I’ve been very excited to experiment with Ice Dyeing and this week I finally had the time, space and necessary materials available to get started. I have a friend who works for a florist here in Charleston and she knows I’m always on the lookout for flowers with vibrant color. Over the last 6 months I’ve collected different varieties of petals separated by color and have frozen them in 1 Gal zip bags. With Valentines (and the prospect of more red flowers to come my way) I decided to begin with the batch of red petals (mostly from red tulips). Below I gathered a variety of fabric and yarn materials to test. I included a few types of silk, cotton, linen, wool and some blends of these.
When I experiment with Dyeing I always try to keep notes on specific quantities, materials used, times etc but so much of the fun of this process is the unexpected!
I put the red frozen flower petals inside a pillow case (anything else would work that would keep the materials contained).
I presoaked the materials in about 2 gallons of lukewarm water with vinegar (mordant) and I submerged the petals inside the pillow case in the bucket giving it a good swish around. I continued to stir the materials, squeezing the dyestuff inside the pillow case several times a day over the next 48 hrs. This is the hard part, leaving the materials alone for so long when you can see the beautiful colors developing. I waited the full 48 hrs before removing the fabrics to be rinsed and dried (by hand).
Once out of the dye bath the colors varied quite a bit from pale pink to grey to purple. The wool and silk (protein fibers) took up the colors much more intensely then the cotton and linen (cellulose) fibers. I pretty much expected this result. I gave the materials a few soaks in warm water with a bit of detergent (delicate wash type) and sorted them into “satisfactory” and needs additional dyeing. I did not discard the almost spent tulip petals and as you can see below (the yellow areas of the petals), much of the color has already been extracted from the plant material but I wanted to extract more so I decided to keep going with this dyebath.
I added red/orange shade petals from orchids and roses right on top of the partially ‘spent’ tulip petals. Another 1 gallon bag of materials went back into the bucket (pic below) along with the “unsatisfactory” materials (cottons) and some new undyed materials (again wool, silk and cotton). This time I did not add additional vinegar so the mordant will not be as strong.
The process of dyeing (weather natural or synthetic) is a little mysterious and always yields some surprising results. I have used mostly synthetic dyes in the past but as I experiment with natural dyeing I feel much more comfortable with the materials knowing that for the most part they do not pose a threat to my health or the environment. The water will eventually be used in the garden and the plants will go into the compost heap. The fabrics can be worn knowing they don’t contain dangerous chemicals and I’ve created something from NOTHING!