Tuesday, 14 July 2015

I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles...

...Pretty bubbles in the air.

Sorry, I will stop singing now [sheepish look]

Over on the Felting and Fiber Studio Forum, there was some confusion between washing soda, soda ash and bicarbonate of soda / baking soda. This last one got me thinking, bicarb will raise the pH (as do the other 2) but being a raising agent should create some bubbles when wet too - I wondered what effects could be achieved with the dye forming patterns around the bubbles?

So I devised a little experiment...

Firstly I wetted out some cotton strips with soda ash and urea solution and tried to create bubbles by different methods:

  • bicarbonate of soda
  • baking power (this contains bicarbonate of soda along with other things)
  • washing up liquid (frothed up)
  • no bubbles (this was the control - aren't I a good little scientist? :) )
I dripped procion dye solution over the bubbles.

These 2 are the bicarb and baking soda - overall rather disappointing, neither of them really produced any bubbles (perhaps my stocks are too old?).

The washing up liquid was more promising though:
At least there were bubbles, even if all the dye ran round the side of the bubbles and spread across the fabric. The right hand side was a slightly different approach, I mixed the dye with some washing up liquid, frothed it up and applied it.

These are the rinsed and dried samples in the same order, with the control at the end:

Well that didn't work as I hoped it would, back to the drawing board....

I concluded the washing up liquid might still work but if I used dry fabric the dye would be less likely to spread.

I soaked some cotton and silk in soda ash solution, wrung it out (but didn't rinse it) and allowed to dry. 

After a bit of practice I found creating a small pile of dye-free bubbles and then carefully piling a few bubbles mixed with dye was the most effective approach. Less (dye) is definitely more.

Although the silk looked promising at the bubble stage, unfortunately the dye spread across the fibres a little too easily I ended up with splodges again.

The cotton was better though with some really pretty patterns:


  1. Interesting. I like the bubbled effect. Might work on felt too if it was dry.

    1. Thanks Ruth I was thinking along similar lines but not sure if heat fixing would be needed for acid dyes and if so, would dry heat work?

  2. Very interesting experiment - I like the effect on cotton best.

    1. Thanks Lyn unfortunately the silk was a bit of a disaster, but we have to try these things don't we? :)

  3. You certainly are the best little scientist! Great experiment. I like the last the best. Have you used salt to get patterns? I'm not sure if it works with procion.

    1. Thanks Marilyn, good question, I've used salt to beautiful effect with silk paints and sun dyeing (acrylic paint) but not procion. I imagine it would have a similar impact as the reaction is simply drawing water towards the salt and the dye / paint gets drawn along with it.

  4. I've done this with tempera paint and washing up dish soap with my kids. Maybe thicken the dye with alginate so it moves slowly and holds the lovely patterns?

  5. I'm not familiar with tempera paint but it looks like it might be a type of acrylic paint, that could be worth a try.... I think I still have some thickening powder that I bought for screen printing another good idea, thank you!