Pattern Play: Ice Dye

Ice dye doesn’t have much of a deep-rooted history, but its vibrant flow of colors blended together on a fabric are influenced by the traditional Japanese Shibori dyeing techniques that have been a consistent part of fashion design for hundreds of years.

Although Shibori originated in China, its Japanese origins date back to the 8th century when the 45th emperor of Japan, Emperor Shomu, donated a collection of garments and other items to the Todai-ji Temple in Nara that included a Shibori dyed cloth. Having said this, the Shibori dying process wasn’t widely used until it was adopted by the Japanese public during the Edo Period around the 17th century. During this time, much of the lower-class population of Japan began to incorporate the dyeing technique into their own garments as an alternative to the silk fabrics that they were prohibited from wearing. Over time, many variations of the original Shibori began to pop up across Japan including the six traditional Shibori techniques — Kanoko, Miura, Nui, Kumo, Arashi, and Itajime Shibori. Kanoko Shibori is what most closely resembles the westernized tie dye we know today, which saw its popularity rise in the 1960’s and 70’s.

The term Shibori is derived from the Japanese word “Shiboru”, which means to wring, squeeze, or press which are all parts of the shibori dying technique. Traditionally, Shibori involves bound and tied resists to create a pattern, such as clamps, elastics, thread or a combination of all. Although Shibori fabrics have historically been found to be dyed with indigo, the term Shibori refers to the physical processes applied to the fabric before dyeing which does not include the color. This is why over time many colors began to be incorporated into the various dying techniques.

Present Day

Fast forward roughly 300 years, many variations of the Shibori dying technique have emerged, including ice dye which gained popularity in recent years. Ice dye was originally created by quilters when they were looking for a resourceful process to dye their fabrics during winter months. The ice dye process involves covering the garment in ice or snow, then spreading a powdered dye over the ice. The finished product can vary greatly depending on the size of your ice and the amount of dye you use. Next, the ice or snow is left to melt in a shaded or covered area. Once melted, the dye will have created a mottled watercolor design on the chosen garment that looks nothing short of magical.

Bather’s Ice Dye

We took the ice dye technique to create a vibrant water-colored feel design that has a bold, cloud-like pattern with tonal shades of blue on our Blue Ice Dye Swim Trunk and more muted blues, greys and black on our Black and White Ice Dye Swim Trunk.

Bather Ice Dye

Bather Ice Dye