It’s Dyeing Day!


Dyeing Day was really a weekend long event, full of rubber gloves, cocktails, and laughter. I have been waiting to experiment with dying for years. I bought the Craftsy class, The Art of Cloth Dyeing, many many years ago. I am not sure how any years exactly, but it was when it first came out, and it’s on my Craftsy List of Shame post from 2013 (and no publicly shaming myself didn’t make me use my classes any faster, but I did stop being them). I think I bought my dyes in a kit around that time. Long story short, Dyeing Day was a long time coming and making plans with a close friend was just the kick in the butt I needed.


I set up a dying station in our backyard on top of the one small patch of grass we have managed to keep green in California’s long drought and our personal oasis of cool in the summer. The space was quite nice with three tables, an umbrella, a hose with cool water near by, and a bucket sink in the basement with hot water. It was lucky we had plenty of shade as we spent two whole days dying projects in the yard. I dyed fat quarters of muslin from Joann’s with the plan to make a quilt and Gabby (my dear friend) dyed some fabric, but mostly clothes. She was very successful in dyeing a light green silk robe with a Jet Black dye and the tube fabric manipulation (more on that later).


We used these basic colors that were included in my dye kit, but branched out on our second day using some colors that we purchased at the local art store. I was surprised at the selection as the Craftsy instructor said that they are hard to find.

We used many techniques discussed in the video including, rubberband circles, random folding techniques and classic folding techniques, and tube bunching. I learned a lot about what the different techniques do. It was interesting how unpredictable the dye could be. It took many tries to learn how tight to pack things and where the dye would be going.

Most of the pieces that I ended up dyeing over the weekend turned out pretty classically hippie. My fat quarters will be perfect for quilt making and my husband was very excited about the idea of a tie dyed quilt, but I was going for something a little more wearable. In the future I would like to make something a little more geometric. I want to play around with making a check or stripped pattern. I also want to try some fabric printing and painting. Oh there is always so much to explore.


A simple accordian fold technique that I really enjoyed. This piece was already died turquoise and is going back in the dye bath for a second color.


Fabric folded and then loosely scrunched in to a tupperware. Several fat quarters were squeezed into this one container. I used two different dyes, you can see the turquoise at the bottom corner. There is examples of how this turned out in the photos below.


You need lots of different sized containers when dying to save on dye and water. You want the amount of fabric to match the container size. This is an accordion folded fat square placed in a one cup measuring cup. The purpose of the folds is to keep the center of the fold from getting dyed. Only the edges are dyed, like in the picture below. I like this technique a lot although I think I should have rolled this particular piece tighter.

See that tiny dot in the center it is a bit of turquoise dye and that little drop showed up all over the fabric. It sprayed off of the mixing container as I was shaking it. Dye got everywhere! Luckily, Procion MX Dyes only adhere to cellulose based fibers so clean up of the plastic table was easy. Still my finger turned blue (even though I wore gloves) and a couple pieces of fabric where sullied due to flying dye.


These three pieces are my favorites. I think the one in the center would make a very wearable summer dress. It was folded in a nice tight accordion fold and wrapped in three rubber brands. You can see the print clearly at the top.

The black piece on the left was made using the much eluded to tube bunching technique. Basically you wrap the fabric around a tube, placing rubber bands every few inches, and scrunch the fabric up at one end. I really like the ripple effect. I think it would make a great border print on a dress or fabulous silk dress for a seaside vacation. Unfortunately, it was hard to get a defined print in silk using this technique. The dye soaks into silk much faster than cotton and therefore can make its way underneath the rubber bands easier. They need to to be very tight for this to work.

The piece on the right was one of the pieces in the tupperware from the photo earlier. I like the mixing of our personal purple dye mix and turquoise. It reminds me of the napkins a dear friend dyed me for my wedding. It will be great to have the colors in a quilt.


This blue piece was the the result of an envelope fold and three rubber bands. I folded it up until it was a tight triangle and then put a rubber band on each side.


This is the classic rubber band the dye technique that everyone knows and loves from childhood. Whether you did it at school, camp, or on your dining room table you probably did it… or is that only in Northern California? For this technique you simply take a pinch of fabric and wrap rubber bands around them as tightly as possible. Craftsy Course tip? Don’t make a bullseye, they are hard to use.

5 Things I Learned:

Silk takes the dye faster than other fabrics and red dye takes faster than other dyes. This showed up in our dyeing adventures when we tube scrunched and when we dyed silk purple. Tube scrunching had to be wrapped very tightly or the dye just creeped under the rubber bands. Purple dye had to have a blue base otherwise it turned pink. Our first silk adventure turned fuchsia even though it was the same purple used on the cotton in the pictures above.

Mix your dye thoroughly! Shake it up! A lot! Some of our pieces ended up with dye dots from little specks of dye not being mixed properly.

Wrap your projects tighter than you would think. Some of our pieces turned out solid with just the faint outline of a design.

The tube scrunching technique was hard, but worth it. Getting rubber bands that matched the size of the tube so that you didn’t have to double wrap made it easier.

Dyeing uses quite a bit of water, so I may be waiting to experiment with dying after California’s epic drought is over. You must put the fabric in cold water and then hot water. First, we dunked our fabric in buckets of cold water. Then, we placed them in hot water with Blue Dawn using the presoak setting of my washing machine. Finally, we washed them in my machines quickest wash without adding any new soap to get all the Dawn out. By the time they went into the dryer there was no dye left and both machines stayed clean.



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Gabriela Buchholz Athens says:

    I had so much fun with you!! The black was my favorite. Stephen wore his black dyed High Sierra shirt to Grace Potter and rocked it out!

    1. I am so glad he liked his shirt! I love seeing you wear the black tie dye in the Pilates studio. We will have to try it again this summer.

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