Ice Painted Tee Shirts

Tee Shirts for Boys _Ice Painted | a project by a happy stitch

A few weeks ago the boys and I tried out ice painting and made some really fantastic ice painted tee shirts.  At first glance, they look a bit like tie-dyed tees but they are so much more painter-ly (that a word?) when you look closer.  Awesomer, too.  Way awesomer.  Making t-shirts has become something of a summer tradition around here.  Last year we tried tie-dying and sun printing dyes and loved it. There seem to be these unplanned, looser, low-key moments in summer that allow for messy projects. It’s one of my favorite things about summer with the boys at this age.  I got the idea to try ice painting from a Sweet Paul Magazine video on Facebook, which I unfortunately can’t find anymore. Sorry.

The good news is that I took lots of pictures of what we did and remember it all so I can share our tee shirt making with you.

Ice Painting_ Tee Shirts project | a happy stitch

Look at these adorable people! Ah, I love J’s scrunched up ‘camera’ face so much!

To start our t-shirt making we moved outside and set up on top of a drop cloth. We set up drying racks over buckets, one for each t-shirt.  A warning, this turned out to be a really messy project. Easy and simple but messy. Almost so messy that I worried it wasn’t worth it and had to channel my friend Carla to remind me that messy is good for kids and their expression.  Thanks Carla! You are lodged in my brain.

In addition to the buckets and rack, you will need water, soda ash, cold water dye and access to a washer and dryer.

Step 1: Soak t-shirts in water mixed with soda ash for 20 minutes.  1 cup of soda ash for each gallon of water. I got my soda ash on Amazon, where I am an affiliate, as I did all my supplies but I’m guessing you could also find these supplies on Dharma, which has an impressive amount of dying supplies.

Ice Painting on tees | a happy stitch.

Step 2: After the t-shirts have soaked, ring them out well and place them on top of the drying rack over a bucket and tumble a bunch of ice on top. Make sure ice covers as much of the t-shirt as possible.

Ice Painted Tees_ink is ready! | a happy stitch.

Step 3: Set out the cold water dyes in a variety of colors.  Regular Rit Dye, which needs to be boiled WILL NOT WORK. These dyes are a Jacquard product called Procion Mix and worked so beautifully, the colors are rich and stunning.  Whatever you use, make sure it is definitely a cold water dye.  The ice is cold, after all.

Ice Painting on a Tee | Project from a happy stitch.

Ice Painting on a T-Shirt | a happy stitch.

Step 4: Sprinkle the dye all over your t-shirt and let it completely melt. We used little baby spoons to sprinkle the dye because they were tiny enough to fit into the mouth of the dye containers.

As you can see from the pictures, I really let the boys go to town with the dye.  I didn’t interfere except to encourage them to stick to only one color in one area. They didn’t really listen to me, even on that tip.  As a result, their shirts were positively dripping with dye after the ice melted.  I also encouraged them not to directly touch the dye and, as you can see, they couldn’t resist.  You can’t win them all, right? Regardless, they had such a good time and were totally delighted with their shirts.  They were less concerned with their dye-covered fingers and the chunks of dye on their shoes and socks.  You, however, might want to have your kids wear rubber gloves. This dye is potent. If it weren’t for my diligence, our house would have multi-colored footprints all over it.

Ice Painting on a Tee | a happy stitch

Step 5: Once the ice is melted, throw the t-shirts in the washer and dryer TWICE.  I also used a color-catcher and after each wash it was full of dye.  You will probably want to also wash it on it’s own for the next few washes…especially if your kids go dye-happy like mine did.

That’s it!

All of my uptight caveats aside, look at these cool t-shirts!! Ice Painted Tee Shirts, for the win. I can honestly say that I’m glad the boys really went for it with the dye, it looks gorgeous!

Ice Painting on a Tee Shirt | another happy project from a happy stitch

The colors are rich and swirling making the t-shirts positively vivid! I love the way the polyester stitches don’t accept the dye and look extra cool. The boys and I decided that J’s shirt looks like a close of the planet Jupiter.

Ice Painted Tee Shirt_awesome detail! | a happy stitch project

It ends up looking like a wild, wonderful canvas.  (This, by the way, is C’s soccer champion pose.  Both of these kids watch the soccer stars like hawks, imitating all of their crazy mannerisms.  Sometimes when I need a picture of them I just say, “Act like a soccer star” and I get all my good, albeit slightly odd, shots.)

Ice Painted Tee Shirt | a project by a happy stitch

Isn’t the color incredible! I love how it swirls at his chest.

Ice Painted Tee Shirts_super cool detail | project from a happy stitch

We had so much fun making these tees.  I love when an artsy project engages these constantly-moving, sports-loving boys.

Ice Painting Tees | a happy stitch

Ice Painting on Tee-Shirts! | a happy stitch

2 Comments on Ice Painted Tee Shirts

  1. Carla // small + friendly
    July 14, 2016 at 1:17 pm (2 years ago)

    When I saw your fb post I instantly got so excited! I thought I’ve got to try this with the boys!! And then I see that little old me helped you see beyond the mess and well, that just made my week!! I am off to the art store to grab those dyes!!!

    • Melissa Q.
      July 14, 2016 at 1:19 pm (2 years ago)

      Yep, your ‘make it messy’ voice is permanently in my brain! Can’t wait to see what you guys do!! Yay!! This is like a big virtual hug. Squeeeeze.


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