Quilt Festival Houston: Teaching Schedule

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I will be teaching at the Houston Quilt Festival this year. The class catalog went live this morning.  Click HERE to be taken to the Quilts, Inc website for class registration.

The classes I will be teaching at Houston Quilt Festival 2017 are:


Wednesday, November 1:

Dyeing is Easy! (All day)

This is an all day class where I’ll teach you the foundations of dyeing cotton and silk. The morning will be a lecture presentation, and the afternoon will be interactive demonstrations. If you’ve ever wanted to learn to dye fabric for your own designs, this will be a great way to start.

Thursday, November 2:
Making Molds for Resin Buttons and Charms, (2-5pm)

In this class, I will teach you how to make a simple mold to produce your very own resin buttons and charms. Learn about all the tools you’ll need, and how to adapt found objects to fit your embellishment needs. It’s a simple process that yields great results. You’ll leave with a functioning mold and resin samples.

Friday, November 3:
Friday Sampler—Embellished Art Ornaments, (10:00am-noon)

The Sampler is a great opportunity to learn techniques from several instructors at once. You can float from demonstration to demonstration at your leisure. I will be demonstrating how I make embellished art ornaments. They are great ways to test techniques, use up scraps or decorate for a holiday.

 Friday, November 3:
Lecture—”Wearable Art—My Journey So Far…” , (4-5pm)

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Someone is actually handing me a microphone…
In this lecture/presentation, I’ll talk about the ups and downs of designing and making my wearable art. I find the process to be the most intriguing part of the journey, and that part is often forgotten when observing someone’s work. Join me as I pull back the curtain on my triumphs, troubles and techniques.

I will be adding lots of pictures to my gallery with class demos and samples as it gets closer to festival. Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section.

Azulejos

So it’s been a whirlwind last few months.

I started and finished a wearable art project I titled, Azulejos. It was inspired by hand painted Mexican tiles.

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Front

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Back

First things first – I draped and drafted a pattern for the jacket.

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I then cut out a dozen or so paper “snowflakes” that were scanned, cleaned up in Photoshop and finally cut in acetate on my plotter. The acetate gave me a more stable stencil to work with, as the paper would warp after a number of uses. Using 100% cotton, I printed the background colors. I worked with blues and turquoises as the foundation colors because I wanted a nice contrast to the bright centers.

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First step in printing.

I then painted the white spaces with bright oranges, yellows and greens. I wanted a hand touched look to them, so I didn’t get too precious about coloring in the lines. The bright colors mixed with the blues and resulted in various greens and aquas. I didn’t want to do a literal copy of the tiles, so I kept each design as spare as possible. I was more intrigued by the graphic tone of the printing than making them realistic.

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Rinsed and dried.

Each motif was cut apart and bordered with 1/4 inch sashing. Even though the intersections were going to be cut out, I insisted they match perfectly.

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Once I had the yardage I needed, I CUT OUT THE PERFECTLY MATCHED CENTERS!!! and covered them with fusible squares of smaller printed motifs done in bright oranges and yellows, which got satin stitched in matching thread.
Each corner was then beset with a sequin.

Then began the quilting of the jacket body. I kept all the stitching pretty simple as I thought the complexity of the printing demanded it.

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Once all the quilting was done, I worked on embellishing the standing lapels.

I hand appliquéd all the leaves and circles, then chain stitched around each of the leaves and embroidered the veins.. The bias vines were couched in contrast thread, and the shisha mirror work was done by hand and appliqued on. I guess this is a bit odd because I used the appliqué as embellishment AFTER the quilting was done.

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All of the dyes used were ProChemical, I only use Hobbs batting (in this piece it was Theremore) and the only fusible web I use is Misty Fuse. It took me a while to find products that I love and dagnabit, I ain’t changing any time soon!

I did all of the printing, dyeing and embellishing by hand.

SO AFTER ALL OF THAT…

I just found out that this piece took BEST OF SHOW in the
Pacific International Quilt Festival wearable art division!!!

GO TEAM!!

So yeah, I’ve been a little busy. I also have a wedding to go to soon and this guy (points to self) thought it would be a good idea to make a shirt and vest to wear to the event. So that’s kept my idle hands occupied lately. I also started another project that I will reveal in due time. Oh and Houston Quilt Fest is coming up in like two weeks.

OMG SO MUCH TO DO!!!

Questions, comments, concerns?
Let me know in the comment section.

I’m going to be a good boy and TRY to do a round up of what I see at Quilt Fest. I’m not teaching this year, so I’ll have more time to take pics of the quilts and exhibits.

NOW I’M GOING TO TAKE A NAP!

Hand-Dyed Pearl Cotton/ Embroidery Floss Tutorial

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I’ve been wanting to do this tutorial for a while now and FINALLY got around to taking pictures during my process.

If you’ve ever wanted to dye your own embroidery floss or pearl cotton, this is an easy method with great results. I don’t usually dye more than 8 or 10 skeins at a time, so I can control the colors better, but once you get the hang of it, you can probably do a lot more at one time.

Let’s get started!
You will need:

  • White, 100% cotton 6-strand embroidery floss or white, 100% cotton pearl cotton (any size). I personally use DMC because I get good results, but feel free to use any brand you want. For this demo, I’ll be using #5 pearl cotton.
  • MX/Procion dyes. I use ProChemical mainly, but as long as it’s for cellulose fibers, any brand will work.
  • Soda ash. You can get this through any dye seller.
  • Synthrapol for rinsing your hand-dyed coton.
  • Small plastic containers – one for each color.
  • Plastic spoon for mixing – I use plastic baby spoons from the grocery store.
  • Measuring spoons – NEVER user dye utensils for food prep!
  • Measuring cup –  NEVER user dye utensils for food prep!
  • Two quart plastic container
  • Plastic tray or cardboard box lined with a plastic trash bag
  • Old towels
  • Cheap acrylic yarn – Honestly, the cheapest stuff you find on the clearance rack is fine.
  • Cling wrap
  • A couple of cans of vegetables, or two candle sticks, or something that can stand on its own.
  • About a yard of tulle. Use a coupon or get it on sale. Any color will do, but make sure it’s tulle and not netting. Also, avoid the kind with glitter on it.
  • Sewing machine and thread.
  • Apron, rubber/nitrile/dish washing gloves, face mask, eye protection.

 

AS ALWAYS, WHEN WORKING WITH DRY POWDERS AND CHEMICALS, USE A FACE MASK AND EYE PROTECTION.

Also, I work on an old towel when I dye.
It helps to catch drips and makes clean up WAY easier.

Step 1 – Make a skein.

I just wind a length of pearl cotton around my forearm, kinda like winding a garden hose. How long you need the cotton depends on your project. I usually just count 20-25 revolutions around my forearm, but you can do more or less.You can also wrap your skein around two cans or a knitty noddy if you have one.

Step 2 – Tie off your skein.

Using the acrylic yarn, bind your skein at even intervals around the loop – I usually do four. You don’t want the knots too tight or they will act as a resist and you’ll get white spots without dye – unless that’s what you want, then bind away! Just make them loose enough to slide over the surface of the skein.

Step 3 – Soda soak your cotton

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Mix 2 tablespoons of dry soda ash with 1 quart of warm tap water (If you have hard water, use cheap, store-brand distilled water so you don’t have to add a ton of other chemicals) in the 2 quart container. Stir the soda ash until it completely dissolves in the warm water – you’ll know it’s dissolved when the water is slightly milky and you can’t hear any more granules scrape against the bottom of the container. When completely dissolved, place your bound skeins in the solution. Let them soak for at least 15 minutes. SOFTLY agitate them a couple of times during the soaking to make sure they get saturated, but don’t ruin your skein shape.

Step 4 – Make your dye solution

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While your skeins are soaking, measure out about 1 cup of tap water into each of your plastic containers (If you have hard water, use store-brand distilled water so you don’t have to add a ton of other chemicals). The number of containers you use will depend on how many colors you want to dye your cotton. Measure out the desired amount of dry dye powder into the containers. If you want a pale color – use about 1/4 teaspoon, for a medium value – use 1/2 teaspoon, for a dark color – use a teaspoon. Please feel free to experiment with the amount you use. These amounts are not in stone and you can get great results just playing with dye amounts. Using the plastic spoons, thoroughly dissolve the dry powder into the water. When all dye solutions are made, set the containers close together.

Step 5 – Dyeing the cotton

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Remove one skein from the soda soak and wring it out over the 2 quart container. It needs to be damp, so don’t dry it out. Figure out how you want your dye pattern to run (But seriously, don’t over think this, just have fun!) and place a section of the skein in one of the dye containers. With the other containers close by, dip the remaining sections in the other containers. Let the skein rest on the rims of the containers (If you want a solid color, just drop the entire skein in one color bath). You’ll want to soak the skeins for a few minutes – this allows the color to sink into the fiber and travel up to the rim a little bit. you can manipulate the skein as much as you want to get the color blending you desire.

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Once you get the idea, you can start adding more dye containers and more skeins to get a little dye factory going.

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Have fun blending colors and dye patterns. Once you have your set up, leave the skeins to soak for about 10 minutes. Make sure to get enough dye liquid on the parts that are resting on the rims.

Step 6 – Batch setting your cotton

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Once you have the color you want, and they have been soaking for about 10 minutes, carefully transfer each skein to a plastic tray or box with a trash bag lining it. You can slightly squeeze some excess dye liquid out of the skein, but be careful to wipe your glove before moving over to another color of the skein. You can easily transfer color that way.

Lay them down with out them touching each other. When you have all the skeins laid out on the tray, cover the tray with cling wrap. You’ll want the cling wrap to touch the skeins so they don’t dry out. Keeping them moist while the chemical reaction of the dye bonding to the fiber happens is called batch setting. You’ll want to keep them under the cling wrap for an hour, at least. You can keep them batch setting for up to 24 hours if you want, but I never leave them that long. I usually don’t let them batch for longer than 3 hours just because I’m impatient.

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You don’t have to have green cling wrap, I’ve just had this box for like 10 years and NEVER seem to run out of it.

Step 7 – First rinse
After the skeins have batch set, your first rinse will be in the sink. You can get a plastic dishpan and fill it with tap water and do a rinse in that, but you’ll need to change the water every so often. Honestly, I just run the tap with a light stream and rinse under that. You are going to run the skeins, one at a time, under the tap and let the water wash off any excess dye. At this point, you just need to get rid of the bulk of the loose dye. Your water will not run clear at this point, but you will notice that the run-off isn’t as dark as it was when you started. Try squeezing the individual color sections, under the water instead of balling up the skein – this will prevent any back staining of dark colors on light colors. You need to get all the skeins rinsed like this and set them on a towel in single file.

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Once they are all lined up, roll up the towel tightly to get out the bulk of liquid in the skeins. Really squeeze them to get them just damp dry.

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Step 8 – Machine rinse

Lay the tulle on a table. Place a skein on the tulle with some room around it and sandwich in between another layer of tulle. The pictures I have here are just to show you placement, but when you do this, it will be easier to do one at a time. What is happening is that you are making a one time use rinsing bag for the washing machine. The old standard is to use a lingerie bag, but I find that leaves the skein all tangled and matted. This way does use up a little tulle, but ultimately saves you time on rinsing.

You are going to use a long baste on your sewing machine, with any thread you have (this is a great way to use up oddball bobbins). Sew around each skein with just a little wiggle room. You also need to sew down the center of the skein, in the donut hole, so to speak. This prevents the skein from balling up when in the washing machine. This stitching does not have to be pretty, as you can tell in my pictures. You can do individual bags for each color group, but I have never felt the need to. I get great results just lining them up in a  row. You can fill up the width of the tulle with as many skeins as you have.

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Make sure to sew COMPLETELY around each skein, backstitching at the start/stop AND down the center. If there is a little hole between the skeins, the loose end will find its way through it, BELIEVE me!

Once the skeins are secure in their tulle cells, toss that puppy in the washing machine on hot with some Synthrapol (Follow mfg. instructions on your brand of Synthrapol). I usually run my wash cycle twice, on hot. I also do some yardage fabric dyeing and toss that in as well. The tulle casing can take a beating in the machine.

After your preferred washes (Do at least two for good measure, more if you are selling your floss), you can throw the tulle package in the dryer. If you want, you can also hang the skeins to dry. Again, I’m impatient, so in the dryer they go. I use medium heat for a “regular” drying cycle in my machine.

When they come out of the dryer, cut around the tulle cells, being careful to not cut the pearl cotton in the process.

Step 8 – Winding your floss

Place the skein around the two cans of vegetables, keeping the skein taut.

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CAREFULLY cut the acrylic yarn off of the skeins.

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Slowly unwind the skein from the cans as you wind it onto a bobbin or empty spool. I have a die cutter, so I use all these fun die shapes instead of traditional bobbins. You can also just leave it in a skein form if you want.

And there you go.
That’s how I dye my floss/pearl cotton.

Let me know if you try this or have any questions.

 

Making a print board for dying

Let me show you how I assembled my print boards for my printing.

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The supplies I used were: A Foamular square from Home depot (about 6 dollars, but any insulation foam will work, heck, you could probably use thick foam core), a piece of  lightweight 1/2″ chair cushion foam from Joann’s (about 6 dollars on sale for a small roll of it, which yielded two boards), medium weight clear plastic from Joann’s (about 5 dollars a yard) and duct tape (my grocery store was having a buy one get one free sale on it at the time, so about 3 dollars a roll. You’ll use less than a half a roll on one board).

Start by tracing off the shape of the foam square on the cushion foam.

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The cushion foam is lightweight, so I just used craft scissors to cut it. Next, you’re going to layer the board sandwich. Place the plastic first, then the cushion foam, then the Foamular foam. Make sure the two foams match, edge to edge. Cut the clear plastic with a generous 3 inch or so border around the foam sandwich.

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Starting with the corners, tape them to the underside with the duct tape. You want to keep the corners taut, but not so tight that the corners of the foam sandwich crush in.

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Note, it really helps this next step to cut a bunch of small pieces of duct tape so they are ready to place.

Now that the corners are done, you are going to wrap the edges of the plastic to the underside using small pieces of tape for now. Keep the plastic taut while you do this. I tend to do one side, then its opposite side, so I can keep the plastic’s surface tension even in one direction at a time.

When you get to the corners, just do simple tucks or miters with the excess plastic.

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When the plastic is nice and smooth on the surface, you can seal the edge of the clear plastic with a long piece of duct tape. This helps the plastic stick more to the foam and cleans up any sloppy taping.

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And that’s it! Your board is ready to use. You can lay your fabric directly on the surface and print, but if you get any seeping, you’ll need to wipe the plastic before you print a new piece. To remedy this , I use a flannel print cloth over the plastic. The flannel soaks up any excess dye and provides more of a grip for the fabric I’m going to print on.

Joann’s has a solid flannel called “Cozy” or something like that. It is usually on sale and I got three  yards of it for about 6 or so dollars.

I just trimmed it to a generous size over the plastic and serged the edges to keep them from raveling in the wash. After I print, I just toss the print cloths in the wash with some bleach, and they are ready to go for next time.

I use T-pins or large glass head pins to secure the print cloth to the board. Because of the foam, they go in easily and stay put.

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When I’m ready to print, I do the same to a large piece of fabric, or I pin into just the print cloth for small pieces of fabric.

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On the left is one of my homemade screens loaded with Speedball ink, and the printed result on the right. Shhhh, don’t tell, but this is a secret Christmas present!

 

Mood Indigo

I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with two different dyeing techniques: Indigo and Deconstructed Screen Printing. These techniques are far removed from one another, but at the same time, work as wonderful cures to my recent creative malaise.

This post will focus on the indigo results.

I bought ProChemical’s indigo starter kit when I was enjoying the Houston Quilt Festival, this past November. With just a few things from the dollar store and Home Depot, I was off on my blue adventure.

I can’t stress how simple this process was to get the dye vat started. It’s just mixing some chemicals in a certain order, letting the vat sit for a few hours, then having a blast dyeing all kinds of fabrics in the blue wash. I will say that the smell can be a bit noxious at first, but if you just stay down-wind of it, you’ll be fine. I did this in my garage and never felt like the odor was too over powering or harmful. It has an obvious whiff of ammonia, so if you’re sensitive to that smell, you might want to do this outside. Regardless, it’s too easy not to try it. If kept well, the vat can last for a while.

As I rarely ever want to make jeans, I figured the most fun to be had with this process would be to work with stitched and tied resists. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I tried a few different ideas and got some rather interesting results. Please note that the pictures will never do the blue color any justice. It’s a rich rich blue that gets deeper with every submersion in the liquid.

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You see that one small piece on the lower left that is green? That is the color the fabric becomes when removed from the indigo bath. It is this insane green that when exposed to oxygen, oxidizes and becomes the familiar blue we all love. It’s magic! Well, it’s chemistry, but still…

You can dip your pieces as many times as you want, after each oxidation process, to get as deep a blue as you want. They do rinse out about a value lighter than the wet results (NEVER TRUST WET DYE) so just keep that in mind if you are looking for a particular color.

The funny thing about rinsing the fabric, is that it gets rinsed in Ivory soap flakes. I’m not sure what this does to the indigo dye, but I will say that the fabric came out with a soft hand.

If you work with indigo, you’ll notice that it feels different than working with traditional powdered dyes. There is a soda ash activator involved, but, and this was something that really shocked me, you hardly use any to keep the vat going. Also, I re-read the instructions like 5 times to make sure that the amount of pre-reduced indigo was correct. It honestly didn’t seem like that much for 3 gallons of water, but low and behold, it works beautifully, so just trust the instructions and you’ll be fine.

Since I associate indigo with resists, for some reason, I wanted to try something I’ve never really had the patience to try, but still felt compelled to attempt – Shibori. Working with plastic beads and some strong thread, I tied off about a half a yard of white cotton into a flood of small starbursts. I love the results, but don’t think I’m going to try this again for a while. It is painfully time-consuming; however, the finished product is a sight to behold.

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These are the 12mm plastic beads I used. I’ve had them for about 12 years and finally found a use for them!

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Here is the yard of fabric all tied and ready for the bath.

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This is the piece out of the indigo bath, rinsed once and ready to be untied. It is still damp at this point.

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This is the finished piece, after being untied but before final rinse and pressing.

So, in conclusion, indigo was just what the doctor ordered to help me through a creative funk. Not sure how long I’ll keep the vat going, but for now, I’m just going to have fun.

Here are the results of my colorful labors:

If you have any questions, just ask away in the comment section.
I’ll be back soon with my Deconstructed Screen Printing adventures.

Ice, Dye, baby!

I have recently become addicted to a cool dyeing technique that allows for maximum color effect with limited effort. It’s called ice dyeing and is very easy to get great results, even on your first try. I’ve seen a lot of technique tutorials out there and I thought I’d chime in with my version.

The steps I describe are what I have worked out for me, but as always, results may vary. If you’re unsure of something, always do a test first.

ALWAYS READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE YOU BEGIN ANY NEW PROJECT!!!

To start, let’s gather some supplies – first off, the hardware. Remember: Once your dye utensils touch dye chemicals, they must NEVER be used to prepare food. Clearly mark all of your dye utensils that they are for craft purposes only and never store them near food. A lot of the basic stuff can be gotten at the dollar store.

A plastic tub – I use the kind that goes under a dish rack. They are cheap, deep and wide, but any small pastic tub will work.

a

Measuring spoons and cups – Get a set of each;  you’ll need a variety.

Plastic stirring spoon – I like to use a long handled plastic or melamine spoon to stir my Soda Water. I’d avoid using metal, and wood tends to get funky after a while. Plastic is also the easiest to clean, in my opinion.

Face mask and gloves – I get the fine particle kind from the hardware store. You can invest in a fancy one with cartridges, but the disposables work well and you can toss them when you’re done for the day.  My advice is to not skimp on these by getting the super cheap ones. In the long run, they are WAY less expensive than an emergency room bill from having your lungs power-washed because you breathed in dye powder. For the gloves, I use the medical nitrile kind, but you can use any water resistant kind – even dishwashing gloves.

b

Note: I wear glasses on a daily basis and I find that is ample eye protection. I don’t need a lot of eye protection, but if you feel uncomfortable without any eye protection, you can wear safety goggles or glasses. There is never any shame in keeping safe.

Plastic wrap – You’ll need this if your plastic container doesn’t have a lid. It just keeps any breeze from disturbing the dye powder while the ice is melting. I’ve had this particular blue cling wrap hanging around for years, so don’t think you have to get fancy stuff – the cheap stuff is just fine.

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Plastic bucket – You can just use another dish tub instead of a bucket, but I have a few of the large, clean, paint buckets so I use them. This is just used in the beginning to soak your fabric. More on this later.

Old towels – I like to cover my work surface in a large towel and then use a few small towels to clean up and catch any drips. Try not to be jealous of my insane awning striped one. 😉

Now, the chemicals.

Soda ash –A white powder that fixes the cellulosic/ MX dye to the fabric’s fiber. It is vital to the process.

Synthrapol – This is a specialized detergent that is designed to lift excess dye particles from the fabric. It is also used to scour the fabric before you dye – more on this later. I would say it is also vital in the process because no over-the-counter detergent will work the same.

d

Dye powder – As I am working with cotton fabric, I am using MX/Cellulosic/Fiber Reactive dye. Don’t be confused by the different names, it’s just that different companies call it different things, but they are all the same in chemistry.  I use dye from both Dharma Trading and PROChemical. Both companies are great to work with and both offer beautiful dyes. (I tend to buy from PROChemical more because I’ve known them for years.) For my demonstration, I am using six different colors.

Ice – Yup, good-old-fashioned ice. I get a bag or two whenever I go to the grocery store so I always have it on hand. You can just use what your freezer makes, but I’d make a few large bags of it in advance. If you live in a colder environment with generous amounts of clean snow, you can use that instead.

Water –You can just use plain old tap water. If you live in a region with hard water, you can use a chemical called Metaphos- it softens the water to make the dye work better.

And finally, fabric.

You can use any 100% cotton fabric you want for this. If you want to play with the technique without a great deal of expense, you can use plain muslin – bleached or unbleached. You have to be careful with the bleached though. Sometimes, rarely, it can be so saturated with bleach that the fabric will not take the dye properly, so always do a swatch test. I find that the bleached muslin results in brighter colors. The unbleached muslin can leave the fabric with a slightly dull effect, but depending on what you are wanting, that might work.

You can use commercial prints for this technique too. Any fabric with a decent amount of white on it will work well. I tend to get a lot of black and white prints, especially stripes, to keep for ice dyeing and dyeing in general.

You do not have to buy fabric that is marked PFD (Prepared For Dyeing). It is often more expensive and frankly, not always worth it. I have purchased PFD fabrics that didn’t work as well as over-the-counter yardage in the same dye bath, but please, feel free to experiment.

When I ice dye, I never use more than two yards in a tub. I found that is the most I can use and still get a good result based on my dye powder amounts. You can stuff little pieces of fabric around the main two yards, but I tend to not cram too much in the dye bath.

 Let’s get started, but a little safety reminder first:

WHENEVER YOU ARE WORKING WITH DRY CHEMICAL POWDERS, WEAR YOUR FACE MASK. WHENEVER YOU ARE WORKING WITH A LIQUID SOLUTION, WEAR YOUR GLOVES.

Honestly, once I start the process, I just keep the mask and gloves on the entire time.

DO NOT breathe in Soda Ash powder or dye powder. I don’t want to scare you, but you do need to respect these chemicals. Just pay attention to what you are doing and make sure you protect yourself.

The Synthrapol, Dye Powder and Soda Water are not overtly dangerous once in liquid solution, but depending on how sensitive your skin is, they can cause irritation; best to be safe and always wear gloves, just in case. If you get some on your hands, just wash them thoroughly with soap and water. Dye water will stain your hands, but it washes off after a day or so. And, I know this goes without saying, but never drink any of the liquid solutions made in these instructions.

OK, NOW let’s get busy!!

Step 1 – Scour your fabric. Scouring is a fancy term for washing your un-prepared fabric to accept the dye better. The problem with purchasing fabric off the bolt is that it has been run through mechanical looms and picked up all kinds of loose dirt and oils. Normal washing detergents will get some of the finishes off the fabric, but you really need something that is designed to strip all greasy finishes off the fabric and prepare it to accept dye.

You can scour in the washing machine, just adjust your water load to the amount of fabric you are treating. I tend to do small batches when scouring because I can control them better, but feel free to experiment. The two constants that must be followed are that Synthrapol works best in hot water and you need to add Soda Ash to the scour bath. Please note, you are not going to use a lot of Synthrapol. It is very concentrated and will produce a million suds if used in large amounts.

I like to cut my fabric into two yard pieces prior to scouring.

Follow the instructions on the bottle of Synthrapol (the amounts of detergent are based on fabric weight), if you want to do it by the book, but here is the basic formula that works for me

Hot water + machine set to Small Load + Six yards of 36” wide, muslin-weight  fabric (If using 45” wide fabric, this roughly translates to about 5 yards) + ½ Tablespoon of Synthrapol + ½ teaspoon of Soda Ash

[If you are just experimenting with this technique and you want to do a couple of yards to start, use this formula: Hot water + machine set to Small Load + Two yards of 36” wide, muslin-weight  fabric (If using 45” wide fabric, the amounts are the same) + ¼ teaspoon and a couple of drops of Synthrapol +a scant ¼ teaspoon of Soda Ash]

Run a regular wash cycle like normal. If you accidently put in a little too much Synthrapol, just run an extra rinse on the machine and it will be fine.

Step 2 – Dry your fabric. I know this sounds like a counter intuitive step with what follows, but trust me on this. You’ll need to dry the fabric so that it will accept the soda water solution in the next step. It’s kinda how you use day old bread to make bread pudding – the drier the fabric, the better to absorb more liquid.

Step 3 – Make the Soda Ash water solution. You can do this while the fabric is scouring in the machine. This is going to completely depend on how much fabric you are scoring, but for these instructions, I’ll be making one gallon. This will be enough Soda Water for about 8 yards (Depending on how wide the fabric is). You can, of course half or double the recipe, but I like to have too much than not enough. Also, you need the fabric to completely soak in it without too much of the fabric touching air and I’ve found that in a large bucket, one gallon is just perfect for six yards of 36” wide fabric. Also remember, you can soak in batches if you are using a lot of yards.

Here is my formula:

Large plastic bucket + One gallon hot tap water + ½ cup Soda Ash. Stir the solution until you don’t hear any more grainy noise from the soda ash.

[If you are working with two yards of fabric, use this formula to make one quart of Soda Water (One quart will be enough for about 4 yards of fabric.): Large plastic bucket + One quart hot tap water + 2 Tablespoons Soda Ash. Stir the solution until you don’t hear any more grainy noise from the soda ash.]

Step 4 – Soak the dry fabric in the Soda Ash. Just submerge your dry fabric in the Soda Water for up to an hour. Here’s the deal, there are a million different people who say that there are a million different times that the fabric has to soak for. Honestly, I probably leave it in there for about 15 to 20 minutes. I will stir it a couple of times to make sure that all the fabric is getting soaked, but this time always works for me. You can leave it in there overnight, but at one point, the fabric will just stop absorbing liquid.

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Step 5 – Prepare your dye area. I ice dye in my laundry room, but any non-food use table will work. Try working in the garage or in an area that is easily wiped down if you make a colorful mess. Cover the table/washing machine in an old towel and place your dyeing tub on the towel. Some people like to dampen the towel slightly with a spray bottle of water to keep any stray, dry, dye power from becoming airborne. I don’t do this, but feel free to experiment.

Step 6 – Ring out your fabric. Once you feel that your fabric has soaked for a sufficient amount of time, pull it out of the soda water and ring it out over the soda wter bucket. You don’t need to get out all of the liquid; in fact, I leave the fabric rather damp. I just make sure that it’s not heavily dripping wet.

Step 7 – Arrange the fabric in the dye tub. I make sure that all of the fabric has some exposure to the air. I don’t like to have any heavy folds buried under the surface. There are hundreds of configurations you can fold your fabric into, but for this demo, I’m using an all-over design. Look into traditional tie-dye and shibori techniques if you want to get super creative. This method is rather basic, but yields really good results.

(In the picture, you can see that I crammed in some small, printed napkins I picked up at Anthropologie.)

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Step 8 – Cover in ice cubes. When you have your fabric arranged the way you want, cover the surface in ice cubes. You don’t have to bury the fabric in a glacier, but the ice needs to cover any visible fabric. Try not to leave any holes in the ice coverage. I find that a single layer of ice works well, but I’ll toss on a handful of extra cubes just in case I missed an obvious spot.

Before we get to adding the dye powder, let me explain how the fabric actually gets dyed. When we soaked the fabric in the soda water, we made it ready to accept the dye into its fibers. We could just add dry dye powder to the damp fabric, but the powder won’t spread and you’ll get a really blotchy effect (see notes below). This is great if that’s what you are looking for, but that’s not what we’re really after here. By adding ice to the top of the fabric, we have given the dye powder a way of traveling across the surface of the fabric when the ice melts. Because we are not agitating the fabric, the dye will stay in its relative location as the ice melts and just barely blend with neighboring colors. This is what gives ice dyeing its signature look. Having said that…

Step 9 – Add dye powder. My general rule for adding dye to fabric is ½ heaping tablespoon of dry dye powder for every 36” wide yard of fabric (For 45” wide fabric, I just use a slightly more heaping ½ tablespoon).

For ice dyeing, we are using 2 yards in the tub, so that would equal one heaping tablespoon of dry dye powder, and because a tablespoon is made of three teaspoons, I use ½ heaping teaspoons each of six dyes. This works well for me, but as always, the darker the desired fabric, the more dye you will use.

Why six colors? It’s a personal decision. I tried this with three colors and I didn’t like the results. I got interesting patterns, but the fabric lacked depth. With more colors, the fabric popped and came alive. If you are just starting out, you can use as many or as few colors as you want.

The general rule with ice dye is that it doesn’t really matter how much water you have, it just depends on how much dye you have for the volume/weight of the fiber. I’m not going to get into the science of volume/weight vs. dye because there are people out there who can explain it way better than I can, and my technique gives me the results I like. For other dyeing techniques, like vat dyeing, it’s very important that the fabric have a lot of water to move around in because the fabric is constantly shifting, but as this fabric if staying still, we only need enough water to carry the dye across the surface.

As you measure your ½ teaspoons of dye, you don’t have to level off the measuring spoon. In fact, it’s OK to just have a little more on the spoon, depending on the desired amount of color depth you want. Also, don’t premeasure any of the dye powders and don’t mix all six dry colors together. If you mix them together dry, you’ll get a muddy brown or at the very least, you’ll get something you weren’t expecting, but hey, it might work for what you need, so proceed to experiment with caution.

Ultimately, I realize that I’m using a little more than ½ tablespoon of dye, per yard, in my dye bath, but if you’ll just keep it around ½ tablespoon per yard, you’ll get clean results.  But, as always, use this as a general guideline and please feel free to develop your own formulas once you get used to ice dyeing.

As far as what colors you need to use on your fabric, well, that’s completely up to you.  If you are new to color blending or dyeing in general, I suggest picking up an artist’s color wheel. They are invaluable devices that help you choose color schemes and values. If this is the first time you are doing ice dyeing, go crazy; just remember that complementary colors, when blended, produce brown.

Do each color individually like this: Open one dye container, measure, sprinkle, wipe the measuring spoon so you don’t contaminate the next dry-dye powder color, and then recover the dye container. Keep the open dye container away from your face and recover ASAP.

For spreading the powdered dye, watch the video on sprinkling the dye over the ice. Use restraint in doing this, you don’t want to go flinging the dry dye all over the place. Just be gentle and scatter the colors all over the surface. Try to sprinkle a little of one color in all four corners or develop a pattern that you like. The goal is to cover the entire ice surface in dye. If you feel that you don’t have enough dye powder on the surface even after you used your one tablespoon per yard, add some more dye powder to your desired results.

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Step 10 – Cover your work. Once your iced fabric has been covered in dye powder, cover your dye tub. I do this just to prevent any stray dye powder from getting airborne and staining the walls or your lungs. I use cling wrap, but if you are using a plastic tub with a lid, that’s just fine too.

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Step 11 – Wait for the ice to dry. This is the most frustrating step. Seriously, you will not be able to resist checking on the ice’s melting progress.  It’s kinda like watching really colorful paint dry. I know you might be tempted to bust out a hair dryer, but don’t. Just let the ice do its thing. You can place it in the sun, but really you want to let it take its time. I try to set my ice dye up in an afternoon that way, by the next morning, the ice is melted and ready for rinsing.

After your work is covered and you are gritting your teeth in anticipation of melted ice, clean up your work space. Do leave the towel under the dye tub, though. As the ice melts, the tub will sweat, just like a drinking glass, and the towel will reduce puddles, just like a coaster.

Store your closed dye containers in a plastic tub, away from direct sunlight. You can wash your dye utensils in the tub or a non-food sink. You can use soap, but I generally just give them a good rinsing in warm water. Do not put them in the dishwasher.

You can discard any leftover soda water down the bathtub drain. The soda water solution is not concentrated enough to harm septic systems, but as always, if you have questions, check out your system beforehand. When I dump it, I run the faucet a minute or two before and a minute or two after just to dilute it further.

This are a couple of pictures of the ice partially melted:

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Step 12 – Rinsing and finishing. Once your ice is completely melted (admittedly, I have, in the past, rinsed with a couple of ice slivers present) you’ll need to begin the rinsing process. How much you want to rinse and how you want to rinse is completely up to you, but here is what I do. Always wear water resistant gloves when rinsing.

First, dump out all the liquid dye solution and dyed fabric into a sink carefully to reduce splashing. Use either a stainless steel or plastic basin. Dye likes to stay on fiberglass and grout, so if you are doing this in a bathtub, be careful.

Kind of like kneading dough, start wringing out all the excess dye in the fabric while rinsing it under room temperature water. I like to keep a small stream of water running while doing this so that clean water is carrying away excess dye. Keep opening up, re-crumpling and wringing out the fabric under the running water. Don’t be scared at how much dye is coming out; I know it looks like a lot, but this is normal. After you have wrung out and crumpled it for a little while, you’ll notice that the run-off dye is lighter in color than before. At this point, I stop hand rinsing. Some people keep going until the run-off is crystal clear, but my hands usually give out before then.

Once I’m satisfied that the run-off dye is weakening, I switch to the washing machine. You are going to follow the same procedure as scouring except that you do not add any soda ash – the rinsing process uses only Synthrapol. On my washing machine, I have a “super wash” cycle that runs a little longer than the normal cycle, and that is what I use. I use one super cycle with Synthrapol and hot water, just like scouring, then one regular cycle with a little less Synthrapol and hot water, then I do an extra rinse without any detergent, in cold water. I know that sounds like a lot of rinsing, but believe me, you want to get out all the excess dye you can.

Once you are done rinsing, you can toss the fabric in the dryer or hang it on a line to dry. When it comes out of the dryer, you can press it. If you see that along the outer edge, you have sharp pleats or wrinkles, you can spritz a little water on them at the ironing board then press with a hot iron to flatten them.

And that’s it. It’s a fairly straightforward process. I have probably written out more explanations than necessary, but I wanted everyone to have as much information as possible before starting this process.

 Some tips and tricks:

– I don’t have a second sink to hand-rinse the fabric in, so I use my kitchen sink. I know, I know, it’s not the best of ideas, but hey, it’s what I have. When I do this, I cover all the counters in old towels and I move any and all food products and utensils to the other side of the kitchen. I rinse in one sink basin and afterwards, thoroughly clean the sink with bleach-like cleaner. Fun fact: if you stain your “stainless” steel in the rinsing process, the magic secret to getting out the stains is Scrubbing Bubbles. Don’t ask me why it works, but it just does.

– If you stain your fiberglass tub, I have found that a two part cleaning works well enough to get the stain out. First, cover the stain with Easy-Off cold oven cleaner and let it sit overnight. Rinse it away the next day then use Greased Lightning on the area. This two pronged approach has gotten out some tough stains on my fiberglass tub. It cleans fiberglass tubs in general. You can also try a 50/50 bleach and water combo to get the stain out first.

– Wear old clothes to dye in. Nothing I wear is that special so I usually just use an apron, but unless you own all Tyvek clothes, chances are you’ll dribble a little color somewhere.

– For fun, take a small piece of 100% cotton fabric, soak it in soda water solution, ring it out until just damp and use this piece of fabric to wipe your measuring spoon in between dye powder colors.  You’ll get a funky little piece of fabric and you won’t really waste any stray dye powder. Once you’re done dyeing everything, just toss it in a little plastic baggie to cure then you’ll rinse and dry this fabric along with the main yardage.

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– Some people set their crumpled/tied/arranged fabric on a wire grate over the tub. This allows excess water from the ice to pass through the fabric and drip into the tub and preventing the fabric from siting in a dye bath. I personally prefer the more mottled effect of the fabric soaking in the solution. What the grate does is it allows you to control the dye pattern more. It’s completely up to you; feel free to experiment.

Caring for your hand dyed fabrics:

When possible, wash them in Synthrapol before use. This will help remove any extra, loose dye particles. Yes, even after all that rinsing, loose dye particles still reside in your fabric. Reds, blacks and turquoises are notorious for not setting correctly.

Heat and water reactivate dye no matter how well rinsed it is. Keep this in mind of you are patchworking something together with light colors or white. That beautiful, hand dyed fabric will have no problem ruining your project by bleeding over everything. You can use a product called Retayne to help keep the loose dye in the fabric, when you wash patchworked things, but do try to remove as much dye as possible in the initial rinsing process.  Think of it like this: Synthrapol before you start the project; Retayne after the project is completed.

Any questions? Ask away in the comment section.

(Note: In the above videos, the lighting in my laundry room isn’t great so I apologize for my Homer Simpson yellow arms.)

I hope you’ll try this fun technique. It really is an easy way to get amazing results with very little effort.

If you need to get any of the mentioned chemicals or dye, take a look at PROChemical’s site and Dharma Trading’s site. At both places, you can find lots of good information on dyeing and tons of supplies at good prices.

I’ll do another post in a week or so about all the projects I’ve been working on.