Stitched By Me

A place to share projects from my sewing room.

Trying My Hand at Fabric Dyeing

I have become very interested in fabric dying. I guess it is probably because of all of the beautiful hand dyed fabrics I keep seeing, and some of the beautifully dyed t-shirts that I see on Flickr. This one shirt in particular, by dyedianadye, was one of the photo inspirations for me to take the jump and actually really try fabric dyeing. She does an awesome job on her hand dyed projects.

Over the past few months, I have been reading blogs and borrowing tons of library books related to the process as well as pestering a few different people who have posted photos of their hand dyed projects on Flickr and Etsy.  At first, I was confused. One source said to do it this way and another source said to do it that way. Well, after spending quite a bit of time researching, I learned that Fiber Reactive Dyes are the way to go for what I want to do. The name that comes up most commonly for this type of dye is Procion MX, which I am not sure if that is the brand name or the type of dye. These dyes do not seem to be readily available locally, but I did learn that the Jacquard Tie Dye Kit, which can be purchased in sewing/craft/hobby stores, is a fiber reactive dye, so this is what I started with.

I purchased a kit at Joann’s, with a 50% off coupon, of course. There are many online sources such as Dharma Trading Company, DickBlick.com, ProChemicalandDye.com and Jacquard.com.

I came across a blog that showed how to use fiber reactive dye to snow dye. I live in Arizona and snow is not something I ever have in my back yard, so was interested in the Ice Dyeing technique that she also gave instructions for. Over a recent weekend, I gave ice dyeing a try.

In order for the fiber reactive dye to work, it needs the proper fiber. The fabric needs to be a cellulose material, such as cotton, silk, bamboo, etc.  100% cellulose material seems to be the best choice over any type of blend.

I searched my closet for an old white shirt that is 100% cotton:

This one will do.

Then I gathered my supplies:

I used a plastic storage tub for soaking the shirt/fabric to be dyed and soda ash.

This washing soda is sodium carbonate (NOT sodium bicarbonate), also known as soda ash. It is required for causing the dye to actually bond to the fabric.

I found a Youtube video that discusses the difference between using the soda ash either before, during or after the dying process.

For this project, I decided to soak in soda ash first. I am not sure exactly how much soda ash to add to how much water, but from what I was reading, better to have too much than too little.

I used ½ cup in 1/2 gallon of water and soaked the shirt in this solution for 30 minutes.

I wanted a way to keep the shirt off of the bottom of the container during the dye process since the dye was going to be dripping onto the shirt over a period of time and I didn’t know if the excess dye would be soaked up into the part that was on the bottom .

I had just removed some slats from some 2” faux wood mini blinds and used those to make a frame to elevate a rubber dish drainer.

Then I folded and scrunched the still damp shirt (do NOT rinse out the soda ash solution, just squeeze out the excess) and laid it on the elevated drainer.

I covered the shirt with ice and then sprinkled the dye powder lightly onto the ice.

After about 30 minutes, this is how the dye had spread on the ice as it was all starting to melt and drip onto the shirt. Now you can see why I wanted the shirt to be elevated off the bottom of the tub. Thanks again to Linda at BloomBakeCreate.com for showing this tip in her instructions.

I covered the tub and put it out onto the patio, where it was warm and let the ice melt completely. I did allow a full day for the dye to absorb, several sources said that 24 hours is needed for the dye process, so that is what I did.

This is what the shirt looked like Monday afternoon, 24 hours after starting, just before rinsing, and rinsing and rinsing. Then I rinsed it some more and tossed it in the dryer with an old towel to see it finished.

At first, I liked it, but after a while I decided that it looked like the Easter Bunny threw up all over it. The way I folded and arranged the top caused the pink to accumulate more prominently in the center, NOT a good focal point, but a good lesson learned. I could try to overdye it, but I think that I will cut it up and use it in a project instead, it will make a colorful background for something.  I would like to try this technique again, but with just 2 colors to see how they melt together.

Even though I don’t love the shirt, I really did enjoy the process and am pleased with how easy it really is. I did do several other pieces of fabric with the left over dye and am happy with the way they turned out. I will show those in a later post.

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3 Comments

  1. Wow! The shirt is gorgeous. What a great idea. Great turorial.

  2. You are too funny about your shirt! I think it’s really pretty. I’m so glad you visited my blog and tried the ice dyeing technique. I absolutely love it. Keep working with it. The more you do, the better they get. Thanks again for visiting my blog, trying the technique and mentioning my blog. Would love to see more of your experiments! Lynda

  3. The easter bunny visual is disturbing…funny too and though maybe a bit true I like the shirt! 😀

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