After the blocks have been dye painted and allowed to batch for about 24 hours, it is time to wash out any excess dye that has not reacted with the fabric. This step takes care and a fair amount of time.
The first part of the process is to place the block in a flat tub of cool water. I let it soak for a bit so that the thickener used with the dye can start to hydrate. Patience comes in next as I gently hold the block against the bottom of the tub with one hand and rub the dyed images with the other to loosen the thickener from the fabric. It is easy to feel with your fingers because it is slipperly…actually slimy. As I scrub, it starts to release and the feel of the fabric becomes more natural and clean. This process takes a while for each block. As you can see in the image below, the water shows the color from the dye that is washing off, but it does not redeposit on the piece. I must be sure not to squeeze the fabric upon itself as the dye may transfer if it is pressed into the fabric. That is why a flat tub where the blocks can remain flat is best for this use.
After each block is rubbed and free of it’s “slimy” feel, I place it in a bucket of clean water. It continues to soak in case any remaining dye particles will release. From that bucket, it goes into a bucket of warm water with textile detergent. The textile detergent will keep any rogue dye particles from depositing on the fabric. This is one last step, just to make sure the images painted on each piece are clear. The buckets below show the soak water and the soak with the textile detergent.
As you can see, the water in the final bucket is clear, even though there are many blocks soaking in it. This tells me I have satisfactorily removed the excess dye. One last wash and they are out on the line to dry. It’s always a wonderful sight!
The blocks are now dry, pressed and on the design wall. Now the decision, what to cut, what to overdye and what additional fabrics I need to dye to make a cohesive quilt…I’ll write about that in Step 2…from the studio