It’s been like, my thing, to conjur cute, memorable nature-inspired names for my Etsy listings. But I am better at tie-dying than the naming of things. Most of my colorful listings are named after fruits (or fruited desserts), or herbs, or seasons and weather phenomemna.
Yeah, okay. I spend a lot of time coming up with not so clever results. Like a chump. Because it turns out, some old European dudes did all the hard work for me a couple hundred years ago.
Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours is a 19th Century work that lists colors with poetic names and where you can find said hue in nature. Take Brownish Orange, which can be found in The Eyes of the Largest Flesh Fly. Or Blueish Green, like the Egg of Thrush.
(Check out the post linked below for pics and color swatches and old-timey penmanship.)
I have been Shibori-ing up a storm – not just because it’s my new favorite crafty technique, but because I couldn’t keep the products in my Etsy store! (Ahem, #humblebrag.)
I’m not complaining, though.
After an experimental phase (documented in part in this post) through the spring and summer, I learned some really cool folding patterns that dyed up beautifully. Unfortunately, the finished results wouldn’t work for what I had planned. You see, I had been looking for ways to make my own unique cotton fabric for the cotton pouches I sell at BohoQuest, but the shibori patterns were too big. They wouldn’t translate into the small drawstring bags.
Then I had the brainstorm that the large geometric patterns might work on something else. Something that could hold – nay, that required a bigger pattern. Something home decor-y.
And that dovetails nicely with the running theme of my blog – that unexpected results can lead to unexpected victories! Sometimes you just have to let go of your plan and embrace the journey your craft has for you.
Every where you turn, little cacti are showing up on reception tables, home stores, in commercials and marketing photography…(guilty!). You don’t have to live in the desert to be barraged with the little buggers. Last weekend, I left a theatre fundraiser with a couple of good sized succulents. Used as table centerpieces, I couldn’t believe my luck that a pinkish one lasted through clean-up. I got to take it home, along with another green little orphan.
I just love the way color comes through succulents. The teals and pinks and greens are so unique and specific to desert flora. I don’t have any dye powders that match the subtle hues, but I was still inspired by them as I indulged in my weekly dye session.
I tied a cotton baby tee shirt and a cotton jersey baby onesie with the classic sunburst style and experimented with procion dyes. The pinkish mottled effect was acheived with ice-dying while the rest of the colors were dipped or squirted on. I didn’t acheive quite the same colors as the potted inspiration, but I’m still very pleased with the results. (Both are now listed over at my etsy store: BlitheStarBaby, btw).
As a natural ginger, I know a thing or two about freckles. They come with the territory. Redheadedness + freckles are a bundled plan. Freckles are to be accepted, but controlled. So, over the years I’ve gotten much better about sunscreen and hats. You learn to prevent loud spots, and accept the little sprinkles.
I have not yet acheived the same mastery of freckles on my hand-dyed fabrics.
The “freckles” are remnants of unincorporated flecks of dye. I don’t know if “freckles” is a technical term? Maybe I read it somewhere, but it might be something I made up. (I’m leaning towards the latter.)
As regards this abomination of a green muslin, I was experimenting with a variation on ice-dying in a container. The results were informative, in that part of the experiment worked. The part where I mixed up with powder with water first, in the bottom of the jar. That resulted in an “okay” mottled green in some parts of the muslin. It’s not exactly the kind of variegation I was hoping for, but I can see how I can tweak the technique to get a prettier result. I’m going to keep experimenting with container dyeing.
But then I lost my head and added another technique on top and ruined the whole thing. I got greedy and put ice and more powdered dye on the top of the container. That was definitely a “here’s what not to do” lesson. I should have known better anyways, because greens are always tempermental when it comes to ice-dyeing cotton fabric with a procion dye. I should have left it to one experiemental technique at a time.
I do love ice-dyeing – it’s a relatively easy technique and the whirly-swirly results can be so luscious. But there is an art to finding the right colors, spreading the powdered dyes effectively on the ice, and using the right ratio of ice to powdered dye. It seems that the more component colors a dye has, the less lovely the ice-dyed results are. I’ve noticed it with greens and blacks especially, teals and violets fall into this category – any color that is a blend of other colors runs a risk of “breaking bad”. (That might be another of my unique, totally made-up, not technical terms.) The mixed colors sometimes separate completely and don’t blend at all – like the yellow and blue streaks on the green sample. The yellow and blue did not melt or blend, and just kind of sit loudly in opposition of each other. When ice-dyeing works well it’s because the colors fall in and out of each other, blending and swirling, waxing and waning.
For example, in the mermaid-y swirls above you can see some little blue and magenta freckles. Those probably came from the purple powdered dye blend. But it’s not ugly. The colors are pretty closely related to the rest of it, so I think it still works. In fact, I made some Tarot bags and Meditation mats for my Etsy store BohoQuest with this very fabric, and one of the mats sold almost immediately after listing.
Mermaid/Unicorn swirls are popular at the moment, and ice-dyeing cotton fabric with pinks and purples and teals is a great way to achieve that effect. Not that I can stick with what’s trending. I’m actually rarely “on fleek”, as the kids say. (Do the kids even say that anymore? I don’t even really know what it means. Forget I said it.)
Anyway, I stumbled on the Mermaid thing by accident, as I was trying new color variations. Some dyes are stubborn and just don’t seem to ice-dye well. Some dyes seem to take to the technique beautifully, and sometimes it seems like maybe the right color combination can make or break a pretty swirl.
Maybe it’s not to everyone’s taste, but I like a little chaos. I like a good vibrant swirl. That’s the beauty – and pretty much the point – of ice-dyeing.
In the fiery example above, there are blue freckles that are a bit more…aggressive? I don’t hate it. However, it is a combo that might sit in my stash for a while before the “right” project comes along.
But that green muslin sample? No bueno. Not a working composition.
The freckles are too stand-offish, too different and elemental. They just don’t go with the rest of from the mossy green. No swirl, no heart – just freckles and stains. I’ll try to cut around the freckles and use the mossy muslin to make green herbal sachets for my other etsy store (ScarletDarter), but most – if not all – of that experiment is going in the trash.
By the way, if you check out ScarletDarter on Etsy, you’ll notice the Store banner is made from an image of ice-dyed fabric.
That variation was ice-dyed with Marigold and Peony Pink – two colors that are pretty close to their primary origins. I used little powered dye and LOTS of ice. The pink did throw off some blue freckles because the Peony dye is a blue-y pink. But because there is a white background, I used a teeny bit of bleach on the blue spots to clean it up without spoiling the swirly effect.
Oh ice-dying. How I love the technique, but hate the freckles. Just like with gingers and their spots, I’m still working out how to make ice-dyed freckles work for me.
In my last post, I hinted at my obessession with bees.
I also threatened crafts inspired by a frolic in the California poppies.
Well, here’s proof I’m a woman of my word:
This baby tee was ombre dyed to a rich marigold with fiber reactive dye, then washed & dried gently. It also needed an ironing to be a good canvas for ink stamping. I stamp baby clothes with ink instead of painting on them. Flaky or puffy fabric paints on baby stuff just makes me anxious.
Isn’t that little bee the cutest? It’s my favorite block stamp – today, anyway. Tomorrow, I might be all about the hummingbird action. For now though, I’m really into little bees. This little bee.
But come bee-stamping time, I find that my black ink pad was totally dried out. Whoopsies. I had dyed a bunch of fabric and stuff yellow to go bee-stamping wild, only to be foiled by an old pad. Serves me right, I guess. I kind of took old blackie for granted.
Of course, that didn’t stop me from finishing this project. I had the crafting bug, pun intended, and I had to see it through. While perusing my ink stash, I was drawn to this awesome elderberry ink pad – really dark reddish purple. I gave that a go, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s for sure better than black. It doesn’t really look very purple against the yellow, it’s just more…vivacious than straight black would have been. And that vibe really echoes the intense wildflowers at the preserve the other day.
I live in Southern California and we happen to be experiencing a “super bloom” this spring. We finally had nice and rainy winter which has caused an explosion of green… and orange… and more…
I left my comfortable Hollywood hovel for a two hour drive into the wilds of Antelope Valley to witness the floral boom. Mother Nature did not disappoint.
This was my first visit to see the poppies in my 20 years of California residence, I’m ashamed to say. And aside from seeing the poppies, I was hoping to get some insect actions shots. You know, like a dragonfly (the namesake of this blog) or a butterfly daintily landing on a poppy for a little photogenic rest.
Nope, no dragonflies, darters or damselflies today. The poppies were left to hog the glory for themselves. Which is how poppies like it anyway.
Instead, I heard some buzzing in these purple things. I followed betwixt and between, from blossom to bud but this little bee was not in the mood for posing. Can you see her in the photo above? She’s the blob in the center.
Even in close-up, she’s hard to see. It’s like she didn’t want Instagram fame.
And the only butterfly I saw was gray. I didn’t even know butterflies came in gray.
Fine, maybe it’s a moth. Not to be judge-y, but I was hoping for more dazzle from the insect classes.
But then again, anyone would look drab next to this:
If you would like to see the best shots of my poppy hunting, check out the CopperShots gallery. Now I’m off to plan some crafting projects using these great color combos. Thanks for the inspiration, Nature!
I’m rather pleased with the silk dyeing experiments.
I was concerned about the color-fastness of fiber reactive dyes on silk, so I tried a couple of different dying methods. On the yellow and pink scarf, I used vinegar as a presoak and steamed for about a half an hour after applying the dye. Then I let the scarf cure (zipped up in a baggie to retain the moisture) for about 12 hours before washing it out.
The colors are not exactly pastel, but they are light. The same concentration of the fiber reactive hues showed up more vibrantly on cotton dyed at the same time. But the silk has a lovely sheen so while it’s not as bright as I expected, it’s a nice – if subtle – result.
For the bluesy scarf, I quickly dipped the silk in a soda ash presoak solution. I used the same solution as I do for cotton dyeing, but for far less time – just dunked it for less than a minute. I dyed the scarf and cured it for about 14 hours before washing (there was no steaming step in this experiment).
It’s hard to tell in the photos, but it seems to me that the in first method – vinegar & steaming – the scarf retained that magical silky luminescence better. But in the second method – with soda ash – the silk absorbed more dye. Of course, the difference in depth & sheen could be in the colors chosen. Admittedly, I was not adhereing to experimental principles by switching up the colorways between the two efforts.
Next time, I am going to try the vinegar & steaming method on the cool colors to see if that silky reflectiveness is a property of the colors or the process.
I’ve turned my humble studio into something of a fabric dying lab this week, as I’ve been consumed by testing shibori fabric folding techniques. I’ve found some styles I really dig and will continue to use in future projects.
But I’ve found some others that I am just not sure how to use in my work.
For example, the Triangle fold:
I do like the pattern, it’s really neat. But I hadn’t expected for the pattern to be so very wide and there is so much white space. I’m not sure how I would use this medium weight cotton dyed like this. I typically sew little clutches and pouches, and the pattern is too “large” to translate to those projects. Maybe I could make a shoe bag or a little pillow cover?
Same with the second test. It’s so pretty, but not a good fit for the kind of smaller projects I like to sew. In future, I’ll 1) dye the white cotton a light base color and 2) make the folds smaller to create a pattern with a tighter repeat that would work for my pouches and clutches.
Now here’s the start of something I really like:
I was a little hestitant about how and where to put the dye on this style, but it seems that the fold really does most of the work. I can see how it would be possible to make smaller versions and use them in little bags, or make larger mandalas for wall hangings, pillow covers, even bedspreads. This is one of those experiments that was a delightful surprise. It was really gratifying to see colors dance like a prism in this technique. I forsee using this style a lot – just for the fun of seeing how it turns out.
And finally, here is one I have plans for:
The way I attempted to get this look was really annoying to do – I used a million rubber bands around a cheap vase, which was easier going on than coming off. I ended up very wet and dye splattered, which was not my favorite. However, I totally dig the end result and I know how I’ll do it more easily next time. (Just use twine like the Shibori professionals do, dummy!) I plan to use this technique as a base for applique or for stamping/painting words and images. I kept the palette simple so that an image painted on top will really pop. We shall see…perhaps as soon as the next blog post!