Snow Dyeing: Getting Started

I have been dying to do this since I met Karen Hampton and interviewed her for my column in our local newspaper. I couldn’t stop drooling over her beautiful fabric.

Since we’ve had so much snow lately and I had rounded up everything I needed, I set out to try Karen’s technique and another I found on the Internet. I tried several batches with two different techniques, so I’ll cover the steps in separate posts.

For those of us who live in snowy areas, there is still time to play with this technique. If you are snowless, you can make snow with one of those snow cone machines or even chopped ice.

Before I go on, I must remind you that I am an amateur. These were my first attempts at snow dyeing and really my first attempts at using fiber reactive dyes. I am so happy with the results I can hardly contain myself! If you want a sneak preview of a piece of my material, look at the picture on 52 in 52: Letters post.

So, if you think you can’t do this, you can! One blog I read said it was too much trouble. If you get everything together and block off just a little time, it is no trouble at all. And every piece is a surprise just like Karen told me! It’s another one of those addictive habits.


Here is what you will need to snow dye:

  • prewashed material – I used cheap muslin and canvas
  • Procion MX dyes
  • soda ash
  • Dharma Textile Detergent or Synthrapol
  • snow
  • containers to dye material in (plastic shoe boxes, kitty litter boxes, etc.)
  • container for soda ash water
  • goggles, dust mask, gloves
  • plastic bags to cover dyed containers
  • towels to clean up
  • container for snow and scoop or your hands
  • warm area to leave dyed material containers overnight
  • cup and teaspoon – only use for crafts

To get started I cut my fabric into yards. Since I only bought a yard of canvas I cut it into half yards. Originally I was not going to dye the canvas but I was having so much fun, I thought I’d try it. I am sure glad I did! After your fabric is cut, it needs to be washed in hot water and detergent.

If you are planning on dyeing right away, you don’t need to dry the material. However, if you plan your dyeing session for another day, go ahead and dry it and it will be ready for the next step.

Mix up the soda ash in the water. Make sure to wear gloves and goggles. I added a cup of soda ash to one gallon of hot water. Soda ash is necessary to bind dyes to the fiber.

Adding soda ash to the hot water
Adding soda ash to the hot water

This stuff is kind of nasty, so make sure you don’t get this on your skin or in your eyes. Mix it up good and then add your fabric.

Fabric soaking in soda ash water
Fabric soaking in soda ash water

Soak the fabric in the soda ash water for 30 minutes or longer. While it’s soaking you can get all of your dyeing pans lined up.

Dye pans lined up waiting
Dye pans lined up waiting

It’s also handy to have a covered area (I used a cheap vinyl tablecloth covered with a towel) where you can fold your material before you place into the pan. Folding is not necessary, but gives you a different effect.

Tomorrow I’ll post about the first process I used and my results. See you then (I hope!).