The first time I encountered ice dyed fabric was on Pinterest. The fabric was so colorful and had such interesting and vibrant colors with both soft and hard edges defining them. Since I had been dying fabrics for quilts, this really piqued my interest. I went on to the internet to learn more.
One of my resources for fabric, dyes and batik materials is Dharma Trading Co. (www.dharmatrading.com). They had a great tutorial on ice dyeing; giving the history and detailed instructions for the technique. You can also use snow for similar results. Since I live on the equator, snow isn’t readily available… so ice it is for me! I’ve now done several yards of fabric and will be incorporating these into some quilts and other sewing projects.
You can liken the process in many ways to the tie dyeing we did as kids. However, I think the results are ever so much more spectacular and elevates the technique to art as opposed to camp craft. The patterns sometimes evoke visions of the Rorschach test ink blots but in color.
Start with a natural fiber fabric which has been prepared for dyeing. This means it is free from sizing, starch or other products introduced to the fabric before being offered for sale. Most fabrics bought in a fabric store will have such products embedded into them. These are the products which allow a fabric to be wrinkle free after washing or give it a crispness on the bolt. I usually buy the fabric directly from PRO Chemical (https://prochemicalanddye.net) which is already prepared for dyeing. Alternatively, you can wash the fabric in Sythrapol, a detergent which will scrub the fabric of any additives.
Any natural fabric will work. So far I’ve found that cotton fabric takes the dye well and results in crisp edges. A cotton-silk blend fabric resulted in more blended colors and a softer pattern.
I began with a yard and a half of cotton fabric. I soaked the fabric in a solution of soda ash and water for about fifteen minutes. Then I folded it accordion style lengthwise with the grain, twisted it and placed it on a rack over a large pan to catch the drippings.
I then covered the fabric completed with ice cubes and sprinkled powdered dye over the ice. In this case, I used four different colors of dye: Clear Yellow, Golden Yellow, Dusty Orange and Scarlet. An upcoming quilt is a sunset scene…
As the ice melts, the fabric soaks up the dye. Let the mound of ice and fabric sit for 24 hours undisturbed to allow the dye to set.
After 24 hours, it is time to wash out the fabric. It takes several rinsing to eliminate excess dye. Take the time to rinse well and be patient. Otherwise your colors might not be colorfast. Once the rinse water runs clear, the fabric is washed a final time in Synthrapol and hot water.
This is the final result. Keep in mind this fabric was folded in a repetitive pattern. You can fold, twist, tie or otherwise manipulate the fabric prior to dyeing for varying effects.
This fabric was scrunched up into a wad before dyeing. I had originally planned on using it for the backing fabric of a quilt. However, when I saw the results, I couldn’t use it where it wouldn’t be seen.