Friday, January 31, 2014

Snow Dyeing the Caves of Lascaux

It's freezing down here in North Carolina.  The natives are bearing it with their usual fortitude, as exhibited by frenzied attacks on the grocery stores for bread, milk, and toilet paper.  The transplanted Yankees are being snooty about how THEY know how to drive in the snow.  Same old, same old.  I'm from Ohio, myself, which makes me a Yankee in the South because the Southern definition of a Yankee is "not from the South".

Oh, and I DO know how to drive in the snow.  Just saying.

But rather than driving in the stuff, much better to be dyeing with the stuff.  DD came down from the mountains for a visit right before the snow hit.  We had a great time, hanging out, thrift store shopping (before the snow) and then playing in the studio with snow and dye and fabric.

This is not a tutorial.  No way am I going to take responsibility for the mess you will make!  Or if it goes horribly wrong!  See Dharma Trading Company's instructions for ice dyeing.  We used snow instead.

We piled pre-treated fabric on to rack in a plastic bin and piled snow up on it.

 then sprinkled dye powder on top.

and then more dye powder

This bin had blues and greens and a sprinkling of yellow.

The other bin had rose and henna and a sprinkling of yellow.

As it started to melt the snow shifted and left bare spots.  I didn't bother to fix it because by then it was obvious that I had piled the fabric way too thickly and the dye was not going to seep down through all of it.  There were enormous white patches visible underneath.

After the snow melted there was a large pool of coppery brown dye in the bottom of the bin.  I just threw all of this lot down in there and let it sit for a couple of hours as we did other things to the blue/green batch.

We followed the directions for getting the dye out.  My washing machine has a stainless steel tub, so I did all of that in the washing machine.  Stainless steel is not going to hold dye.  I do follow up all the dyeing with a load of something I don't really care about, like dog towels.

L to R:  white cotton curtain lining, white silk curtain material, ecru slubbed silk curtain material, Dharma silk
I would tell you who my original online dye teacher was, except that I did a lot of things that she does NOT recommend.  I agree with her that the best results come from using the right fabrics.  But I like to experiment.

BTW, she recommends a good quality unbleached muslin for cotton.  And I bought a whole bolt of it from her, which I have used with great results and am saving for when I am not experimenting.

Not Recommended Fabric #1:  white cotton curtain lining.

Dye is all about the chemical bonding between dye and fabric, and you don't want anything getting in the way.  Like the finish on most fabrics, including this one.  Or the residual effects of the bleaching necessary to make white-white.

But hey, it was $1/yard at the thrift shop.  And I got a LOT of it.  Probably a whole roll, but cut into 5 yard lengths.

And it worked well.  Best way I can described the difference between this and the 2010 snow dye experiments on the good unbleached muslin is that the colors are softer here and the patterns are fuzzier.  But it was also a slightly different dyeing technique.

Not Recommended Fabric #2:  white silk curtain material

I wanted some silk with a nice hand for scarves.  Silk is expensive.  I got this and the next piece for half price at a home dec fabric outlet.  See above about finishes and bleaching.

This is also pretty, but even softer and more faded looking than the curtain lining cotton.  But I like it.

Not Recommended Curtain Material #3:  ecru slubbed silk curtain material

This has an even heavier hand.  The results were, hmmm, interesting.  This one will probably get doctored further in the future with stamping or painting

So what IS a recommended fabric?  Well, anything sold by a dye purveyor as something intended to be dyed is probably a good bet.  I need to do more research on silks, but the freebie that Dharma threw in with my last dye order did take the dye beautifully.

It's a much lighter weight than what I want, but Dharma has LOTS of choices of silk yardage, as well as all kinds of dyeable wearables.  And I really, really wish they were paying me to say this.  Because I am drooling over the 50 different choices of silks they have.

Before we started DD popped out to the store to look for something dyeable.

The nightgown was cotton but the trim and embroidery were polyester and did not take the dye AT ALL.  A very pretty effect.

I took the leftover snow melt/dye mixture and used it to dye more white curtain lining.  Not going to tell you exactly how I did it.  The results were unmemorable, although it would make a decent sky fabric.  The dots of red could be cardinals flying through that sky.

The badly dyed rose/henna/yellow which soaked in the melted snow/dye mix came out a coppery color which I can't get to show up properly on the screen.  DD first said that it looked like oil stains on a mechanics rag, and I agreed.  But we also think it could serve as a surface on which to paint images from the Caves of Lascaux.

I was in Houston recently for a family event and the next-best thing to seeing all the Western cousins was seeing the The Cave Paintings of Lascaux exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

and oh, yes, there are some horses and bulls that will be painted here.  By me.  Probably badly.  But nothing much worse could happen to this fabric.

There was still snow on the ground the next day, and I was pleased enough with the results on the curtain silk to want to try making some larger scarves.

This time I was careful to keep each layer of fabric thinner, and I made two layers.

The color mix was purple and blues with sprinkles of fuschia.

L to R:  white curtain silk, another white curtain silk, ecru slubbed silk, white cotton curtain lining

The white curtain silks are very pale and pastel-y.
I am going to have to look at them by themselves and maybe I will like them better.

Some people actually do like pastels.

Or maybe I will overdye, stamp, or paint on them.
There are no failures, only ingredients for future projects.

The slubbed silk took the colors in this color family beautifully, and I managed to get better color saturation overall.

This shows only a portion of a long scarf, and on each of these scarves the colors and patterns vary quite a bit from end to end.  Is this a good thing?  Or not?  I'm not entirely sure.  But I like them.

The white cotton curtain lining also took the dye well and I really like it.

When I took the online courses, the largest pieces we dyed were half-yards.  I've been wondering about dyeing yardage.  So I got out one of those 5 yard pieces of white cotton curtain lining and used the snow/dye melt from the blue and purple mix, using techniques I learned in the online courses.  I added more blue dye because 5 yards is a lot of fabric.

I put some dye in the bottom of  a plastic laundry detergent container, then started cramming the yardage into it.  Added dye .  More cramming.  More dye.

The result was a lovely light purple.

The cool thing about scrunching fabric into a container with dye is the patterns that result.

The pattern and slight color variations are of a larger scale than I got with fat quarters and half yards scrunched into yogurt containers.  And although I like it, I'm not sure how I will use it.  Fortunately knowing how one will use something is not a necessity when it comes to fabric stash.

All of this made as big of a mess as you would expect.  In the summer time I move much of the dye process out onto the back patio.  But this is winter.  I did spill dye onto my cheap rug and I don't care.  Most of it blotted up.

A mishap with a bucket of washing soda solution left a white residue all over everything.  It wiped right up.  I don't give a hoot about my cheap rugs, but if I messed up my cutting mats I WOULD be upset.

I have been craving a session with the dye pots for a long time now, but wanted someone to enjoy it with me.  Yay!  Got my wish.  Thanks, DD.


  1. Much more fun that making snowmen. If you need more snow to experiment with, I have TONS here, with more coming next week.

  2. Greetings Madame DP. I am trying to restore a beleaguered 206k43. The sputnik like dial has a broken arm and a few missing screws. Unfortunately said arm is broken with no way of taking it off. Do you have any leads on singer sputnik like dials that I could use as a replacement? BMW I read of your adventures by way of your blog with enthusiasm and enjoyment.

  3. So much fun! Thanks for sharing.


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