A Day of Dyeing with PFD’s

Today we have a guest blog post from Nichole, the Merchandising Project Manager here at Robert Kaufman! Nichole is a long time-sewer and interested in learning new techniques. She will share a visit she had recently with a local clothing designer and fabric dyer, Jennifer Dodge. 

I spent an unseasonably warm winter afternoon with Jennifer Dodge of ERMIE, a Los Angeles clothing designer and fine artist. Jennifer uses many techniques to reach her final product of amazing, wearable art. Some garments are hand dyed, while others are made of digital prints of her paintings, which often include the same dyeing processes she uses on her garments.


I came by with an armload of our Robert Kaufman PFD (prepared for dye) fabric and we spent time experimenting with the various substrates. Our plans for the day were very loose: I just wanted to play with various techniques and see how the fabric would take to the ink.

We started with a traditional shibori dyed with indigo. Shibori is the classic Japanese practice of using items bound or clamped to the fabric to create a resist. The resist creates a negative space and stays the color of the fabric. In our case, the fabric was a white Cambridge PFD lawn. Jen used boards of wood and clamps, and folded the fabric accordion style.


Her indigo of choice is the freeze-dried version. While she appreciates the traditional cake method of indigo, the “instant gratification” found in the freeze-dried version is better for the way she works.


Once the fabric is out of the indigo bath, the resist blocks are removed and the beauty of the pattern appears. The lovely part is that no matter how often you repeat the process, there are always surprises and no two dye attempts end up looking exactly the same. Each weight of fabric has its own personality and takes to the fabric differently.


She also experimented with our PFD Outback Canvas, with a heavy hand and a sturdy weave. The canvas takes to the dye so nicely! The true, rich indigo color is created by oxidization of the indigo. Before it hits the air, it shows up as a chartreuse color that slowly deepens into the rich indigo blue the more it is exposed.


Her final experiment with the Outback Canvas PFD had Jennifer painting directly on the canvas with a diluted and bright acrylic paint. She also sprinkled the freeze-dried indigo crystals on the canvas, and wet them down so that they bled into the fabric. This created an interesting speckled effect that couldn't be done with dip-dyeing.


Come back next week for a pattern featuring a tote bag made with the canvas that was dyed and tips on what dyes work best with Robert Kaufman’s prepared for dye fabric.

More dyeing fun with ERMIE can be found on our quilting blog! Learn more about Shibori and fiber-reactive dyes using Carolyn Friedlander’s Architextures and see a quilt block made with the fabric dyed by Jennifer.