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.
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.
My first great crafting obsession was crochet. I collected tons of patterns from the internet and started building up pretty good yarn stash. I constantly crocheted cloches – every gift-giving holiday was an excuse for foisting my handmade hats on loved ones.
Somewhere, somehow that crochet habit evolved to knitting. It’s much more of a time investment, more tools, more techniques to master. More polished results. And the yarn hoard exploded.
Oh, there was also jewelry-making phase followed by a candle-making chapter. Which required the purchase of a metric ton of new crafty doo-dads, what-nots, and assorted paraphernalia.
Then I shifted to sewing. Maybe because I could produce more things faster? Maybe because it’s about mastering new skills? Also: fabric hoarding is like, the heroin of crafting related addictions.
At the moment, though, I am all about the ice dye.
There is just something about the mystery of the color-breaking.
It’s like Christmas morning, you know you are going to get something…but you don’t know what it will be until you open it.
Each new crafty project lends suspense: “Can I actually make this work? Will it become a thing?” And that’s exciting, right? Until you hit a certain level of experience, that is. Once you reach a certain mastery of a technique, the suspense fades. You know you can make a thing. More than that, you can even predict how to best tweak a pattern or create your own variation. Then you have to find a new mystery, a new technique. A new obsession.
Or is that just me?
Ice dying keeps me guessing – in the good way. The color bursts by it’s own rules. It blends and blurs depending on the make-up of the dye, the size of the cubes, the amount of cubes, the chemistry of the fiber additives. Even the the ambient room temperature as the ice melts factors in to the mix. So while the technique is easy to set-up for some gorgeous results, you just don’t know what flavor of gorgeous is going to remain until the excess dye is washed out.
It’s a hardcore habit now. I mean, I am writing this post to distract myself from the dye dealer. Yeah, that’s right. Ice dying is so addictive, I’ve been making multiple supply purchases each week for the last month or so.
You want some of that mystery?
I’ll break it down in new post soon. I’ll keep you in a little suspense until then.