Sew Arkansas is our annual sewing retreat held in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. We look forward to this special event every year as a chance to put ourselves into a new environment where we can focus solely on sewing. This year we added a new dimension to the retreat – fabric dyeing with guest teacher Nancy Shriber!
Nancy is an exceptionally talented fiber artist who dyes, stamps, and stitches silk before transforming it into a one-of-kind garment. She was our guest artist for Sew Confident in 2016 and created a wonderful tutorial on making a Sashiko-stitched Tremont Vest. In Eureka Springs, Nancy shared with us her fabric dyeing technique, which we used on a length of silk charmeuse that could be used as a jacket lining later in the week.
The potential mess of dyeing fabric may turn some makers off on trying the technique, but Nancy's method was quite tidy. Well, as tidy as you can get when working with water, dye and 2½ yards of fabric. Nancy showed us how to use paint as the dyeing agent, all in a large plastic bag! In fact, the fabric stayed in the bag until it was ready to lay out and dry, keeping all of the mess contained.
Nancy encouraged us to be fearless with color and to be open-minded when thinking about the final result. The group happily pulled on their gloves and aprons and got down to business. Some folks who didn't bring an apron (looking at you Rhonda!) fashioned a plastic muumuu out of garbage bags to protect their clothes.
As the first day ended, everyone brought in their still-wet fabric and laid it on the floor to dry. The next morning we came into a room of fully dyed fabric - some with subtle color gradations, some with strong color contrast. Some even had geometric prints from hanging the fabric to dry over a banister.
After the silk was dyed, Nancy showed the group how to use stamps and stencils to truly personalize it. The goal of the week was to work on a three-piece ensemble consisting of a lined San Diego or Tremont jacket, a MixIt or Ann's tank and Valencia or Helix pants. Linda taught techniques for adding a lining to the two jackets using the freshly dyed silk, though some folks from warmer climates used the silk as their tank fabric. The rest of the week was devoted to learning new sewing techniques, pattern fitting and enjoying devoted sewing time.
Dyeing the fabric added a fun new element to the workshop, one which will be repeated when Linda and Nancy head to France this summer to teach at Chateau Dumas!