Torrington resident’s business cooks up colorful hand-dyed designs with retro style

TORRINGTON — Margaret Gumbs was considering what to do with her time when she retired — some day.

Already a quilter and having studied interior design, she took the advice of her husband, Rodney, and turned a hobby into a new line of at-home work.

The Torrington resident, who works as a nurse, placed what she calls Maggie McFly Designs, on the website Etsy. She offers hand-dyed cotton yarn, hand-dyed cotton fabric, organic cotton “onesies” for infants, hand-dyed table décor, and ice-dyed clothing. She plans to broaden the scope of her offerings even more as her business gains traction.

“I began just by making a tie dye shirt for my husband, and also made one for my son. They loved them and encouraged me to continue and offer them for sale,” said Gumbs, who spends four days a week immersed in her new cottage industry.

Meanwhile, her husband, Rodney Gumbs calls himself the CEO of shipping, handling and delivery of the items to customers via mail or other means.

Gumbs creates what is known as tie-dye fabric and clothing, wildly colorful patterns on cotton that became all the rage back in the 1960s and 1970s when flower power, and love and peace signs permeated society. The unique clothing designs faded with subsequent generations but never really went away. Tie dye has has become popular again in recent years among young people and some elders, who want to relive their days of rebellion and counter-culture living, at least in the way they dress.

In “ice tie-dying,” the T-shirt, or whatever fabric one is using, is completely wet, then wrung out. The material being dyed is scrunched up and placed on a rack over the top of another container or dish. The more “scrunching”, the more chances of white peeking through. Said Gumbs, “The dye comes in a very fine powder form. When you apply it you need to wear a respirator mask so you don’t breathe it in.”

The container holding the item being dyed must be large enough to contain liquids from the shirt. Gumbs then generously covers the fabric with ice. Crushed ice insures coverage of all of the edges without the risk of larger ice cubes sliding off right away. This step could be substituted with snow. The ice covered items must be left alone for six to eight hours or longer. The longer it sits, the more intense the colors get. The items must be rinsed until the water runs clear. Then, the item is allowed to dry.

The process of traditional tie-dye typically consists of folding, twisting, pleating, or crumpling fabric or a garment and binding with string or rubber bands, followed by application of dye(s). The manipulations of the fabric prior to the application of dye are called resists, as they partially or completely prevent the applied dye from coloring the fabric.

The ice tie-dye designs that Gumbs creates are free-flowing and almost replicate the works of avant-garde painters. The colors are vibrant with no

Read more