So what is with the seemingly outrageous prices for hand dyed fabrics?
There you are, snooping around on the internet looking for inspiration for your next traditional quilt project made from mostly alike blocks and you happen upon pictures of the coolest ever “art quilt.” Thinking, “I can do that,” you now go in search of inspiration and materials. After Googling “Art Quilts,” and looking at a plethora of examples and reading all about them, you zero in on “your” new technique and are ready to get down to quilting.
You could use commercially printed fabrics from your stash but recall all those rich hues and mottled looks of the hand-dyed fabrics in all of the art quilt samples you just ogled. Your very next Google search is for “Hand Dyed Fabrics” or “Hand Dyed Cotton for Art Quilters” and you now come upon a site such as www.HandDyedFabrics.com and get straight to shopping so you can make your very own special quilt.
Looking at the hand dyed cotton fabric listings, your mind is boggled by the range of colors and the unique characteristics of each piece, typically with some degree of mottling or color variations. You wonder how the dye artist created such an awesome look and just have to buy yards and yards of this fantastic stuff.
All of the fabrics are one-of-a-kind, some more so then others. At HandDyedFabrics.com, we offer sets of fabric which either vary between colors or are gradations of one color from light tints to dark shades. We record the dye mixing formulas and are able to nearly match these color sets in case additional fabric of a color is needed for a project. However, these sets are still one-of-a-kind due to color variegation. We also dye specialty pieces and through various processes are able to create multitudes of colors and hue manipulations across a single piece of fabric. Once purchased from our website, you won’t see anything just like it again… unless you are the lucky buyer!
Your stash cart is now full and you are about to “check out.” You are suddenly shocked at the total price for your fabric selections. You don’t remember ordering hundreds of yards!
So why, you ask, are these fabrics, though wonderful to have and use, priced so much higher than the fabrics at a “box store” or even an independent fabric store?
The main reasons are overhead costs, materials and equipment costs and the dye-artist’s time.
Overhead includes energy to heat water and the cost of the water itself. It takes many gallons of water to pre-wash fabrics, do the actual dyeing process, hand rinsing and multiple washings to remove residual dye which has not reacted with the fiber at a cellular level. Some of this washing is done with water heated to between 140 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 20 to 40 degrees hotter than where most hot water heaters are set. Of course there are also many other forms of overhead costs associated with running a small business: vehicle and gas, studio heating and air conditioning, maintaining a website, email and internet service, printing, packaging, etc.
Specialized equipment and materials also contribute to the direct costs of creating the dyed fabrics. Dye powders costing up to $40 per pound, chemicals for allowing the dye to easily dissolve and for changing pH in the dye pot, salt, water softener, Synthrapol detergent, personal safety equipment, and measuring instruments including graduated cylinders, spoons, cups, and scales. Also there is cost for the undyed fabrics.
Finally, dyeing fabric is time consuming. The process involves mixing dye concentrates, measuring and mixing the various chemicals with water and the dyes, agitating the fabrics in the dye container for up to 2 hours and then, waiting for the reaction period. Once the color is attached to the fiber, the fabric is hand rinsed multiple times and then washed in extremely hot water at least twice. Then the fabric is partially dried, ironed, photographed, folded and packaged. Of course then the fabric has to be added to the website which takes more time than folks imagine.
So, when you come to the realization that buying hand dyed fabrics saves you all of the time and aggravation of doing the work (leaving if for we who enjoy doing such things), you will not be so concerned with the cost, rather you will enjoy using unique pieces of art to make your own mark in the quilting world.