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
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.
LWI 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
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
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.
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
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
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, detail
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, detaill
Design Two, detail
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, 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
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 email@example.com with questions, comments, and suggestions.
You can’t fool Mother Nature