A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Intro to snow and ice dyeing

Hi, I am Wil Opio Oguta and this month I am going to talk about snow and ice dyeing. Here in the Northern hemisphere winter is approaching and depending where you live, this might give you (a lot of) snow. Or if you live in the Netherlands like me, you hope for snow. We do not get snow every winter so I decided to plan my annual trip to the US in February of this year. Minnesota guarantees snow in that month :-). Don't worry if you live in an area where you do not have snow as you can have lots of fun with dye and ice cubes. Or you can buy an ice cone machine.

The first time I heard of snow dyeing was during the winter of 2007/2008. At that time there was not much information available on the net or in books, so it was a lot of try and error. Not always leading to the result I hoped for, but during the years I came up with a number of techniques which give good results. I want to thank the artists who shared their methods on their blogs. Here are some links:

For this type of dyeing you need:
- fabric: All cellulose fabric can be dyed this way. Most of the time I work with cotton. I buy pfd (prepared for dyeing) by the bolt.
- soda ash (or vinegar if you dye silk)
- Procion MX dye powder
- dust mask
- utensils like: plastic spoons, colander, containers, things which can be used as a raised platform. Keep in mind that these items cannot be used for food anymore. Mark them and store them separately.
- gloves and apron to protect your hands and clothes.

Let's talk a bit more about the dye powder. As you know you can buy either the pure colors - which have the MX code mentioned, see list here: http://www.pburch.net/dyeing/FAQ/pureMXcolors.shtml - or you can buy mixed colors. Here are a few links where you can buy Procion MX dyes:
And of course you can mix your own colors. Here are some links to give you ideas how to do this:

Normally when you dye with a pure or mixed color, you get this color on your fabric. Chilling the dye powder by mixing them with snow or ice causes the dye to separate into their component colors. The dyes strike the fabric at different rates creating different colors on your fabric.

There are different ways to mix the snow with the dyes. You can mix the concentrate into snow in a large mixing bowl to get more controlled results. A quarter of a cup of dye mixed with 20 cups of snow will give a strong color to a yard of fabric. If the snow you are using is fluffly, you will need more snow. For pastels you need less dye concentrate. Keep in mind that the snow will dilute the dye, so creating very dark colors is difficult.
An alternative method is to apply the dye directly to the snow. Put snow on top of your fabric - roughly 3 inch or more and pour - or use a squeeze bottle - dye concentrate directly on the snow. Instead of using dye concentrate you can also sprinkle the dye powder directly onto the snow or ice. Don't forget to wear a mask when you are working with dye powder!

Why the raised platform or the colander? If your fabric is submerged in the melting snow/ice, the pattern which is created is duller than when the snow/ice drains away from your fabric. Here are pictures to show you the difference. The first picture shows you a denim coat which was left submerged in melting ice. I used 4 different blues and as you see, they blended a lot.

The next picture shows a cotton fabric which was dyed on a raised platform. You see that the color definition is much stronger here.

When you are finished with your snow/ice and dye, put your container away till the next day. You can cover it with plastic so that the fabric does not dry out.

This was a long post with lots of theory. Next blogpost we start dyeing. See you then.


  1. No snow yet and I am above Minnesota. But its a coming! :)

  2. Just one word of warning.....
    If you DO buy a snow cone machine...it will Hardly Ever snow where you live ever again!! Of course, then you can do snow dyeing without snow IF you take the snow cone machine out of its box!! LOL!!

  3. Here in Wisconsin we had one little snowy rainy mix day so far. But living here...it is inevitable! And I for one am thankful for it!

  4. LOL Maybe I should start using my snow cone machine.

  5. This seems like the perfect time to drag it out of the storage shed and give it a go!

  6. I've done ice dyeing with ice cubes from the freezer when it was 95 degrees F outside, so you don't have to wait for snow.

  7. Looking forward to this month!!

  8. This almost makes me want snow... But it is a bit early for southern Ontario, Canada.
    I do have my dyes waiting for this winter!
    Looking forward to checking the links and following the month.

  9. Hi Wil! You started off with great post! I am so looking forward to your month on the Fire blog, especially after getting a close look at some of Beth B's snow dyed fabric. And lucky me - I live in a super snowy part of the world!

  10. Hi Chris, not everyone is so lucky, but if you live in a place without snow, ice cubes are a good replacement good.

  11. Here's another link to Paula Burch's site: http://www.pburch.net/dyeing/FAQ/procionMXdyemixing.shtml
    And here's a link to the snow dye article I wrote: http://www.dippydyes.com/SnowDyeArticle.pdf And I have to thank Bunks Blog for her tutorial.
    Can't wait to see what you do with folds- I never tried that before I wrote the article. - Lisa

  12. Hi Wil,

    Thanks for sharing my link to my blog - Bloombakecreate.com. I wrote the first article on ice dyeing in the 2011 issue of Quilting Arts. I discovered this technique (could not find it on the web) after snow dyeing. After the snow was gone I decided to try ice since snow was made of ice particles. My very first results are still some of my favorites. You can also see my webinar at http://www.interweavestore.com/how-to-dye-fabric-with-ice.

    Looking forward to your results this month.

  13. Snow? What is that?! I'm already excited just seeing the two pieces Wil posted here and looking forward to this month. Thanks for all of the great links too.


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