PART 1 Supplies
1. White or cream cotton, washed in hot and dried in the dryer.
2. RIT dye. I had the following colors in liquid form: Violet, Fuschia, Sunshine Orange, Mandarin, Lemon Yellow, Golden Yellow, Teal, Evening Blue, Royal Blue. To decide on my colors, I went to the COLORit guide and picked a few colors, then tried to decide on other colors based on what their recipes contained so I didn’t need to have EVERY RIT color to complete what I wanted. I could have totally made it with fewer colors, though. See below for the recipes I chose. They all use the colors listed above.
3. Some small and medium sized buckets and containers
4. A non-reactive kettle
5. Wooden sticks or spoons that you don’t mind getting dyed
5. Rubber gloves
6. Mild soap (I used Kirkland dishwashing liquid)
7. Patience. Go into this project with a calm demeanor. Dyeing is a natural process and cannot be rushed!
PART 2 Prep + Set-up
1. Where: I used the kitchen so I could keep hot water going for new dyes, have easy access to the sink AND keep a pot on the stove cooking one batch of dyeing going at all times. Here are some pictures with a few tips on how I set things up.
2. Fabric: I tore a lot of my fabric into Fat Quarters so I could try lots of different things and do some very small batches. I also got a big stack of things that I wanted to dye after the quilting suppies were done. We did a whole array of dress shirts, old napkins with stains, cycling caps, even a beaded purse from the neighbors! In the end, we just decided, if it’s a semi-natural fiber, just try it. And, the results of that philosophy were pretty darn good! See below for pictures of that.
PART 3 Dyeing
1. Instructions. We mostly followed RIT’s stovetop or bucket dying instructions. The stovetop instructions produced the darker shades. The buckets, if they had cooled off, produced lighter colors.
2. Here are a few tips/lessons learned:
- Stir the pot, doggonit! If you want consistent color, you need to keep moving the fabric. Otherwise, the areas that are fully immersed, or closest to the heat will absorb the most dye and be very saturated leaving other areas lighter. IF you like that effect, DON’T stir the pot!
- Get your water really hot. When the water was hot, it seemed to be way more effective on getting dark colors. If you can’t use your stovetop, just get the water to almost boiling and use that.
- Try tonals. The white on white tonals that we dyed turned out really amazing. See below. Everyone who sees those goes bonkers over them and I know why. They look really neat. And it’s not that Clothworks’ tonals that are color on color aren’t awesome, too, but these home-dyed ones are extra special! We used Impressions Moire and Impressions Flora. The other cool thing about tonals is that they don’t show the spots where dye didn’t take well. That is if you fall off the wagon on your stirring, tonals are very forgiving.
- Don’t over pack your buckets. It is very tempting to stuff the bucket/pot to the gills and walk away and say, Oh man am I dying a TON of fabric at once! Well, you’re not. When you do that, the fabric is not able to sit freely in the dye and it won’t absorb dye consistently. Imagine a little plate full of water and you set a dry sponge on it. Come back in 1 minute and the water is all absorbed. That is what is happening with your dye. The volume of liquid needs to be proportionate to the volume of fabric. One bottle of dye can only do so much. I always want everything to be fast and easy but I really had to exhale and let my need to hustle go. In the end, I got a ton of fabric dyed (easily enough for a quilt) in one day (11 am to 4pm) with the help of my mom, son and husband. Okay, this is turning into the next tip.
- Take your time. Dyeing is a process and a big part of the fun is doing the dyeing. If you want perfect colors in no time at all, head to your local fabric store and buy Clothworks Everyday Organic solids OR our tonals called Impressions! They’re beautiful. If you want a fun art project where you can experiment with subtle hues and different techniques and get your hands dirty, dye at home. Just be sure to give yourself enough time to get the results you like.
- Invite some friends. I was so glad to have my Mom there and some friends and neighbors popping in to do some rounds with me. It was sort of an all day dyeing party with everyone helping and making stuff.
- If you have kids, put together a list of things that they can do so they have a constructive purpose. My 4 year old son stirred buckets, operated the timer, ran out to see if fabrics were dry or had fallen off the rack in the wind, folded fat quarters(yes!!) and made suggestions on color!
- Use mild detergent with the dye. RIT recommends mild detergent be added to the dye bath and we didn’t test this in any super scientific way, but the fabrics that I dyed later in the day had this and they turned out a bit darker after washing.
PART 4 Drying + Washing
1. I let everything get fully dry, then washed the fabrics in color groupings. All the blues and greens went together. The yellow, orange, red and pink went together, too.
2. Since that washing I have washed the darkest two pieces in loads with lighter colors and they have NOT run! Amazing. So, I think I can trust their color fastness.
PART 5 The Results
1. Below are diagrams of the colors I chose and and how they look after washing. There is also a diagram of before and after to show you how much color they lost once washed. Not that much. I was fairly surprised by that. I expected them to get so much duller, but they really stayed pretty bright and rich.
2. I mentioned that I would show you some lazy-girl dye-jobs. Well, these aren’t all that bad, but they are not solid brights. So, you can decide for yourself and if you like the effects of these, you can reproduce them at home.
PART 6 Sewing Sneak Peek
After lots of thought and hemming and hawing over these last few weeks, I have decided to make this quilt with all the home-dyed fabric! Hot diggity! The pattern is from Aardvark Quilts and I have seen this quilt in Pamela’s booth for two Quilt Markets and I just LOVE it. It is probably going to take me ALL summer because I have 18 other projects going at all times. I’ll put some updates here about the progress. Click on the pictures to go to Aardvark Quilts’ website.
Also, stay tuned for a giveaway of RIT dye and fabric!
Other cool tutorials on dying:
1. Snow Dying by My Bird House
2. Shirbori Dying Technique by Dianne Giancola for Quilting Arts TV.
3. RIT’s Youtube channel has a lot of good stuff, too.