Ice Dyeing Experiments

posted in: Art, Art Work, craft, Dyeing, Materials, Scarves | 0

Ice Dyeing Experiments

I seized upon the technique of ice dyeing to solve a problem.  I had a box load of good quality twill silk scarves that didn’t look good with wax resist. Twill is a dense weave so the hot wax doesn’t penetrate it very well. I came across a good magazine article by Susan Purney Mark ( a quilter) that combines shibori with dyeing.

Instructions for the process I developed after doing a few experiments:

  • Prepare bags of ice cubes. Fill about ten ice cube bags, freeze them, then rip open and pop them into plastic bags to keep frozen until needed. ( A bit of a slog but I’d need many more ice trays).
  • Accordion fold the scarves into square or triangle shapes until they are quite chunky and clamp the ‘packages’ with pegs. Steam iron each fold as you go for crisp edges. Submerge into a soda ash solution of about 2 tablespoonfuls to 3 litres for ten minutes. ( Note that finer silk may not stand up to the soda fixer).
soda soak
The scarf parcels soaking in the soda solution. Satin and twill silk in the bucket.


  • Squeeze out the soda water wearing gloves, remove the pegs and lay the folded scarves in colanders suspended inside large buckets. Strings tied under the buckets hold the colanders in place.
in the colanders
The folded scarf parcels laid  in three colanders.


  • Put roughly two or three teaspoons of different Procion MX dyes into empty pots. Wear a mask to do this to avoid breathing in tiny particles. Cover the tops with nets and secure with elastic bands. They will act as mini powder shakers.
procion dye in shaker pots
Procion dye powders in pots. Record the colours inside as the net obscures the contents.


  • Take the bags of ice from the freezer and quickly empty the cubes over the scarves in the buckets, completely covering them.
  • Shake the dyes onto the ice until there is a good covering of colour. Next time I may leave some cubes exposed for uncoloured silk.
dye on the ice
The dye becomes liquid as it is sprinkled over the ice and starts to drip through the colanders.


  • Place the buckets in a warm place ie. in the sun or by a radiator, and leave there for up to 48 hours. The ice will have long melted, but the warmth helps set the dyes.
  • Unfold the silk over the buckets and rinse in cold water until the water runs clear. Admire the varied patterns on scarves that are mostly successful. Less successful ones can be used in fabric collage for machine stitched art.
Ice dyed silk with overlaid prints
These ice dyed scarves were rather pastel coloured so I stencilled over with thickened steam-fix paint. I’ll post further examples on Facebook as I do them.

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