Inspired by succulents

Cactus Inspired Tie Dye Jen at
Cactus Inspired Tie Dye

Succulents are having a moment.

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).

Sunny Tie Dyed Tees
Sunny Tie Dyed Tees

On Freckles and Fabric

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.


Dye freckles on fabric. example by
Dye freckles on fabric.

Not cute.

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.

Upcycled pasta jar used for container dyeing, and the experimental results. From
That’s green dye in that upcycled pasta jar.

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.

Cute freckles in ice-dyed fabric. Example from
Cute freckles in ice-dyed fabric.

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.)

Color variations in my Ice-dyed fabrics.
Color variations in my Ice-dyed fabrics.

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.

Fiery freckles - another ice-dyeing example from
Fiery freckles – more dangerous.

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.

A crafty "nope". Ice-dyed fabric gone wrong at
That’s a nope.

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.

The Scarlet Darter logo features ice-dyed fabric.
Of course my logo features 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.


Until next time,
Keep it Crafty, my friends!


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