One Moment | Discovering the Joy of Dyeing

I spent Saturday with 44 members of a Presbyterian church in San Bernardino. They received a grant that allows them to bring in an artist for a day to help the parishioners create something to use in their worship. They have a tall sanctuary and a vision of 20 yard swaths of silk, dyed in 4 different palettes of liturgical colors, draped up, over and down the entrance to the front part of the narthex.

I really did not know what to expect, and I never could have dreamed up a more incredible experience. Their pastor did a wonderful job of getting everyone thinking about working as a group, as well as how people have always had special memories of special pieces of clothing, and how those pieces can embody joy.

After that splendid introduction, I did my thing. I spent about 45 minutes telling them about the history of dyeing, the chemistry of fiber reactive dyes, and showed them pictures of my dyeing patterns and color palettes (thank goodness they had a projector I could hook my computer to!) We then divided into four groups, each group had a different liturgical color palette. The group then decided what pattern they would like to dye their silk in, and I ran around like a crazy person, helping each group with a folding/scrunching  plan, and then calculating how they could get their desired colors.

It was totally crazy for about an hour, each group had a fearless person or two, and before I knew it, they were all happily dyeing away. On top of the huge piece of silk, they also had about 8 smaller scarves to be used as stoles for the pastor and her assistant, as well as additional color in the sanctuary.

With the silk dyed and batching in the sun, we all had lunch, and they all spent some time relating a particular moment that they found especially joyful or meaningful. I was quite touched at how working in a group for an hour or two had allowed these folks to truly bond. One person remarked that my joy that I show when talking about my process had spread to the rest of the them. How awesome is that?

The minister then talked about the anticipation she sensed in everyone…and it was true. They were all so excited to see what they had dyed. We rinsed, and then took the silk outside. The sun was shining, the breeze was blowing…they had a magnificent time with their creations:

The pictures aren’t great – but I hope you can see the joy on their faces. It was glorious!

Edit: To see some of these installed, click here.

My moment? Dyeing is magical, and sharing the magic is divine!

om [one moment] meet upalamodestuff Linda has started a weekly meetup based on taking a moment each week to really notice something as you go about your daily grind life. I need to do this. You may want to too – read more about it here:

14 Responses

  1. This made me tear up a little, it’s so beautiful Candy! I get this same feeling with the process of dyeing/coloring my leathers. There’s a lot of chemistry and know how behind it, but I much prefer to think of it as “magic”.

    If they post any photos of how these look in the church will you send a link. I would love to see how they all look in their new home!

    1. Thanks Julie! I too can’t wait to see these installed and will definitely blog about it when I get pictures!

  2. What a fantastic experience and what a beautiful swathe of silk to use in the church. You should all be so proud of yourselves.

  3. How glorious!!!!! Yes, I can see the joy on their faces – the pics of them holding the cloth up to the breeze, priceless!

  4. That looks like a fabulous day and event. I love the pictures of everyone swirling the dyed silks in the air! This reminds me of the project I did with my temple many years ago. Quite a few ladies got together to dye small pieces of silk that were then used as borders for new torah covers that my friend and I sewed. It was an amazing experience.

  5. What a wonderful thing you’ve done here Candy! It would be thrilling to see these panels hung as they were intended. Blessings to you for creating something with these people and leaving them with the knowledge of how to dye fabric and the memory of having spent a day with you having fun like this!

  6. For the church this will be so meaningful, knowing that they had a hand in the creation of these beautiful panels. I wonder where they applied to for this grant? Lucky them to have you! Interesting but not surprising that it looks like mostly women participating.

  7. Oooh Candy- these photos are GREAT! Our grant was from Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, the grant page can be found here:
    We will use the flame colored fabrics for the first time on Pentecost (June 12 if you want to come take photos) and we plan to use them in many ways through the church year (Advent, Lent, Ordinary Time, Eastertide). It is indeed a joyful thing to be not just ‘observers’ in the sanctuary, but to offer our handmade worship to God. It is a pretty amazing thing to be part of this worship-making people, and to dwell under the love of a colorful and loving God. Thanks for spending the day with us! and here are my photos- Lisa took them with my phone when I realized I hadn’t brought a camera!

  8. I LOVE color. I started about 2 years ago dyeing my own sock yarn and since I am a quilter I thought, why not dye my own fabric? It has been such a joy to see how each piece is so unique and beautiful. I just got more soda ash so that means more color coming into my world. I use good cotton and also love to dye the white on white fabric. The design really shows up.I used to do commercial machine embroidery, great excuse to have all thos lovely different colored threads. Did I say “I LOVE COLOR” LOL