When I first began purchasing tie dyed clothing there were not many intricate designs available. Bull’s eyes, spirals, and V folds were pretty much the norm in the early days. Now, the art form is highly sophisticated with a limitless array of simple to complex patterns. I am frequently astounded at the complexity and detail-rich creations produced by my colleagues around the world. How did they DO THAT?
In the mid 1980s, I bought a two color spiral for my daughter and played with it until I figured out what to do. That is one way of learning. Folding, crimping, or twisting a shirt, binding it, then dyeing it, and washing it out is another learning experience. Purchasing a book or DVD, watching YouTube videos, attending workshops are all good choices, too. Jumping right in and attempting whatever crosses your mind is another common approach to self-teaching. Although every tie dyeing experience is valuable to the education of the novice dyer, no one like to feel they are wasting time, effort, and especially, money.
In the apprenticeship program and workshops I offer through my studio, it was necessary to develop a means for the students to learn how to design their own patterns without bankrupting me from buying shirts and dyes. I use a variety of corner-cutting measures to save time and resources with both the apprentices and workshop students. One of my favorite teaching techniques is to create patterns using paper towels. By using this method, immediate results are attainable, no garments or dye have been ‘wasted’, and most importantly, a permanent record can be compiled of the manipulations and color placement.
- Purchase a cheap set of felt tipped markers and a roll of white paper towels. The ink from the markers will soak into the paper towel in the same way dye soaks into fabric. Old leftover dye can be substituted for the markers.
- Trim the paper towel into the shape of a tee shirt, if desired.
- Fold, pleat, crimp, spiral (or combine techniques), the paper towel.
- Use the markers, allowing the tip to remain in contact with the towel long enough for the ink to soak in. Or drip on a tiny amount of leftover dye.
- Spread the towel back out to see the resulting pattern and color distribution. Because it is paper, the folds will still be visible.
- Save the towels in a binder as a record of the attempted patterns, and color combinations.
This is a very simple exercise that may seem trivial, but it certainly is less costly and time-consuming than dyeing garments then waiting over night to test patterns. As the tie dyer gains experience, it becomes easier to predict the outcome of new folds and pleats.
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