Amazing Ice Dye Color Splitting

details of designs of color from splitting & container of dye

Mankind has always had a love affair with colour and design! You can’t imagine how easy this is; just magic. Make your own incredibly amazing Ice Dye Color Splitting!

jewel tones of fabric pieces

The Starting Point:

Summer holidays warrant a few larger projects, Quilting to be exact! But this project did not involve a trip to the fabric store… just because. If you know me at all now, you know that I like to do things a bit differently. I like to impart some uniqueness to everything I do. So, that meant that I would dye my own fabrics for the quilt. These 100% cotton sheets have a worn softness and a pleasant collection of hues.

various scrunched up wet fabric in plastic tub


As readying for the Ice Dyeing I soaked the fabric in a solution of Soda ash and water (1 cup to 1 gallon of water) at least 30 minutes. Hand wring as best as possible or use the spin cycle of the washer. This only works with natural fibres like cotton, hemp, linen, rayon etc. The soda ash allows the fibres permanently dye with a chemical reaction.

Since I am using only one colour here all the fabrics are arranged together, scrunched as finely as possible on top of a mesh or grate to keep it out of any collection of bottom dripping. To get as much detail the more smaller folds the better.

lots of ice cubes with dark dye sprinkled on top

The Fiber Reactive Dye:

As you know I love my blues! But for this project I decided to switch things up a bit and bought some BLACK! Dharma trading has a few to choose from and ‘Raven’ (PR 200) was my choice. I am not a fan of psychedelic tie dyes, so shades of grey seemed perfect.

After cleaning out all my ice from my freezer I sprinkled the dye powder carefully (while wearing a dust mask) over the ice. How much coverage will determine the strength/darkness of the final product. The artist in me excitedly accepts whatever I get!

dark dye starting to melt with ice cubes

The Process:

With no rain expected I set it out on the patio table, in the heat, but that is not really necessary. Slowly the ice melts and the tiny rivers create the amazing ‘watercolour dye arts’

close-up some colors splitting from the dark dye as ice melts

Looking closely at the dye after some short time I saw something interesting! I had some strange colours sometimes appear when working with my favourite ‘navy’ fibre reactive dye but I now saw all kinds of colours! How can that be?! Well, it’s because the dyes are made with a combination of colours, each has different densities and therefore travels or floats to preferred places. How perfect!

close-up view of watercolor look of many tones on fabric

Batch & Rinse:

After waiting for the ice to melt and let it ‘batch’ (meaning sit long enough for the warmth to make the reaction finish) it was time to rinse. Length of batching times depends on temperatures so that’s why I like summer dyeing.

Remove the fabric carefully (gloved hands) and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. It may seem like much rinses out since there may have been quite a it that did not ‘attach’ but don’t worry…

After the cold rinse the unreacted dye needs to be washed away with a hot wash. It’s so exciting to see all the amazing designs magically created with the flow of melting ice!

amazing details of many colours

Absolutely Amazing:

But what is even more interesting is the way the colours split! As a watercolour artist I am amazed at how they still hold their hues and have such subtle blends!

pinks purples and greys on fabric close-up

It seems as there is the full rainbow of colours, even little surprises of yellow and red.

arrangement of fabric choices to show matching colours of jewel tones

Yes, the tones are still quite muted especially when printed on an existing colour but that is exactly perfect for a modern day quilt. No flowers or polka dots here!

intricate details of many colors mixing

I could show you a ‘million’ images of intricate details much like the beauty in natural geodes and gems. Imagine a piece stretched over a frame and hung as ‘modern art’!

somewhat repetitive design of many tones

If you make any type of folding (accordion) or pleating the pattern becomes even more faceted.

purple and greys of folded dyed fabric

Fibre reactive dye has held well on all my clothing that has been repeatedly washed. It has also held well on my shibori duvet cover so I am in complete confidence for using this fabric in a quilt.

cutting mat with dyed fabric and rotary cutter

Have you ever seen all the amazing way that Art quilts are now created?! Original designs should have original fabric! That opens a whole new design element to fashion as well! (just wait and see what I’m going to do next…)

sewing machine with quilt seam allowance

Ok, I gotta run and get sewing; actually teaching someone how to sew! I’m happy to and happy that I’ve up-cycled some of my fabrics and made something that can’t be duplicated… perfect day!

Go make your own Amazing Ice Dye Color Splitting Fabric!

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    1. I find that not all cottons/viscose dye the same. I did 3 at once and all three were different versions of the colours. I bet it also depends on the temperatures. It is still better than plain! Love it!

  1. I am unable to find Dharma in raven. Are there other brands that would have the same effect? I am new to this, am I correct that you achieved this look just from using the black dye?

    1. Yes, some of the dyes are made of mixes which magically split. There are some others that I have not tried. There may info somewhere about which do split, I found this but I am sure there is more. Dyeing is so much fun albeit sometimes unpredictable! Procion MX are also similar.

  2. hello! The way this turned out is speaking to me so deeply! are you selling any of the pieces from this batch of dye that you did? If so how do I purchase them?! love all your work!

    1. Hmmm, interesting. I do think that how fast or slow the ice melts has something to do with the way the colours split. Seems there is some chemistry going on in there! ‘No sure what colours you used…

  3. Just venturing into this medium. I’ve tried a few times can’t seem to get the sharp edges that you get, which I love. Also didn’t seem as vibrant as yours either. I used bandanas from dharma, with gunmetal gray and pewter. Really want vibrant color with sharp edges to the different splits. Thoughts?

    1. It may be dependant on the fabric. It is an art from that is not completely controllable. It may also be temperatures. I used Raven. I would think sharp edges are from less dampness in the fabric. There are many schools of thought, some dye dye and soem with dye under ice. How much it is scrunched also plays a role.

  4. I see that other non-ice dye dyers use a solution of dye rather than the powder. How do you feel about that? and do you think that the ice would dilute the color too much? Thanks for your comment, in advance. MJL

    1. Yes, I have often dyed without ice. I vary the dilution as desired. I have used that method with the shibori projects. It does use less dye that way. Often the dye states how much water to add for the colour, but not all colours are the same.

  5. Hey Barb, great work, really love this one! Just wondering what size ice you used and what was the temp that it was cured at?

    1. It’s the ice from my Samsung fridge (slim wedge cubes) and it was cured inside in a warm basement. I’m thinking that a slow process may allow the pigments in the dye to split(?) I suppose if you want predetermined results then tests and exact process would be needed. Have fun…