How to Hand-Dye Fabric - Part One

Have you ever looked for a specific color of fabric to use either on a quilting project or a sewing project but can't find what you need?  I found this especially frustrating when doing art quilting but I also run into this problem when looking for fabrics for sewing projects.  That's how I began my adventure in fabric dyeing.  

Now I can create the colors that I need when I need them.  It took quite a bit of trial and error before I discovered the perfect method to get the results that I was looking for, and believe me there is a science component to dyeing fabric.  Now I want to share my method with you. 

For this process I used Procion powdered dyes because they mix chemically instead of using heat.  This allows me to take my work outside when the weather permits.  The second reason is the results.  I love the vibrant colors that the dye produces.  Procion dyes are fibre reactive dyes that work on natural fibres such as cotton, linen, silk and rayon and Hemp. Best of all these dyes don't fade over time.

There are a few things listed below that you will need before beginning the process. 

1.  Fibre Reactive Procion Dye Powder

2.  A 5 gallon pail for mixing solution.

3.  Glass Measuring Cup (that is dedicated strictly to this process.  Never mix dyeing and cooking utensils).

4.  Measuring Spoons (that are dedicated strictly to this process)

5.  Mixing Spoon (dedicated strictly to this process)

5.  Container for dyeing - if you are using the submerging method the container should at least double the volume of fabric. 

6.  Drop Cloth or plastic if you are working inside to cover the floor and surfaces you want to protect from dye.

7.  Face mask so you don't breathe in the dye powder while mixing.

8.  Mild laundry detergent such as synthrapol (I use blue colored Dawn detergent and it works just fine for this process).

9.  Soda Ash or PH up from any pool supply store.

10.  Sea Salt (regular table salt will work as well.

11.  PFD (prepared for dye) Fabric

12.  Clean Water (for part 2)

13.  Rubber Gloves to protect your hand from the dye solution.

14.  Bottle of Reactive Dye Fixative

15.  Dark plastic garbage bag to fit over the container and an elastic to hold it in place

Please note that if you are using PFD fabric you do not need to pre-wash your fabric. 

I am breaking this down in two parts to make it easier to follow.  Part one will cover the dyeing process and part two will cover the very important dye setting process.

Step 1

Fill a container with about a gallon or more (depending on the amount of fabric you are dyeing) of hot water and add a 1/2 cup of soda ash and 1/4 cup of salt.  Mix until all powder is dissolved.  This mixture will increase the PH allowing the fabric to absorb the dye. 


Step 2

Mix dye powder according directions (usually 1/2 teaspoon) in a measuring cup. (Always use your mask for this step so that you do not inhale the powdered dye).  Add boiling water to the powder just to dissolve the powder.  Mix until completely dissolve or you will end up with dye specs on your fabric. You can remove your mask after powder is dissolved.

Step 3 

Add the dye mixture to soda ash mixture and stir until the dye is evenly distributed.

Step 4

Add the fabric to the mixture.  If you want an even dye job stir the fabric in the mixture to ensure a consistent dyeing process.  If you would like a pattern scrunch the fabric before adding to dye mixture and do not stir.  Make sure that the dye mixture is covering the top of the fabric.

Step 5

Cover the top of the mixture container with a dark plastic garbage bag and use elastic around the top to keep it in place.  This will hold the heat longer and allow the dye to work better.  Leave this solution for at least 24 hours up to 48 hours.

Stay tuned for part two.


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