This month’s project came about literally by accident. I had been musing about doing a dyeing project for February but hadn’t gotten to actually doing anything. Last Saturday, I took a workshop on hand-embroidery at my favourite local fabric store and was chatting with the instructor, Pat Caffery, after the class. She mentioned that she hand-dyes much of the fabric she uses for her embroidery. When I expressed that I too was interested in fabric dyeing, she asked me if I had ever tried snow-dyeing?All I needed was snow, fabric dye and a plastic container with a lid.
One thing we’ve got lots of this year is snow. We haven’t broken any snow fall records, but it’s been very cold – no February thaw in Eastern Ontario. What’s fallen from the sky has stayed on the ground. Everyone, myself included, is more than a bit tired of winter. Snow-dyeing sounded like a good excuse to get outside and a lot more fun than shovelling.
I had all the supplies on hand, so as soon as I got home, I pulled on my boots and parka and headed outside. It was dark outside, but there was enough light from our house and our neighbour’s to work more (not so great for photos), plus lots of fluffy white snow within reach.
I decided to dye an old white t-shirt and a piece of fabric that was part of a failed shibori dyeing experiment last summer (I was trying for an indigo effect but the end result was a muddy, washed out blue).
There aren’t really any directions to snow dyeing. Cathy at Orange Octopus has a post that walks through the various steps. Like many hand dyeing practitioners, she recommends pre-washing the article to be dyed with soda ash, to help set the colour. Since both pieces had been previously washed, I rinsed then out under the tap and made sure they were well wrung out. I folded up the fabric into loose pleats, but I didn’t worry about doing anything fancy with the t-shirt – just arranged it on the bottom of the plastic box.
The great thing about snow-dyeing is that it’s easy and self-contained. As long as you use rubber gloves, it’s practically mess-less (I couldn’t find mine, so I had purple fingers for 24 hours). I used a combination of powder and liquid dye – indigo, turquoise, fuchsia and purple. I filled up the containers, dumped the dye on top, and closed them up.
The trick to snow-dyeing is to let the containers sit inside for 24 hours – a bit challenging, if you’re like me and impatient.
I broke down and opened up the shoe boxes after 23 hours (it was Sunday evening and I wanted to finish up before supper). I don’t think the extra hour would have made much difference in terms of the end result.
For the t-shirt, I used a combination of all four colours. The purple dye was an after thought and I probably added more than necessary. Plus, it was in powder form and would have been much more concentrated than the other colours. Although purple is the predominant colour, there’s a great marbling effect on the shirt. It’s subtle but very pretty. Next time, I’ll use less dye.
I used primarily liquid fuchsia dye for the piece of material and a sprinkling of the purple powdered dye. The colour isn’t as intense as with the t-shirt (confirming my suspicions that it’s a blend of some sort). However, it’s much more interesting than it was before and the flower pattern on the fabric is much more visible.
I’m not sure what I’ll do with it – I’ve got about 2.5 metres, which would be more than enough to make a muslin for Grainline Studio’s Scout tee.
So a big yes to snow-dyeing. Given how much snow we have (with more on the way), I plan on playing around with different colour combinations. I found a white knit cardigan at the thrift store this week and it’s currently marinating in pink, bright blue, violent and indigo dye (so far, I find the liquid easier to work with, but fabric artists prefer powdered dyes).
As for the March project, I’m more organized this time and it’s ready to go. It will include hand-embroidery, so I can practice my newly acquired skills.