Fabric, fabric and more fabric

I might have mentioned that we need to dye more than 40 metres of fabric before Saturday. We did the responsible thing, planned ahead and divided the 40 meters into 2 batches of twenty metres each. The first twenty metre batch has been dyed, ironed and is waiting to be cut up into fat quarters. The second twenty metre batch was ready and waiting to be dyed. We had scheduled a dyeing session late yesterday afternoon.

This time around I started off by reading Lisa Ca”s article on How to dye 60-100 yards in a few hours. We only have a few hours to dye 20 metres of fabric so we need all the help we can get. However the temptation was just too strong to play. Did we stick to the plan  – of course not. It didn’t take long for the mad scientists to come out of their shells and play. We threw the plan out of the window and and mixed different colour combinations together: “What about a bit of this and a bit of that. Ooh, how will this turn out? Let’s try.” You can imagine the fun we have. The most difficult part is waiting until the fabric is ready to be rinsed out. It’s exciting to see what colours we have created.

Because I firmly believe every blog needs some colour, here are some photos of the fabrics batching.

I wonder what colour this will be – chocolate brown?
And this green?
Will this end up as Allie’s Brown?
This is a pretty green. Will it retain it’s intensity once it has been rinsed

Hot winter days and fabric dyeing

While we are all desperately hoping for rain, the hot sunny winter days make fabric dyeing a pleasure. We don’t need to create an artificial heated environment for the fabric to batch; we just put the fabric out into the sun to batch.

Batching in the sun
Fabric batching in the hot sun

Hand-dyeing fabric is a complicated, but fun process that takes a couple of days from start to finish. First we wash the fabric, then we soak it in the dye activator and  lastly the liquid dye is added. Our dyes are reactive dyes which use heat as a catalyst between the dye and the fabric. The best source of heat is the hot African sun. For those who know me well, I always mention the advantages of the African sun. There is something special about the sun that shines over the African continent. Yes, it’s the same sun that shines over the rest of the world, but living in Africa makes it special.

However, I digress…. Once the sun has finished working its magic, it’s time to wash the fabric out. This is probably the most time consuming part of the process. We rinse the fabric in cold water until the water runs clear and then we wash the fabric in hot water with Synthrapol (or an African equivalent). Fortunately we have rain tanks full of water so we are able to save water. The challenge is that if it doesn’t rain soon, the water in the tanks won’t last much longer. We then hang out the fabric to dry.. you guessed it .. in the hot African sun. Once dry the fabric is ironed and packaged for delivery or for sale.

Paint brush fabric
Creating a paint brush effect

Birthday Present

What does a birthday present have to do with TwigaDudu you might ask? Well, it was my birthday a short while ago – I’m approaching a minor (major to me) milestone…. a conversation for another day and another blog. I will be blogging about it one of these days. If you are interested in reading about my wonderful day, pop over to Mountain Biking, Musings, Travels… and Dogs.

In the meantime, back to the matters at hand….. my family decided that I needed a memory quilt of the Beloved Giant Schnauzer, Alex. Mmmm, where to find photos without me finding out, and, equally importantly, what fabric to use? The choice of fabric was easy – TwigaDudu fabric of course. So they got to work. Fabric was cut and dyed, photos were secretly obtained and everything was put together and handed to me at a coffee shop on my birthday – what an amazing present. You will see the design is based on a design of a Ndebele House – my other passion.

Alex’s Memory Quilt – Front
Alex’s Memory Quilt – back

I LOVE the colours, design, just everything about this quilt, and probably won’t stop raving about it….ever. What an amazing quilt and thoughtful gift.

Happy Days – the queen size bed quilt is completed and delivered

Sir Sprocket the red Burmese boy has given the quilt his stamp of approval. He also noted that heSirSprocket on Quilt would like a quilt like this, and didn’t accept “no chance” as an answer.  He likes to carry his blankets (and everyone’s sweaters) around with him ….mmmm I wonder whether he has been reading Peanut’s cartoons and seen how Linus carries his blanket around. What he doesn’t realise is that this quilt is far to heavy for him to pick up, let alone carry around. I suppose I could make him a smaller version with the left over fabric…..

On a more serious technical note, I tried a new quilting technique – “quilt as you go”  – 12 blocks in a row and 12 rows in a panel and 6 main panels with 4 border panels. This has been the most difficult quilt I have ever put together.  The good news is that it came together quite well in the end – and I learnt a lot, which is always a good thing 🙂


We also hand-dyed a whole cloth piece to use as the backing for the quilt. IMHO, the calmer, muted backing complements the bright happy quilt top.

Backing View

Progress…. and Cot Quilts

We are inching slowly forward towards our goal of a sustainable business. To remind ourselves, our passion and goal is to help provide employment for some of the local mothers and grandmothers. Sustainable development can only succeed if we all commit to the goal of social upliftment and by “loving our neighbour as ourselves”.

Back to the fabric….  the market, on the whole, seems to appreciate our fabric and it’s uniqueness.  This is due to the quality and texture of the base fabric we use.

The samples we have sent out are finally reaching their destinations. We are waiting in anticipation to hear what people think.  While we wait,  Mad Scientist 1 and 2 are hard at work, taking advantage of the warm sunny Autumn days.

Just to whet your appetite, here are some photos of the cot quilts we made to showcase our fabric.

Yellow and Grey Quilt 
Yellow and Grey Quit backing – wonderful multi-coloured fabric
Blue and Grey Quilt
Green and Grey Quilt
Back of Green and Grey Quilt
Back of Green and Grey Quilt



Did you know that our fabric can be used to make up custom garments? The drape is perfect when made up into a dress.

We first custom dye a piece of fabric and then create a dress from it.  The photos below show just how beautiful the dress is. What do you think?

Gloria Dress Fabric

Gloria Dress Front
Front of Dress
Gloria Dress back
Back of Dress


Do people wonder where mad scientists get their inspiration from – or are we just mad all the time? :LOL we might think we are mad all the time, but actually we need inspiring sometimes.

Last weekend I went up to St Bernard’s Peak Mountain Lodge to pick up my son. He had just completed the epic trip across the top of the Drakensberg Mountains from North to South, 250kms in 15 days. An awesome achievement. What does this all have to do with fabric dyeing? Well, the scenery on the way to St Bernard’s Peak and at the lodge is inspiration in itself. Mmmmm, how are we going to mix colours to match the colours of the mighty Drakensberg Mountains? There is something so special about the Drakensberg Mountains. No one can put it into words. People who have hiked all over the world say that there is no other mountain range like the Drakensberg. Enjoy the photos. They do not even begin to do the Drakensberg justice

Geese Playing in the Stream
The Mighty Drakensberg from a distance