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Ice dyeing creates unique fabric for your quilted projects [free tutorial]

Ice dyeing creates unique fabric for your quilted projects [free tutorial]

by Jean Boyd

Yesterday I showed you how to use fabric dyed with Rit liquid dyes to make a couple of quick projects. I love the fact there are so many different Rit colors to choose from and itʼs so easy to set the color using the Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative.

Today, we’ll use Rit powdered dyes and ice to create more unique fabric. Again, there are many different colors from which to choose.

5 Rit All-Purpose Dye powders in a variety of colors and 4 salt shakers containing Rit powdered dye

Rit All-Purpose Dye powders

Here’s what you need to get started. When dyeing fabric, don’t use items that will be used in the kitchen for food. Many of the following supplies can be found in your local Thrift Shops or Dollar Stores.



  • 1 fat quarter of PFD (prepared for dyeing) fabric. If you’re not using PFD fabric, wash it first to remove any finishes that may be on it.


  • 2 or 3 Rit powdered dyes in your choice of colors
  • Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative
  • tinfoil, metal, or glass pan about 9″ x 13″
  • wire cake rack about 8″ square or a colander
  • small plastic spray bottles
  • salt or spice shakers with removable tops
  • plastic sheet to cover your work area
  • rubber gloves to wear when handling dyes and freshly dyed fabric
  • ice cubes


Be sure to cover your work area with a plastic sheet and wear gloves when handling the dyes and wet, freshly dyed fabric. Masks are also recommended when using powdered dyes. For my ice dyeing, I like to use 2 or 3 different colors to create some interesting designs. Carefully put a small amount of each Rit powdered dye in a glass salt or spice shaker. I labelled my shakers because itʼs sometimes difficult to tell the color of the dye just by looking at it.

Soak your fabric in water and then wring it out.

Scrunch up the fabric and set it on a wire rack or in a colander. Place the rack or colander over a 9″ x 13″ pan.

Wet fabric is on a rack set over a 9" x 13" pan.

Wet fabric on rack

Cover the fabric with ice cubes. I used 2 trays of ice cubes for my fat quarter of fabric.

Wet fabric on a rack is placed on top of a pan and covered with ice cubes

Cover the fabric with ice cubes.

Sprinkle the dye over the ice cubes, one color at a time. You don’t need a lot of dye, so sprinkle sparingly. The more dye you use, the darker the color will be.

Red and black powdered Rit dye is sprinkled on top of ice cubes covering the fabric

Sprinkle dye on the ice cubes.

Now comes the hard part – you have to wait until the ice melts before you can see your unique fabric creation! In the summer, you can set the dye pan outside and the ice will melt faster.

When the ice is completely melted, wring out the wet fabric. Spread it out on a plastic sheet. Pour the dye water into a glass jar or similar container. You can use it again to dye another piece of fabric.

2 pans with fabric dyed with powdered dyes. Ice cubes have melted and water is in the pans.

Ice cubes have melted

Put 2 tablespoons (T) of Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative in a small spray bottle and add about ½ cup of water. Spray liberally on both sides of the dyed fabric. Let the fabric sit for 10 – 15 minutes

A bottle of Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative and a small spray bottle

Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative

Rit dyes need heat to loosen the fabric to accept the dye. Because ice is used, there is no heat. You can use the following method to set the color as long as the fabric doesn’t have any metal parts on it.

After applying ColorStay Dye Fixative, wrap the fabric in plastic wrap and seal the edges. Place the wrapped fabric on a paper towel in the microwave and heat for 1 – 2 minutes on high. Watch carefully so the fabric doesn’t burn. The plastic will puff up, creating a heat chamber that helps bond the dye with the fabric. Once the heating is done, remove the fabric and open the plastic, letting it cool down. If a microwave isn’t available or feasible to use, and it’s a hot sunny day, lay the wrapped fabric out in the sun for an hour.

2 plastic-wrapped packages of fabric

The fabric just out of the microwave

Rinse the fabric in cool water until the water runs clear. If possible, rinse the fabric flat to prevent unabsorbed dye from migrating to other areas. If you wish, wash in cold water with a mild detergent, rinse and dry.

Ice–dyed red and black fabric is being rinsed under the tap with cool water.

Rinse in cool water.

The results from ice dyeing are quite unpredictable, but I’ve loved every color combination I’ve tried. The fabric almost looks like a batik design.

3 pieces of ice-dyed fabric pressed and ready to use.

Ice-dyed fabrics

Here’s a video about ice dyeing I think you’ll enjoy. Be sure to check it out!

I hope you’ll join me again tomorrow as I show you some spray dyeing techniques using Rit liquid dyes.

This is part 3 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 2: Using gradated fabrics to make a placemat and pillow top [Strip piecing]

Go to part 4: Spray dyeing fabric with Rit dyes for a designer look


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