There’s just something so wonderful about making a hand dyed textile for your home. It adds instant personality and interest to any space, and it’s lots of fun! So when Joanna bought a new cream colored sofa for the loft she shares with not one, but two (wonderful and messy) animals, I knew an extra throw might come in handy for some added couch cushion protection.
I went with the ice dying technique to create a fluid, organic pattern on a big piece of natural linen. You could use multiple dyes for a tie dye style look or go with one color like I did, for more of an accent piece. If you’ve never dyed fabric before, don’t worry, this is super simple.
May 2020 update: I know this is a really long blog post, so here are some links to help you jump ahead:
Learn How to Ice Dye (updated May 2020)
- soda ash or synthrapol
- procion dye — I used cobalt blue, but you can experiment with any shade or combination of colors!
- bag of ice
- white linen fabric
- dish rack (mine is sold out. This over-the-sink drying rack would work well!)
- wash tub
- glass measuring cup
- plastic gloves
- metal spoon (we suggest using metal to avoid the spoon absorbing dye)
To make it easier to gather materials, I made an Amazon Shop. Click here to order everything you need to ice dye!
Directions (more detailed instructions below):
- Mix 1 cup of soda ash to 1 gallon of water in the wash tub and mix until completely dissolved
- Soak your textile for 15 minutes
- Wring out the fabric
- Place drying rack on top of the tub and arrange fabric on it
- Put ice on top of the fabric
- Using a spoon, sprinkle MX dye powder on the ice
- Allow to sit for 24 hours
- Rinse in cold water until water runs clear
- Wash in the washing machine like normal
Step-by-Step Instructions with Pictures for the BEST Ice Dye Technique:
For the setup, definitely just use what you have around the house. Any big pan or bucket that you don’t mind getting dye on will work. I used a plastic tub with a dish rack, but you could use anything that fits inside of your tub and elevates the fabric with enough space for ice to drip through.
Start by adding 1 cup of soda ash to 1 gallon of water in your wash tub and mix until completely dissolved. Don’t worry if things get a little splishy-splashy, the soda ash mixtures dries white and wipes away with a damp cloth.
Next, submerge your piece of fabric in the tub and allow to soak for 15 minutes. If you have a smaller piece of fabric, adjust the proportions accordingly. This step may seem tempting to skip, but the soda ash acts as an important fixer for the dye and helps activate the color with the natural fibers of your fabric.
When the timer dings, wring out all the excess liquid and carefully arrange the fabric to fit completely on your tray. Add as many twists or turns as you’d like for a more complicated design.
Now it’s time to put the ice in ice dying and completely cover your piece of fabric with ice. Don’t worry if you can’t get your ice cubes to go all the way to the edges, the fabric will absorb the dye and spread throughout.
Okaaaaay! Now for the fun part. Carefully begin to sprinkle your fiber reactive dye powder onto the surface of your ice. Less is definitely more here so start off slow.
Keep going until you’ve completely covered the surface of the ice with your dye powder. Here’s where you could add an additional color for more of a tie-dye effect.
Then the hard part, allow to sit undisturbed for 24-hours. I know it’s tempting to remove and wash the fabric once the ice has all melted, but you need the time for the dye to set into the fabric.
If you want the colors to be more pastel and less saturated, you can reduce the amount of time that the MX dye sits on the fabric and rinse sooner.
I was up all night thinking about the dripping piece of art creating itself, and worrying about how the dye would get through all that fabric. But lo and behold, the next day there was a bundle of dark blue fabric waiting for me! Remove from the tray and rinse in a sink with cold water until it runs clear.
It was SO exciting to open up the throw and see what happened! I couldn’t believe what a gorgeous pattern the ice dye had created, very Rorschach meets shibori with mirrored images, surprising gradients of color and small sprinkles of intensity.
A few tips & tricks for ice dyeing:
- I recommend using this dye technique on fabrics that are 100% natural, so either cotton or linen. If you use something with synthetic in it, that part of the fabric may not absorb the dye. It’s a cool effect, but different than what is shown here.
- The procion dye will create new colors, even if you just use one. For example, I used a cobalt dye, but got speckles of pink, yellow, and green.
- If you decide to dye your fabric outside (a great way to avoid making a mess!), ice dye in the shade otherwise the sun will melt your ice too quickly and your results may be different than expected.
- You can also use synthrapol as a pre-wash to help fix the dye color to your fabric.
- If you would like to use multiple colors of dye, I recommend doing a test piece first to avoid the colors getting muddy.
What you can ice dye:
- Hoodies, sweatshirts, and sweatpants
- White jeans or any white denim
- Table linens like napkins, placemats, table runners, or a table cloth
- Textiles for the home including curtains, duvets, sheets, pillowcases, and tea towels
After thoroughly rinsed, put your dyed fabric through the wash with detergent on cold, then toss in the drier or hang dry depending on your type of fabric. Now you’re ready to casually drape your new hand-dyed textile anywhere you’d like. It’s officially Georgette and Noodle approved!
Interested in more dye crafts and tutorials? Check out these:
- DIY block print + abstract tie-dye table runner
- Boho ice dye draft stopper DIY
- Natural dyed Easter eggs
- Shibori dye bath mat
- Overdyed napkins