Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

May 19, 2016

How to Ice Dye | Easy DIY Ice Dyed Napkins

I mentioned in the post about dyeing my damask table linens that I was getting experimental with fabric dyeing.  I have so many ideas swirling around in my head but, before attempting some more complicated projects, I wanted to test different brands of dye.  Having been a dye hard fan of Rit Dye for so many years, I was especially intrigued by cold water dyes and the beautiful patterns ice dyeing can create:

Ice Dyed Napkin DIY | @danslelakehouse
How to Ice Dye Fabric | @danslelakehouse

Aren't my new ice dyed napkins beautiful?  I'm so mesmerized by the organic feel of the design!  I originally wanted to try ice dyeing in the winter, with snow, but Szuka and a pair of neighborhood foxes are in this hilarious peeing competition and so there was so safe snow for me to use.

Ice dyeing is SO easy - the hardest part is making and stocking piling enough ice (I highly recommend just buying a bag).

Ice Dyeing Supplies | Jacquard Products Procion Four Color MX Dye Set with Soda Ash


I bought an awesome cold water dye starter kit, with four colours of dye (turquoise, lemon yellow, fuschia and jet black) and a small packet of soda ash, on Amazon.  It was a great way to do some experimenting without committing to - or being overwhelmed by - the huge selection of Procion dyes available!  If you want more colour variety, this pack of 8 colours looks good - but you can also buy colours individually.

Blue and Grey Ice Dyed Napkin | @danslelakehouse
Ice Dyeing Tutorial by @danslelakehouse
Fabric Dyed with Powdered Procion Dye and Ice

How to Ice Dye Fabric:

First wash the fabric to remove any sizing, oils from skin, etc.  You can use a fancy textile detergent, to help prepare the fabric for dye, but you can also just toss it in the washing machine as per usual - which is what I did.

Mix 1 cup of soda ash in a bucket with 1 gallon (4 liters) of water and stir until dissolved.  Submerge the laundered fabric and let soak for about half an hour.  This stuff burns the sinuses, so use a dust mask and gloves!

Meanwhile, set up a basin with a cookie rack propped up on some empty water bottles - or anything to keep it up.  You want enough room underneath the dry rack so that when the ice melts and the basin is filled with water, the fabric doesn't sit or dip into the dye bath that's created.

Ice Dyeing Tips

Remove the fabric from the soda ash, wring out the soda ash solution, and scrunch it up, as randomly as possible.  Place it on the cooling rack and cover with ice.  (Save the dissolved soda ash for future projects.)

Ice Dyeing Tutorial
Ice Dye Steps

Once again don that dust mask and gloves, and sprinkle the ice with powdered Procion dye.  I used a couple teaspoons of turquoise and lemon yellow for my first set, and a couple of teaspoons of turquoise and jet black for the second.

Procion Powdered Cold Water Dye Turquoise
Ice Dye Instructions | @danslelakehouse

Set it aside and wait patiently for the ice to melt!  When the ice has melted, rinse the fabric in cool water until the water runs clear.  Then launder with like colours.

Ice Dyeing Results

I made the yellow, aqua and green design first but at first I didn't love the shade of green that the lemon yellow and turquoise mixed - it was a smidge more lurid than intended, but it grew on me and I think the set of four napkins will be fun and summery for patio dining.

I tried too hard to control the design with how I scrunched the fabric and where I sprinkled the dye and it didn't turn out how I expected.

Colorful Ice Dyed Napkins
Easy DIY Dyed Napkins

With this project, you really have to let go and learn to let the dye work its magic while you sit back and enjoy the surprise. 

The second design, with a more muted turquoise and grey color palette, is definitely my favorite.  I scrunched the fabric in more of a ball and sprinkled the two colours liberally and randomly.   I relaxed and didn't try to encourage any dye patterns or designs.  It worked!  I love the smokey teals and layers of soft grey that emerged, with pops of my favorite aqua - of course.

Turquoise and Grey Ice Dyed Fabric Napkin by @danslelakehouse
Easy DIY Fabric Dye Craft Idea // Ice Dyeing
Modern Ice Dyed Napkin DIY // Teak Flatware

I also tried ice dyeing with a single colour, which turned out to be quite striking!  The Procion Fuschia is really quite vibrant.  I want to experiment a little more and try using just the jet black.

Ice Dyeing - Fun Craft for Kids!
Fuschia Ice Dyed Napkin and Basket of Lemons

I really want to get my hands on some pretty lightweight cotton for a dress or blouse.  I'm hopelessly addicted to ice dyeing - nothing is safe in my house!

Ice dyeing instructions - Easy, kid-friendly craft idea!


  1. The napkins turned out really pretty and what a clever way to dye them. The food/container photos show them off so well, especially the magenta with the yellow lemons, so creative combo. Hope to see more soon.

    1. Thanks! This was such a fun project and I love the results. Even though you know I love my aquas and blues, I have to admit that the fuchsia is so nice and I agree: I love it photographed with the lemons! I was doing some food photography for a local business while I snapped these, so I was in prop-mode :)

  2. Those are truly fantastic!!! Thank you for talking about using gloves and masks...SO SO important and so easy to forget or neglect.

    1. Thank you! Yes - safety is so important with DIY projects, especially when we're handling paints and dyes. I'm not always as diligent as I should be, but I try to remember!

  3. Tanya, this might be an early Christmas project. I've used procion dyes in the past and love the brilliant colours. You always have such interesting ideas.

    1. I think some ice dyed handmade gifts would be lovely! I can't take credit for the idea, sadly, because lots of people have done ice and snow dyeing before me, but it still hasn't been as popular as dip dyeing or shibori. It is so much more fun than dip dyeing because there's some mystery involved!

      Can't wait to see what you make :)

  4. You might be shocked by this, but I love the pink ones! lol

    1. I AM shocked!! I also made a turquoise and white one - like the pink, a single color - that might just bring you back over to the aqua side, lol.

    2. hahaha I forgot about this comment and then I went and called you a traitor in one of your last posts lol

  5. I love this! Do you think it would work on a silk scarf?

    1. Thanks Madge!

      Yes, it can work on silk but with some caveats. The soda ash will, apparently, change the texture of the silk and make it less shiny and softer. If you don't mind that change, then you can follow these same instructions for ice dyeing silk.

      You could also try tie dyeing silk in the microwave for a similar look:

      Because I don't know much about silk dyeing, I found two articles that will help you:

      If the silk scarf is sentimental or valuable, I recommend experimenting on a fabric scrap first - ask your local fabric store for a little strip.

      I'd love to see how it turns out!

  6. Just curious - did you see a big difference between Rit dyes and the Procion dyes?

    1. I've only ever used Rit dyes as intended, this project called for a cold water dye. Rit needs hot water. I like Rit for tossing in the machine to dye jeans darker, but I love this Procion for anything special, like overdyeing and this ice dyeing. Plus the colors are way better - better selection and more vivid.


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