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Ice Dyeing – A Quick How To

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.



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.



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. 



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.



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.



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



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



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.



Dyeing Cotton Fabrics

Dyeing Cotton Fabrics

A few weeks ago I decided to dye some of the cotton fabrics I was using in felting: Cotton Gauze, Cheesecloth, Muslin, a few lightweight cottons and some cotton/synthetic mixes. I started out using some Scarlet RIT dye and I was really pleased with how easy it was to use and how well the colours turned out. I used the ‘Hot Water in a bucket’ method. I weighed the amount of fabric I had and then ran some really hot water into a bucket and measured out how much I needed. I poured this into the dyeing bucket, saving a little in a jug to add to the dye I’d measured out  into an old glass jar. I added salt to the dyeing bucket, then poured the dye solution in, and gave it a stir around. The instructions had said to wet the fabric before adding to the dye bath, so I’d put the fabrics in the other bucket while I prepared the dye bath. The instructions said to stir constantly for about 30 minutes until the desired colour is reached, but I just stirred occasionally. I also added fabric at different stages or tied/scrunched to get different shades/effects. Using the instructions on the RIT packet, I made some calculations for dyeing smaller amounts of fabrics and used this as a guide for dyeing the fabric a medium shade.

The second dye brand I tried was Dylon, I bought the 50g hand dyeing pack. I used to buy the Dylon Multi purpose dyes years ago, they were meant for using in a pan on the stove, but gave excellent results just using hot water in a bucket, so I expected these Hand Dyes to be really good. The instructions were pretty much the same as for RIT except no laundry detergent was used. I bought a dark brown so that I could add fabrics at different stages and get lots of gorgeous natural looking shades. What I actually got was a load of fabrics all very much the same pale shade of beige 🙁  I think I would have got richer colours using tea or coffee. I made some calculations for dyeing smaller amounts of fabric for the Dylon too, though I’m not sure I’ll use it again.

The next time I dyed some cottons, I used a RIT dye again, Navy Blue. I was really pleased with the way those fabrics turned out too. I even dyed some egyptian cotton top, which turned out nice, the photos didn’t though 🙂

Do you have a favourite dye for cottons or maybe a favourite method? Do you have any hints or tips to share with us? We’d love to hear your opinions. Click on the pictures for bigger images.

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