Let Courtney Jaedtke of Napkin Apocalypse Teach You How to Ice Tie-Dye

The exceedingly prolific creator and style icon shares her tips and tricks for using the ice tie-dye method to add more color and fun to your wardrobe.

Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
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Courtney Jaedtke, creator of Napkin Apocalypse, has given us the keys to the tie-dye kingdom. If you’ve paid one ounce of attention to the cultural climate of fashion, you’re well aware that tie dyed looks have been resurrected into the social consciousness again, and are thriving. It’s no longer just for Dead Heads and dads on hikes—trendsetters and toddlers alike are chomping at the proverbial bit to adorn themselves in updated versions of those familiar swirled, inky looks. The summer camp activity of our collective past has reemerged, and Jaedtke—an incredibly creative and prolific tie-dye master—has shared some tips and tricks to give your clothing some icy magic. 

Listen to Jaedtke—she is cool. Her clothing line and artwork are inspired by her children and the life she’s made for herself and family living with “seven chickens, forty two pigeons, and a dove.” She gets “excited by personal everyday experiences—things my kids say, colors I see in nature. There's humor and joy all around, I pull from that and it gets me inspired to create.” Her daily life and workspace are “ever changing, chaotic and bright—constantly being interrupted by the kids/animals/chores.”  She works from home “in short windows when time allows. Family and work go hand in hand for me. It's not great for productivity, but it's where we're at!” You’ll find that much of her clothing line includes silk screened prints of drawings and spellings from her young twins—heartfelt and endearing statement pieces. 

Traditionally, the tie dye process includes rubber bands tied in varying arrays of patterns and liquid dye squirted onto fabrics as you would Heinz yellow mustard on a frankfurter… you know this. The ice dye technique however, proves to be a bit more of an organic process in application, as you’re relying on the ice to melt and create flowing patterns that bleed into each other, as opposed to the more straightforward and planned spirals or rings achieved using bands. “Ice dyeing is where you use ice and ink to create a tie dye effect but it comes out more fluid and almost galaxy looking,” Jaedtke explains. 

Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

What You’ll Need

How To Ice Tie-Dye, According to Courtney Jaedtke

1. “First you let the fabric soak in a soda ash and water bath for 20 min. This prepares the fabric to be dyed. You then ring out the fabric and ball, curl, or scrunch it up in your dyeing tub. (You can experiment with the way you lay your fabrics in the tub... no matter how I do it each one always turns out unique, but there's definitely some experimenting that can be done).

2. Layer ice on top. An inch or two thick and make sure the entire fabric you are dyeing is covered in ice.

3. Spoon the powdered dye over the ice. You can use as many or as little colors as you'd like. Shake it around or drop it in blobs. You don't want to put too much dye on, just enough to get the ice to really start to change to the color you're looking for. Too much dye will lead to big chalky chunks that end up sitting on top and won't melt into your fabric. The idea is to have the ice covered in the dye so as it melts, it melts the color into the fabric.

4. Let it sit for 24 hours—it's important to leave it so the dye can set.

5. Rinse the fabric out. I typically do it outside with a hose (the dyes I use are non-toxic) until the water is nearly running clear. I throw it into the wash with a Shout color catching sheet to catch any extra dye, and wash it normally as the garment or fabric suggests.

6. Hang dry or put it into the dryer after. At this point it doesn't matter. And you're done! [It’s an] easy but a somewhat lengthy process. I find dyeing your items in a tub, cardboard box or container to be the most effective. Even if your garment ends up sitting in a pool of watery ink it still turns out, and contains all the ice and mess!”

You have now achieved home grown T-shirt bliss! This process, as Jaedtke mentioned, is somewhat of an involved one, but no more than any other tie-dye commitment. It’s true that it is a lengthier timeline, but that said, my personal approach was a “set it and forget” kind of energy. The ice is going to take time to melt, of course, (about an hour and a half). I put on Grateful Dead’s live album, “Europe ‘72” and by the second to last tune, that ice had gone and melted and my shirts were good enough for Shakedown Street.

Looking for some special inspiration? Check out the Napkin Apocalypse online store to see how Jaedtke’s process looks in final form, along with her other clothing and accessories that will surely leave you grinning.

Greer Glassman is a Thrillist contributor.
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