Ice Dying Fabric

Hey guys, I know it’s been about a minute since my last post (almost a year), but it’s not because I haven’t been busy! I would rather be creating than writing or taking pics, lol! I feel like I should change the name of my blog to Crafting in the Lowcountry because I have been doing many things other than quilting and embroidery. I’ve started making homemade soaps and lotions, plus many other skin care products. Most recently I decided I wanted to be a textile artist, or in other words dye my own fabric to the colors I want and need! I ordered a bolt of unbleached muslin about a year and a half ago to do this but put it aside and forgot about it. While pulling fabrics for a quilt recently, I couldn’t find a color that I needed so I decided to try out the dyes and fabric I had bought previously for my project. It was so much fun that I wanted to share about the process…

I ordered unbleached muslin honestly because I didn’t know better. I have since ordered some bleached muslin and assorted bolts of white quilters cotton to see if I get different/better results. All you need to get started is some powdered dye (NOT liquid), fabric (I cut mine into 2 yard pieces), ice, gloves, mask (to protect your lungs), plastic tubs and bakers racks.

I used Rit dye because that was what was available to me locally. If you use another brand, you may need soda ash to prepare your fabric. I had some on hand from making homemade laundry detergent but didn’t need it for this project. If I decide to buy some nicer dyes like Procion, I will need to prepare the fabric by soaking it in a soda ash/water bath first.

Wet fabric thoroughly and ‘wad’ up by twisting, folding or banding. Place on rack inside tub and cover with ice.

Sprinkle dye on top of ice (some people put it on before the ice but I put it on top) using colors that coordinate well. I used 2 to 3 colors per piece of fabric.

Let sit until ice has completely melted, then cover to keep fabric moist and let color saturate well. I let mine sit overnight and the colors looked very dark in the morning. I hung over the fence in my yard and sprayed excess dye from fabric with the water hose.

Then I carried it to my stainless steel sink and rinsed until water ran clear with cold tap water. Finally, I washed fabric in my washer with an extra rinse cycle using Retayne (helps colors set) on a warm water setting. You could also spray with Rit’s color fixative and leave for 20 minutes before first rinse but I had Retayne so I used that instead. I washed one piece at a time so colors wouldn’t blend. I was really surprised at how light the colors were when they were dried and pressed. I’m very happy with the final results and posted pics of my favorites below.

Things I learned:

Less ice and more dye creates bolder colors. My first attempts were more muted because I used a lot of ice and very little dye. Just remember, a little goes a long way so start with less. You can always add more.

The longer the fabric sits the darker it will be.

Using rubber bands or yarn to tie the fabric will make interesting patterns. (Tie Dying!)

Use tall racks so the fabric won’t sit in the dye water when melted.

For me, this is an outside project. I made a huge mess and dye is permanent.

If using powdered dye outside on a windy day, cover other tubs of ice if they are close enough for wind to blow dye into it. (My gray has pink in it for this reason but I actually love the results.)

You will never get the same results even using the same colors. I tried because I wanted more of the gray/pink but it looked completely different.

Liquid dye didn’t work for me, it just left large spots of color on the fabric that weren’t appealing. (I had heard this but had to try because I had some on hand.)

Put the dye into jars and use a spoon to sprinkle over fabric. I tried pouring it from the package but ended up wasting it needlessly. Plus I had more control with the spoon method. I used small canning jars which I have in abundance and taped the label of the color to the jar.

Metal racks can rust so be careful, you don’t want rust stains on your beautiful dyed fabrics!

Wear gloves even after first rinse or you will have colored hands.

I bought some Dylon dye at Joann’s and will update after I use it. This is an inexpensive way to get some great fabric colors and build your solid stash. My fabric was purchased from Amazon and by ordering it by the bolt the average cost was $2.80 per yard. The dye was $3-$4 per box but I only used about a half of each box for the 16 yards that I dyed. This would be a terrific summer project to do with the kids while they are out of school!

2 thoughts on “Ice Dying Fabric

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  1. Hi Stephanie! Well, I found this post to be fascinating. I’m glad you shared this with us, and I’ve missed you. The gray fabric looks very similar to Grunge, don’t you think? And the red/orange looks slightly ombre – what a beautiful effect. It sounds like you plan on more dying in your future, and I look forward to reading all about it. ~smile~ Roseanne

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Roseanne, thanks so much! I love how the gray turned out, it is my absolute favorite and yes, it is very grunge! The red/orange is ombré because I didn’t have the rack high enough out of the water and parts of it soaked directly in the dye bath. I should add that you’ll get an ombré effect in my “what I learned section” lol! Thanks for taking the time to visit and comment, I really appreciate it! I’m going to try to be better about posting in the future , including a post on the quilt I make with these hand dyed fabrics!🥰

      Liked by 1 person

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