Fiber arts: Ice Dye technique

My experience and set up for ice dying a two yard piece of denim for making bespoke jeans.

Disclaimer: The substrate I am dyeing on was a gift from www.sewhere.com all other materials were purchased from the listed suppliers.

Too many months ago my friend Mallory gifted me some Cone Mills Stretch denim in natural to “do something fun” with. She suggested pants or a denim jacket and I knew jeans were where I would be heading. I live in jeans and tee shirts. Maybe it’s my up bringing, Grandaddy used to wear “dungarees” and denim work jackets while he taught us how to grow orange trees in the FL heat. Athletic wear on my body everyday seems like a broken promise, and I have enough mom guilt.

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Back to ice dyeing I took my sweet time figuring out the how and what, gathered many pinterest pins and finally settled on something that could read more floral and less Electric Daisy Carnival. I have shopped with Dharma Trading Co. before, picked up my indigo and some dye fabrics there and I love their website and customer service. I went with four colors: a turquoise, sage green, amber yellow, and orange. When dyeing with ice having a variety of light and dark colors as well as some contrasting colors (colors across from each other on a color wheel) can really enhance the outcome.

Shopping list:

  • Fabric to dye (mine had a small percentage of spandex and the rest cotton) I would recommend natural fibers
  • Soda Ash (a dye fixative bought at Dharma Trading also) about one cup per gallon of water
  • Fiber Reactive dye (I used these)
  • A grate or cooling rack (Broiling pans, clean bbq grill grates, baking cooling rack, old window screen)
  • Something to set the grate over to collect the dyed water
  • Ice
  • Plastic spoons
  • gloves
  • valved respirator face mask

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To begin wash and prep fabric in free and clear detergent or the detergent synthrapol from Dharma Trading and dry without fabric softener to pre shrink your fabric. The next step is to soak in soda ash solution for 15min (Tip: soda ash will dissolve in hot water, if there is still some not dissolved add more hot water). Wring out as much of the soda ash liquid as possible, some recommend a trip in the spin cycle, but I just used my glove covered hands. You want to scrunch your fabric on your rack of choice over a drip pan to collect the melted dye and to keep your fabric out of the dye filled water (I used bbq racks from the Japanese dollar store Daiso, don’t use things you use for food going forward) get a mask valved preferred (this kind at a minimum, don’t want to hurt your lungs), plastic spoons and your gloved hands. I used about two quarts of ice from my fridge for two yards of denim. Cover your fabric as best you can with the ice (a cardboard ring around your fabric may help hold the ice in place but I didn’t use one) and then begin sprinkling on the dye powder (with you mask on!).

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I suggest starting with the darkest colors first, I think this is also psychological, at the beginning I was very lightly dusting dye here and there but by the last color I was throwing it everywhere as I got comfortable. Once your ice (or snow this work with snow too!) is covered to your liking with dye, the fabric sits there for 16-24 hours as the ice melts and drags and mixes the dyes on your fabric. I waited 16 hours, it was warm and I was excited to see the results, rinse your fabric with cool water till almost clear then one more rinse with warm water. Then I threw it in the washer on a hot regular wash cycle with a cap of synthrapol detergent but a free and clear may work (you just don’t want any brighteners, scents or fabric softeners in the detergent) then dry in the dyer or how your fabric needs to be dried.

Up next what I made with my ice dyed denim, some amazing pull on elastic waist jeans!!

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17 thoughts on “Fiber arts: Ice Dye technique”

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