Ice Dye

Ice Dye

When the thermometer reaches 90 (F), I just cannot stand to heat up anything. Salads all the time, please. Or cold cuts. Or cold pizza. Cold anything. This includes boiling water for dying–yuck! So I was happy to learn–several years ago now–about ice dying. (Shout out to the Columbus Cultural Arts Center for teaching this technique) .

To complete this you will need:

  • Ice –lots of ice
  • A sink or tray with a lip to catch the melting water/dye.
  • Powdered Fiber-reactive dye. I used this brand in “Lamb’s Ear” which I no longer see for sale. Note that this technique causes the dye to separate so if you want a specific color, this is not the path for you.
  • Soda Ash Fixer. I used this one, but you can also get this as part of the tie dye kit. This stuff is toxic, so handle with care.
  • Cotton or linen fabric. You can try other types of fabric or cotton/polyester combos but know that synthetic fibers (polyester, rayon, etc) will not take the dye as well as other types of material.
  • An old dish rack or something else with holes or slits for the water to drip through.
  • Gloves and face mask for safety.

This is technique you’ll want to do either in a sink or with a tray underneath to catch the melting dye. So your first step is to clean out your sink.

Clean kitchen sink
Behold! A dish free kitchen sink in the Manjo house!

Now that you’ve done cleaned off the sink, it’s time to wash your cloth. I like to use this one, but you can try it with your laundry detergent if you don’t mind a gamble. If you’ve never hand-washed a garment before, it’s a lot like hand washing dishes: wash your hand first, then fill the sink with water. Add the soap to the water and stir. Then add the cloth and massage it. For this small batch, I just kind of rub the cloth against itself. Rinse it in clear cool water, and wring it out.

Now get a dish rack and turn it upside down. I used a old red dish rack, but really you could use anything that 1) has holes or slits of some kind to let the water drip through and 2) has some kind of lift off the ground. You don’t want the cloth to sit in the dye mix created by the melting ice. Instead, you want to melting water and dye to drip through the holes, away from the fabric. So you could use: a big old colander for a small piece, an old baking rack with some bricks underneath or an old pizza pan (the kind with holes) propped up on something.

Now, let’s make some layers. Lay the wet fabric on top of the upside down dish rack.  You can fold in over itself or fold it in to quarters. Or you can just lay it willy-nilly, which is what I do. Then on top of the cloth, spread the ice:

Now before our next step, I must caution you that soda ash fixer and powdered dye are both not things you want to touch or breath in. I’ve gotten both on my skin before and guess what–it will also dye your skin. So wear gloves (kitchen gloves are fine) and also consider wearing a mask for safety. Here’s what you should do if you do accidentally get it on yourself.

Ok, with that said, sprinkle about 1/8 cup soda ash for every yard on top of the ice.  Alternatively, you can also soak your fabric in a water/soda ash mixture before dyeing. However, this typically involved boiling, and at 92 degrees, I am already boiling.

Sprinkle the powdered dye on top of the ice. The amount of dye to use is more of an art than a science. Generally, I would say, less is more since you can always add more later. Although you can use more than one color of dye, I would stick to one color for your first try. Make sure you get it spread over all regions of the ice.

Your part in all this is done. Time to sit back and watch the ice melt. Here you can watch your powdered dye separate. This pink dye is actually a mix of blue, red, and yellow:

Now, wait for all the ice to melt. I usually just go to bed rather than wait for it. Then when I wake up, it’s like a present just waiting for me. Like so:

Glorious! Now rinse the fabric until the water runs clear. Then hang it up to dry.



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