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, August 4, 2014

Creating Texture with Dye - Snow Dyeing

What texture are we talking about????? 

First I want to talk a little bit about actual texture and perceived texture. Both have their place in our art and both can be used to evoke different responses from the viewer. These are the definitions as I will be using them this month. To keep it short and sweet:

Actual texture is where you can touch and feel and see different depths and surfaces. An example I can give from one of my own pieces is using ground up pecan shells to give actual texture to a tree limb (a pecan tree actually!)

"Winter Harvest"
Kelly L Hendrickson

 Perceived texture is using materials which remain 2 dimensional, yet to view them you can almost feel the different levels and roughness, etc. For example, on this piece depicting a fig branch. The depth and shading is there but the canvas and the fabric are still quite 2 dimensional. If you ran your hand over it, you would just feel the smoothness.

 "Fig Branch"
Kelly L Hendrickson

I just can't approach perceived texture without mentioning an artist I found a while ago. I was especially taken by her Ocean pieces and amazed they were not photos. While not a fabric example, I hope you enjoy it anyway. Her name is Vija Celmins. Check her out on Google and Google images.

Creating Texture with Dye - Snow Dyeing

Dyeing fabric does not create actual texture as far as I know. If some of you have found a way to create actual texture with dye....I SOOOO want to know about it so please share!

So how do we use dye to create PERCEIVED texture?

I will show the process for each technique and then some of the pieces I have for examples.  If you have photos of pieces for each technique, again, e-mail them to me and I will post them in a photo collage the following day.

Dyeing to achieve perceived texture - Snow Dyeing

So doing snow dyeing in the middle of summer might not be possible, except for those of you who own snow cone machines!! But for many of us...the snow is inevitable.  Snow dyeing has been covered here on FIRE before I believe so I'll just give a short tutorial. There are several versions of how to snow dye, this is my version. If you have any questions, post them in the comment section and I will answer them in the comment section as well.

Actually, it is quite hot and humid as I am writing this part so perhaps a visit to snow dyeing will help cool me off?

PROCESS - prepare fabric for dyeing as you usually do. I find that for snow dyeing it is much easier (for me) to soak the fabric in soda ash for 1/2 hour before beginning the dyeing process. Then place it on a screen or mesh that will keep the fabric from soaking in the dye as it melts. (or not, it does create an interesting piece if you let it sit in the dye but I usually prefer the non-soaked version). Different effects can be accomplished depending on how you place your fabric whether scrunched, folded, pleated, etc. Then cover the fabric with snow. Now put the dye on the top of the snow. I use a syringe or sometimes I just pour it on in little glurgs. It depends on the final result you are trying to achieve. Let the snow melt completely. The time it takes can be longer than you might think so just be patient. Here is a collage of the process

When it is all melted, rinse, wash, dry and iron as you do any dyed fabric.

I love the rather cloudlike suggestions of texture achieved by snow dyeing. Some "clouds" seem closer and some farther away. Depending on the colors you use, some can seem angry enough for a huge thunderstorm while others suggest clearing skies in the distance.

Here are some examples from my stash. I hope you can feel the softness and hardness of these pieces:

These are the results of the two pieces shown above (side by side). And then the two pieces woven together as the background for the piece shown

Here are some more of my snow dyes that I think provide the perception of texture to a piece

This one reminds me of an the cold cut edge of an agate

Here is an example of a folded technique in a sealed off rain gutter. The final photo (bottom right) is of the gutter slightly tilted but you can't see that well in this photo collage. It doesn't take much of a tilt, just enough to drain the melted dye/snow so the fabric doesn't sit in the soup. 

Unfortunately, I can't show you this piece of fabric because it is long gone! But I do have some other pieces done with the same technique.

Now, please send me photos of your perceived texture snow dyes. I know these will be of past dye sessions (as are mine) but the purpose is to see different examples. Again, my e-mail is Kelly@KellyLHendrickson.com  I can hardly wait to see them!!


  1. I like the look of this process and it's something I might be able to do (we live in an apartment so my 'experiments' have to be restricted to the kitchen sink and the balcony). What brand/type of dye do you use?

  2. Hi! I use Procion dyes because I work mostly on 100% cotton for these pieces.

  3. I hate to admit that all this hot, humid weather has me dreaming of snow. I love the results you've achieved with snow dyeing. I've not tried dyeing...yet...but snow dyeing is definitely high on my list of things to try. Thanks for such an informative and interesting post.

  4. I like seeing the variation on snow dyeing by folding. It's a nice new look

  5. Thanks Dyepatches!!

    JO - one word of warning...snow dyeing (and ice dyeing) are quite addictive! But the results are wonderful so it's worth the risk!

  6. Hey Magpie! I forgot to mention earlier.....when I first started dyeing it was all done in my kitchen. One thing you have to remember though is to have pieces devoted to dyeing and not use them for food prep. Oh and you might end up eating out sometimes because your sink is filled with rinsing fabric! LOL!!


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