How to ice dye fabric
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How to Ice Dye Fabric

Nothing screams summer quite like tie-dye…

ice dye periwinkle

Something about a tie-dyed shirt always takes my mind to summer camps and running around with friends. Whether classic rainbow tie dye is your style, or you like a modern monochromatic look, tie-dyed fabric is always fun. If you’re looking for an interesting new technique for dyeing fabric, ice dye is for you! I love to ice dye because it gives the fabric an almost watercolored look, it’s really easy, you do it all outside, and it’s perfect for letting your kids do with you! Today, I am going to walk you through how to ice dye fabric, which you can then use to sew up your favorite Boo and Lu pattern.

Dye the fabric, or dye the garment?

For this project, I dyed the fabric ­first, and then I sewed the garment second. You can also sew a plain white garment and then dye it! I like to ice dye fabric first, because I like to choose my favorite parts of the final dyed design to feature on the garment, and cutting pattern pieces from the dyed fabric gives me more control.

Let’s Get Started!

What you need

  • A large bag of ice (more if you are doing a lot of fabric)
  • White cotton fabric, knit or woven is fine
  • Powder fabric dye (I like Rit powdered dye)
  • Salt
  • A wire or plastic rack
  • A tub your rack will fit over
  • A plastic sheet (I used an old shower curtain liner) for catching mess
  • Disposable gloves
  • Plastic spoons (optional but makes less mess!)
  • Paper towel
  • A sunny day
How to ice dye fabric

*A note on dye quantity- How much dye you need depends on how much fabric you use. Roughly, you’d need ½ box per yard. For this project, I used two full boxes of dye for four yards total fabric.

Prep your materials

  • Cut your piece of fabric. I cut a two-yard piece for each of my two daughters. This was more fabric than I needed for the patterns I planned to sew, but I wanted to make sure I had enough to choose where in the fabric to cut to get the look I wanted based on how the dye pattern turned out.
  • Prep your space. Ice dye uses the sun, so this is an outdoor project! Lay a plastic sheet or tarp down to protect the ground you are dyeing on. I use an inexpensive shower curtain liner! Make sure you choose a spot in full sun to get the best results.
  • Fill your tub with water and add one cup of salt. Stir the water to dissolve the salt, and then place your fabric in the tub. Soak your fabric in the salt water enough that it is really saturated. Then, remove the fabric and wring it out, and dump the water out of the tub.
  • Place your empty tub on the plastic sheet and place the rack over the tub. Arrange your fabric on the rack in a scrunched-up manner. No twisting and rubber banding necessary, though you can do that if you want a more traditional dye pattern. I like to loosely scrunch the fabric in a pile, to get that watercolor effect.
How to ice dye fabric
Fabric has been soaked in saltwater bath, and scrunched on a rack over a tub, with plastic sheet down for ground protection.

Dyeing the fabric

  • Cover your fabric with a damp paper towel (or two-three if you need more to cover the top surface area). This helps make sure no stray dye powder goes directly on the fabric, since that will interfere with the pretty blended dye look.
  • Cover the entire thing with ice. You really want it piled up on the fabric, so that there is a good solid layer of ice completely covering as much of the fabric as possible!
How to ice dye fabric
Fabric has been covered in damp paper towel and a generous pile of ice.
  • Wearing gloves to protect your skin, sprinkle the powder dye liberally over the ice. You can really be as creative as you want here, in terms of how many colors you want, and where you place them. As with any dye, if you sprinkle different colored dyes directly on top of each other, the colors will mix, so keep that in mind when using multiple colors. For this project I used yellow and teal, so that if they mixed together, it would still have a pretty cohesive look. Using a plastic spoon to scoop and sprinkle the powder gives more control and is less messy. Since my two daughters were dyeing their own fabrics, giving them spoons to use made it easier for them, and much tidier!
How to ice dye fabric
Using a plastic spoon helps control dye placement and is less messy!
  • Now let the sun do its job! You will leave your project alone for a few hours. The sun melts the ice, and as the ice melts into water, it will mix with the dye, carrying it down into the fabric. Your tub under the rack will catch any excess water. The hotter the day, the faster this process will happen. A hotter day will also help the dye set faster once it is in the fabric.
How to ice dye fabric
Immediately after applying the dye.
How to ice dye fabric
A couple hours after applying the dye.

Setting the dye

  • After the ice is fully melted, you can move on to the next step at any time. However, I recommend letting the dye set into the fabric for at least 12 hours. I like to leave it alone overnight.
  • When you are ready, follow the instructions on your dye box for rinsing and laundering. Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative is great for making sure your colors stay bright and don’t run, bleed, or fade. Always wash your dyed fabrics separately from anything else until you are sure you will not have any bleeding dye.
  • Your fabric is done and ready to sew!
How to ice dye fabric
My younger daughter dyed this one, and requested a Periwinkle dress.
How to ice dye fabric
My older daughter dyed this one, and requested a Seagrass romper.

Sew your pattern

Now your gorgeous ice dye fabric is ready to sew! Browse through all the beautiful Boo and Lu patterns and choose the perfect one for your fabric. My girls chose Periwinkle and Seagrass as the patterns they wanted me to make using their dyed fabric. They love their new outfits and feel awesome knowing they dyed the fabric themselves!

We’d love to see what Boo and Lu patterns you make with your own ice dye fabric, so make sure you tag @booandlu on Instagram or share in the Boo and Lu Facebook group!

xoxo Jessie

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