When You Know It Won’t Work…

In my mind, there’s nothing worse than finishing a piece and knowing in my heart that it’s not acceptable – especially if it’s a commission. In art and in commissions especially, “good enough” is not good enough. You want to be thrilled with the work you made. You want to love the work you made, so much that you’re reluctant to part with it! And of course, you want your client to be not only satisfied with it; you want him or her to be ecstatic about it! We are our own worst critics. Probably true in all aspects of life.

The problem with ice-dyeing, especially for a beginner, is that you don’t know what the outcome will be, and it’s hard to control the process. Mistakes cost money. But hey – this is business; you win some, you lose some. It’s just a fact of life, and there’s no use being sad about it. No use taking it personally. (Yes I’m talking to my inner “Lee” here – don’t beat yourself up, you still have mad skills!)

And – even though there’s little control over the process of ice dyeing, there is SOME control. A few things I learned:

The color blue goes a long, long, long way. It’s okay to go easy on the blue, because blue basically takes over everything!

Make sure that every bit of fabric will get dyed (unless you want white spaces). Especially in the tightly-wound areas—and I’m not sure I’ve figured this out yet—perhaps make sure you have plenty of ice on that area, so when it melts, it melts through all the layers, and of course have plenty of dye in that area to penetrate all the layers (not blue!).

Test-test-test, which I do with all commissions. But maybe, don’t test on a whole t-shirt? Perhaps test on a smaller piece of fabric before spending money on a t-shirt that may never sell?

The most important thing about mistakes is that you learn from them. Try to be more methodical in the process, take baby steps, don’t just jump in whole hog – make sure you have a plan before you “take action.”

I’ve had a few other disappointing outcomes. Luckily, I was given the chance to improve, and I did. I learned how to sew a perfect napkin with mitered corners. I learned how to make a waterproof and sturdy coaster. I learned how to ice dye a shirt to a customer’s specific color preferences. And I sold every commission. That journey in itself is so satisfying…the ups and the downs, the struggles and lessons learned. I gain so much more in the end. It’s worth it!

Have a good week. Here are some pretty nature pictures…


After all the wild energy of yesterday’s Women’s March downtown at Grant Park, it was quite a different feeling being at Half Day Forest Preserve (in Vernon Hills) this morning.


I took Bette for the first time ever. She just had a growth removed from her shoulder and after a boring recovery, I thought she might enjoy a walk in a big, quiet peaceful forest preserve. I think she liked it.


2 thoughts on “When You Know It Won’t Work…

  1. Good morning Lee,

    In all our pursuits I feel the desire to produce quality is hard. A belief I have that if we seek to fulfill that thing within us that wishes all we do to be nothing less than excellence then we have done all that we can do and the thing I call God will accept that even when those we strive for or ourselves do not. So I guess I am saying you are to be praised for that inner conflict.

    On your trip to Half Day. Even as I stand on Irving Park in front of the Irving and all that it is my mind goes to what that place was when the Algonquins used it as their portage. When my work as a service rep for a maker of power chairs, scooters and lift chairs would take me North from Schaumburg and I passed half day road my mind would go to the times when that was a half day distance from the city for the modes of transportation that would make that so.


    • Thank you Randy those are kind words. Regarding HDPF, yes I remember Mitch told me about that – that it took a half day by horse to get there, from Chicago I’m assuming…


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