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Snow Dyeing for Quilts

January 9, 2013

Snow Dyeing: Results of blue, purple, teal, and green dyes

Results of blue, purple, teal, and green dyes (Photo ©2013 by Michelle Southern)

Would Grace have approved of this kind of project? On the one hand she might have been happy to find a use for the abundance of snow our area gets over the winter season; and no doubt she’d have appreciated the easy-to-use, colourfast dyes available today. On the other hand the unpredictable results along with the unconventional colourings would go against her claim that “we don’t wish to get a reputation in the neighbourhood for being too original“. Setting aside the trends of her time I believe she would have enjoyed the fun of snow dyeing, and I am writing this tutorial because I love it and think you will too.

Snow Dyeing: This is a bin layered with draped fabric, fresh snow, and the dye has been applied on top

Snow Dyeing: Prepped and waiting with red, orange, and yellow dye

To start this project you’ll need protected surfaces (plastic is best), a tub large enough to accommodate your fabric, rubber gloves, colourfast dyes, and snow. You can choose as many dye colours as you want or stick to a particular colour family. Bear the following in mind: if the dye you use isn’t colourfast you may ruin any project it’s used in (along with any laundry it’s washed with). Be sure to follow any instructions for processing included with the dye to ensure colourfastness.


As always, this tutorial is informational only – your results may vary. Be sure to use only safe methods when you’re working and protect surfaces, clothing, people, pets, eyeballs, etc. for every step. You may need to include additional steps according to your circumstances and products used. Read and double check all instructions for dye. If you enjoyed this tutorial please feel free to link back here in your blog post about your results; for any other uses please read this site’s “Terms of Use” for more info.

How To Do Your Own Snow Dyeing

  1. Prepare all surfaces by covering with plastic (best) or several layers of newspaper. Powdered dye flies everywhere so don’t be afraid to really extend your work area protection.
  2. Thoroughly wet the cotton or cotton-blend fabric you’ll be dyeing. Squeeze out excess water until just damp; drape and arrange as required in plastic tub.
  3. Prepare your dye – mine is a simple “just add water” brand. Bear in mind that the more dilute you make the dye, the weaker the colour will be; the snow will make it even weaker. Choose colours with care or wild abandon. I’ve had success with using red/blue/purple and blue/green/yellow together but also using a single colour of varying dilutions. To use the latter start with a single bottle of strong dye, use until about half done, add water and repeat.
  4. Pack the bin that you’ve placed the fabric into with snow. No need to remove the fabric to add the snow. Just put it on top and cover the fabric.
  5. Apply dye as desired. Swirls, lines, it doesn’t matter as you can’t really control the results. Allow to sit in the protected work area for several hours (probably four to eight hours, depending on the temperature of the work area and how much snow you’ve used).

    Snow Dyeing: This is a bin layered with draped fabric, fresh snow, and the dye has been applied on top

    Photo ©2013 by Michelle Southern

  7. I like to periodically drain the water and dye from the bottom of the bin every half hour or so. Alternatively you can leave it (which may affect the finished effect) OR you can set up a rack over a sink to allow it to drain itself. I don’t include this as more than an option to consider as it carries its own risks, advantages, challenges, and results.
  8. Once all snow has melted, or you’re happy with how the dye has saturated through the fabric (remembering the colour will appear darker when wet) carefully remove fabric from the bin and rinse. Wring out and wash without detergent separately from regular laundry or as directed on the package of the dye you used. Remove from washer and test for colourfastness – I like to wet the fabric and wring it over a white paper towel. If any colour appears (I’ve never had this happen) another rinse is in order, but if the water never runs clear the piece is not colourfast and not suitable for most quilts.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial for snow dyeing! It’s a fun, fantastic way to get some beautiful and unique fabric for your quilts using our frigid, annoying, fun, Canadian winter season as inspiration. Have fun! 🙂

Here are some of the results:

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