Tutorial: Ice Dying

I first saw ice dyed fabric in the window display of the Regent Street Anthropologie and fell in love with the abstract, painterly, watery feel it gives.

As our bedroom (at some point in the future when we get around to finishing it!) will be vaguely nautical and beachy, I jotted the idea down as I thought it would make the most amazing sort if focal point bedding! I  finally got around to giving it a try a few weeks ago.  There are a few tutorials around, but the method and the type of dye varies a lot so I just grabbed some a couple of different colours of Dylon hand dye, a super cheap white cotton bedding set and decided to make it up as I went along!

I'm so pleased with how it came out! I was going for a sort-of-ombre look, with the deeper blue at the foot of the bed, then fading to the paler blue and leaving the top edge of the duvet cover white. The dye spread a lot more than I had imagined so although I got the dark to light fade, the white edge didn't really happen.  

I'm definitely going to get some better quality bedding and make another set and tweak my method slightly, but if you'd like to have a go yourself here's what you'll need:

- Powdered hand dye (I used Dylon in Jeans Blue and Ocean Blue)
- The items you want to dye - check the dye packet to make sure your dye is suitable for that type of fabric, cotton/natural fabrics will always take colour better than synthetics (I did the duvet cover and pillow cases at the same time and it was fine, although the dye suggests this would be too much fabric. I think because the powdered dye comes into direct contact with the fabric the colour will be brighter than if you were to dilute it)
- Table salt (or whichever fixing agent your dye packet suggests!)
- A big bag of ice
- A large tray to catch the melting ice (I used the seed tray I was supposed to take back to my Grandad which is still in the garage - whoops)
- A rack of some sort so you can suspend your fabric over the tray and let the ice drip through. Something like a cooling rack, or one of those wire steps you put in the cupboard to give yourself more space. I used two upside down cutlery trays which worked well except for the fact the they're metal. I would DEFINITELY recommend using something plastic coated because although the wet fabric was only sitting on it over night, mine started to go rusty so I have a couple of little rust marks near the buttons of my duvet set.
- Washing up bowl
- Plastic sheets to cover your bare wood dining table so you don't get a big blue stain right in the middle that means you need to sand and refinish it (can you tell I did not do this and am talking from experience?)

First of all, you need to soak your fabric in whichever fixing solution your dye suggests. I made up a washing up bowl with the water and salt quantities for both sachets of dye (which I think was 2l of water and 500g salt) and soaked the duvet cover and pillow cases for a good 20 minutes. There was a lot of fabric to try and fit in there so I kept coming back to it and turning it over or prodding it down to make sure it all got soaked.

Next wring the fabric out, and tip the salty water away. Position the racks above the tray you'll be using to catch the melting ice, then place your wet fabric on top. I had planned for the top edge of the duvet cover to stay white so I didn't pile this on the rack but let it hang over the edge into the washing up bowl.

The way the fabric is positioned will affect how pattern ends up so you can have a bit of a play with twisting or folding it to create different effects. I didn't realise at the time but I actually managed to leave the duvet cover folded in half down the middle which has meant it's ended up symmetrical which isn't ideal! I tried to make a sort of wavy pattern and put in a couple of big twists.

I then laid the pillow cases on top of the duvet cover, and again let one short edge of each hang over into the washing up bowl hoping this would give a sort of left-to-right fade.

So, onto the dying! First off, pile as much ice as you can manage on top of the fabric, I managed to fit about a bag and a half on top before it started falling off! I got really carried away with taking photos because it just looked so pretty and crystaly! 

Then, open up your packets of dye, and start sprinkling! I used the darker colour at the bottom (or foot end) of the quilt cover and then the lighter colour at the top, blending them a little in the middle. 

It is so much fun!! It was so fascinating watching the powder start to dissolve on the ice and I didn't really know when to stop so I just kept going until it looked like the powder wasn't dissolving anymore. Then I realised there was such a small amount left I just chucked the rest of the dye on and hoped for the best. 

I was really worried at this point because although the Denim Blue looked great (you can see it down towards the bottom left) the ocean blue looked decidedly purple and purple is my least favourite colour so I really didn't want purple bedding! 

Then just leave it until all the ice has melted! I was totally obsessed with it and kept sneaking into the dining room to have a look at how things were progressing! It's so pretty, and it's so much fun watching the colours slowly soak through the white fabric.  

When I went to bed, this is how it was looking. I was rather concerned about the purple at this point but pleased with how it was fading towards the top edge. I'm not really sure why the different pigments in the dye seem to separate, but for some reason it all looked a bit orange!  

So, when the ice has all melted, it's time to rinse! I was too excited and forgot to take any pictures, but by the time I woke up the purple had turned a much more pleasing blue! 

I rinsed all my fabric in the bath which was definitely easier than trying to fit it all in the sink but I did stain the bottom of my bath blue which isn't ideal.

When you've rinsed the fabric as much as you can and the water is running clear (or nearly clear - it will take a quite long while!) pop it all on a quick wash with a normal dose of laundry detergent then hang it out to dry! 

I love it, and I think I might be in love with this method of dying too! It totally reminds me of swirling waves and inky ocean depths and the flashes of white that did get left un-dyed are like the crests of a breaking wave. The faded effect came out much better on the pillow cases than the duvet cover too. I'm definitely going to get a much better quality bedding set and make another set, and I think I might just go with the Jeans Blue colour as I'm not a massive fan of the still somewhat lilac-y Ocean Blue. I really want to try it with linen, but I'm not sure I'm feeling brave enough to dye expensive linen in such an unpredictable way...we shall see! 

So yes - I hope if you try it out you love it too, I'd love to hear how you get on if you do!


  1. Yay! I am so glad to have found your post! I was freaking out about the ocean blue looking SO PURPLE (I am not a purple fan either!) So glad to see your results were not too purple! I mixed my ocean blue with turquoise, so I can't wait to see how it comes out.

    1. Oh fab I'm so glad you're trying it out! It's weird isn't it how that colour looks so purple. I'd love to see pictures of how your finished fabric comes out xxx

  2. I really love this! Have been trying this method on a few scraps with very old dye from my mom and came out so cool. Will now buy Dylon for this, do you know if you can also use the dye from the Dylon pods (for machinewash)? Thanks!