When the Snow starts falling, it’s a great time to try your hand at SNOW DYEING some cool T Shirts!
What the heck is Snow Dyeing anyway? It’s a fun twist on traditional Tie Dyeing techniques except you let the dye colors liquify with the melting snow.
This results in a more blended, less precise color pattern. Have you heard of ice dyeing? Snow dyeing is basically the same thing except you use snow.
So, let me show you the basic steps for how to snow dye a shirt, pants, yarn, tea towels or any other fabric and fiber you can think of.
Check out my Reverse Tie Dye Patterns!
I have been wanting to try my hand at snow or ice dyeing for a while but totally forgot about it until a friend posted something on Facebook.
Well, since we still have a boatload of snow out there, why not try it now, right?
Just so you know, this was my first attempt at snow dyeing. I have learned quite a few things since this experiment so this is somewhat of an update:
First, you have to use specific Fiber Reactive Dyes also known as Cold Water Dyes. Acid dyes will not work because they need to be heat set.
Second, fiber reactive dyes require soda ash to help ‘fix’ the dye to the material.
Note: As you will see later, I did make one mistake …. since I was using fiber reactive dyes, I should have made sure my dyeables are all Plant Fibers, aka Cotton, Linen or Bamboo and not Protein Fibers such as sheep wool, alpaca or silk.
So again, as long as your shirt is made of cotton, linen or bamboo and the dyes are fiber reactive, you are good to go.
My favorite fabric to dye are these Flour Sack Kitchen Towels!
The rest is pretty much up to you. Some people like to lay their fiber or t-shirt on a screen to catch the liquid as the snow melts, others just pile it all in a pan.
As you will see, I have (accidentally) done both: Snow Dyeing without a wire rack or screen and then I also did Ice Dyeing with the wire rack. both turned out pretty good, actually!
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- Cotton T Shirt or Fabric s.a. Flour Sack Towels **
- Cotton Yarn **
- Fiber Reactive Dyes
- Soda Ash
- Snow or Ice
- Dust Mask
This complete Snow Dye Kit contains 4 Dye Colors and 1 pound of Soda Ash
** Please note, you are not limited to just Cotton when snow dyeing with fiber reactive dyes.
Any cellulose or plant fiber material will work. This includes Bamboo, Linen, Flax and Hemp.
Also, check the label to make sure that your item is 100% or mostly cellulose.
If your fabric is blended with polyester or another synthetic fiber, be aware that those fibers will not take the dye and remain white.
Always wear a dust mask when mixing dry dye powder.
Never dye anything in your cooking pots and pans. The only exception to this rule is if you are using food coloring instead of chemical dyes.
How to Snow Dye Step by Step:
1: Wash your t shirt or fabric
Note: If your T shirt or towel is very dirty or brand new, you will want to wash it first. New clothing usually contains sizing or starch which needs to be removed to get good, bright dye colors.
2: Soak materials in Soda Ash
Next, you will need to soak your fabrics in a Soda Ash and water solution. To do this, fill a bucket with enough hot water to cover your materials. Add Soda Ash at a ratio of about 1 Cup per 1 Gallon of water.
Stir until Soda Ash is dissolved and then add your t shirt, yarn or whatever materials you wish to dye.
You will let this soak for about 30 minutes and then squeeze out the excess liquid. Don’t rinse!
3. Place t shirt and yarn in dye container
Next, place your materials in the pot or pan or dye container. You can scrunch it, twist it, fold it or simply spread it out as the container allows.
I used a very large stockpot with a wire grate thingy in the bottom. This way, the melted snow was allowed to drip to the bottom, away from my fabrics.
As I said previously, some people prefer to just set their things directly on the bottom of their container.
Finally, go outside, get your snow and pile it on … all the way to the top of your container. I think I used about 4 or 5 inches of snow which was plenty.
(If you don’t happen to have any snow handy, just make a run to the gas station and buy a bag of ice!)
4. Add the dye powder to the snow
Now, you are going to sprinkle the different dyes on top of the snow. Take a moment to think about your color combinations.
Keep in mind that the more colors you mix together, the more you lose the individual, bright hues and the better chance you end up with a muddy brown.
First place the dust mask on your face and then carefully, sprinkle the dye powder on the snow, one color at a time. Repeat until you have covered the entire surface.
Cover your container and then set it in a cool place until the snow has melted or overnight.
I put mine in our basement which is about 65 degrees right now. Check it every few hours to see how the snow is melting.
5. Rinse the dyed T Shirt and yarn
Once all of the snow has melted, carefully remove your shirt and yarn and rinse everything until the water runs clear. It may take a while to get all of the remaining dye out.
After rinsing, run the fabric (not the yarn) through a wash cycle (separately). Finally, hang it up to dry.
The Final Result??
The T shirt turned out great! I am super happy with it. There was a small pool of dye under everything which blended the colors a bit too much but overall I am pretty happy with it.
This can be avoided by placing the fabric on a wire rack to raise it off the bottom.
FYI – in this experiment, I also tried dyeing a bit of Suri Alpaca fiber. This did not take up much dye because it is a protein fiber which needs acid dyes.
Now that you know how to snow dye a shirt and yarn, will you give it a try! If you do, I would love to see your results. Please post a photo in the comments below.
Can you use liquid dye to ice dye?
Absolutely! If you prefer to buy a liquid dye or mix up your dry dye powder beforehand, that is absolutely fine.
I don’t really think that the end result would be all that different. Perhaps the dry powder would break apart and separate a little more than the liquid.