Ice Dyeing

This last week I have been experimenting with ice dyeing. It’s not the most obvious thing to be doing in the tropics but a good supply of ice cubes and crushed ice instead of snow works very well.

Ice dyed fabric

Ice dyed fabric

There’s a good tutorial on ice dyeing on the Dharma Trading website and I used this as my guide. Basically the ice covered fabric needs to sit on a rack in a container where the liquid from the melted ice and dye can drain away. I looked around to see what I could use and found that some old flower pots in the garden were ideal and some round, metal kitchen racks were the prefect fit to go inside the pot.

fabric arranged on a rack in the pot.

fabric pre-soaked in soda ash is arranged on a rack in the pot.

The pot is deep enough to allow a good layer of ice to cover all the fabric. I found that a mixture of ice cubes and crushed ice worked very well and didn’t melt too quickly.

the fabric layered in the pot and covered in a mix of ice cubes and crushed ice.

the fabric layered in the pot and covered in a mix of ice cubes and crushed ice.

On top of this I sprinkled the powdered dye. I use Procion MX fabric dyes for all my dyeing, and when applying the dye to the surface of the ice using a small nylon sieve helps give a more even distribution of colour. Using more than one colour gives a more interesting effect, but I found that some colours worked much better than others and you need to make sure to add enough dye powder to give the fabric a good colour.

a mix of blue and golden yellow dyes

a mix of blue and golden yellow dyes

red, fuchsia and gold dyes, looks good enough to eat!

red, fuchsia and gold dyes, looks good enough to eat!

I left these to sit overnight to allow all the ice to melt. Here I used a colander suspended over a pot and this also worked well.

The last traces of ice slowly melting

The last traces of ice slowly melting

I left the fabric to sit overnight until all of the ice had melted. Then comes the fun of seeing how the fabrics have turned out.

The results are unpredictable and beautiful as the dyes blend and mingle almost like watercolours to create delicate and subtle colour variations.

reds, pinks and yellow

reds, pinks and yellow

darks greens and blue

darks greens and blue

To avoid having white or very pale colour in the background you can also use a piece of fabric that has already been dyed. These fabrics will be wonderful for art quilts, appliqué, or even some contemporary patchwork or quilting design and I can’t wait to use them.

Beautiful greens

Beautiful greens