When I got a question asking about how the gallery swatches are made, two things dawned on me: first, that I should definitely explain my process, and second, that I should really revisit it.

I started making swatches years ago, very soon after I got my first really unpleasant color splitting surprise. I love the effects that come from color splitting (usually), but I also like to have some idea of what I’m going to get.

Since then, my cache of dyes has only grown. Having reference swatches has made my dyeing life so much better.

However, in order to be consistent, I’ve stuck with the swatch methodology I started with: a small piece of fabric, lightly scrunched, muck dyed with an honestly excessive amount of dye. I use about an eighth of a teaspoon for a roughly 5″x7″ (13cm x 18cm) rectangle of fabric. Given what an eighth of a teaspoon can do on an entire shirt, that’s really a lot.

So when I got some new dyes in, I decided that I should at the very least test whether doing the swatches muck dyed (without a rack) gave me similar results to ice dyeing with a rack. I knew that muck dyeing would leave the colors more intense, but I’d been operating on the assumption that the key color elements would be roughly the same.

And for three of the four swatches in my batch of colors, that turned out to be true.

Hot Hibiscus (Dharma 181): left, rack dyed, right, muck dyed
Orange Sorbet (Dharma 147): left, rack dyed, right, muck dyed
Black Cherry (Dharma 111): left, rack dyed, right, muck dyed

In these cases, although the muck dyed effect is definitely different (more intense, with the less prominent color splits much more overwhelmed), the range of colors mostly correlates between the two samples. Arguably it would still be good to see both effects, especially in the case of Black Cherry, but none of them surprised me.

That was not true for Caribbean Blue.

Caribbean Blue (Dharma 132): left, rack dyed, right, muck dyed

Even in the picture, which never perfectly captures how colors appear in person, it’s clear that the muck dyed version is considerably greener than the rack dyed one. There are certainly traces of green in both, but the rack dyed sample is predominantly blue, while the muck dyed sample is predominantly blue-green.

So what does this mean? First, I think I need to go back through all my samples and do a rack dyed swatch so that I can find out which colors differ substantially between the two techniques. And in the meantime, please take the colors in the gallery with a grain of salt if you’re dyeing on a rack!

2 thoughts on “Rack vs. No Rack — Gallery Samples

  1. I’m currently working on an ice swatch library myself so it was really cool to look at yours! After reading lots of ice dye techniques where people used buckets, I chose to do my samples scrunched in the top of a cut off soda bottle – it looks more like the rack dyes but with sharper lines. Now I know I need to do a muck dye sample library too!

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