Camp Quilting Arts: Dyeing Fabric Outside

This past weekend we dropped my youngest son off at camp for his last year as a camper. As you can imagine, this was a bittersweet moment. While we celebrate his anticipation of spending six glorious weeks in the Connecticut wilderness, we’re sad to think he’s growing up and next year will have a much different summer. Wouldn’t it be great to have a summer camp experience every year? It has been many years since I attended camp, but this year I’m planning my own backyard version, complete with fun activities to inspire artistic exploration and spark the creative muse.

The first backyard “Camp Quilting Arts” session took place this week and featured projects from past QA magazines. Camp Counselor Carol Ludington led 12 quilters in a gradation dyeing project. In preparation for the day, I acted as her Counselor in Training and mixed 6 jars of dye concentrate, two gallons of soda ash solution, and cut 9 yards of fabric into fat quarters.  In addition, I had help preparing 36 skeins of floss to toss into the dye baths.

The campers arrived early, enthusiastic for a morning of dyeing, and a bit hungry. Good thing we had a hearty breakfast planned. Debbie and Alice acted as camp chefs and provided a great spread. Many hands make light work!

After setting goals for the morning, reviewing safety practices, and donning plastic gloves, we got started.

The fabric dyeing was done in quart-sized plastic bags, with 4-5 gradation steps per color. We quickly learned that we needed to set up an “assembly line” process, with one person measuring dye and pouring it into a bag, another camper adding the fabric and thread to the dye, and a third in charge of sealing the bags and organizing them for batching. We all rotated through the stations so we each were able to take part. And let’s not forget recording our process and results! Alice was our official note taker.

Again, many hands made light (and colorful!) work.

Aren’t the resulting fabrics gorgeous?

I hope you are playing along and having fun in your inside and outside studios this summer. Stay tuned to learn about what we make with our gorgeous fabrics (Hint: We’ll be making a charity quilt from Jemima Flendt’s new book, Weekend Quilting). I bet you can guess which one <3.)



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5 thoughts on “Camp Quilting Arts: Dyeing Fabric Outside

  1. Brenna,
    Would you please share your “recipe” for the gradations? I also have a dye camp planned, but was planning on offering techniques such as spiral folds, rosettes, etc….. but the gradations look so much more useful…..

    I also teach dying the colorwheel using only three colors. I would share the recipe with you if you like….

    1. Hi Mnorthway,
      We will absolutely share our recipe for the gradations Vivika and her fellow campers used. We plan to publish a blog about it soon so stay tuned! Yes, please to your offer of sharing your method of dyeing the color wheel using only three colors. Thank you so much for your comment and I can’t wait to check out your recipe.

  2. Yummy colors. Wish I was with you. I love hand dyed fabric. Summer camp for us is to have the grandkids dye t-shirts. We’ve tried tie dye, sun painting, spray dyeing, etc.