Ice dyeing became a new passion about a year ago. I learned it during a brief workshop with my Creative Endeavors group, and I loved how unpredictable the outcome was. The powdered colors bleed through ice creating Monet-type patterns on silk and other natural fibers.
The process takes at least two days. First, all the fabric needs to be washed in a specific detergent--I use Synthrapol--to release all the oils and dirt from the material. Then everything is soaked in soda ash, sodium carbonate, which allows the dye to permanently adhere to the material. Cotton can be soaked longer; silk and rayon can break down in the soda ash, so keeping it timed for about 30 minutes is important.
While these are soaking, I set up 6-8 tubs and lay out which colors I want for each.
Once it soaks and is squeezed of excess liquid, it's laid in a tub on something that keeps it off the bottom of the tub, like a cookie rack. I have used aluminum baking dishes with holes cut into the bottom, though I am unsure if the aluminum changes the coloration of the dyes.
Ice is then poured over the material to thoroughly cover it; crushed ice is best. I believe snow was originally used for this process, but of course, that's not always available.
Procion dyes are sprinkled over the top of the ice in any color or pattern. They are in powder form; I use a plastic spoon to lightly sprinkle over the ice. I usually use about 2-3 colors per tub, and sometimes as many as 5.
The powder falls through the ice leaving it clear once again. Even if the ice melts early, it should be left for 24 hours to allow the dyes to settle and set.
I had quite a few compliments on my shirt and one woman said I had to do more and sell them. She wanted one in any color combination. So the next season, I bought more of the same shirts--they not only dye well, but they do not wrinkle and are 100% cotton. Unfortunately, they're not inexpensive, so I have to take that into consideration and only buy them on sale.
That got me started on dyeing clothing, and have now done several styles in different sizes.
Women's clothing can be a challenge--we are so many sizes and shapes. I doubt I'll continue to dye clothes because I end up with too large an inventory, much of which needs to be stored at home between shows. Fortunately, some of these pieces and many of my dyed scarves are in a local store--Silk & Stone--that sells artist-made clothing and jewelry. Of course, if women start buying them like hotcakes, I'll be encouraged to do more...
One of my art goals this year is to become more proficient in art I already do, like weaving and dyeing, rather than flit from one thing to another. I'm sure I'll still try new projects and art forms, but it's time to concentrate on what I know and perfect or tweak it. I wonder how long this idea will last...