Zappos x HonestlyWTF:
Here, Erica Chan-Coffman, the founder of lifestyle blog HonestlyWTF shares a rad ice-dyeing tutorial. Think tie-dye—but better.
Ice-dyeing. I'm officially obsessed! This unique method of tie-dyeing has been on my to-do list for years, and I'm surprised it's taken me this long to experiment with it! Zappos, who recently launched a denim shop this fall, was the catalyst for this long overdue DIY.
Did you know that ice-dyeing was first conceived by quilters who were looking for a resourceful way to dye fabric during winter months? They used snow and dyes to achieve that mottled, watercolor look we've come to know and love as ice-dyeing. If you're a first-time tie-dyer, have no fear! The process is simple and dare I say, extremely fool proof. All you really have to do is select your dye colors and leave the rest up to the process! As the ice slowly melts, it spreads and deposits dye into the fabric at varying rates. The ice does all the magic here, and the dye surprises you in ways you would never imagine. I'm loving ice-dyed denim for fall, and had so much fun playing around with earthy tones with pops of bright colors, that it was hard to stop at just one pair of jeans!
Prepping your fabric is one of the most important steps to dyeing. First, pre-wash your denim with the textile detergent (or Synthrapol) using a hot water setting to remove any fabric softeners, oils, or additives that may be on the fabric from the manufacturing process. Then, mix 2 cups of soda ash to one gallon of warm water.
Stir the mixture until the all of the soda ash has dissolved. Because soda ash is mildly caustic, you'll need to wear gloves while working with it. Add your pre-washed denim to the soda ash solution and let it soak for at least 15 minutes. Treating your fabric with soda ash will help your dye adhere to the fabric without bleeding or fading. Squeeze out any excess solution from the denim and save the solution for more dyeing later.
Before we go on, let's talk about dye. The reason I love ice-dyeing is the element of surprise you don't get during traditional tie-dyeing. Even after carefully choosing your dyes, the ice can split certain colors into their component colors. For example, "wasabi" is a light green but because the rate at which the ice melts deposits dye at different times, the color often splits. So light green might turn into spots of turquoise blue, burnt yellow, and dark green. I've been surprised, but never felt unhappy with the results!
*** NOTE: When ice-dyeing, use good quality fiber reactive dyes. They're colorfast and work best with cold water. Liquid dyes will not work!
Once you've picked out your dyes, bring all of your supplies outdoors. I recommend working over grass or a patch of dirt— Basically, anything you wouldn't mind having some dye drip on to. Set your metal rack over an empty dish pan. If you don't have a metal rack, you can loosely ball up some foil and cover the bottom of the dish pan with it. Place your wet denim on top of the metal rack or foil. Scrunch it up. Place ice over the denim, making sure every bit of it is covered. If ice falls off the edges, just cover them with smaller, more crushed pieces of ice. Remember that anywhere your piece isn't covered with ice will be white.
With a spoon, starting sprinkling your first color onto the ice. I like to sprinkle in sections.
Then, add your second color. Notice how the "wasabi" dye looks both like a caramel brown and a green. Amazing, right? This is an example of the unpredictable outcome of working with powder dyes while ice dyeing.
Add your third color. I recommend not adding more than 3-4 colors. You want enough color distribution and distinction! I even like leaving some patches without any dye to see some of the white denim popping through.
Once all of your dye is sprinkled, leave the whole thing alone for several hours and allow the ice to melt and do its magic! The sunnier the day, the speedier the process.
Almost there! Resist the temptation to pull out the denim before all the ice has melted. Even though you don't see the dye on the surface, the ice is continuing to melt and deposit dye throughout the fabric.
Voila! Once all the ice has melted, rinse the denim under water until the water runs clear. Let it go one cycle through the washing machine with the textile detergent to help lock in the color even more.
Tumble in the dryer as you would normally, and wear!