To say it was a harsh winter here would be an understatement. In my neck of the woods, we had more snow days than school days in the month of January. Let me tell you, my kiddos were getting restless. Heck, I was getting restless. The worst part was we had all this lovely snow to play in and it was too cold to go out and enjoy for very long.
One day when we were all trapped at home I found this website that had project making colored icicles. I liked the idea, and since you only had to go outside periodically and look check on them, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to get some fresh air, see a little snow, and then hurry back in to the warm house. So, I decided to put my own twist on what I found online and we made our own rainbow icicles.
The kids loved them! They enjoyed seeing the new colors form on the ribbon of ice that we created. They enjoyed going outside, if only for a few minutes, to see how it transformed with each new color. If you are considering making these, keep in mind while you read this that there is a bit of set up involved, but it’s worth it.
- Twine, yarn or string
- A bottle from your recycle bin (any size from 16 ounce to 2 liter would be perfect)
- Food coloring
- Structure (see below for what will work for your structure)
You will need a structure where your icicles will form. I’d love to be able to give you some concrete ideas as to how to make this structure, but since I can’t peer into your back yard and see what you have to work with, I can only offer guidance. The image above shows a rough drawing of how everything needs to look for your icicle formation. The colored water will slowly drip out of the bottle and run down the twine, as it does icicles will form. That being said, you need something that is elevated to support your bottle. If you can find something that you can tie or attach the bottle to, even better. You also will need something to act as an anchor for your twine at the bottom of the structure.
I used our outdoor play set as our structure. I used some yarn to attach the bottle to a high spot on the play set. There happened to be a board there to give the bottle (and eventually icicles) extra support. I then tied the ends of the yarn to the beams at the bottom of the play set. Each of the strands of yarn was about 3 feet long.
Other ideas to use for your structure could include:
- A stepladder: The bottle could go at the top, and the ends could be tied to bricks or pots you have lying around in your back yard.
- A picnic table or patio table: Put a patio chair on your table and the bottle can rest against chair’s back for support. You can then tie the strings ends to pots or legs of other patio chairs.
- A tetherball court: You can tie the bottle to the upper part of a tetherball pole and attach the bottoms of the string to anything solid you find in your yard.
- A tree with low branches: If you have a tree with branches that are low (and flat) enough, you can tie your bottle to a tree. How you attach the twine at the bottom is up to you. Keep in mind if you do use a tree make sure the branch with the bottle isn’t too high. You do have to continue to fill the bottle with water throughout the day.
Twine, yarn or string??
You can really use any of them; it just depends on what you have lying around the house. We used yarn, but once the icicle grew to about a 6 inch ribbon the yarn wasn’t strong enough to hold it. Our icicle fell to the ground. It was still a pretty impressive icicle, as you can see, but I can’t help but wonder how big we could have gotten it to form if we used something stronger…like twine.
Making the Icicles
Now that you've got an idea of things that can be used as a structure, let’s move on to some instructions.
Start off by taking your bottle and putting a small hole about a ¼ inch from the bottom. The hole needs to be big enough to thread the twine through, but small enough so that water doesn’t come gushing out when the bottle is filled. I used a ball point pen to make mine, but an ice pick, drill or small screwdriver would work too.
Measure about 3 feet of twine and thread it in the hole at bottom of the bottle all the way through to the opening at the top of the bottle. Make a large knot at the end of the twine with the end that comes through the top of the bottle. The knot will work as a stopper to keep the twine from coming out of the bottom of the bottle. Once you have a large enough knot, pull the twine back down so that the knot is at the bottom of the bottle. You’ve just created a wick for your water to run down.
Now that you have a bottle with a wick, you can attach the bottle to the highest point of your structure. Make sure you have it set sturdily because the bottle will support the water and the icicles that form underneath it. Also, you don’t want to set it up extremely high because you will need to refill it throughout the icicle making process.
The wick should hang down from the bottle allowing you to attach any further strands of twine. These are the blue lines in the diagram. Each strand will form one icicle. We added three strands for our colorful rainbow icicles, but you can do as many or as few as you wish. The twine wick does have to support all the ice though, so keep that in mind when deciding how many to use.
When determining how long your twine needs to be, measure from the wick to the anchor. Then add several inches on each end so you can tie the twine to both the wick and anchor.
After you have measured and cut the twine, wet the twine down. Then you can tie one end to the wick and the other to the anchor. Your structure is now complete.
FINALLY!!!! We are ready to make the colorful icicles.
The first bottle of water
For me the first bottle of water just came gushing out of the bottom of the bottle and ran down each of the pieces of twine leaving no icicles. I was crushed, but yet determined to make it work. In my mind, it was gosh darn cold enough to make some icicles. So after the first bottle of water ran through in about 2 minutes, I filled it back up added some more food coloring and…. (drum roll please)…Ok, well still no icicles. BUT WAIT!!! By the third bottle of water things started freezing up and we could see purple ice ribbons forming on the yarn. Success!!! We did a couple more bottles of purple water, and by the time they had gone through the hole and down the wick things were all pretty much frozen up and ready for mass icicle construction. So if you have a little issue on the way, take heart…if it’s cold, ice will form.
This is the fun part, and it’s so easy! Fill the bottle with water, add a couple of drops of food coloring. Walk away. See? Easy. Once the water has all drained out of the bottle and down the twine, you do it again...and again.
For us, as the ice formed on the twine it looked like ribbons or a wavy sheet of ice. But depending on how vertical (or horizontal) your twine hangs from your wick your ice may form differently. It’s all an experiment, a lovely colorful experiment.
Once you have the first color thick enough for your liking, you can move on to the next color. Fill up your bottle with water then add a few drops of the next color you desire. Keep filling up the bottle when it becomes empty changing the color whenever you wish.
So that’s it. Making colorful rainbow icicles is a simple fun project. Although it does take some patience to get it all set up, the end result is stunning and completely worth all the effort.
Kathy Hull (author) from Bloomington, Illinois on February 04, 2016:
The water in the bottle did not freeze before it emptied, and it was -20 out; so very cold. I would guess if you used a larger container for the water, you might risk it freezing because it would take longer for it all to drip out.
I agree, I would never recommend koolaid. Food coloring works perfectly.
jc on February 04, 2016:
I'm wondering if the water in the bottle will freeze before it empties? also, don't use koolaid, when it warms up and everything melts it could attract wasps and flies you don't want in your yard.
Victoria Van Ness from Fountain, CO on March 11, 2014:
I love this! How beautiful and creative! I don't know if it gets quite cold enough here to do this craft, but I love it all the same. :)
Wasteless Project from Worldwide on March 11, 2014:
Lovely idea:) Thanks for sharing!
Kathy Hull (author) from Bloomington, Illinois on March 08, 2014:
Oh what a great idea Virginia! I'm sure it would work, but it only took a few drops of food coloring for each bottle of water, but I do wonder if it would make the colors more vibrant.
Virginia Kearney from United States on March 07, 2014:
This is an interesting project and for once our Central Texas area has been cold enough to try something like this. One thing that occurred to me is that you could use Koolaid to color the water. That might be cheaper than food coloring and have a darker dye too. I'm going to have to try this!
Emilie S Peck from Minneapolis, MN on March 07, 2014:
This is such a cool idea!
No pun intended.