Colorful accessories and fabric can be created with a few materials, some easy techniques, and of course snow! For this project, I used some rayon scarves and cotton material that I had languishing around waiting for a bit of inspiration. A rare west Kentucky snowstorm and a nudge from my dear friend and fabric dyeing buddy, Kathleen, got me in gear and outside to take advantage of the opportunity. Snow dyes work best on sunny days when the temperatures are warm enough to promote melting. The liquid dye will speed the process along, but if it is extremely cold, it may freeze before the project is complete.
Since west Kentucky rarely has snow, having the necessary materials on hand is important. I always keep scarf blanks stashed and several yards of white cotton fabric available year-round. A selection of fiber reactive dye, salt and soda ash complete the material list.
Natural fiber scarf blanks can be purchased from a number of on-line sources, as well as the dye. I've used Dharma Trading and Pro Dye for purchases over the years and they have always given me good service. Soda ash can be purchased at any swimming pool supply store, so it is generally a good idea to have some of that stocked up before winter too.
Materials you will need:
Rubber or latex gloves
Newspaper or plastic for covering work area.
A bucket for the soda ash soak
Fiber-reactive dyes such as Procion MX
Containers for the dye mix (Only use these for dye. Never for anything else)
Cotton, silk, rayon scarves or fabric yardage (Quilters, take note. You pay big dollars for fabric like this and you can do it yourself!)
Some screen or open platform that will let melting snow drain. (I went out to the greenhouse and picked up a couple of open bottomed plant trays, which I washed)
First, mix your soda ash soak. A couple of gallons of warm water and ½ cup of soda ash. Stir it up until the powder is dissolved. You do not have to be precise with measurements. It isn't an exact science, but somewhere close to these proportions will yield great results.
Place your fabric and scarves in the soak and stir to cover and wet everything. This sits until you are ready to go outside.
Now, you are going to mix the dye. This is a substance that should be handled with care and you should never inhale or ingest any. Put your gloves and dust mask on. This dye is very powdery and has fine particles. Cover your work area with newspaper or plastic. Care should be taken not to shake or stir the powder as it can stay airborne for a few minutes. If you are doing this project with children, mix your dye before you call them to help.
I use pint jars as they are cheap and easy to use. Place a teaspoon of salt in each jar and a scant teaspoon of each color in each one too. I use an old teaspoon that is kept with my dye supplies and not one of my kitchen spoons. Slowly fill the jars about 2/3 full of warm water and stir each one until the dye has dissolved.
Take your fabric or scarves out of the soda ash soak and wring out well. Place in a clean container for transporting outside.
Put on your coat and gloves and go out to prepare your work area. Place your drainage screen in the snow so that there is space left for melting snow to drip through.
Place your fabric on the screen and bunch it up to create folds and wrinkles. Pile clean, fluffy snow on top of the fabric. I put my snow on unevenly so that parts would melt quicker than others.
Now comes the fun part!
Drip and pour your dye solution around on top of the snow. For best results, use two or three colors. Bear in mind where colors overlap, new colors will be formed. Red and blue make purple, blue and yellow make green. Red and green will make a brownish tone. Pour the dye on in random patterns and make sure to cover the snow evenly, but leave a little white space too. Now, you get to sit back and wait.
Over the next few hours, as the snow melts, the dye will seep into the fabric and begin to form patterns. Once the snow has melted, a dark, muddy mess remains. Scoop it into your clean container and head for the sink. I rinse scarves by hand in my sink. Cotton fabric can go into the washing machine. Run it through 3 complete cycles and add a few drops of dish detergent to the second cycle. (Not dishwasher detergent, but the liquid you use in the sink)
Rinse the scarves under running water in your sink. Then wash gently in a sink full of water with a few drops of dish soap. Rinse again until water runs clear.
Hang the scarves to dry, and dry the cotton fabric in the clothes dryer if you wish. You can gently press the scarves with your iron once they are dry, being careful to pay attention to proper heat settings.
You've now created one of a kind fabric and fashion accessories because you were fortunate enough to have snow available. It is a fun and creative way to spend a winter day while waiting for spring.
This colorful and relatively simple project is great for stocking up on items that can be used for gifts at a moment's notice. Friends and family will be amazed and no one has to be the wiser that the beautiful patterns are the result of random melting and blending of snow and dye. You can smugly declare that these are one of a kind pieces of art.
My apologies to those folks who have to endure warm temperatures, green grass, flowers and butterflies, but gardeners who live with winter on a regular basis, need a silver lining for those snow clouds!