Monday, January 28, 2013

Easy Fabric Dyeing - Part I

Fabric dyeing is not that complicated. Back in the '80's and '90's, there used to be a crafting show called Aleene's Creative Living - how many of you remember that show? It was a very informative show that taught all kinds of crafting mediums - there were featured guests who would demonstrate different crafts. One of the crafts featured was on fabric dyeing - so simple. All the products I will be talking about here can be bought at any craft store, or second hand store, even the t shirts.

I do not buy expensive dyes or added chemicals usually used in fabric dyeing. Basically, I dye with fabric paint. Making fabric paint is very easy, you just need 4 things: acrylic paint, textile medium, a clean, empty 20 ounce beverage bottle, and some water.

At the craft store, they sell acrylic craft paints. We've all used them for various crafting projects - here are some samples of brands available. For each color, you will need one bottle.

Toward the bottom or the top of the rack where you got that paint, they also have other things to supplement the paints. One is the textile medium - with this medium, you can turn ANY acrylic craft paint into fabric paint. What the medium does is, it makes the paint pliable - without this medium, whatever you dye will be hard and not wearable or usable. You will need one bottle for each bottle of paint you use.

If you just want fabric paint, you mix equal amounts of the paint and the medium and use as desired. I have "painted" elastic, ribbon, velcro and other items to use in my projects. In this pic, the one on the left is elastic I dyed blue to match the fabric, the center one is organza ribbon I dyed green to match the hand dyed fabric of the cover (see the green in the heart?), the one on the right is velcro for a pocket.

If you want fabric dye, here is what you do. It's equal amounts of paint to textile medium plus water. First, add a little bit of water to your 20 ounce bottle - this is so the paint won't stick to the bottom of your bottle and will be easier to mix. Pour in the paint - get it all in then add some water to the bottle and shake all that paint out. I usually keep adding water and shaking till the bottle is pretty much cleaned out. I do the same for the textile medium. After all the medium is out, I fill up the 20 ounce bottle with water, then shake to mix, and it's ready to go - 20 ounces is a good measurement, anything more will be too liquefied  Even tho I am saying dye, it is really paint, but dye just helps to explain it better.

There are other things you will need depending on what type of dyeing you will be doing. Screens are a must for me, I have a few in different sizes - I can dye right on them and leave my fabric to dry, just rinse any unwanted dye color from the screen so it doesn't transfer to your fabric. A large lid from a plastic storage box is a great surface to dye on - if you don't have one, ask your friends. A towel is very hand - when your fabric is almost dry (not sopping), fold the towel and roll your fabric in it like you would to dry a sweater. PVC piping is great for creating shibori. You can get these at garage sales or second  hand hardware stores for  real cheap or free.

Here some other supplies you will need: large plastic bins or buckets to dye over, a bowl for smaller projects, clamps of different sizes from the hardware store, containers to store your paints - 20 oz. drink containers, empty ketchup or mustard containers are perfect, disposable cups, disposable pipettes, different shaped objects (the acrylic triangles and circles) are useful for doing itajime - small pieces of wood work great as well, hardware clamps - used for clamping the shaped objects to your fabric, Elmer's blue Gel glue - great for creating resists, chop stick for stirring paint, rubber bands for tie dyeing, masking tape, string or strong twine for tie dyeing or pole dyeing. I have also use Pyrex glassware (not pictured) to microwave my fabric (a minute at a time) to set the paint. A lot of the smaller things can be gotten at a garage sales (check the free box) and second hand stores - that's where I got my Pyrex for cheap. Salt (not pictured) is great to use for creating great designs - the salts reacts to the paint and you get awesome prints.

Having a sink nearby is very handy - I don't have a utility sink, so I use a small screen and dye small objects over my sink - elastic or ribbon, I put a small bowl in the sink to catch the paint. It's ok for the paint to go down the drain - just don't let hard globs go down as they may clog your drain, a screen filter helps catch the large globs. For larger items - I have put a large screen over my bath tub with a bowl underneath and dyed fabric. I also dye over the plastic bins.

Here are some recent projects I dyed with fabric paints:

I had some dyed green fabric that I folded and clamped then over dyed with blue - I made this into a Christmas stocking for my daughter. 

I took a t shirt, scrunched it up and held it together with several rubber bands  set it on a screen that was sitting on a large bin. I poured enough crushed ice to cover the shirt (I used a spray bottle to help the ice stick to each other). I then waited for all the ice to melt and got this all over dye. Snow would be perfect to do this with.

For this next shirt - I dyed it a turquoisey green color - the color variation is from using a pipette to apply the dye. I then banded just under the sleeves and dyed with the blue. 

This last shirt was pole dyed - starting from the shoulders, I wrapped the shirt tightly. I then wound strong fishing line around the shirt, trying to make the line even throughout the wrapping. I love the variegated look on this shirt.

See, fabric dyeing is not that hard - really, the hardest thing is to deciding which dyeing method you want to use. Any procedure you read or see about dyeing with dyes or chemicals can be used with fabric paint. Revealing the fabric is the best part - you never know what you'll get, it's always a surprise for me. 

Next week, I will be showing step-by-step how to mix fabric paint and fabric dye. I will even show you  how I clamped and dyed the fabric for that Christmas stocking - read Easy Fabric Dyeing - Part II.

Now, are you ready to try some fabric dyeing?

Comments or questions are always welcomed. I would love to hear what you think of this post or any of my other posts. Thanks!


Dawn Mahi said...

Nice post! Easy to follow and well explained! Those projects look great...

Little Me said...

Thanks Dawn. Those shirts are intended for you, you can have any of them or all. I made them because you thought the others didn't fit. Just let me know.

Arubafan said...

I am completely addicted to fabric dying and painting right now and your post is by far the most informative, easy to understand and comprehensive I have found! Thanks for making the effort to help other understand the economical way to enjoy this craft : )