Honey, in this household, everything is tie-dyed.
(Except Fritz and Tigress. They run too fast.)
More seriously, I’ve been gearing up to tie-dye that bathrobe I mentioned a few posts back. And since it’s a big expensive project, that means I need to do samples! And what better way to sample for a big, sumptuous bathrobe than by doing some big, sumptuous towels?
I had been considering ice-dyeing this bathrobe, so the first step was buying 80 pounds of ice. 40 pounds for ice dyeing, and 40 pounds for rinsing out the tie-dyes afterwards.
(Dyer’s trick: do the first rinse of fiber-reactive-dyed items in ice water, to prevent unreacted dye from migrating and staining other areas. The ice bath chills the dye to the point where it won’t react in that rinse, and the ice water rinse removes the soda ash, so the dye won’t react in subsequent rinses either. Presto, your white areas stay white.)
I was thinking of two options. One was an indigo blue background and fuchsia/turquoise/purple patterning. The other was my usual favorite, orange and yellow background with red patterning. Ice dyeing would add randomness to the pattern, and variations in intensity – dark and light areas where the ice diverted or diluted the dyes.
Here’s an ice-dyed T-shirt I did in 2016 that gives you an idea of what you can get from ice dyeing:
So I made up a bunch of dyes and did the towels. I did one towel in navy blue, turquoise, purple, and fuchsia, ice dyed in a spiral – navy blue on the bottom and turquoise/fuchsia/purple on top. Then I did two more towels in fiery colors – one in an ice-dyed spiral with orange and yellow on the bottom and fuchsia/scarlet/orange on to. The other I dyed in a scrunch-dyed pattern with orange and yellow on top, and painted it afterwards with a network of red lines.
Here’s what the fiery-color ice-dyed spiral towel looked like after I piled ice on top and dripped the dyes on:
And here’s what all three towels looked like when done:
Obviously (if you are me, anyway) the choice is #3. A dark blue bathrobe in the dark winter is a nonstarter – I’d want to shoot myself by the time January rolled around. And I didn’t like the cool reds or the way the ice diluted the color. A bathrobe the color of fire would be the perfect thing to warm me up during the (cough) freezing California winters.
So yesterday I soaked the bathrobe in soda ash solution, spun it out briefly in the washer, and arranged it on a baker’s full-size sheet pan. Like this:
Then I poured a quart of yellow dye onto the bottom of the sheet pan. Which vanished immediately.
I scratched my head, and mixed up another quart. Which also vanished immediately.
At which point I poured in a leftover pint of golden yellow. Repeat vanishment.
I abandoned subtlety, and mixed up half a gallon of yellow dye, throwing in another quart of soda ash solution just in case there wasn’t enough. I poured that into the bottom of the sheet pan. Take that, bathrobe!
Finally, I had yellow peeking up from the bottom, as I wanted. I started dripping on the orange dye.
Here’s what the bathrobe looked like now:
After sprinkling on the orange dye, I decided not to paint on the red lines but to try an experiment: sponging on just a little bit of red dye to create a tracery of red lines in the center of the most intense orange areas.
Here’s what the bathrobe looked like partway through the sponging process:
And here’s what it looks like at the edge, where you can see all three layers of dye: red, orange, and yellow:
And what does the finished bathrobe look like? Tough noogies, sweetheart – the dyes haven’t finished setting yet, so I don’t know yet. It’ll be another couple hours before I can pull it off the tray start the rinsing process, and that will take another half-day or more. So I’ll be in suspense for another day or so – and so will you.
Perhaps this would be a good metaphor:
See you (and the bathrobe) tomorrow!