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  • Writer's pictureBridgette ni Brian

Dyeing to Start

The project was a success, but of course, I learned a lot by doing this. I used Dylon dyed (Bahama Blue and Deep Violet) as my beginning test. I bought them at my local Joann's Fabric store for around $4 each.

Step 1: I Wish for a Dish

Finding jars big enough to hold the fabric was my first challenge. I didn't think it would be that hard, but it turned out to be a bit of a problem. Each Dylon dye packet colors one half pound of fabric the color on the packet (which for Bahama Blue is a bright teal and for Deep Violet it's almost an eggplant color). If you use more fabric then it will be lighter in color.

The packaging calls for 4 cups of warm water and a quarter cup of salt for each packet. You are supposed to dissolve the dye in the warm water with the salt. Once that is done, the fabric is added and all of this is stirred constantly over a low heat on the stove top for 45 minutes.

Yeah - not happening.

First of all, I didn't have any pots that I could use for dyeing because all the pots we have are not suitable. I didn't want to have to buy another dish specifically for my dyeing projects, so I had to find another option: jars.

I had done some research on various types of dyeing, and decided that I wanted to attempt solar (sun) dyeing. It's a passive dye style in that the fabric and dyes are left in a jar and warmed by the sun. I recommend this being done in the warm summer, not a cool Western New York spring.

We had plenty of half-gallon jars from years of canning attempts, but they were too small for a pound of fabric. I found glass gallon jars at Walmart and bought two jars to begin the process. (Each jar is around $14).

Jars filled with dye and fabric

Step 2: To Dye for

To prepare the fabric, I had to cut the 1.5 yards into two pieces. Together, they weighed just under two pounds, so I knew they would be a little bigger than a half pound. According to the package, a half pound equals a man's shirt.

The next step was to prepare the fabric (I bought scenery fabric from Dharma Trading Company specifically for dyeing then washed the fabric). I wanted to do shibori for my first projects because I liked how it looked. For the purple fabric, I did circles, and for the blue, I folded it into strips. Both were secured with rubber bands.

I followed the dye instructions (dissolving the dye in 4 cups of warm water with a quarter cup of salt). I did this in each jar and stirred until it was dissolved. If you don't want dye on you, make certain you get gloves. I ended up having to do a makeshift because the gloves I had, I didn't have. Honestly, the first part is simple enough, and you really don't need gloves to protect yourself.

I added the fabric to the jars then filled both jars with water. They packet said for the fabric to be damp, so I ran both pieces under the water in the sink until they were damp. Even with this step, the dye water still soaked into the fabric, diminishing how much was covered so I had to add water to both jars.

With that done, I had to wait.

Step 3: The Unwinding

To make certain that the dye had the chance to soak all the way through the fabric, I waited 24 hours before pulling out the fabric. You will need gloves at this part unless you want to be colorful. First, I drained the water off then pulled out the fabric. I had to wring out excess dye before taking off the rubber bands. The blue one (with only five rubber bands) was the easiest to do, and from draining the water off to sending it outside to dry was about seven minutes; the purple one had many more rubber bands and took closer to twelve minutes.

With each piece of fabric, once the rubber bands were off, I rinsed it in the sink to wash out the excess dye then took them outside to dry on a drying rack.

Out drying

Here they are drying on the back porch. The purple on has the circle/starburst style that we usually think about with tie-dye whereas the blue is nice, but subtle.

Blue Strips

I let them dry for an hour or so before bringing them inside, where Leon le Chat promptly decided that they would make beautiful picnic blankets - at least they are sized for him and me on our bike adventures.



This adventure was fun, and I can't wait to try the next part. It was easy enough to do, and the colors are quite beautiful. The fabric was stiffer than I expected after it dried. Once it washes, I think it will be better.

Also, the purple had a vague gradient to it due to how it dyed - the part at the bottom of the jar was darker than the top; I didn't notice this so much with the blue.

And FYI, if you want to follow Leon's travel adventures, check out his website Leon Le Chat Gris. He also has his own Instagram account which you can find through his website. Especially if you like cats, own cats, or just want to look at his handsome face, Leon Le Chat Gris will show you more information.

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