Friday, January 24, 2014

Snow/Ice Dyeing - An adventure in the winter wonderland!

My friend Cathy Nault from Orange Octopus Studio does beautiful things with ice dyeing!

photo by Cathy Nault
photo by Cathy Nault

She mostly does cotton and silk scarves for sale. She's one of my #EtsyRVAWearableArts friends so we see each other almost every month at our #meetup. Her craft fair tables look AMAZING too! She's the one who told me to buy the canvas drop cloth as a cheap tablecloth for the 6x3 table I use for fairs. Which leads me to this crazy project!

I love my canvas dropcloth tablecloth for fairs - it piles at the bottom and does a good job at hiding the boxes I bring my stuff in - but I wish it was colorful! I decided to try ice dyeing because it gives interesting patterns and texture plus it looks like it's really fun. I googled "how to ice dye". Dylon has instruction on their website and AC Moore carries the powder. I picked Dylon Bahama Blue and I thought about how I was going to do it - crush up ice in my Snoopy Snowcone Maker? buy the circle ice? use ice maker ice?

Then it snowed and Cathy posted this: SNOW DYEING
photo by Cathy Nault

I was intrigued! I thought - this will be the best time to ever try this. I spread out my dropcloth/tablecloth in the back yard. I swept the snow off the deck and spread it in a thin layer over the cloth. I opened the dye pack and sprinkled...uh...word to the wise here: the powdered dye is very very lightweight (the packaging might actually weigh more than the crystals) and blue dye crystals look EXACTLY LIKE SNOW until they get the wind took a lot of my dye and made my backyard blue (it keeps getting bluer as the snow melts and refreezes) and then I didn't have enough for the other half of my project. No matter - I'll fold it in half and it will be fine!

That was Tuesday afternoon... It didn't get warmer, the snow was not melting and I decided that I had to do something because we have lots of wildlife and I had a feeling I would have a Mitten situation if I left it out. So I dumped a plastic bin, put in one of my cookie racks, folded up the snow filled drop cloth and dropped it into the bin. This is where things started to go wrong -
1) we never raked the leaves up this fall (the vacuum truck was coming on a busy weekend for us and the leaves really hadn't fallen until that week so we only raked the front yard) and there were now a bunch stuck to the now frozen drop cloth. No matter, it will just leave more interesting patterns, I said!

2) cookie racks are not designed to hold 9'x12' 10oz drop cloths filled with now and it collapsed. It's just to let the liquid drip out and how much water can be in this anyway - it's just a dusting of snow, I said!

Okay - some of you may know this, but I'm a chemist by education. I've taken and taught A LOT of science classes and calorimetry is an absolute favorite experiment of mine. I know what the R is r-value for insulation means (thermal resistance) and how to test for it in different materials. AND I watch SurvivorMan and know that igloos offer excellent insulation... why in the world did I think that snow wrapped in canvas would melt overnight? When I went to bed, 5 hours after bringing the bin inside and setting it by the floor vent, there wasn't even condensation in the bin! When I woke up, there wasn't a drip in the bottom! It wasn't until a full 24 hours after bringing the bin in that I noticed a bit of blue water in the bottom. Better suck that up so that the table cloth on the collapsed cookie rack doesn't sit in it and not give me cool patterns!

By bedtime on Thursday, I had sucked out a total of 45 cups of water! Waiting for me on Friday morning were another 6... it's been 60 hours inside, I don't see it dripping anymore - I think it's done! I go to rinse it out - the center is still filled with snow!! Regardless of whether the process is done, I'm done, so I take the cloth outside and shake the remaining snow out hoping to also shake off the leaves. It's 18 degrees outside and my damp dropcloth freezes in less than 2 minutes. Leaves are still stuck to it, snow balls - both Bermuda Blue and icy white - are still stuck to it.

I get off what I can and toss the whole thing into the washer with cold water and vinegar. I pulled it out to clean out the leaves and it looks pretty good. We'll see when it comes out of the dryer!

I think I'm going to leave this craft to Cathy but here's what I've learned (and should have applied from learning them in all of my other crafting fiascos):
1 - you're supposed to use multiple colors of dyes when ice dyeing
2 - start small
3 - do this craft in warm weather
4 - canvas is a good insulator
5 - read a variety of instructions before you begin a project (soaking in soda ash or salt solution might have been more vibrant)

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