Percentage Dyeing




I’ve been meaning to post about one of the first things I did when we arrived in San Antonio–take a percentage dyeing class with the amazing textile artist, quilter and all-around wonderful teacher, Kim Eichler-Messmer. Her work is phenomenal, and what’s more, she is coming out with a new book on dyeing for quilting this November.  The class was offered as part of the biennial Surface Design Association Conference, and this year, it just happened to take place in San Antonio a couple of days after we arrived. I took this as a sign that I was meant to be there, and it was one of the best classes I have ever taken.

Percentage dyeing is a precise, mathematical way of dyeing that allows you to create color recipes that you can then reproduce. It allows you to understand the relationship between different colors and how to quantify the slightest shift in hue and tone. When I tell people about this class, they sometimes just laugh and say, “Why would I want to reproduce a color I just made? I want to try something new! And, isn’t the point about creativity the process of play and exploration?” It’s true. There is a lot of measuring in this class, and you do some math. Maybe it’s the nerd in me, but I love this kind of stuff! I love to know how colors come together. I love being able to track how the different percentages and ratios of water, stock solution and fiber come together to give me the particular gradation I want. I may not want to reproduce some of the colors I made, but I want to know that I can if I need to. There is something incredibly empowering about that.

The top photo is a sampling of my color explorations. The assignment was to choose a series of colors from color chips that you find at a paint store and to reproduce them. I wasn’t able to match them exactly, but I got pretty close.

I came away from this four-day class with a book of color recipes. It is my book of magic potions. This is all part of my eventual plan to start dyeing my own fibers. There. I said it. Now it’s real.