Heather Ross and her Lumi DIY

lumi foliage

Printing with the sun (and Inkodye) in Palm Springs

by Heather Ross

I was a huge Sunprints fan as a kid, so when I heard about Inkodye, I could not wait to try it out. I’m always looking for unconventional ways to design printed fabrics, especially methods that I can teach in my weekend workshops, and our January Sewing and Crafts Workshop in Palm Springs seemed the perfect place to try running our first Inkodye workshop. We had a strong and steady sun, lots of crafty energy, and thanks to Creativebug and Lumi, lots of Inkodye and online support.

inkodye supplies

We started with big stacks of tea towels, and a few bottles of Inkodye in a nice range of colors. We were able to find everything else that we needed: plastic sheeting, duct tape,  rubber gloves, and some buckets, at the local hardware store, where we got a few strange looks. Turns out that an Inkodyer’s shopping list is very similar to a serial murderer’s shopping list. We knew we would need a lot of space to lay out our towels, so we lined up a few folding tables in the sun and covered them with the plastic sheeting.

We worked in groups of four, each person chose a color and grabbed a towel. Then we scoured the Ace for trinkets, plants, and other oddly shaped items, or rooted through our own sewing boxes, and came up with a good assortment of  small things that we could use to make a pattern or design on our towels. We worked to come up with ideas before saturating them in the dye, so that we had a plan of attack, since once the ink was on the fabric we wouldn’t have much time to work.

lumi setup

We poured about a 1/4 of a bottle into our bucket, and added about the same amount of water. We used our gloved hands to mix the water and dye together until it was evenly dilluted. Then we plunged our tea towels into our buckets, swishing them around to fully saturate them. Then we started to work very quickly.

mixing lumi inkodye

We rung them out and spread them quickly, on our plastic. We grabbed our items and put them into place on our towels, which began to turn colors immediately.

laying out stencils


gretchen printing

Whatever area isn’t exposed to the sun for more than a few seconds wouldn’t be dyed, because the inks depend on direct sunlight to activate.


We left our towels out in the sun for another twenty minutes or so, then we pulled off the items and had a look. Results varied, but all were amazing. We washed the towels out carefully, making sure to get any remaining dye out, and hung them in the sun.

lumi finished products

Some of my favorite designs, like the bluebirds shown here, were made using paper cutouts, which we were able to customize using our Janome Sihouette Cameo. I also loved what Gretchen Hirsch did, designing a cute plaid using strips of tape overlapping one another. Leaves and foliage left incredible images too, as did coins and even hair accessories.

lumi birds


Later that evening, when our tea towels were dry, we pulled out scads of embroidery thread and hoops and went to work on them, using the shapes and lines left by the sun to guide our needles. Our finished embroidery had a had-drawn, natural feel to it that I would never have been able to achieve by tracing a drawing.

lumi embroidery

We also offered some ideas on turning one – or two – tea towels into a dress or blouse, and looked at some really wonderful examples form around the world of how hand woven and hand printed textiles in their most basic, rectangular, shapes can be used to make simple garments.  When I tried to come up with an example of what my own culture had produced along those lines, I couldn’t help but think of this great article from Martha. Modern perfection.