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Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow Dyeing

With the snow around the country piling up, I am scraping the last of the flakes from my yard to dye some fabrics here the past couple of days. All the reading on the subject online got the fire started with me, and I just had to dig out all my dyeing supplies. Never in a million years did I expect the fabulous results that come from dyeing fabrics with snow. I am truly hooked on this technique now and am patiently awaiting for some more snow to fall. If my weather man is right I should see some in the next couple of days. In the mean time I am going to share the steps for this project. It is just too much fun to keep to myself.

Warning warning, this is going to be a long post! Make sure you "read more" where prompted. Lots more photos

First you soak your fabric in a soda ash solution as always in fabric dyeing. Then you arrange it onto a rack of some kind. I bought Wilton cooking racks. (I read that this was absolutely necessary, but in my different batches I used them on some and others I did not. I am not sure there really was much of a difference) The thought behind it is to keep the fabric out of the melted snow and dye mixture in the bottom of the pan. I really think that by the time it all melts, the dye is expended and it doesn't really make a difference, but what works for you is best.

Next you want to cover the entire tray with snow. Ideally it is best to not have hard parts in it. I was able to get the latest that fell and it was nice and fluffy. Water content is key in this process. If snow is so dry that it won't pack into a snowball, it probably won't work well for fabric dyeing. If you have hard spots in the snow, it won't melt at a consistent rate which can effect the dye flow into your fabrics. Have I confused you yet? If not hang in there I am sure I can at some point!  :-)

Now the fun begins. You mix up your Procion MX dyes and put them in a squirt bottle. I used 1 tsp of dye powder to 1 cup water. You just squirt them on the snow. I didn't do any sort of pattern, just played with it a bit. For my first project I used 3 colors Lemon Yellow,  Black Cherry and Electric Blue all from Dharma Trading Company. Below is what it looked like with each new layer added.
This was like building a very large snow cone!
Now you wait. I put it up, and just not so patiently waited for all the snow to melt. It was about a 6 hour process in my house. I put the trays on the bathroom floor and closed the door to keep the cat out of it, and I found that the bathroom got very cold in the process. It would probably work better or at least a little faster if there had been a little more heat in the place!

You can see some of the different batches as they melt away. It was exciting to see the fabric appear from under the snow and see what was happening to the dyes.
Once all the snow (or at least the majority of it has melted away, it's time to pour off the liquid in the bottom of the pan and start rinsing your fabrics out. After I washed them and set the colors with synthrapol, I was truly delighted with what I had. I have dyed fabrics for a few years now, and never seen the patterns that snow makes on your fabrics. These have a very floral look to me. I see leaf patterns in them and some even look like the iris in my garden in spring. I can't imagine what happens to the dyes that create these wonderful patterns, but I plan to play again as soon as the snow starts flying again.

All these fabrics were done using Lemon Yellow, Electric Blue, Black Cherry, Chartreuse, Imperial Purple, Oxblood Red, Sage, Lapis, Fushia, Grape, Jade, Marigold, and Burgandy. I found that Jade is not a good choice as most of it washed out. Turquoise dyes like a lot of heat, and there is just enough turquoise in the jade to make it not work out either. Oh well, live and learn! I used 2 or 3 colors in my mixes, and found that I really do like the combinations with 3 the best.  The Chartreuse is exceptional in the way it dyed and I also like the Imperial Purple. Sage is another of thoses that I had good and not so good results with. In my playing I did find that I need to keep better records on just what I did. I thought I knew what I had done until all of them were out of the dryer and no longer in order. Guess that's what all that numbering your fabrics, is all about. Go figure!

I hope that this will inspire some of you on the east coast or down in Texas where you got feet of snow, to make the best of things and dye some fabrics. It just might be the best use of the snow you can find for awhile. Stay warm and happy stitchin'


  1. Wonderful blog instructions. I had not wanted any more snow but now I may have changed my mind! Thanks Joan.

  2. One of those taking lemons and making lemonade isn't it! :-)

  3. Totally awesome!!!! We have lots of snow here if you want to come and play!!!

  4. This has blown me away, Joan -- I had no idea you could get such amazing results with snow. Can't wait to see what you'll do with these fabrics!


  5. Great post -- wonderful results! I am finding snow-dyeing really addictive this year -- although I would love to see spring soon.

  6. VERRRY COOL, maybe NEXT winter I could try this.
    Dorothy S

  7. great results, I wrote the article for quilting arts mag last oct/nov issue, try using only one color that is a mixture of colors and also try to mix your snow and dye together. You won't get white spots. We just did this last week at retreat in Burlington,CO we made out snow loads of fun.

  8. Have you tried any different types of fabric dyes with this method? I just bought a ton of Setacolor liquid dyes this past weekend and wonder if they will work.

  9. Kathleen, I have not tried with anything but procion dyes. Wonder what Setacolor paints would do???? I'll keep that in mind once the snow starts to fly!

  10. Why wouldn't finely shaved ice or crushed ice work? Worth a try for those not in the snow states.


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