Step outside the box

Several years ago, I was dyeing scarves and over-dyeing garments. I stepped side-ways for awhile to work with applique designs designs in my art quilts. My brain is now pulling back toward other possibilities using different fiber techniques in my art quilts. I have an idea of how to use wool felting in my designs, as well as use of shibori dyeing techniques. Opportunities are endless.

What’s intriguing and somewhat frustrating is when trying new things they don’t go as planned. I try to look at those times as learning opportunities. Over the weekend, I spent a couple days working with indigo dye. I had wonderful success the first day. An indigo vat (dye pot) is reactive to light and oxygen, which gives it a limited life-span. Some vats can last a few days. Mine, unfortunately, did not.

The second day when I tried dyeing the last teensy bit I needed to complete, the dye was no longer active. I didn’t want to create an entirely new vat for an hour dye session, so I went to a back-up plan. I pulled out some blue Rit dye and created a vat of that. Bottled dyes don’t work the same as indigo, light and oxygen shouldn’t affect them. Everything seemed to be working ok. I hung the fabric out in the sun to dry (see photo) and everything had the blue tint I expected. Then I washed everything in mild detergent in the washer to remove any excess dye. To my surprise these last few fabric pieces came out of the wash a very pale lavender color. I have no idea what went wrong. However, no matter what the outcome, it is ok.

Except for a handful of pieces, my dye sessions this weekend produced designs that have me inspired. The first day was a success and the second day was a learning opportunity. Now, I’m visualizing the possibilities and ready to step outside the box.


  1. Joy says:

    Beautiful! I love the things you do Nanette!

    I always set the Rit dyes with heat, either by ironing or running through the dryer. That said, one of the worst moments of my art teaching career was when a parent came to see me because her son ran his dry tie-dyed shirt in the dryer – and later she put her white nurses outfits in. They weren’t white anymore. It was my first or second year and I thought I was going to be fired or have to pay for the clothes! Needless to say, I NEVER recommended the dryer after that!

    • Nanette Zeller says:

      So nice to hear from you. Oh my goodness! Sorry to hear about the nurses’ outfit. I’ve used Rit dyes before and never had these issues. I was also hoping that drying them in the 90 degree hot sun would be enough. Learned a lesson, thanks for providing me with a solution for the future. ~Nanette

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