Journal Entry: March 23, 2020.

I’m thinking about these kids today. As one thought has led to another I’m thinking about the crazy times we are living in right now, watching the impact of the threat of a spreading virus and how it is changing my kids’ daily routines. I’m thinking about my grandkids and what they are doing to fill time away from friends and extracurricular activities, and these thoughts are leading me to think about the last project the girls and I shared. And then… those thoughts sent me down the path of thinking about last summer and what we now call Gramma’s Summer Quilt Retreat.

The kids love to cook together. The more they can do on their own the more fun they have. And, it’s great that I can now give them a recipe and say, “Go for it!”

We’ll have our 4th quilting retreat this coming summer. I wrote about our first two retreats in articles posted on the website.

Last summer, for our 3rd retreat, we kicked our approach to quilting up a notch. Instead of purchasing fabric for the quilt top the girls dyed their own. To prepare for the retreat, I emailed the girls a link to Dharma Trading Company’s Fiber Reactive Dye color chart to select 3-5 colors. (I’m partial to getting fabric-making supplies from Dharma, mostly because I can order everything I need for a project from one place. There are a lot of local shops with the supplies you need.) I ordered the dye, purchased enough PFD (Prepared For Dyeing) fabric for two throw-size quilts so it would be available for their projects when they arrived in Colorado. (I bought a yard extra for each of the quilts, just to add some cushion. I love to use hand dyed fabric in my quilts so I knew any extra would not go to waste!)

The girls designed their own quilts. I introduced Morgan to Electric Quilt to use for creating her design. I gave them guidelines for how to calculate the amount of fabric required for their quilts. Then, once they knew how much fabric to dye, we suited up for the dyeing process.

Protective gear is particularly important during the dye mixing process. Be sure to read about the safety guidelines for fabric dyeing. After the dye is mixed, face masks can come off.

Lily wanted one of her fabrics to include all the colors she selected, so we used a tie-dyeing method to combine them in a multi-print. We couldn’t wait to see what the fabric looked like in a finished quilt.

Tie-dyed Fabric with Multiple Colors
A swatch of the finished tie-dyed fabric.

With fabric dyed and dried, it was time to piece the quilt tops. They were very pleased with their finished quilt tops.

Lily’s 3rd quilt project with hand-dyed fabric
Morgan’s 3rd quilt project with hand-dyed fabric at Gramma’s Summer Quilt Retreat.

The 4th Annual Gramma’s Summer Quilt Retreat

At the end of last year’s retreat the girls and I talked about experimenting more with making our own fabric designs again this year. There are so many ways to color and make marks on fabric. There are lots and lots of YouTube videos and web articles to provide inspiration and guidance. There are many excellent books about dyeing techniques. For example, I found several eBooks to be really helpful for quick access to instructions for a number of techniques: Dye Your Own Fabric and Beyond the Basics: Dye Your Own Fabric. For some fabric dyeing techniques you can also find kits to get the kids started.

I’ve listed some of the fabric making methods that I’ve tried below, with links to one source for more information. Type the technique into your browser for a bunch of other recommendations. Now, just thinking about it, I’m really looking forward to having some fun making fabric with the girls this summer.

Fabric Dyeing and Quilting for the Learning Experience 

So… back to my string of thoughts at the beginning of this journal entry. Dyeing fabric and quilting is a most excellent idea for a kids’ project during the time they spend at home social distancing. And, you can make it a real learning experience, for you and the kids. Not only do they get the satisfaction creativity brings, tie the projects to Science with the dyeing process, Math for quilt design and calculating fabric requirements, History when you consider studying the times our great grandmothers quilted. And then there are the Teambuilding Skills of working together, and I can vouch for the value of family time and memory making.

Looking forward to summertime!

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