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Chilled out crafts: how to ice dye!

Ice dyeing is the perfect craft for the summer. Follow our step by step ice dyeing tutorial and enjoy experimenting with swirling colours!

Ice dyed cushion

You might have heard of tie-dyeing, but what about ice dyeing?

Ice dyeing is a gorgeous modern craft that is perfect to do on a hot summer’s day. With mesmerising colours blending into the fabric, and the chill of fresh ice, we can’t think of a better excuse to get outside and craft at the same time.

We’ve created a beginner’s guide to get you up and running in no time. In this article, we’ll share what ice dyeing is, why it’s great and how you can do it yourself.

Welcome to the wonderful world of ice dyeing!

What is ice dyeing?

Ice dyeing is the process of using frozen cubes to produce unusual and unique designs on fabrics. Ice dyeing typically involves placing ice cubes on the fabric, sprinkling powdered dyes on top then letting the ice melt through, leaving a design once dry.

The process produces random patterns on fabrics, depending on where the colours of the powdered dyes land as the ice melts.

What do you need to start ice dyeing?

Fabric

Natural fabrics, such as cotton, silk or linen are ideal for ice dyeing, as it’s a cold-water process. Synthetic fabrics, by contrast, usually need hot dyes to achieve the best results.

In our opinion, white natural fabric works best. Lightweight cotton is ideal, as it’s versatile enough to make clothes, cushions, bags and more.

If you’re not a keen sewer, then it’s best to use natural fabric clothes or items to dye instead. A basic white t-shirt is a great choice to try out your ice-dyeing techniques on, as it’s not too bulky.

Tote bags are also great for ice-dyeing, not least because they make great gifts.

  • Buy your fabric from Amazon and get ice-dyeing today!

Soda ash powder

Once you’ve got your fabric, you’ll need to get it pre-washed to remove anything that could hinder the dyeing process. If you are going to wear the ice-dyed fabric then pre-treat it with a soda ash solution to help the dye adhere to the fabric.

Simply follow the instructions on the packet to treat your fabric before you start the ice-dyeing process.

Powdered dye

You’ll also need a selection of powdered dyes suitable for cold-water. This process won’t work with liquid dyes, as the design is determined by the powder spreading across the ice’s surface as it melts.

The finished pattern will be more unique, which is the beauty of ice dyeing.
Parts of the ice will have more powdered dye sprinkled on top, so it’s normal for some of the fabric to be denser in colour.
Powdered fabric dyes go a long way, so you can make all sorts of ice-dyed creations once you stock up. All you’ll need in future is to buy another bag of ice!

A basic tie-dying starter kit is ideal as it contains plenty of colours as well as protective gloves. The dyes come in powdered form, ready to be sprinkled on.

If you’re looking to create lots of items with a similar colour palette, consider buying a couple of individual powdered dyes.

Protective equipment

Keep your hands protected from the dye! Wear plastic or rubber gloves to avoid stained hands. Powdered dye kits typically have gloves in them, but it’s always best to be prepared!

Ice

You’ll need quite a lot for ice dyeing as the fabric has got to be covered completely for the process to work. You either can use a large bag of ice cubes or crushed ice.

Crushed ice tends to stay on top of the fabric better, whereas cubes can sometimes roll off the top. Crushed ice will also cover the fabric more thoroughly. Ideally, you want as wide a surface area of the fabric covered as possible: uncovered fabric won’t soak up any dye.

Bags of ice are a more convenient purchase option when ice dyeing. A large bag of ice should be ample for two or three projects.

  • Pick up ice from Sainsburys

A bowl

You’ll need your bowl to catch melted, dyed ice. A large plastic washing-up bowl or a large foil tray works well.

A wire rack

Finally, you’ll need a wire rack to place over the bowl, on top of which your fabric will sit. A large baking cooling rack is ideal for this purpose.

Your ice-dyeing checklist

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You Will Need

  • Fabric
  • Powered dye
  • Soda Ash powder
  • Ice
  • Protective equipment
  • Bowl
  • Wire rack

How to ice dye in six simple steps

Step 1

Treat your fabric with soda ash

Pre-wash your chosen fabric or item of clothing and treat with soda ash powder if required. Lay a tray or bowl on a flat surface then place a wire rack on top.

How to ice dye step 1

Step 2

Place your fabric over the wire rack

While the fabric is still damp, scrunch it up and place over the wire rack. Make sure it doesn’t go over the tray edges.

How to ice dye step 2

Step 3

Pour your ice over the fabric

Carefully pour your ice (crushed or cubes) all over the fabric. Make sure the fabric is completely covered. Put on protective gloves, then choose several complimentary colours of powdered dye.

How to ice dye step 3

Why not try tie dyeing too?

If you’ve caught the dyeing bug then make sure you check out our how to tie dye tutorial.

Step 4

Sprinkle the dye on the ice

Put on your gloves. Then, use a spoon to sprinkle small amounts of dye over the ice. Repeat with all colours until most of the ice is covered.

How to ice dye step 4

Step 5

Let the ice melt and the dye transfer

Leave the ice to melt through the fabric and through to the tray below. Some of the dye will be left on the fabric, giving you a unique design.

How to ice dye step 5

Step 6

Remove the residue and finish

Once the ice has melted, remove the fabric and rack. Then pour away the dyed water. Rinse the fabric to remove excess dye, then leave it to dry.

How to ice dye step 6

How to ice dye fabric cushion
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Tips to get the most out of your ice dyeing technique

Use powdered dyes very sparingly. A small amount will become much larger once it hits the ice and it starts to melt.

For a more dramatic effect, dye the fabric more than once. Simply repeat the process as often as necessary.

For a tie-dye effect, tie areas of the fabric or clothing with elastic bands before pouring the ice on top.

Ice dyed fabric

Alternative ice dyeing techniques for advanced crafters

Although the basic principle of ice dyeing is simple, you can experiment with different techniques. Try folding the fabric rather than scrunching it up, or start the process with adry fabric.

If you want to lift colour away rather than add more, try using a coloured garment or fabric and sprinkling powdered bleach over the ice instead of dye.

Ice dyeing for cool, unique designs this summer

The best thing about ice dyeing is you never quite know what pattern you’ll get at the end. That’s part of the fun of it! Everything you create will be one-off and truly unique.

Ice dyeing is perfect for upcycling too. Use your new method and techniques to turn plain or stained clothes into a kaleidoscope of swirling colours. Experiment with patterns too but mostly embrace and enjoy the journey.

No time to dye? Check out other summer crafting ideas on Gathered

Now you’ve mastered the technique you can start playing with different designs. Head over to our tie dye patterns to discover 20 colourful tutorials.