Have you seen the gorgeous photos of ice or snow dyeing while browsing online or via Pinterest? The colors on the dyed fabrics glow like radiant water-color paintings (without looking like tie-dye). They are stunning!
Here's an example of a felted purse that uses fabric from my snow dye experiment. After dyeing the fabric, I felted it into a flat piece of yardage and then sewed the purse using instructions from Alanda Craft.
Not Like 'Regular' Dyeing
Typically, fabric dyeing is all about having the dye 'catch' evenly so that the color is evenly distributed. In order to achieve this, there are chemicals that need to be used and steps that a dyer must do. As a result, much of the regular fabric dyeing is precise and finicky. (One of the best websites to explain all about the various types of fabric dyes and their methodologies is that of Paula Burch's; she has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry).
However, with Ice and Snow Dyeing, control is relinquished.
Literally, it's a cool method that relies on two natural processes. Firstly, that frozen water melts and secondly, that dyes are made up of multiple pigments which can 'split'. For example, a green dye may break down into yellow and blue pigments. In addition, the Snow Dyeing is wonderfully Wabi Sabi - it allows what will happen to happen. I like that!
Moreover, the Snow Dyeing is fairly straightforward - one pretreats the fabric with a mordant (soda ash), then plops snow (or ice) on it and then sprinkles on Fiber Reactive dye. Then, you leave it alone! As the snow melts, the pigments separate and the magic happens.
I followed a thorough Ice Dyeing tutorial over on Dharma Trading. Their method is for dyeing cotton or cellulose type of fabrics which need to be pre-treated with soda ash. Unfortunately, soda ash is not good for wool (nor silk). So, I needed to dye my cotton fabric and then felt it.
Snow vs Ice
While ice cubes are conveniently available year-round, I thought that I had better be sustainable and 'use up' some of the free snow that often drops upon Pittsburgh. (However, I DO want to try it with ice in the future!)
The orange milk crate is serving as a sieve or rack to lift the fabric above the 'meltwater.' I used the utility sink in my basement as the project needed to be covered and left alone for 24 hours.
Above image shows what the Fiber Reactive pigments look like when they are sprinkled on top of the snow. Underneath are two large pieces of pre-treated cotton fabric. (As Dharma advises, always use a mask when sprinkling dyes).
After adding the dye powders, I covered the crate with a large garbage bag and left it alone for 24 hours. The next step was fixing the dyes by steaming in my ancient, but enormous microwave (which is in my basement and solely used for textiles). Finally, I followed Dharma's instructions for rinsing.
Here's what some of the fabric looks like on my felting table. I added more wool to the sides to make a wider infinity scarf. Additionally, I felted in cords to make it longer.
Here's the completed scarf.
In the end, I felted two infinity scarves. They came out so-so. I need more experience in felting scarves and figuring out the best proportions.
Better Results with Hats
On the other hand, my felted Pixie Cloche hat came out nicely. Although, the watercolor effect of the Snow Dyeing is less visible on the hat.
Via snow dyeing, I (re) learned that turquoise colored Fiber Reactive dye needs a higher heat to 'fix' the dyes. (The first piece of fabric that I rinsed out 'ran,' So, back into my dye microwave for the second piece!)
Also, I would like to purchase more 'browns' to try this Dharma experiment with 'ugly colors.' My collection of dyes is limited colorwise: I only have one each of red, yellow, blue, turquoise, purple, and black.
In the future, I would like to try snow (or ice) dying using 'Acid' Dyes on silk fabrics.
Have you tried any new textile techniques, lately? Please share your adventures below.