Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rewinding Summer: Ice Dyeing

Summer is winding down -- it always goes too fast for me -- so in an effort to slow down time, I'm updating this blog but post-dating each addition close to the actual date it happened.  Some of the best experiments of the summer included ice-dyeing (my first time!) during the 4th of July weekend.
Ice-dyed with Raspberry Procion MX dye.

I started with the ice cubes from my freezer, not really knowing how much I'd need (or how fast they'd melt in the over-90 degree  heat).  I scrounged around for something to suspend the ice in, since I'd read that it works better if  the ice and dyes aren't directly placed on the fabric.  I placed the ice in a discarded fan cover and set that over the tub that held the scrunched fabric (soda-soaked).

For the first batch, I decided to use some dyes left over from a class I taught the previous weekend, so the following dye concentrates were drizzled over the ice:  Scarlet, Fuschia, Raspberry.  After a few minutes, I decided on MORE COLOR, and added just a touch of Peacock and Bright Yellow, then a few drops of Cerulean.   I got a second container going, and drizzled Cerulean, Turquoise, Peacock, and jut a few drops of Bright Yellow dye concentrates over suspended ice cubes.

Raspberry-pink-red ice dyes, melting quickly.

Oh yeah, did I mention it was really HOT that day?  Before starting another batch, I decided that I'd need more ice . . . LOTS more ice!  So I grabbed the car keys for a quick trip to a convenience store, where I was surprised to hear they'd run out of ice.  The clerk warned us that "everyone's run out of ice" and that the nearest grocery stores were also sold out.   Ice cream sandwich in hand, I drove to a smaller local grocer (read: higher-priced)  and was thrilled to find they had ice for sale.  I brought my bag into the front seat where the AC could keep it cool, and returned home.

For the next batch, I found some scraps of tulle and clipped it over the tub to hold the suspended ice. I decided to follow all the written directions I'd found for ice-dyeing, which called for sprinkling dye powder (dry, undiluted) over the ice.  (Yep, I wore protection:  mask and gloves.) It does make more sense to do it this way, because as the ice melts, the dye powder dilutes and slowly drips onto the fabric, producing lovely color variations.

Dye powder over ice cubes, suspended above tub by white tulle.
For the next batch, I wanted to experiment with black, and used Dharma's #300, New Black dye powder, later adding 1-2 drops of Bright Yellow dye concentrate. (Suspended using a storage rack and tulle.)

Ice-dyeing with New Black dye powder.
Some of my results:
The pinks-reds from liquid dye concentrates, rinsed but not yet washed.
The same pink-reds after washing.

My favorite of all, this one says SUMMER to me!
The blues . . . the darkest piece (top left) was on the bottom of the tub and soaked up the most dye, while the lightest one was on the topmost layer.  It only caught the dye as it melted and passed through all the layers to pool at the bottom of the tub.
From the Cerulean, Turquoie, Peacock dyes, rinsed only.

The same blues, post-washing.
The mystery pieces from smaller batches, unidentified.
And finally, the blacks. . .

New Black, rinsed only.

After washing, the black lightened considerably:
New Black, washed & ironed.
 Can't wait to do more and try some other variations!


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  2. Generally in ice dyeing, the cloth is above the metal mesh, because it keeps the fabric from sitting in the mixed dyes. This allows visible variation in the colors, and makes it less uniform.

    1. Mariah, you're certainly correct! This description of my first ice-dyeing experiment was 3 yrs ago, and even though I did some things backwards, I was pleased with the results. Since then I've learned the best layering method: On a rack or in a colander set in a tub (or tulle suspended above the tub): layer fabric, plenty of ice, then sprinkle with dye powder. I'll soon post photos of ice-dyeing from a few weeks ago. Thanks for your comment!

  3. In the dye room (I was in "Fabric selection and manipulation" class for the theatre), we used metal mesh molded around the top of a tub, layered the fabric - often with pleats, swirls, folds, or just crumpled - dumped on the ice, and then sprinkled the dye. I found that if you pre-dye some of it (e.g. dip dye), and have it suspended while still wet, then ice-dye the bottom, the ice dye colors can climb the fabric in beautiful, abstract ways.

    1. I'll have to try your method some time, Mariah. Thanks for sharing it. Did you see my latest post ( and the beautiful ice-dyed fabrics our group produced?