Trial and Error

As you can imagine, there is a lot of trial and error with tie dye.

I mean, a LOT of trial and error.

Take, for instance, these skull and crossbones designs I’ve been trying out.

Trial and Error

They’re awesome, right? But, they don’t look much like each other. And there’s too much bleeding on the eyes, so I’ve got to adjust my dye application there. Maybe I’ll use a thickener.


When I first started delving into this world of color on fabric, there was a lot more failure than success. I’d get so discouraged when a new design didn’t turn out how I imagined it would. I’ve shed tears over my failed attempts at designs. TEARS! It may seem like a trivial thing to get worked up about, but every time I didn’t replicate a design to my tolerance standards, I felt like it was further proof that I wasn’t cut out for selling my work. I felt like a failure.

Now, here’s the thing: I have amazing friends and family. They tell me, “Jill, you’re too hard on yourself! I like it!” Awesome, encouraging words. But… their words really don’t soothe my frustrations. How can I make it in a heavily saturated market if I can’t get my stuff together?

Well, one day I had this realization: Their words don’t help because if I don’t believe in my work, it won’t matter if they do. I need to be happy with the results. I’m not out to get patted on the back, I’m out to produce quality tie dyes that customers love.

Reality started to set in… I was going to have to make a LOT of mistakes and be okay with it. I needed to stop asking for second opinions and go with my gut. If I was dissatisfied with the end result, I needed to redo something.

Now, the other side of that coin is that I need to be okay with the variations and uniqueness of tie dye. No… scratch that. I need to CELEBRATE the variations and uniqueness of tie dye. People don’t buy tie dye for it’s consistency. They can buy printed fabric if they want that sort of thing. There’s plenty of printed (read: fake) tie dye out there, but it’s not what I do. A perfectionist at heart, celebrating the variation is really difficult for me. But that’s probably a good thing. Because…My left brain and right brain are having to do all sorts of collaboration. I’m probably some sort of genius because of it. And while I can’t say I’ve figured it all out, what I HAVE figured out is this:

Tie dye is both an ART and a SCIENCE.

There’s method to my trial and error – hypothesizing and changing one variable at a time, recording my findings, being willing to make mistakes and do-overs, etc. But there’s also creativity and surprise as a piece takes on a life of it’s own, often turning out better than I imagined!

And art and science CAN CO-EXIST. It’s just not always comfortable.