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 thescarletdarter.com
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 www.theScarletDarter.com
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 www.thescarletdarter.com
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. www.theScarletDarter.com
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 www.theScarletDarter.com
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 www.theScarletDarter.com
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. www.theScarletDarter.com
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!


There is a bee on your baby

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:

Baby bee tee shirt, thescarletdarter.com
Baby bee T.

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.

So yay! Happy accidents!

And until next time,

Happy Crafting!



(By the way, the little tee is for sale on my Etsy store: Blithe Star Baby.)


Silks and fiber reactive dyes

I’m rather pleased with the silk dyeing experiments.

Yellow and Pink Silk scarf.

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.

Yellow and pink silk scarf, close-up

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.

Black, purple and blue Silk scarf.

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.

Silk scarves dyed with fiber reactive dyes.

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.

Until next time, Happy Crafting!

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