Ice dyeing. I'm officially obsessed. This unique method of tie dying has been on my to-do list for years - I'm actually surprised it's taken me this long to finally have experimented with it! Zappos, who recently just launched a denim shop this fall, was actually the catalyst for this long overdue DIY. Did you know that ice dyeing was first conceived by quilters who were looking for a resourceful way to dye fabric during winter months? They used snow and dyes to achieve that mottled watercolor look that we've come to love and recognize as ice dyeing. If you haven't dyed clothing before, do not fear! The process is fairly simple and honestly, extremely fool proof. Truth be told, not much is in your control besides the selection of colors. As the ice slowly melts, it spreads and deposits dye into the fabric at varying rates. The ice does all the magic here and the dye surprises you in ways you wouldn't have never imagined! I'm absolutely loving ice dyed denim for fall. I had so much fun playing around with earthy tones with pops of bright colors, it was hard to stop at just one pair of jeans.
I love our DIY community, especially when you guys share your own versions, of the various HonestlyWTF projects, on social media. So I've partnered with Zappos to give one lucky winner a $500 Zappos gift card! All you need to do is post a photo of your ice dyeing project to Instagram with #ZapposDenimDIY and tags @Zappos and @HonestlyWTF. A winner will be picked on October 25th. Good luck and happy ice dyeing!
Prepping your fabric is one of the most important steps to dyeing. First, pre-wash your denim with the textile detergent or Synthrapol, using a hot water setting, to remove any fabric softeners, oils or anything that might have been added to the fabric during the manufacturing process. Then, mix 2 cups of soda ash to one gallon of warm water.
Stir the mixture until the all the soda ash has dissolved. Because soda ash is mildly caustic, you'll need to wear gloves while working with it. Add your pre-washed denim to the soda ash solution and let soak for at least 15 minutes. Treating your fabric with soda ash will help your dye adhere to the fabric without bleeding or fading. Squeeze out any excess solution from the denim and save the solution for more dyeing later.
Before we go on, let's talk about dyes. The reason I love ice dyeing is the element of surprise that you wouldn't otherwise experience during traditional tie dyeing. So even after spending the time to carefully choose your dyes, the ice can very well split certain colors into their component colors. For example, "wasabi" is meant to be a light green but because of the rate at which the ice melts deposits the dye at different rates, the color will most likely split. So green might turn into spots of turquoise blue, burnt yellow and dark green. I will say, I've never been unhappy with the results. Surprised but pleased!
*** NOTE: When ice dyeing, use good quality fiber reactive dyes. They're colorfast and work best with cold water. Liquid dyes will not work!
Once you've picked out your dyes, bring all of your supplies outdoors. I recommend working over grass or a patch of dirt - basically, anything you wouldn't mind having some dye drip onto. Set your metal rack over an empty dish pan. If you don't have a metal rack, you can loosely ball up some foil and cover the bottom of the dish pan with it. Place your wet denim on top of the metal rack or foil. Scrunch it up. Place ice over the denim, making sure every bit of it is covered. If ice falls off the edges. just cover them with smaller, more crushed pieces of ice. Remember that anywhere your piece isn't covered with ice will be white.
With a spoon, starting sprinkling your first color onto the ice. I like to sprinkle in sections.
Then add your second color. See how this "wasabi" dye isn't actually green in powder form? Once it hits the ice, it immediately looks like a caramel brown color but them turns green. Amazing, right? This is an example of the unpredictable outcome of working with powder dyes while ice dyeing.
Add your third color. I recommend not adding more than 3-4 colors. You want enough color distribution and distinction! I even like leaving some patches without any dye at all. I like seeing some of the white denim popping through.
Once all your dye is sprinkled, leave the whole thing alone for several hours and allow the ice to melt and do its magic! The sunnier the day, the speedier the process.
Resist the temptation to pull the denim before all the ice has melted. Even though you don't see the dye on the surface, the ice is continuing to melt and deposit dye throughout the denim.
Voila! Once all the ice has melted, rinse the denim under water until the water runs clear. Let it go one cycle through the washing machine with the textile detergent to help lock in the color even more.
Tumble in the dryer normally and wear!