Container dye demo: St. Patrick’s Day edition

Tie dye and tomato gardening are not winter sports. It’s possible to do both indoors, but it’s going to take a lot of extra effort. The slightest mistake can make a hot mess of your house, not to mention your power bill. Fortunately, tie dye is not the only way to create colorful patterns on fabric!

Ice dyed cotton apron, detail, 2015

Ice dyed cotton apron, detail, 2015

There’s almost no limit to the cool effects that can be had without using a single rubber band or squeeze bottle. This entry will cover two methods of container dyeing: Low Water Immersion (LWI) and Ice Dye. I’m listing this under Tutorials but it’s more of a demo. After a quick review of fiber reactive dye techniques, we’ll experiment with some green scarves just in time for St. Patty’s!

Fiber reactive dyes must be combined with a soda ash solution to react and bind to the fabric. With traditional tie dye, the fabric is soaked in soda ash before or after tying. Dye is applied last, and the tied item is left to batch for 24 hours before washing out. Good tie dye has brilliant colors, sharp transitions, and no muddiness. Here’s how I made this one.

rainbow2finishedLWI reverses the process and applies dye before soda ash. The fabric is dampened with plain water, scrunched or folded, and packed in a container. Dye is poured over and the pigment is given time to separate along the folds. The fabric is then covered with soda ash solution to fix the color. LWI dyeing creates random, intricate color transitions. This is a sampler of LWI quilting fabric.

LWI Kona cotton, 2014

LWI Kona cotton, 2014

Ice dye is yet another way to mix dye, soda ash and heat (or lack thereof). Here, the fabric is thoroughly soaked in soda ash solution, then scrunched or folded tightly in a container. The fabric is completely covered with ice, and dye is applied on top of the ice. The container is left undisturbed for at least 24 hours. As the ice melts, the pigment seeps into the fabric and immediately reacts, creating spectacular color transitions.

Ice dye sampler

Ice dye sampler

For this demo I used three colors: Procion Lime Squeeze, Procion Better Black, and a bluish kelly green I mixed myself. Keep in mind that green and black are not primary colors on the subtractive color wheel, so each of my “colors” is just different proportions of turquoise and yellow. They’re going to separate a little before they react with the soda ash. Keeping that in mind, let’s dye!

Design One is a basic LWI with scrunched up fabric topped by lime green, kelly green, and a little black.


Design One: scrunched LWI

Design Two combines tie dye with LWI. I pinched and twisted the damp fabric randomly into bullseyes, secured with small rubber bands (OK, I cheated), and poured lime first, then kelly green, over all. The picture is dark, but I didn’t use any black at all in this pattern.

LWI, twist tied

Design Two: twist tied LWI

Design Three is our ice dye. You can pour dye solution over the ice just like LWI, but I like to use dye powder mixed 50-50 with kosher salt and sprinkled over the ice. If you try this at home, please wear a mask! This is kelly green topped with lime, then covered with stripes of black.

Green ice dye

Green ice dye

It’s essential not to move or disturb the containers once the dye is activated. Let gravity, chemistry and time work their magic and you will be rewarded with exquisite colors and patterns. These will batch for 24 hours.

Do not disturb

Do not disturb

Let’s see what we’ve got. Here’s Design One, LWI with two shades of green + black. The patterns appear muted because the colors are so saturated, but the result is a gorgeous rich emerald green.

Design One, scrunched LWI

Design One, detail

Design One, finished scarf

Design One, ready to wear

Design Two is the twist tied LWI. I love the way the background stayed green, but the “stars” have yellow and turquoise accents. This scarf was my first show sale of 2015. Luck o’the Irish?

Design Two

Design Two, detaill

Design Two, detail

Design Two, detail

Design Two, finished scarf

Design Two, ready to wear

Finally, the ice dye. Two close-up details, and the finished scarf:

Design Three, detail

Design Three, detail

Design Three, detail

Design Three, detail

Design Three, ready to wear

Design Three, ready to wear

See how the pigments separated into feathery patterns of yellow-green and blue-green with black accents? This is why I love ice dye. It can create spectacular color patterns without time-consuming folding. I may have to keep this scarf, because green is my favorite color and it goes with every shade I have.

Here are all three designs, plus another LWI I made earlier. ‘Tis the season!

Container dyed scarves 2015

Container dyed scarves 2015

Want to try this, but maybe not at home, or at least not solo? In summer 2015, I will be offering fabric dyeing classes and private parties in the Charlotte, NC metro area. Please follow me on Facebook for updated information. As always, feel free to email me at with questions, comments, and suggestions.

You can't fool Mother Nature

You can’t fool Mother Nature

First show of 2015!

Announcing Little Lotte Studio’s first appearance of 2015! I will be at the All Arts Market this Saturday, March 7, from 2pm until 10pm. It’s happening at the Neighborhood Theatre right here in Charlotte, NC.

More information:


511 E 36th St, Charlotte, NC, United States, 28205

I will be in Booth 104, right in front of the bar where you can’t miss me. This is my third time at this event and it’s always a pleasure to meet other local artists. There’s a lot of talent here in Charlotte, so bring the kids and support home-grown creativity!

2015 Preview: Classes and more

First, thanks for an excellent 2014 season! My last show of the year wrapped up last night at the All Arts Market at the Neighborhood Theatre here in Charlotte. Lots of socks and scarves found homes for the holidays. Wear them all in peace and good health!


To those who have inquired about Little Lotte Studio offering classes and parties, the answer in 2015 will be yes! Fiber reactive dyeing is a warm weather sport and prime dye season runs roughly May through September in Charlotte. Between now and then, I’ll be putting some lesson plans and party packages together. Your ideas and questions are welcome in the comments.

Dyed scarves, Dec. 2014

Dyed scarves, Dec. 2014

Please “Like” Little Lotte Studio on Facebook and follow me on Twitter for my latest designs and show information. Thanks for visiting!

DIY Duct Tape Sock Form

Sock photography is tricky. It’s hard to get the light just right, and even harder to appreciate how socks on the rack will look on real feet! So I decided to buy a couple of foot models, only to discover a pair would cost almost 80 bucks with shipping. There had to be a more frugal way.

Back in 1998, I used a duct tape dress form to design my wedding dress. How hard could it be to use the same method on my feet? Turns out, it’s easy. All you need is a pair of cheap knee or thigh high panty hose, two rolls of duct tape, bandage scissors, and paper or plastic stuffing. Here’s how to do it!

Start by putting on the hose, pulling them up over your knees.

feethoseStarting just below the knee, start wrapping duct tape around your calf. If your calves are curvy like mine, work with 12″ strips of tape and arrange them to avoid wrinkles and bunching up. Keep going down your leg, making sure the hose is completely taped over. tape1 Keep taping down to your ankle. tape2 Tape around the arch of your foot, bringing the tape together smoothly over front of the foot. tape3Fill in the rest of the open areas with strips of duct tape, making an effort to minimize wrinkles. Here’s my foot completely taped up. tapedone Now, it’s time to cut! I highly recommend using bandage scissors for this step. They have a rounded bottom blade and are designed to slip under bandages without injuring the skin. They’re readily available at pharmacies and medical uniform shops. You can use regular scissors, but please be careful!tapecut Starting at the inner knee, carefully cut down the calf. The duct tape will stick to the hose and slip off your leg as you cut.

tapecut2Keep going until you’re able to slip the form off your foot.

cutdoneIt will look like this.


Now, stuff the foot. I used plastic grocery bags because I had a ton, and this is a great way to recycle them. Any dry, lightweight stuffing will work if you can pack it tightly.

Push the stuffing into the toes and lower foot, squishing it around with your hands to get a nice, natural shape.


When the entire foot up to the seam is stuffed, pull the seam back together and secure with duct tape.


Keep stuffing and taping all the way up to the knee. Repeat the same process with the other foot, unless you’re making a leg lamp in which case you’re done.

Press the form into a natural-looking shape again. For a smoother surface, press in obvious wrinkles and wrap 3-5″ strips of duct tape over to smooth them out. Here’s a finished foot.


For visual appeal, you can add a layer of duct tape in whatever designer color you like. Since I plan to use these in a light box, I added a few rows of white tape starting at the knees. Here are my sock models ready to go!


And a few of the resulting photos:



Not bad for ten bucks, an hour of time, and zero shipping. Happy crafting!

2014 Holiday Order Guide

If you’ve reached this blog after seeing my work at a local show or on another site, welcome and thanks for making it a great season! Please follow me on Facebook here.


My custom dyes are made to order, simply because it’s impossible to stock every design in every size. If you see a pattern or color you like, I can probably re-create it on anything from a onesie to a 3XL Tshirt. With the holidays approaching, here’s what you need to know about ordering and prices.

Normal turnaround is 7-10 business days, plus shipping time. Orders may be expedited on request. All prices include your choice of colors and design. Local pickup is available, or I will ship for an additional $3.00 (more for large orders). Group orders are always welcome; a 10% discount applies to orders of ten or more items. I can also dye any garment or fabric you supply starting at $12 for garments, $10/yard for fabric.

I accept major credit and debit cards through PayPal and Square.

Contact information:
Etsy shop:


Little Lotte Studio – 2014 Price List

Short Sleeve Tees -100% Cotton medium weight
Baby, 0-24 months (including onesies) ….. $12
Child (3T to 14-16) ………………………….. $14
Adult (S-XL) ………………………………….. $16
Plus Size (2-3XL, larger sizes available) .. $18
Dog Tees (XS-XL) …………………………..$15

Long Sleeve Tees -100% Cotton, medium weight
Baby (including onesies) … $15
Child (3T to 14-16) ………. $16
Adult (S-XL) ………………. $20
Plus Size (2-3XL) …………$22

Socks – 94% Bamboo, summer weight, super soft
Baby … $6
Child … $8
Adult … $10
Adult Thigh High Tights – 100% Cotton … $28

Scarves – 100% Cotton
Lightweight woven scarf  11“ x 60“ ….. $15
………………………………37“ x 80“ … $22
Baby rib knit circular scarf 10″ x 68″ …. $15

Bandanas and Tapestries
12“ x 12“ square or 22“ x 29″ triangle ….. $8
20“ x 20“ ………………………………….. $12
36 x 36″ …………………………………….$25
44″ x 72″ ………………………………….. $50

Fabric – minimum order 1/2 yard, sold in 1/2 yard increments. Prices for 45″ wide fabric, other widths available. Please contact me for a quote.
Lightweight muslin: 1/2 yard …. $8
……………………. 1-5 yards … $12/yard
…………………… 6+ yards … $10/yard

Midweight Kona Cotton: 1/2 yard …. $10
(Perfect for quilters)       1-5 yards … $18/yard
…………………………. 6+ yards … $16/yard

This list covers my most popular items. Many others are available, including heavier weight shirts, dresses, a range of accessories, and underwear. Email inquiries are welcome. You may also place an order by visiting my Etsy shop and clicking the blue “Request Custom Order” button on the left menu.

Thanks for visiting. I’d love to hear from you!

Etsy shop


Tomato Update 7/14/14: The harvest begins

It’s mid-July and I’m long overdue for a tomato update, so here we go!

The winner of First Ripe Tomato of 2014 goes to … Whippersnapper! The fruit are the size and shape of large grapes, deep pink and so sweet.


I’ve never had much luck with upside down planters, but this variety is a winner. They don’t seem to mind the heat and not one has cracked. I will grow these again.

Whippersnapper tomatoes

Whippersnapper tomatoes

On Whippersnapper’s heels for earliness was Orlovskie Rysaki. It’s named for Orlovskie trotters, a Russian breed of horses known for its speed. My two plants grew like mad sprinters, and dusted the other varieties in blossoming and setting fruit.

Orlovskie Rysaki tomatoes

Orlovskie Rysaki tomatoes

Orlovskie Rysaki is a true determinate: it bears its crop all at once, then dies. It’s also super early for a full-size tomato. My plants yielded a pound each of 4-6 oz red fruit before meeting an abrupt demise (the 90F+ heat probably didn’t help.)

Orlovskie Rysaki, 62 days after planting out

Orlovskie Rysaki, 62 days after planting out

I pulled the plants up and got another pound each of green tomatoes that I grilled, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette, and topped with feta cheese.

The ripe tomatoes were juicy and fairly acidic. They’re not as flavorful as some of the indeterminates, but a tomato sandwich on the 4th of July? I’ll grow these again.

Orlovskie Rysaki, sliced

Orlovskie Rysaki, sliced

Next up is ABC Potato Leaf, an indeterminate cherry. Another fast grower, it’s been very productive and shows no sign of slowing down. The fruit is bright red and slightly sweet. Unfortunately, it’s also prone to cracks. We’ll see how it fares through the season.


My latest full size tomato to ripen is Bradley. An heirloom from Arkansas, its fruit is pink, smooth, and flavorful. It doesn’t seem to mind the heat. This baby made my best tomato sandwich yet. Another one I’ll grow again.

Bradley tomato

Bradley tomato

Coming soon: peppers and watermelon!

Dyes and more: 6/14/2014

With my next show fast approaching, I’m busy creating new inventory! I’ve already got t-shirts from kids to 3XL, but what about the littlest ones? How about some baby onesies?


Earthy ice:


Rainbow “V”


Speaking of kids, when I was an artsy-fartsy kid in the 70’s, macrame was the epitome of crafty cool. I spent many a snow day making owls and plant hangers. Last summer, I dyed some hemp twine and experimented with couple of macrame necklaces. They came out cool looking, so I decided to try it again this year.

Since macrame is infinitely more fun with beads, I had the bright idea to buy some wood beads and paint them myself.

Painted beads drying

Painted beads drying

Meanwhile, I got a 400-ft roll of ordinary hemp jewelry cord at a local craft store for a few bucks. A little dye magic later, this is what I’ve got so far:

Dyed hemp cord, 6/14

Dyed hemp cord, 6/14

Up close:


Simple macrame bracelets:

hempmacramePainted bead necklaces:



So many colors, so little time!

Garden update 6/4/14, with tomatoes

It’s June 4, 2014. Summer doesn’t start for another two weeks. Here was my container garden less than three weeks ago.



Here it is today.



Remember these babies?

Tomato seedlings 4/8/2014

Tomato seedlings 4/8/2014

Look at them now!

Front: Red Peter pepper. Back tomatoes from left" Orlovskie Rysaki, Polish Dwarf, ABC Potato Leaf

Front: Red Peter pepper. Back tomatoes from left” Orlovskie Rysaki, Polish Dwarf, ABC Potato Leaf

Whippersnapper tomato in upside down planter:


Orlovskie Rysaki setting fruit:


Sweet banana pepper:


Czech Bush tomato:


It’s going to be a good season.


Tie dye spiral tutorial

The spiral fold is both traditional and ageless. rainbow3xspiral In this tutorial I’ll show you how to spin the perfect spiral and apply the dye using CMY color theory to create a rainbow. If you’re new to tie dyeing, my earlier post Fiber Reactive Dye 101 covers the prerequisites. Before you get started, you will need these supplies:

  • 100% cotton t shirt(s) (not poly-cotton blend)
  • Protective gloves
  • Large rubber bands
  • Fiber reactive dyes in primary colors (yellow, fuschia, turquoise)
  • Soda ash solution
  • Squeeze bottles for applying dye
  • Wire rack (not to be reused with food*)
  • Watertight container and/or plastic bags (recycled grocery bags are perfect)

*Thrift shops and yard sales are a great source of inexpensive utensils for dyeing projects! I’ll assume from here your shirts, soda ash, dyes and gear are prepared and ready to go.

In general, I fold and tie my shirts, soak in soda ash solution, then apply dye. This works well with patterns like the heart, which consists of only a fraction of the fabric in the shirt and uses a few tablespoons of dye for the pattern.

With a spiral, you have a lot more fabric in larger layers to cover: almost 100% of it. Spirals have to be folded tightly to make the pattern and color transitions pop. The tighter the fold and binding, the harder it is for the shirt to absorb soda ash all the way through. And if it’s not saturated with soda ash, the dye won’t stick, and you get a washed-out spiral. This was supposed to be purple and teal. Lame spiral The solution? For brilliant spirals, I hand soak the shirt in soda ash solution first, then fold and tie. THIS is purple and teal. hornetswirl

Here’s how to do it. Start with white 100% cotton t shirts. Launder on regular cycle with hot water. Do NOT skip this step, especially if the shirts are new — any sizing and/or impurities from the manufacturing process can inhibit the fiber from taking the dye evenly.

Wear waterproof gloves. Dunk a clean, damp, unfolded shirt in the soda ash solution. Swish it around to soak through and wring out by hand, letting excess drip back into soda ash container. Place on a small table, inside out and face down. shirtready Decide where you want the center of your spiral to be. We’ll be using the middle of the shirt. Now, you have two choices followed by a dance: stick a fork in it or pinch. Then walk in circles. Either direction is fine. If you use a fork, make it a dull one and stick it lightly into the center. Hold light pressure and start walking in circles around the shirt, never letting go of the fork. The shirt should start forming tight pleats like this.

spiralfork Alternately, pinch the fabric at the center with gloved fingers like this: spiralpinch … and walk around it, rolling into pleats: pinchfold Continue walking around the shirt, holding on to your pinch, until only the ends are sticking out, then fold them into the spiral. forkspiralfolded Place your first two rubber bands, dividing the fabric into quarters and nudging in the ends. pinchtie1 Now wrap two more rubber bands between the first two, dividing the fabric into eighths. Adjust so all four bands meet in the middle of the spiral on both sides. Here is the flip side: pinchtie2 To dye a spiral, always work from the lightest to the darkest color. With primaries, that means yellow first, fuschia second, and turquoise last. Start by squirting yellow dye into the center of the shirt and along the sides of the same rubber band. yellow1 Continue applying yellow all over that half of the shirt, first along the rubber band then all the way to the edges. Keep adding yellow until it soaks through the folds and out the other side. yellowdone Apply fuschia to the next wedge, working from spiral center to edges, and saturating the fabric until it drips. fuschiadone Apply turquoise last. Again, start with the center and edges: turquoise wedge Then saturate the entire turquoise wedge: rainbowside1turq Let the whole disc sit for 5-10 minutes to drain, then carefully flip over to a clean section of your draining rack. It should look like this: rainbowflipside Apply dye to the flip side just like you did above, working from the center out and saturating every bit of fabric you can see. rainbowdoneNow, carefully place the disc in an airtight bag or container and allow to “batch,” or react. At ambient temperatures below ~85F, I would batch this shirt for a full 24 hours. On excellent tie dyeing days (95F+), as little as an hour or two will suffice if the shirt is wrapped and left undisturbed in a sunny place. If you have access to a car parked in the sun, you can place wrapped items in a large airtight container in the car.

The shirts pictured sat for one hour in a sunny car with outside temps around 85F. In this example, I made an effort to keep the center of my spiral light in color so the original text on the shirt would still be visible. Here is the result: rainbow1front And the back: rainbow1back A word on CMY color theory — remember, we only applied three dye colors to this shirt. A quick visual review on how they work together: SubtractiveColor.svg (1) magenta (fuschia) + yellow = red
yellow + cyan (turquoise) = green
cyan (turquoise) + magenta (fuschia) = blue

In action:

rainbow1detail Let’s do one more rainbow spiral. This is the one we folded with a fork earlier. Since I was OK with a darker center, I applied the dye in thirds instead of a half and two quarters. Here it is folded and dyed, same directions as above: rainbow2dyed And the result: rainbow2finished Close up: rainbow2detail To create a two-tone spiral like the purple and teal at the top, simply use one color on each half of the shirt and apply center to edge as seen above. That’s all there is to the spiral pattern. Have fun!

8/16/2014: Edited to clarify batching times — CL