Snow Dyeing

Dyeing fabric using snow as a resist has become popular the last couple of winters, no doubt helped along by the crazy snows some areas are experiencing.  I’ve done it a couple times, but it doesn’t seem to work as well for me as it does for others.  I seem to get a lot of white areas in the fabric even though I’m using quite a bit of dye (at least it’s a lot of dye compared to the amount needed for low water immersion dyeing).  For complete directions on snow dyeing, the ProChem web site has a really good set of instructions (along with loads of other directions and safety information).

Here’s a look at my process in pictures.  First is the large under-bed-size plastic tub I used, with pieces of wire closet shelf material to keep the fabric out of the water as the snow melted.

I soaked the fabric in a soda ash solution for about 30 minutes and then I put the crumpled fabric in the plastic containers and let them sit out overnight.  By morning they were frozen with a bit of new snow on them.

I put on more snow (roughly 3-4 inches) and then squired on dyes.  The dyes I used were all pure colors of Procion MX dyes and I didn’t mix them before squirting on the snow.

I brought the tubs inside to let the snow melt.  The picture below is about 3 hours into the melting process.

The last four pictures are of some of the fabric.

There are some nice portions of the fabric that I’ll be able to use, but there is also a lot of white space.  I may end up over-dyeing most of these pieces.  In the end, doing this snow dyeing reinforces that low water immersion dyeing works better for my purposes, and, for me, LWI is actually easier and uses less dye.

A lot of people like snow.  I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.  ~Carl Reiner
There’s one good thing about snow, it makes your lawn look as nice as your neighbor’s.  ~Clyde Moore

Putting Color on Cloth

I love making art quilts and, for me, one of the most satisfying parts of the process is getting the right fabric for the quilt.  This usually means that I play a big role in the design of the fabric–putting the color on the cloth.

I’ve tried lots of techniques to get the right color on the cloth.  I’ve done a lot of low water immersion dyeing using Procion MX dyes, and as I’ve become more proficient at it, I can dye specific color gradations when I need them.  For a comprehensive site about hand dyeing, check out Paula Burch’s site.

I’ve also experimented with a number of other dyeing techniques.  Shibori dyeing is a fun way to add different patterns to dyed cloth (click here for some amazing examples).  Ironing a freezer paper stencil on fabric and then adding thickened dye allows you a fairly high degree of control over the end result, while deconstructed screen printing is anything but predictable.  

Gelatin monoprinting can also give some unexpected results, and despite its name, you can sometimes get multiple prints from one go.  Shaving cream marbling on fabric can be done using dyes, inks or paints. 

In addition to dyeing the fabric, there are other ways I like to add color to the cloth.  Paint is a good alternative to dye, though it can change the hand of the fabric, making it stiffer.  The simplest way is to just paint on the fabric using a textile paint.  Paintstiks (basically oil paint in crayon form) are another option.  Both methods usually require heat setting the fabric for the paint to be permanent.

A technique that I’ve used in a few of my quilts is rust dyeing.    This process can yield the typical rust color on fabric, but can also give a wonderful gray color when the rust is combined with tannic acid during the dyeing.  And of course, after the fabric is rusted there’s always the option of overdyeing it to put more color on the cloth.

I’ve even tried a bit of cyanotype printing (blueprints), though I have yet to use any of this fabric in a quilt.

Using a digital camera, computer and inkjet printer opens up tremendous possibilities for adding more color to the cloth.  I’ve made quilts by printing photographs on fabric and I’ve also designed fabrics on the computer which I printed through a commercial service called Spoonflower.

Once a quilt top is complete, there are still more options for adding color.  The quilting can be a major color component, and lately I’ve been using a lot of heavy weight polyester thread for quilting, sometimes will two threads at a time.  Beading is another good way to get in a bit more color.

My search for the best ways of putting color on cloth continues.  At this point, my favorites are the low water immersion dyeing, the fabrics designed on my computer, and the quilting.