Sunday, July 13, 2008

6 Color Rainbow Fabric Dyeing Tutorial

To get started you will need:

  • 3 Primary Colors in Procion Dye (I used Lt Red # 12, Golden Yellow #3 & Cerulean Blue #23 from Dharma Trading)
  • 1 1/2 yards of PFD cotton fabric (rip the fabric into 6 fat quarters, this gets it on the strait of grain)
  • Rubber Gloves
  • 6 Plastic Containers (similar to the Glad 4 cup containers)
  • 3 Plastic cups and plastic spoons
  • 1/2 cup measuring cup
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon measuring spoons
  • Paper towels
  • Some large plastic containers (I use two 5 gallon buckets)
  • A workspace near water where you have no worries if the dye is spilled (I do this in my garage or if its nice outside I will go in my backyard)
  • Soda Ash is also known as Sodium Carbonate. Soda Ash is found in the pool section and is used to up the PH in pool water, it can also be found in the laundry isle as Washing Soda (I prefer the pool chemical type). In dyeing it is used to cause a chemical reaction between the fabric and the dye, making the dye permanent. Do not use Baking Soda; it will not create the chemical reaction needed.
  • Dish washing soap, this is used to help remove the excess dye from fabric. Some dyers use Synthrapol, I have found I get the same results with dish soap and very hot water. Do not use the type with bleach added.

    *Do not use any containers for foodstuffs after using them for dyeing!

Making the Soda Ash Fixer

Wearing gloves mix 1 1/2 cups Soda Ash to 2 gallons of warm water in a large container (this can be saved and used over and over). Place the 6 fat quarters into this soda ash water solution make sure the fabric is thoroughly wet and let set for 15 to 30 minutes.

Dye Concentrates

While the fabric is soaking we can mix the dye concentrate. Take a plastic cup and add 1/2 cup of room temp water (do not use hot water as this can effect the dye), add 1/2 teaspoon of the red dye powder. Mix well with the plastic spoon there will be a few lumps at first, set this aside - a little time will help with the lumps. Clean and dry the teaspoon measuring spoon (make sure it is dry before moving on to the next dye color, you do not want to get water into your main jar of dye powder as this can effect the life of the dye).

Repeat with the blue dye and then the yellow dye. Let the three cups of dye sit for 15 minutes and then mix well again, this time try to mix in all the lumps. You want a well mixed dye concentrate.

Mixing the Colors

Label the containers 1 through 6; this will help you keep track of where to add the dye concentrate. Using the 1 Tablespoon measuring spoon add to each container as listed:

4 Tbls Red
2 Tbls Red and 2 Tbls Yellow
4 Tbls Yellow
2 Tbls Yellow and 2 Tbls Blue
4 Tbls Blue
2 Tbls Blue and 2 Tbls Red
To each of the 6 containers add 1/2 cup of room temp water.

Adding the Fabric to the Dyes

Remove each fat quarter from the Soda Ash solution and squeeze out the excess liquid. The Soda Ash solution can be saved and reused. (I keep mine in a 5 gallon bucket with a lid in the garage.)
Add a fat quarter to a container of dye liquid, move gently and squeeze the dye into the fabric. I do this and then turn the fabric over once and squeeze again. Rinse you gloves and set this aside.
Repeat for each of the colors and let rest for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Rinsing the Fabric

Rinse the fabric first with cold water to remove the soda ash and dye, not all of the dye will come out. (I do a quick cold water rinse for each color, leaving it in its container.) Then get my large container (a large bucket is what I use) and with the hottest water I can get (the hotter the better) add some dish soap to soak all the fabrics. Yes, they are all in the same bucket, but the very hot water helps to 'kill' the dye and the soap helps to 'capture' the dye. I leave this to soak for and hour or over night (sometimes the longer the better as some dyes can be slow to remove).

After the fabric soaks I rinse once more in cold water and then add all the fabrics to the washer. I let the fabric go through one wash cycle and check for color fastness, usually this is all that is needed. Then a run in the dryer and a pass with the iron and the fabric is ready to be used.

Email me at if you would like a PDF File of this tutorial.

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