Studio Musings

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Paper Dyeing - an Explosion of Color

I'm in another one of those stages right now where I can't yet share any of current bead work, so I thought I'd share a little side project - dyeing paper.

Why dye paper?  Well, originally I used it in my design work.  Now, I mostly use it to wrap my Etsy packages.  But more than that, I dye paper because I love the chance to play with color in such a direct fashion.  Using the resulting papers for wrapping is a lovely way to use the papers so that I can dye more down the road without burrying my studio in the stuff.  :)

So, here we go:

Tray of folded papers
I fold a dozen or so papers a day until my tray is full

My dye bottles and messy dye workspace
My dye workspace mid process - even the cleanup paper towels end up pretty

an old cafeteria tray filled with a dozen or so folded and dyed papers
I dye the folded papers one at a time and place them on my cafeteria tray

placing folded, dyed papers on plastic throughout my studio to dry
Then move them to plastic and open them up a little to dry - my studio is awash in plastic!

a leak in my glove dyes my thumb a deep purply blue
turns out there was a leak in one of my gloves. 

After scrubbing.  The dye really shows up the damage from my beading needle

bundles of folded, dryed paper remind me of streamers of color
Time to unfold the dried papers - I gather them in bundles first like streamers of color

the fluffy stack of unfolded, dyed papers
I stack the unfolded papers to await ironing
ironing the papers
Then it's time to iron each sheet of paper - one by one

the ironing makes the designs more visible

Ironed papers
Stacking the dyed papers on my main work table

side view of paper roll shows of the colors
I had to roll one of the stacks because I love this cross section shot

dyed papers spread on my worktable.
some of the papers fanned out on my work table.  I dyed 102 sheet in total

wrapped Etsy package
My first Etsy package wrapped using my newly dyed papers -with one of my little cards

So there it is!  Several days and weeks worth of intermittent work in a series of fifteen photos.

Right now I wrap all of the items from each Etsy purchase up together as they fit better that way in the packing envelope.  But going into the holiday season, I will offer to wrap them individually, and include blank versions of my little gift cards (right now the cards are little thank you notes from me).


  1. Karen, these papers are to dye for (ha)! What a great way to have fun with color and to give your packaging some extra pizazz.

    I wonder if this process would work on fabric. Says the girl still obsessed with her sewing machine...

    1. You an certainly use this technique with fabrics! That's where I started, way back when. I used to dye lots of fabric, then use the leftover dyes to dye papers.

      They dye I use is Procion MX fiber reactive dye - it's fantastic on cotton and rayon and even silk and wool.

  2. Those are fabulous. It is wonderful to get beautifully presented packages. It really does add to the experience.

    1. Thanks KJ! That's my hope. I love receiving packages in the mail and want to make the ones I send as fun as possible.

  3. Just finished the newsletter and I love your dyed paper!! Looks like the tie-dye stuff we wore back in the day!!! Many many years ago. Is it just tissue paper? sure is pretty.

    1. Yes, I use archival tissue paper. It takes the color beautifully and doesn't add any significant weight to my packages so it doesn't add to shipping costs.

  4. I have a serious case of studio envy. What a great work space. And can this possibly be as much fun as it looks? I'm imagining the "oohs" amd "ahhhs" your artful packaging will inspire!

  5. I love playing with dyes - whether I'm working with fabric or paper. It's an incredibly rewarding way to play with color and soooo much faster than bead weaving.

  6. I never thought of dyeing paper: I've just dyed fabric and fibers. Cool!!!