Dyeing To Quilt

About a month ago, a friend in South Africa showed us her results from dyeing fabric using ice.  I had never heard of such a thing before, but was intrigued, especially when I discovered that snow would work as well.  We have an abundance of that here in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, with more volunteering its services almost every day.

Sue thought that it looked like a great experiment as well, and so we set about to find all the necessary ingredients before she embarked on the long trip from Kuwait.  I had some dye, and one small package of fixative, so she searched for more, and also looked for fabric to dye.  As well as some cotton, she bought two different lengths of silk.

We used the instructions from http://www.instructables.com/id/Snow-Dyed-Fabric/ as the basis for our dyeing,  Eagerly, we divided the fabrics into meter-long sections, and soaked it in synthrapol.

With all the holiday preparations, we didn’t get a chance to begin until December 26th.  Instead of folding the fabric, we just bunched it up into tiny mountains, as we were looking for a mottled effect rather than a tie-dyed linear look.CIMG1290

When I got out my dyes, I realized that I had only two colours – a black, and three jars of Fuchsia Red.  We were a bit disappointed, as Sue could have brought liquid dye from Kuwait, but knew that we could still see how everything worked.

I got some snow from the back porch where the drift still made it impossible to fully open the door.  We heaped snow onto the fabric, and then sprinkled dye powder over the snow.  It was difficult to get it even, so we did it through a fine tea strainer.CIMG1295

In the larger container, we did a second layer of fabric, snow and dye.  Four meters of red, and two of black for this trial.CIMG1296

We set the tubs on a towel on the floor, and the wait began……. no idea what we would get.CIMG1297 It was the 28th when we finally had a chance to check…. the snow was well melted by then, and we had drained the water from the bottom of the tubs so the fabric wasn’t just sitting in the dye.

At first, they just looked like solid colours, especially the pink, but as we rinsed the excess dye out, the wonder of it all set in.  And imagine our surprise when we opened up the black pieces….P1070765

And found purples and blues, and a touch of green.We both had forgotten that black is not a pure dye, but made of many colours, and will break back into it’s components….. and what a wonderful thing it is.

We also discovered that the embroidery thread here was NOT cotton.

We rinsed and rinsed and soaked and washed and dried….. and ironed the fabric. and were amazed.P1070637

and couldn’t wait to try again with the remaining yardage.

On December 30, I took Snoopy for a quick walk before we got out the dyes.  |The sky was just lightening for the impending sunrise, and the soft pinks and grays of the clouds in the East were beautiful.  “Aha”, thought I.  “We can dye this”. I unfortunately didn’t have my phone on me, and by the time we got home, the colours had disappeared. But our new combinations, “Sakhalin Sunrise” was growing in our imaginations.

It was afternoon before we got into the dyeing, as we also had fabric shopping to do, and the traffic is horrid here in the afternoons.  This time, we used two larger bins, and the smaller one, and prepared to dye our silk pieces.  I went to the front walkway for the snow…CIMG1310

and we scrunched and piled and spread dyes happily.  We wanted to use less dye this time, as our previous results were quite bright, but were unsure of just how much dye to use, especially in our red and black tub.CIMG1311

The small container that we did our two pink pieces in had a crack near the bottom, so we placed it across the mixed tub, just in case it leaked.  All had a covering of plastic wrap….. and we covered the whole thing with several old towels to try to slow the melting process.P1070652

January 1…….. the unveiling.A New Year….. and what would we discover?  Well, in spite of carefully draining the containers of melted snow, the pink had leaded, just a tiny bit, into the black. A tragedy????? No t at all.

As we washed out the fabrics, we were astounded to see how differently the silk absorbed the dyes, and how differently the black behaved.  We had stunning green and fuchsia silk, with dark blue bit………..P1070745

Our Sakhalin Sunrise was much more distinct than we had planned……. but we were thrilled.P1070743

We cut all the meter-long pieces in half, trying to each get some light and dark parts.P1070715

Now comes the task of using them in our quilting.  To help with this, I have begun a class on Academy of Quilting’s website by Elizabeth Barton entitles “Dying to Design”.  As well as tips on dyeing fabric, I’m hoping to get some good ideas on how to use these pieces and all the other beautiful ones I have collected over the years and done nothing with.

I’ll let you see how it turns out.

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7 Responses to Dyeing To Quilt

  1. Fantastic! I love the colours.
    What a wonderful idea, I’ve never heard of it before either, but I’m suddenly getting itchy fingers again. I wonder if it would also work with natural dyes? I had some fun a few years back using kumara (a sweet potato with a purple skin), onion and beetroot skins. Given the prevalence of beetroot here I might just have to try and see…..

    I can’t wait to see what you make from these fabulous pieces 🙂

  2. nsturgill says:

    Beautiful! It is always a wonderful surprise to see what comes out in the end!

  3. Looks like you two had heaps of fun! A tiny part of me is jealous, but really I have too much fabric already that needs using so I’ll just enjoy it vicariously.

  4. That looks like such fun and is a great example of making do with what you have. When life gives you snowdrifts, do ice dying. I love it.

  5. Evelyn in SW Ontario says:

    I hadn’t heard of using snow to dye fabric before – what a wonderful assortment of colours you created – can’t wait to see how you use them.

  6. intlxpatr says:

    Not a lot of snow in Pensacola 🙂 but green with envy at all the fun you had and your fabulous results 🙂

    • You can always use ice, Patricia…. That’s what my friend in South Africa did – and it was the first I’d heard of it.

      Had a great deal of fun, though, and now an confident enough to try it on my own.


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