Ice Dyeing – A Quick How To

My local fiber art group did some ice dyeing yesterday and I thought you might like to try it. It’s a simple process, doesn’t take long and gets great results.

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The supplies needed are ice, cotton or silk fabrics, fiber reactive dye powders, soda ash, water, a container for the soda ash liquid, a container about gallon (3785 grams) sized to dye in, dust mask, gloves and a spoon to apply dyes. I have not tried this method with acid dyes but it would probably work. You would just need to steam the fabric before rinsing it out.

The first step is to mix 1 cup of soda ash with a gallon of water, stir until dissolved. Place all your fabric in the soda ash water and soak for at least 30 minutes. Take your gallon container, glass jars work really well for this, and place a layer of ice on the bottom of the jar. Put one piece of fabric on top of the ice and just squash it down into the jar. Put more ice on top of the fabric. With your gloves and dust mask on, sprinkle about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of dye powder over the ice. We used 2-3 colors per layer.

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Place another piece of fabric on top of the dye powder layer. Put more ice on top of that fabric and sprinkle more dye powder on top. Keep layering fabric, ice and dye powder until the jar is full. I used reds, blues and blacks in the jar seen in the photo above. You can use any colors that you wish.

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You can see Carole layering her fabric, ice and dye powders.

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Bunny used a large dye pot to work in and it worked just as well as the glass jars. Plus it holds more fabric so you could do larger pieces easily this way.

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Once your jar is filled to the top, do a last layer of ice and dye powder and then close with a lid. If you don’t have a lid, use plastic wrap over the top. Then set the container aside for 24 hours. The ice will melt and the dye powders will mix with the melting ice and dye the fabric with fantastic patterns.

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Here are my two jars after melting for 24 hours. The hardest part is not disturbing the fabric. Pour out the excess dye liquid and then rinse the fabric. I rinsed three times in cold water in the sink and then put the fabric in the washing machine with a small amount of Synthropol and washed with a regular wash cycle. Then iron the fabric. 

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This is one of the pieces of fabric that was at the very bottom of the red and blue glass jar. It’s very dark but I think it will be really nice with stitching using a light-colored thread on top.

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I used a variety of small pieces of cotton of various weights that I had handy. 

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThis is 90# cheesecloth and this is just a small portion of it. It dyed beautifully. You could also put cotton thread in the dyeing jar but I didn’t have any white thread to try. You can also over dye fabrics this way so if you have a fabric that you don’t particularly like, try over dyeing it with this method.

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I loved this one. It was on the very top of the red/blue jar.

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This was some cotton muslin that was stitched together prior to dyeing. It reminds me of sunlight through the tree tops.

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The ice melting really gets different reactions of the dye with the fabric than you can get in other methods. This works with snow too but for those of you that rarely get snow, ice is simple and gives good results.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe colors will be lighter if you use less dye powder and darker with more dye powder. You can mix a variety of colors or not. The results will always be different and you won’t be able to duplicate your results but that to me is the best thing about this method. Each piece of fabric will be unique. I didn’t have any silk but this will work with silk as well. I think this method would be really good to use on silk that will then be nuno felted. 

If you try out ice dyeing, please post photos on the forum or on our Flickr group, we’d love to see how it worked for you.

 

 

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31 Responses to Ice Dyeing – A Quick How To

  1. Pingback: More Fiber Art Cards and Hoover Dam | Permutations in Fiber

  2. Karen says:

    The colors are gorgeous Ruth, looks like you had a lot of fun and produced some amazing results :)

  3. Denise Junk says:

    I want to try this method turning the dye mix itself into ice cubes and see if that works . I use acid dyes , so will have to modify it a little and steam it instead but looks like fun

    • ruthlane says:

      That’s a good idea Denise. Please do let us know how it works and show us your results. I will have to try this with acid dyes and see how it works too.

  4. koffipot says:

    Looks like fun Ruth, A bit like making a lasagne with ice dye and fabric, tasty for the eyes! :)

    I use acid dyes too Denise, do let us know what happens with your “freezing the dye” method, Though I’m not sure I’d want them in my freezer.

  5. Lyn says:

    I’d never heard of this method before – it gives lovely results!

  6. I did this process with snow. Same idea. It gave me wonderful results and I have repeated it with tee shirts, laces, canvas purses and many other things.

    • ruthlane says:

      Yes it does work with snow too. Oddly, even though I get lots of snow here, I never tried it with snow. The nice thing about ice is you can do it any time of year.

  7. koffipot says:

    Perhaps this is a silly question!
    I notice you use soda ash (washing soda in UK) on the silk as well as the cotton.
    I use an acid medium for animal fibres and alkaline for vegetable fibres.
    Does the alkaline medium have any adverse effect on the silk itself?

    • ruthlane says:

      Silk works with both acid dyes and with fiber reactive dyes. The soda ash is usually used with the fiber reactive dyes and has no adverse effect on the silk. You shouldn’t leave it in for a long time but 24 hours won’t hurt it.

  8. great results Ruth i will have to give it a try. Koffipot check the strength on the washing soda. We have that here to but its not quite the same. I use PH up for pools. It’s the cheapest why to buy it here (especially at the end of summer) and a little bucket lasts me more than a year.

    • ruthlane says:

      Thanks Ann. I didn’t think about the differing strengths but it should still work if you wash it out in 24 hours.

  9. zedster66 says:

    The results are gorgeous, Ruth :)

  10. koffipot says:

    Thanks Ann. I may trey some today if I get the time!

  11. Marilyn says:

    Great results! It looks like fun. I’m going to have to try it.

  12. Shruti says:

    Hey Ruth,
    What a great method! I just took a class for confetti quilts and need to dye some fabric for it since we do not get mottled fabric in my part of India! This is a cool method and less messy – i think! most of all – it looks doable
    Thanks for the details!
    Cheers from India!!!

  13. Bonita says:

    I am so totally hooked on this method!!! The colors are beautiful.

  14. koffipot says:

    I’m so pleased you told me of this Ruth.

    I love the serendipity of this method. I tried it with a piece of silk (scarf sized) and whilst I liked some areas, I wasn’t happy with the overall effect.

    Nil desperandum, I stretched it onto a frame and ‘scribbled’ on hot wax with a tjanting, then overpainted it with a violet dye. Result – splendid!! Even the hand rolled edge went well. So I’ve adopted this layering effect as my method, it’s such lovely, messy, fun and I get many compliments. :)

  15. Marilyn Nelson says:

    Koffipot, Please post some pics that sounds wonderful. I did a few scrap pieces of silk and cotton. The cotton must have been mixed because the colors were muted, but the silk came out nice. I plan to try using acid dyes next time and steam them afterward to see how bright the colors get and if there is less run off.

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