Ice Dyed Kew Dress with Laura
If you're heading into Spring, days of blue skies and bouts of sunshine are bound to have you dreaming of summer makes, particularly if you put them on the backburner this time last year. Why not try your hand at ice dyeing while you're at it? It's a perfect excuse to sit in the garden on a bright day while watching your ice dye project develop (although sitting with it isn't necessary, it is pretty mesmerising!)
If you've been following me a while over on The Specky Seamstress you'll know I tried my hand at ice dyeing last year and LOVED it so it comes as no surprise I was itching to make another ice dye project this year. I fell in love with the Kew dress recently and just knew it would look fabulous in white viscose with a border ice dye. I received 2.5m of the white viscose challis for this blog post, and I made a fully lined bodice and unlined skirt. I let my instagram followers choose a skirt style and a circle skirt won out - and I just love the swooshiness it gives - the movement along with the ice dye patterns just work so well - good choice Instagram!
I chose purples and blues and turquoises for my project in the end, after some indecision. I did add a bit of emerald green but it is mostly merged with the turquoises and isn't particularly obvious. I just love the vivid red violet colour I've used near the hem - it really pops! You can never really tell what an ice dye project will look like till its finished, which is exciting and nerve wracking! But it'll always be beautiful and unique and you'll find lots of ways to style it. I'm going to enjoy pairing this dress with lots of different shoes and cardigans over the summer, every colour brings out different details on the dress.
Because I chose buttons after the dyeing, I got to pick out colours that worked all the way down the dress. The transparent confetti buttons from Ethel and Joan worked so well at the top of the dress, and then blues and purples from my vintage stash picked out dye colours and toned in beautifully - a subtle feature but one I am in love with. I also chose to add a rolled hem, to keep the ice dye as uninterrupted as possible.
Ice dyeing is so hard to photograph well, the more you look at it the more you see the gorgeous swirling shapes and patterns and the more you fall in love. You'll notice that I am looking at my dress in all the photos - I just can't help it! I've included a couple of close up photos to show you what I mean, but if you want to truly see, you'll have to give it a go yourself. Don't worry though, I got you covered with a handy guide and lots of tips for you.
If you need me, I'll be swooshing around in this dress all spring/summer!
How to Ice Dye
So now you've cooed over the perfect mermaid spring/summer tea dress, how would you go about making it yourself? Well, here are all the ice dye details!
I'll pop some additional thoughts and considerations for dyeing a partially assembled garment at the end of this blog post, with * marked where they are appropriate.
If you want to give it a go - you'll need the following:
- Soda Ash enough to mix with warm water to cover/soak what you are dyeing beforehand, for at least 30 mins. This is super important, or your dye won't set, and you'll end up super disappointed!
- Fibre Reactive Dyes in your chosen colours - I use procion mx dyes and for this project I used vivid red violet, navy blue, turquoise, ultramarine, emerald green and viridian.
- Something to dye! So many options! You want to choose a natural fibre fabric for this, so the dye takes to it nicely - cotton and viscose jerseys and french terry with elastane take the dye nicely too - I've used all three!. Choose pale colours for the best effect. Here, I've chosen to mostly assemble a garment first, and use ice dye to create a border dye. But you could dye an already made garment, or some fabric before you even start! Because the project I was making is button up, I wanted to make sure the front pieces didn't have a harsh edge/clash of the ends of the dye, so I knew I wanted to have assembled it first*.
- Ice! enough to comfortably cover your project - preferably in varying sizes. If you are using shop bought ice and can buy a bag of cubes and a bag of chips or crushed, that works perfectly. If not, like me, you'll need to smash some cubes into smaller sizes before you start. I use a rolling pin! Different sizes allows beautiful shapes to appear in your project. For reference, I bought 2kg of ice and had about 700g leftover.
- A 'rig' which will depend on what you are dyeing. It doesn't need to be fancy! I use a bucket with a wire rail on top, this allows the ice and melted dyes to drop into the bucket below without ruining whatever is underneath. I've set these projects up in the bathtub before too, to keep mess contained. If you are dyeing fabric, or your entire garment, your rig is done **.
- Time Ice dye projects can take a long time. They don't need watching, or anything doing to them once you get them going, but you need to consider the setup and if it will be appropriate for the time your ice takes to melt. If you are setting up your project outside, you want to make sure you have at least 10-12 hours before its too dark/cold/wet to go outside and that it isn't expected to rain too - you want the liquid in your project to come from the ice, not the clouds! Rain will wash away the dye from your project, so if you (like I) live somewhere that it can be changeable in weather, you might want to think about a backup plan - whether that is rigging up a cover of some kind, having a plan of action to carry your project inside if it rains, or just dyeing inside. If you're using the bath or shower - make sure noone is going to need to use it! This project, the ice took about 8 hours to melt.
- An open mind... without sounding too much like a cheesy job advert - expect the unexpected. Ice dyeing relies on the way that ice melts and interacts with the dye powders on top of it to create beautiful geode-esque designs and they are different every time. So don't go in with a clearcut idea of exactly what you want the project to look like. This is particularly true because ice dye projects will fade when they are rinsed for the first time, and it is so easy to be disappointed when they do. Trust me!! To minimise the fade, make sure you've given the project a good soak with soda ash and leave the project as long as you can. It is really tempting to flick off those last couple of ice cubes and rush it to rinse, but patience will do it good. (I wasn't quite as patient as I should have been for this project, so it faded a liltle more than I was expecting, but is no less beautiful because of it!
Wow, what a lot of set up information!!
So what do you actually have to do, now you have all that set up done?
1) Soak your project in soda ash and warm water for at least 30min, just before you plan to dye. Ring out excess water but don't leave to dry. ***
2) Fold/Crumple/Twist your project to create a random pattern, and place onto your rig
3) Place ice over your project I like to use larger pieces of ice at the bottom, and smaller pieces on top. Make sure the whole project is covered. Any gaps will let the powder seep through and create very dark patches on your project. A couple of these are fine, but you dont want lots!
4) Sprinkle dye powder over your project Be sure to wear gloves if you don't want to wash your hands thirty five times before any dye comes out (although its not harmful, and I often dye gloveless like a total rebel). I like to use patches where there is more of one colour than another, so there will be distinct patterns on the project. Here, I kept the hemline at one edge of the rig and used red violet only at the bottom. You don't need lots and lots of dye. It comes in 25g packets and the only reason I had to buy more was because I left them outside in the rain, and I've dyed well over 15m of fabric.
5) Wait. Go look at the pretty colours developing. Wait. Become impatient. Take lots of pictures. Wait some more. Wait until the ice is completely melted, and then wait some more.
6) Rinse. Don't underestimate how long this step will take! Your project will be saturated with dye and you want to rinse it until the water runs clear. I first wash my project with hot water, working across the fabric from top to bottom (where appropriate) with the shower head. Once the water is running paler, I change to cold water and rinse until the water runs clear.
7) Quick Washing machine cycle and let fully dry.
8) Finish your garment (where applicable)
9) Fall in love with ice dyeing
Considerations for dyeing a half assembled garment:
*If you are assembling your garment first, you need to think a bit about construction. I chose to dye the project before applying facings or adding hems, buttons or buttonholes, because I didn't want the thread or interfacing interfering with the dye. Remember that polyester thread isn't guaranteed to take the dye, so visible stitching should either be done in cotton thread or left until after the dye, unless you want to make it a feature!
**If you are dyeing a border on a partially assembled garment like my project, you'll also need something to keep the rest of your project away from the dye. I like to have mine vertically above it so that the dyes bleed upwards creating a less 'harsh' line where the dye stops, but its up to you! I used an airer and a clothes hanger, and some pegs to make sure my project didn't fly off the hanger in the wind! I've used the back of a chair before too! If you are dyeing a half assembled garment, you'll need to be super strict with your stay stitching, because the garment will be hanging/ or twisted up on the rig for hours and will be more prone to stretching out. My back neckline stretched a little on this project despite stay stitching and I would probably face the garment first next time.
*** When dyeing I border, I like to leave the top of the project dry, the part that will be above the ice when its set up.