Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Let It Snow!

We finally got some snow last week, so I jumped on starting some snow dyeing.  It is a simpler process than other dye methods.  I first learned of the technique from a fellow member of Contemporary Quilt and Fiber Artists.  One could also use ice cubes for this dye method but snow is plentiful in Ohio and free!  A helpful article on the process is “Dye Your Own Iced Parfait” by Carol Ludington, Quilting Arts, June/July 2011. 

I made up three main color blends this time; my “Painted Desert” blend, a red-violet/yellow-orange shade/green blend and a brown/yellow shade/green/red-orange blend.  I have made up two variants of each basic blend.  As the snow melts down into the layers of fabric, I can see some areas where the dyes are blending with each other, and other places where the dyes are separating into other colors.  I’ve had a lot of purples separate into blues and red-violets in this slow process.  Not that it is a bad thing, the varied separation and blending creates some wonderful, unexpected surprises.  Here’s a view of the snow and dyed covered fabric.  Yes, there really is fabric in there.

Back in college, I had the opportunity to work with raku fired ceramics, something I miss doing and would like to do again.  The snow or ice dyeing process is very similar to certain concepts that I loved with raku: lack of direct control of results, seemingly random results, extreme temperatures, and a lot of unsuccessful pieces.  Well, the high rate of loss wasn’t really something I loved so much, but it was a strong lesson in dealing with mistakes and loss, things to carry though in all aspects of life.  The iridescent colors or crackling in the raku glazes depended on how quickly the pieces made it into the sawdust reduction, whether or not any combustible material touched the glaze, and how long the red-hot pieces were allowed to smoke and slowly cool.  The shock of being pulled out of a red hot kiln causes many pieces to break.  With snow dyeing, I often get a moderate amount of fabric that doesn’t get dye distributed nicely.  There are often large areas of still white fabric.  The nice thing about fabric, I can always re-dye it again, and fabric doesn’t crack or break.  Unlike the heat of raku firing, snow dyeing obviously goes to the other extreme.  I have been running out in single digit temperatures to gather snow to top my buckets of fabric.  Once in a while, the color blends just don’t work out, and then, there isn’t much to do to save it.
The buckets get set aside for about 24 hours, until the snow melts.  These look promising:


Then comes rinsing out, and washing with Synthrapol.  I can get a fairly good feel for how the fabric is turning out as I rinse, but it still transforms to a certain degree while it goes through a wash cycle or two, then drying.  This batch looks like a success:


Do I have to sell these?  I want to use them myself!

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