How Much Dye Powder Should You Use For Ice Dyeing?

Have you ever wondered how much dye you should be using when you ice dye?

I think crafters often tend to also be thrifty, so the thought of wasted dye is likely as annoying to you as it is to me. But at the same time you don’t want to use too little dye and end up with something that barely has any color. So, what’s the optimal amount of dye?

This is something I’ve been curious about for quite some time but I just hadn’t gotten around to testing until now.

I’m really kicking myself for not testing this earlier – I mean ice dyeing pretty much requires ice and dye, with dye arguably being the more important of the two – yet I tested to see if the amount of ice makes a difference ages ago and I’m just now getting to testing the dye. Even worse is that I’ve been mulling this around in my head for ages and when I finally decided to just get it done already it only took me part of an afternoon and it was super easy to set up. I basically spent more time and energy thinking about it than it actually took to do it.

Method

I took four pieces of cotton quilting fabric cut them into ½ yard sections. Each weighed 2.9 ounces (83 grams). The pieces were all soaked in soda ash for approximately 15 minutes, then wrung out and loosely crumpled so that the top of the fabric was at the top and the bottom was on the bottom.

Dye was sprinkled evenly on top of the fabric to ensure that all dye would travel down through the fabric. A mix of fuchsia, cobalt blue, and lemon yellow was used. The first piece was sprinkled with ⅛ tsp of dye, the second with ¼ tsp, the third with ½ tsp, and the fourth with 1 tsp.

The same amount of ice was placed over each and left for approximately 24 hours before rinsing.

Results

1 has very sparse dye and most of it stayed near the top of the fabric. There wasn’t enough dye to get through all the fabric. 2 was able to get through all the fabric but still had a lot of areas with little to no dye. By the time we get to 3 you see pretty full coverage.

You might be looking at these results and thinking, “Whoa, 3 looks darker than 4!” but there will always be some variance when ice dyeing depending on how the ice water decides to drip down the fabric and how the fabric happens to be folded. I believe this is the case here.

What you can’t see in the pictures is the amount of dye I had to rinse out. 1 and 2 were really easy to rinse with hardly any dye coming out. 3 wasn’t too bad – there was some noticeable dye but it didn’t take too long to rinse out. 4 took forever to get all the dye out. There definitely was a lot of wasted dye with that one.

Another interesting thing to note was that there was more color mixing when there was more dye.

Conclusion

I recommend that for light coverage, use ½ tsp of dye per yard of fabric (5.8 oz or 166 g) and for full coverage use 1 tsp per yard.

Keep in mind this is the amount of total dye, so if you are using multiple colors they should all add up to those amounts together.

If you’re dyeing something thin like quilting cotton or jersey cotton you can probably base your dye measurements off of the yardage, but if you are dyeing thicker material like sweatshirt fabric or things that are hard to calculate yardage like clothing you should base the amount of dye needed off the fabric weight instead.

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Lynda
Lynda
July 16, 2021 12:45 pm

Thanks for sharing. I ice dye cotton muslin for my quilts, tapestries and swimsuit covers among other things. Definitely going to use less dye now.

Erin Gilbert
Erin Gilbert
July 16, 2021 9:30 pm

Again, you’ve blown me away with your tie dye knowledge/experimentation. I am so appreciative of this. Thanks and happy dyeing ✌