I used to think tie dye was really naff as a kid. I’ve not used the word ‘naff’ for a long time, yet it feels suitable for tie-dye. But it’s made a comeback in my life, and I must admit, I’ve got a fondness for it, ever since my eldest came back from nursery with a couple of tie dye T shirts.
During lockdown, I experimented with natural tie-dye, using everything from avocado pips and skins, to dandelions, to onion skins. I’ve even got a ‘post-apocalyptic’ T shirt for my child, where I left it in the boiling too long and it all dried up.
Natural tie-dyes are pretty amazing, but I missed the big bold colours. And I’m also lazy / time-poor. And then I discovered ice tie-dye! It’s easy, quick, and there’s no need to spend ages rubber-banding your item of clothing.
Plus, it looks cool. A little cosmic, perhaps? I had initially wanted the Rit dyes as they had some gorgeous colours – that was when I was going to just go down the ‘normal’ tie dye route. And realised that it was actually quite messy – more messy than natural dyes. Plus, I’d have to buy squirty bottles (I thought about saving up tomato ketchup bottles, but we’ve just not gotten through any fast enough and I’m impatient when it comes to creative projects) and make sure I wore gloves etc etc.
With ice tie dye, you don’t even need gloves!
Here’s how to Ice Tie Dye a T shirt
- A plastic tray
- A wire rack large enough to sit on top of the plastic tray
- A selection of powder dyes (I used the hand dyes from Dylon*)
- A teaspoon
- Ice cubes
- Something to dye – natural fibres such as cotton work best
* If you’re in Highbury, the Five Boys Health Food Store on Highbury Barn sell them – they’ve got them just behind the counter.
- Set up your area. Either make sure you don’t mind if any dye spills onto the floor, or put down plastic sheets, or bin liners. Place the wire rack over the tray to create a shelf. You want a bit of space between your rack and the bottom of the tray so any dye which spills down doesn’t touch your cloth. My wire rack was a little too small for my tray, so I placed rubber bands on each end of the tray to keep it up instead.
- Wet your item of clothing (it helps if you’ve pre-washed it) and squeeze out the excess water.
- Place it over your rack. You can lay it out however you want but I found it was quite nice crumpled and you can even try twisting it etc.
- Place the ice cubes over your material. This doesn’t have to be even – sometimes it’s quite nice to have a little ice mountain as it creates different effects.
- Time to get dying! Cut open a corner of your dye and pour it onto a spoon. Sprinkle the dye lightly over your material. Repeat with your other dyes as your artistic fancy takes you!
- Over the whole of it, sprinkle a little ice, making sure you cover it all.
- Wait for the ice to melt.
- Once melted, carefully pour away the dyes and rinse your material under a cold tap. The dyes ‘set’ with heat so once this has been rinsed and dried, give it a good iron. I also saw someone make a little clingfilm wrap for it and microwave it for a few minutes instead. I tried both ways and haven’t noticed any difference yet in dyes washing off during a wash.
- Ta-daaaah! You’re unique, oh-so-wonderful ice tie dye T shirt. Or jumper. Or socks…
A word of warning: Tie dye can become VERY addictive. Before you know it, you’ll be scavenging the kids’ T shirts and seeing what light coloured garments you can transform into brilliant hues of speckled tie dye splodges. You’ll also find yourself spending a small fortune investing in packs of cotton white T shirts.
Also, while this is fun, it can be a little terrifying doing it with kids. Especially if you have boys who do not like to listen! And are a little heavy-handed… Good luck if you do! These would make a fab present for Christmas, or birthdays for friends or family.
Let me know if you made one!