Hued Blues

There's something magical about the process of dyeing textiles: Place white fabric into a bath of pigment, and it emerges a different color. Once you learn to dye, the world is your canvas.

This dip-dyed tablecloth shows the path of drips of rinse water, an unintended but beautiful effect.

Embrace Unpredictability

When hand-dyeing, it helps to appreciate that results may not always turn out as you intend. This dip-dyed tablecloth shows the path of drips of rinse water, an unintended but beautiful effect.

Ombré Dyeing 

Dyes 2 yards fabric

Materials

2 yards prewashed, dampened linen or cotton fabric

1 tablespoon light-color fiber-reactive Procion dye, Dharma Trading Company

6 cups salt, divided

4 gallons of hot tap water, divided

11/3 cups + 1 tablespoon soda ash, divided, Dharma Trading Company

2 cups warm water

8 tablespoons dark-color fiber-reactive Procion dye

Additional hot tap water

Tools

Mixing containers*

Clean 5-gallon bucket

Rubber or latex gloves

Stick or plastic mixing spoon for stirring*

Measuring cups and spoons*

Dowel or board to suspend fabric

Instructions

In a small container, mix the light-color dye with enough water to make a watery paste. Add 3 cups salt and 3 gallons hot water to 5-gallon bucket and stir well. Add dye paste and stir well. Add dampened fabric and let soak for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Mix 1¹/³ cups soda ash and 2 cups warm water until soda ash is dissolved. After fabric soaks for 15 minutes, add soda ash mixture gradually to 5-gallon bucket over 15 minutes. Avoid pouring soda ash mixture directly on fabric and stir thoroughly after each addition.

Once all the soda ash mixture has been added, soak fabric for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Discard dye bath down a drain, and rinse fabric in bucket until rinse water is clear. If desired, fabric can be washed in washing machine until dye is completely discharged.

Once fabric is rinsed and, if necessary, redampened, prepare dye bath for darker color. Mix the dark-color dye powder with enough water to make a watery paste. Add 3 cups salt and 1 gallon hot water to 5-gallon bucket and stir well. Add dye paste and 1 tablespoon soda ash and stir well. Fold fabric so it fits easily in bucket without touching sides.

Put portion of fabric in dye bath and soak for 2½ minutes, gently moving fabric up and down a little to prevent a solid line of the darker color from forming. (You may find it easier to keep the fabric level by suspending the fabric from a thick dowel or board hung over the dye bath bucket.) After 2½ minutes, add 4 cups of hot tap water to dye bath without splashing the fabric. Continue moving the fabric up and down a little.

Continue adding 4 cups of hot water every 2½ minutes until the darker color on the fabric is diluted to a smooth gradient. If the dye bath comes near the top of the bucket, remove the fabric from the dye bath, pour half the dye bath down a drain, return the fabric to the dye bath (matching the color change level with the top of the dye bath), and continue adding 4 cups hot water every 2½ minutes.

Once a smooth gradient is reached, rinse fabric in a prefilled washing machine and wash until all dye is discharged.

*Items used for measuring and mixing dye chemicals are not food-safe after use.


Shibori resist techniques are used with light-colored dye in this textile.

Shibori Dyeing With Procion Dyes

Dyes 1 yard fabric 

Materials

1 yard prewashed, dampened linen or cotton fabric

1 tablespoon fiber-reactive Procion dye* (we used aqua marine and Grecian sea from Dharma Trading Company)

3 cups salt

3 gallons of hot tap water

1/3 cup soda ash, Dharma Trading Company

Tools

Rubber bands, marbles, small wooden boards**

Mixing containers***

Clean 5-gallon bucket

Rubber or latex gloves

Stick or plastic mixing spoon for stirring***

Measuring cups and spoons***

Gallon-size resealable plastic bag

Instructions

Prepare fabric by using rubber bands, marbles, small wooden boards and other household items to bind, tie, or conceal parts of the fabric. Thoroughly wet or soak fabric.

In a small container, mix the dye with enough water to make a watery paste. Add salt and 3 gallons hot water to 5-gallon bucket and stir well. Add dye paste and stir well. Add soda ash and stir well.

Add fabric to dye bath and let soak for 25 minutes or more (a longer soak time results in a darker color). Once fabric is finished soaking, place it in a resealable plastic bag and allow it to wet-cure overnight, up to 24 hours. Discard dye bath down a drain.

Once the fabric is finished wet-curing, remove the bindings and rinse fabric in bucket until water runs clear. If desired, fabric can be washed in washing machine until dye is completely discharged.

*You may need more dye for darker colors; consult dye label

**Items may be stained by dye bath.

***Items used for measuring and mixing dye chemicals are not food-safe after use.


Traditionally, the Japanese shibori dyeing method used indigo dye to create blue tones like the ones in this textile.

Indigo Patterns

Traditionally, the Japanese shibori dyeing method used indigo dye to create blue tones like the ones in this textile. 

Shibori Dyeing With Indigo

Dyes 1 yard fabric

Materials

4 gallons warm tap water

Indigo dye kit (includes pre-reduced indigo, soda ash, and reduction agent), Dharma Trading Company

1 yard prewashed linen or cotton fabric

Tools

Clean 5-gallon bucket with lid

Long rubber gloves

Long stick for stirring (needs to reach the bottom of container)

Rubber bands, marbles, small wooden boards (included in dyeing kit)*

Shallow, wide pan or plastic container to hold fabric during oxidation**

Instructions

Prepare the indigo dye bath as directed for Indigo Dyeing (below.) Prepare fabric by using rubber bands, marbles, small wooden blocks and other household items to bind, tie, or conceal parts of the fabric. Thoroughly wet or soak fabric.

Once dye bath has settled and fabric is prepared, put on long rubber gloves and submerge fabric in dye bath, squeezing out excess air and water once the fabric is below the surface. Gently move the fabric under the water to expose all areas to the dye bath. After a few minutes, remove the fabric from the dye bath, squeezing out excess liquid, and place in shallow, wide container for 20 minutes to oxidize. Replace lid on the bucket. The fabric should turn from a yellow-green color to indigo once exposed to air.

After 20 minutes, return the fabric to the dye bath and repeat submersion and oxidation process until the fabric reaches the desired shade of indigo. (This process can be repeated several times.)

Once the fabric reaches the desired shade, rinse out the dye by hand then continue rinsing while unbinding fabric. Continue rinsing by hand or in a machine until dye is completely discharged. (Fill your machine with water before adding newly dyed fabric, so any remaining dye is diluted.) The indigo bath can be reused for several days then disposed of down a drain.

*Items may be stained by dye bath.

**Items used for measuring and mixing dye chemicals are not food-safe after use.


These lengths were dyed using fiber reactive Procyon dyes, which work only on plant-base-fibers, such as cotton and linen.

A Spectrum of Options

Dyeing fabric in solid colors offers a great way to learn the dyeing process. These lengths were dyed using fiber reactive Procyon dyes, which work only on plant-base-fibers, such as cotton and linen. Procyon dyes come in a wide range of colors and turn fabrics beautiful, saturated colors that endure. 

Dyeing Solid Colors

Dyes 2 yards fabric 

Materials

1 tablespoon fiber-reactive Procion dye,* Dharma Trading Company

3 cups salt

3 gallons of hot tap water

2 yards prewashed, dampened linen or cotton fabric

1/3 cup soda ash, Dharma Trading Company

2 cups warm water

Tools

Mixing containers**

Clean 5-gallon bucket

Rubber or latex gloves

Stick or plastic mixing spoon for stirring**

Measuring cups and spoons**

Instructions

In a small container, mix the dye with enough water to make a watery paste. Add salt and 3 gallons hot water to 5-gallon bucket; stir well. Add dye paste and stir well. Add dampened fabric and let soak for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Mix soda ash and 2 cups water until soda ash is dissolved. After fabric soaks for 15 minutes, add soda ash mixture gradually to 5-gallon bucket over 15 minutes. Avoid pouring soda ash mixture directly on fabric and stir thoroughly after each addition.

Once all the soda ash mixture has been added, soak fabric for 30 minutes***, stirring frequently. Discard dye bath down a drain, and rinse fabric in bucket until rinse water is clear. If desired, fabric can be washed in washing machine until dye is completely discharged.

*You may need more dye for darker colors; consult dye label.

**Items used for measuring and mixing dye chemicals are not food-safe after use.

***You may need to soak fabric for 1 hour for darker colors; consult dye label.


Indigo Dyeing

Dyes up to 2 yards fabric

Materials

4 gallons warm tap water

Indigo dye kit (includes pre-reduced indigo, soda ash, and reduction agent), Dharma Trading Company

2 yards prewashed, wet linen or cotton fabric

Tools

Clean 5-gallon bucket with lid

Long rubber gloves

Long stick for stirring (needs to reach the bottom of container)

Shallow, wide pan or plastic container to hold fabric during oxidation*

Instructions

Fill the 5-gallon bucket with warm water and add indigo dye. Stir well. While stirring, add soda ash and reduction agent to mixture. Stir thoroughly but gently in one direction for several minutes, then slow and reverse stirring direction. When stirring is complete, run stir stick around the container sides to loosen any particles sticking to container. Cover the bucket with lid and allow dye to settle for 30–60 minutes. Check to make sure the dye bath is a clear yellow to yellow-green under the foam on top. If the dye bath isn’t that color, wait another 30 minutes and check again.

Once dye bath has settled, put on long rubber gloves and submerge fabric in dye bath. While fabric is submerged, gently squeeze out excess water and air and move the mass of fabric slowly around the bucket, trying not to introduce air to the dye bath. Keep the fabric submerged for a few minutes without letting it drop to the bottom of the bucket, where residue can cause spotting on the fabric. Squeeze the fabric just below the surface of the dye bath before lifting it out of the bucket; place fabric in wide, shallow pan. Replace the lid on the bucket. The fabric will be a yellow-green and will change to blue as it’s exposed to air. Allow the fabric to sit for 20 minutes, turning it occasionally to expose all parts of the fabric to air.

After 20 minutes, wash the fabric or return it to the dye bath to make the fabric a darker shade of indigo. The submersion and exposure process can be repeated several times for a darker fabric.

Once the fabric reaches the desired shade, rinse out the dye by hand or in a machine. (Fill your machine with water before adding newly dyed fabric, so any remaining dye is diluted.) The indigo bath can be reused for several days then disposed of down a drain.

*Items used for measuring and mixing dye chemicals are not food-safe after use.