowledge and techniques in a format that all could learn. My recommendation is if you have an interest in dyeing cloth or threads, this is the place to learn and Carol is the teacher to learn from. Go to Pro Chem’s website and get on their mailing list. Once the class is open for registration, it does not take long before it fills up. I am planning on attending Part 2 next Spring.

And here are some snippets of other gorgeous fabrics:

prochem18 Carol’s samples.

My rick rack and thread experiment:


A pile of dyed T-shirts.


And here is a piece of Brilliance dyed by Liz on the right. It’s a blend of cotton and silk. One side is shiney and the other side is dull. Look at the difference in color between the 2 sides. So rich! Jackquie has the other beautious purple cotton fabric.

prochem69 prochem35

And here’s a piece by Sally – a prof at Rhode Island School of Design.



  1. I took the class at Pro Chem too, and thought it was well worth the time and money. Good post!

  2. I loved reading about the dyeing class, thank you for telling us about it.I would love to do it, but I live in Australia!


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