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Tips & Techniques > Dying fabric (the quick'n dirty way)

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Posted by: Birgitte

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Member since: 9/28/04
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Posted on: 3/31/08 9:47 PM
Review Rating: Helpful by 1 people   Very Helpful by 16 people   
Going on Dharma Trading's website can be quite a trip. And a bit overwhelming. This is one way to get started:

Dye, soda ash, fabric, water. That's it.

Don't worry about all the other products. They can be added if/when you want to get "perfect" results (aka pretty exact color-matching, even color and so on.) But start here:

Procion Dye (generally 1 ts per cup of water used, buy the 2 oz container)
Soda Ash (1 ts per cup of water used, buy the 1 lb bag)

Any and all of these fabrics:

1. Put on gloves (any rubber gloves will do)
2. Over the sink, mix dye in a cup with just a tiny bit of water
3. Dissolve the soda ash in a little hot water
4. Combine the soda ash, dye and water in a bucket (or, use a large ziplock bag, do this in the sink)
5. Submerge fabric, move it around a bit and let it sit there for a few hours, or more, or less. Be adventures :-)
6. Rinse in cool water until it's running pretty clear.
7. Wash in hot water and detergent. If there's still color bleeding, just wash again and rinse.

This is the "dirty" way and I do it all the time. The ziplock bag is great when there's small quantities- keeps everything in the sink so very little clean-up.

I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel here, just want to take some of the 'mystery' out of dying. It's brought me so much joy and I'd like my fellow sewers to experience it as well. And don't blame me if you become as dye-obsessed as I am- for that I think we can all blame the wonderful people at Dharma. Thank you Dharma people!!

And just remember: No matter what color you end up with, it will be beautiful. Every time. Now go roll up your sleeves and create some art!

This is an answer to Orsi's comment below:
If you want to paint using dye you will need two more ingredients, as well as a brush and a large plastic sheet:
Sodium Alginate Thickener
Synthrapol (in stead of regular detergent to prevent the colors from bleeding into each other during wash.
Lay out the fabric on the plastic sheet. Mix water and Sodium Alginate until you get the desired thickness (in Orsi's case a somewhat fluid consistency would give the watercolor effect, just a little thicker than water)
Mix the dye and soda ash as previously noted, and then mix with the thickened water. Paint your heart out! When rinsing, keep the water flowing and move the fabric around to not let the color bleed onto each other. Hot wash with Synthrapol. Rinse. Dry.
The dye expires after 4 hours when mixed with soda ash. If my project will take a long time I soak the fabric in soda ash water (1 ts per cup) for about 10 minutes, wring, and let dry. Then I leave out the soda ash in the dye so there's no expiration time- in fact I can come back a week later and continue to paint (just make sure to tightly cover the dye paint with plastic or lid.)

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Liana said... (5/14/09 8:29 PM) Reply
Very helpful. Thank you!
Donna Johnson said... (2/28/09 12:17 PM) Reply
I have been trying to figure out for years how to mix up small quantities of this mysterious procion dye, just for dyeing small pieces of fabric, ribbons, and so on. This is the first explanation I have had that makes sense! Thank you so much!
gailygirl said... (11/11/08 5:52 PM) Reply
Bridgette, I only printed 1/2 the dying technique, and have just come back to get the details, I love this simple way to dye fabrics, quick and no fuss, thats me. Gail
fiberfan said... (8/15/08 1:24 PM) Reply
One important addition. Buy a dust mask from the paint section at a hardware store and wear it when mixing the dye into water.
Barbara V said... (4/2/08 10:31 AM) Reply
Thank for the encouragement. I've wanted to do this, but didn't know where to start. Very Helpful!
j222b said... (4/1/08 8:07 PM) Reply
Thanks-this information is just what I needed.
solosmocker said... (4/1/08 8:52 AM) Reply
Great tutorial and I am feeling the inspiration!
thaiyal said... (4/1/08 8:50 AM) Reply
Thanks very much. I was very intimidated about the dyeing process. Thanks for demystifying it.
Stitchology said... (4/1/08 8:37 AM) Reply
Thanks for the baggie tip. I don't have room to store a pot dedicated to dye and have only done a couple of large things in the washer. This will work perfectly considering how many sizes those bags come in.
Orsi said... (4/1/08 3:42 AM) Reply
Hi, I've been searching for fabric to replace my favorite silk chiffon/georgette? scarf, but cannot find the colors anywhere. It has warm yellow, orange, red and burgundy stripes softly blending into each other. How difficult would it be to dye one like that? I used to make Easter eggs hanging only one side in the dye a bit, then other side and it had similar look to this scarf. Thanks.
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