Some people are born with the art gene. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer that given the right instruction, motivation and determination anyone can do just about anything they want. It’s just a matter of not being afraid to try. Until the age of about 20, my culinary skills included cereal and anything that could be cooked in a microwave. Now I can caramelize creme brulee, roll out my own pasta and bake a 6-tier rainbow cake with a sprinkle explosion center. My mom never saw that coming.
So in summary, no artistic biological material over here besides a general eye for composition, and the will to keep trying until I get something remotely resembling a desired result. I like to think I at least have good taste, but that’s subjective, right!?!
This brings me to what may be one of my favorite artistic endeavors I have tried in recent years…ice dyeing! It’s unpredictable, gorgeous, easy and cheap. The unpredictability is freeing. No piping perfect lines of icing or mixing paint to the exact consistency needed. This project is great for all ages! If you’re looking for an activity to do with your kids or your grandma, this is it. Have I talked you into it yet?! I hope so, because here we go!
Everything You’ll Need
Cotton fabric to dye: We LOVE these flour sack dish towels from Target. They are about $1 each, super soft and absorbent. We have used them as both dishtowels and napkins in a pretty place setting.
Soda Ash: Because this is a cold dyeing process, you must first pre-treat your fabric in a soda ash bath. This is a super important step! More later…
Jaquard Procoin MX powder dyes in a variety of colors
Ice (yes, captain obvious!) You will probably get through about 10 dish towels with one large bag of ice.
Drying-cooling-shoe rack: You need something to hold your fabric up off of the ground and allow water to drain and drip. I have at least ten of these shoe racks from IKEA and use them for a variety of projects!
Small stainless steel or disposable spoons
Latex or rubber gloves
Step 1: Heat up some water in a pot to near boiling, add your soda ash and stir. Once it dissolves, toss in your fabric and let it soak for 20 minutes. DO NOT skip this step. Soda ash is necessary to fully bond the dye to the fabric, because you are using ice. Without soda ash all of your dye will come out when you wash it.
Step 2: In the meantime, set up your racks. Honestly, this should 100% be done outside on your lawn. The ice is going to melt and the fabric and dye is going to drip. You don’t want this dye dripping on your floor. Technically you could set it up inside on a tarp? Doesn’t seem worth the risk to me.
Step 3: This is also a good time to pick out some of your dye combos. You can use as many as you would like! I usually use 4-5 different colors per piece. Through experimenting, red and orange will TAKE OVER your design…use those sparingly! Also, the yellow is really cool and bright. I tend to lean toward the Jacquard Procoin Antique Gold instead. Brown Rose is hands down my number one favorite color available.
Step 4: Once your fabric is done soaking, you’ll want to remove it and wring out a bunch of the extra liquid. Now it’s time to place your fabric on the drip racks. I have three favorite things to do here.
- Allow some edges to hang over. It allows the dye to run down and creates a beautiful effect!
- Scrunch and bunch the fabric. Maybe even give it a little twist here and there.
- Push the fabric down in between the rack holes with your pointer finger. This will cause the dye to run down that section and almost creates a flower effect.
If you aren’t using the same colors on your pieces, make sure you leave space between them on the rack as the dye will run across quite easily.
Step 5: Time to add the ice! Just pile it on your fabric. Make sure it makes it all of the way to the edge and no fabric is showing. You can’t have too much ice, but you can not have enough. If you’re working on a hot day this is where your time crunch begins!
Step 6: Add your dyes. Open up your first powder dye of choice. Dip in your small spoon and scoop up some powder. Shake it onto some of the ice cubes in a few different spots. Open your next color and sprinkle onto some clear cubes. Continue until your ice cubes all have a little bit of color on them. (Unless you want to try for white space in your design, but it’s kind of tough to achieve. Maybe not on your first try, lol.)
Step 6: And now you wait! 24 hours to be exact. Just allow the ice cubes to melt and disperse the dye throughout your fabric. If I’m leaving mine outside overnight, I usually cover it in a plastic tarp just to keep nature from ruining them (leaves, rain, squirrel poop, etc.)
Step 7: The next day, you are ready to rinse your fabric. I usually do an initial rinse with a hose to release any extra dye that may not have fully soaked in. After that, into the washer they go! Thanks to your soda ash soak, their color should be steadfast through washing with regular laundry detergent.
Step 8: Throw them in the dryer, remove and wa-la! Your beautiful works of art are complete and ready to use or gift! Here are a few of our favorites:
Gorgeous right!?! Now it’s you turn. You’ve got this. Now go have fun!