Monday, September 2, 2013

A Little Bit About My Ice Dyeing Process

My ice dyeing process is really, really simple.  When I first heard about ice dyeing, I wasn't tempted and never read any articles or blogs about it.  I just built on the process I was  using with snow dyeing of which I had done a lot in the past.  Since I am not here in the north for much of the snow season anymore, I decided to try my own version of ice dyeing.

There are several components but all very easy.  

1. Set up your workspace -- this involves finding some cookie racks or anything else that water can pass through easily and is big enough to accommodate your fabric.  I found some that were about 11 x 18 inches at Target.  I then had to find plastic boxes of similar dimensions to rest the racks on top of.  By the time I ended, I had four of these racks set up -- one larger than the other three (18x24 maybe).  Buy some ice.  I prefer to buy the largest bag I can with the smallest cubes and don't use cubes from my fridge except in desperation when I run out and just need a little more.  Gather some of your MX dyes.  I used my very oldest dyes that had been hanging around for up to 15  years in some cases.  In my case these oldest dyes were mixed dyes (not pure colors which is what I work with almost exclusively these days).  Try to have at least one black and one dark brown.  I also lay wet newspapers around the tubs to catch errant dye particles.

2.  Prepare your fabric - Cut  your fabric into desired lengths after prewashing (I only do this with fabrics that are pfd but aren't marked as such like my sateens and Egyptian cottons).  For me, pre-washing insures that they will sop up the soda ash liquid really quickly.  I then fold them into the sizes I want if I am going to do a repeat.  If I don't want a repeat, I just toss into the soda ash solution (1/2 cup of soda ash to one gallon of water).  I generally make up a three gallon bucket of soda ash solution.  For the repeat fabric, I carefully lay them in the soda ash solution all folded.  I let them sit there for at least 10 minutes making sure the solution goes through all layers.  I then just wring out by hand -- I don't try to squeeze out every drop -- I want them wet. 

3. Scrunch your fabric -- wet fabric is very easy to manipulate and I just squish or scrunch it up with my hands on the rack.  I generally get two yards per rack and more on the larger rack.  I try to keep the scrunching very even and both ways -- horizontal and vertical as it makes the patterns more interesting.  I do this when doing low water immersion as well.  I want to give the dyes an equal opportunity to hit all the fabric fairly evenly.  

4.  Applying the ice (or snow) - I apply the ice only the thickness of one cube or in the case of snow about 1 1/2 inches all over very evenly.  I have found that the really frozen cubes from my freezer actually adhere to the fabric.  Those that don't, I move around as they are not touching fabric.  I try to cover the whole fabric and will put the larger cubes around the outside to kind of hold in the rest.  I do this for each container at the time I am going to apply the dye, not all at once like all the other processes.  I don't want the ice melting before I apply the dyes as all that will do is wash the soda ash out of the fabric.

5.  Applying the dyes - At this point I put on a mask as I will be working with dye powders instead of my usual liquids.  I think it is important (at least for the repeating patterns) to have a good variety of light and dark value hues (colors).  I found from experience for me it is essential to use a good dark color somewhere in the piece or the pattern won't stand out.  The ice dyeing itself will provide for some lights.  I also like to include both warm and cool colors in a piece if at all possible (I like contrast A LOT).  With my ice dyeing, they don't mix much so there is little "mud".  I then take a tablespoon or ideally a shaker and place the dyes all over the ice cubes making sure to cover it all.  This is a colossal waste of dyes but so what!!  I have had them far too long anyway!!  There is probably at least a tablespoon or two per yard of fabric.  I do like to "outline" in my repeat pieces by putting a dark color all around the outside of the piece.  I try not to put complementary colors right next to each other as well but put blending colors between them.

6.  Batching and washout - I then just leave it alone but will go look at it after about 4 hours.  By then most of the ice has melted and that which is left is clear.  At this point, I remove those clear ice cubes (all they will do at this point is wash out the dye and soda ash).  I then take a container and usually two yards at a time, keep it scrunched as it is and put it into the microwave (I have a very old one down in my dye area).  I use a styrofoam meat tray as a lid and set the microwave to 3-4 minutes/yard.  Mine doesn't even rotate, it is so old.  While that is "cooking", I fill  up a 3 gallon pail with cold water and another with warm water.  After the microwave has dinged, I make sure the fabric is nice and warm (blue dyes especially need a little warmth to bond with the fabric).  I then unfold and soak in the cold water.  I wring it out and then move it to warm water.  Once more I  rinse in another bucket with warm water and then the fabrics get put aside in an empty bucket.  As each bunch gets nuked and I finally have about 10-12 yards rinsed the three times, I take them upstairs and wash them   with a little Synthrapol in my washing machine using warm water for wash and rinse.  I take them out and make sure all the threads are unwound from the fabric and not bunching it (you know what I mean).  That gives me my first preview of what they might look like.  I then put them back in the washer and run through a hot wash cycle  with more Synthrapol-- turning it through so that it gets a full 30 minutes of hot water.  Then I dry.  If I am selling the fabric, I would put it through the hot cycle again and still warn people to wash it before using (they may have hotter water or different water than me).

That's it!!

I have found that yellow is the most difficult to work with as a powder and have on occasion actually made a very heavy liquid concentration but even that doesn't work well as yellows are one color that want a decent amount of water to dissolve fully.  Undissolved they just won't bond with the fabric.  Reds tend to "speckle" the most -- i.e., if a tiny speck of  powder hits the fabric without liquid it will just sit there and bond immediately causing a freckle.  The fun part of the mixed dyes is you never know what colors are going to appear on the fabric!!  Sometimes you get the mixed colors and sometimes you get the separate colors and sometimes both!

Note:  I did get the stones attached to the lapidary quilt using my dear husband's epoxy which seemed to work well -- hopefully they will stay on long enough for the show!

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