Learn to Dye Your Natural Fiber Fabrics and Never Leave a White T-Shirt Behind

Hey DIBY Club! Paige here from Rosey Posey Designs and I am excited to share some knowledge with you! Today I’m going to show you how to make your favorite natural fiber items even more beautiful with fabric dye.

Now, let’s get started on dyeing (not to be confused with dying)! I think the best way to begin is with the basics so in this tutorial I’m going to show you how to do a solid color vat dye. Once you’ve mastered this basic technique it will be easier to move on to bigger projects and more difficult techniques. This tutorial is for fabric with natural fiber content (such as cotton, or semi-synthetics like rayon). This dye and process will not work for synthetics (like polyester).

Can’t do this now? Pin this image to save this tutorial for later!

Learn How to Dye Your Own Fabric With This Quick and Easy Vat Dye Technique! Get All the Tips and Tricks From a Pro.

Supplies

Dye – I prefer to buy professional Procion dye. In this post I am using Dharma fiber reactive dyes. You can also purchase packets of dye from a craft store, Tulip and Dylon are the most easily accessible. DO NOT BUY RIT, it is not safe for children’s clothing and is technically a stain and not a permanent dye.

Soda Ash – You can buy this in small quantities from a craft store. Super washing soda in the laundry aisle and pH UP from the pool section are some alternatives. Just check the ingredients and make sure you are buying Sodium Carbonate.

Salt – Table salt will work just fine. This isn’t 100% necessary but it will give you much better results.

Gloves

Particle Mask – This becomes increasingly important the more you dye.

Large Container – I use a plastic bin for dyeing. You will need something big enough that your fabric or clothing can move freely.

Whisk – Any type will work but you can never use it for food products again. This is where your local dollar store will come in handy.

Small Containers – You will need these for dissolving the dye, soda ash and salt. Also utilize the discount store for these. I bought 3 containers for $1 and they can be used over and over for dyeing but never for food.

Blue Dawn or Synthrapol – You will use this to wash your items before dyeing. I like blue Dawn because it’s accessible and cheap. These types of soap remove any dirt or oil residue the item may have picked up. I know it’s tempting to just throw it in with your regular detergent but I have seen and experienced some less than pretty results by doing that.

It seems like a lot of things, I know! Once you have these things on hand you can keep using them for a very long time for many dyeing projects to come.

Step 1: Wash your item in the blue Dawn or Synthrapol. You only need 1-3 drops of this. I like to put a drop in the sink, fill it with water, and then add my item. Squish it around a little and then let it sit for a bit while you drink some Diet Coke (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE FOR DR PEPPER, DP is the Devil’s juice).

Learn How to Dye Your Own Fabric With This Quick and Easy Vat Dye Technique! Get All the Tips and Tricks From a Pro.

*From this step forward it is best if you use your gloves and particle mask*

Step 2: Dissolve 1 cup of soda ash OR 1 ⅓ cup super washing soda in a gallon of water. You can reuse this mixture forever and ever if you’d like. It won’t go bad if it is stored properly.

Soak your item in this mixture for at least 30 minutes. If you forget about it and leave it in there until your kid goes off to college, that’s fine too. Squeeze any excess out of the item once it’s done soaking.

Learn How to Dye Your Own Fabric With This Quick and Easy Vat Dye Technique! Get All the Tips and Tricks From a Pro.

Step 3: Measure out your dye, soda ash and salt into 3 containers. If you’re using professional dye you’ll need 1-3 T of dye per pound of fabric. If you’re using the packets of dye (i.e. Dylon or Tulip) you will need 1-2 packets per pound of fabric.

For this size 4T shirt I used 1 T of Dharma Kingfisher Blue, ½ c of salt, and ½ c of super washing soda. Turquoise based dyes need extra of these things to yield the best results.

Learn How to Dye Your Own Fabric With This Quick and Easy Vat Dye Technique! Get All the Tips and Tricks From a Pro.

Step 5: Add warm water to each container and stir them until they are completely dissolved. This step is where things can go wrong. If any of these are not fully dissolved you will end up with spots of dye and/or uneven color. When in doubt, keep stirring.

Learn How to Dye Your Own Fabric With This Quick and Easy Vat Dye Technique! Get All the Tips and Tricks From a Pro.

Step 6: Pour your dissolved dye and salt into your vat. Then add enough warm water so that your item will be completely covered and able to move freely. I added about a gallon of water for this small project. Save your soda ash mixture for a bit later.

Learn How to Dye Your Own Fabric With This Quick and Easy Vat Dye Technique! Get All the Tips and Tricks From a Pro.

Step 7: Add in your item to be dyed and start stirring. Don’t stop stirring until your arm falls off and even then you can keep stirring with your feet!

Learn How to Dye Your Own Fabric With This Quick and Easy Vat Dye Technique! Get All the Tips and Tricks From a Pro.

Step 8: Seriously, don’t stop stirring.

Step 9: After you’ve stirred for 10-15 minutes, move your item to the side and pour in your dissolved soda ash. Don’t pour it directly onto the item. Now stir some more. . .and more.

Step 10: Okay, you can stop stirring now. Just kidding! You’ll need to stir it every 5-10 minutes until your desired color is reached. If you pull out your item to check color just keep in mind that once the dye is rinsed your item will be 1-2 shade lighter than it looks in the bath. This is my color check.

Learn How to Dye Your Own Fabric With This Quick and Easy Vat Dye Technique! Get All the Tips and Tricks From a Pro.

Step 11: Dump your dye vat and begin rinsing. I typically dump mine down the bathtub drain. You’ll want to begin rinsing with cold water. This essentially “kills” the dye and stops it from dyeing. Rinse with cold until the water runs clear, then switch to hot until the water runs clear again.

Learn How to Dye Your Own Fabric With This Quick and Easy Vat Dye Technique! Get All the Tips and Tricks From a Pro.

Step 12: From here you’re in for what seems like a lifetime of soaks. Again you’ll start with a cold water soak, changing the water every 30-60 minutes. Your dye will likely be bleeding for quite a while so be patient. Once you have a clear cold water soak switch to hot water and repeat until you get a nice clear soak. This is extremely important if you don’t want dye bleeding in your laundry.

Learn How to Dye Your Own Fabric With This Quick and Easy Vat Dye Technique! Get All the Tips and Tricks From a Pro.

You’ve made it! Now you simply need to wash once more in blue Dawn and dry. Congratulations on your completely customized color that you can’t buy in store! The color mixing and designs are really endless.

Learn How to Dye Your Own Fabric With This Quick and Easy Vat Dye Technique! Get All the Tips and Tricks From a Pro.

Learn How to Dye Your Own Fabric With This Quick and Easy Vat Dye Technique! Get All the Tips and Tricks From a Pro.

If you have any questions feel free to send me a message. I look forward to seeing your dyeing adventures!

2 thoughts on “Learn to Dye Your Natural Fiber Fabrics and Never Leave a White T-Shirt Behind”

  1. Just a couple of things of note:

    – Rayon isn’t a synthetic, and colors beautifully with Procion dyes
    – Table salt will not work just fine. Most table salt is iodized, which is definitely not what you want.

    Otherwise, this is great info for beginners to dyeing!

    1. Thank you so much for the helpful info! Rayon is semi-synthetic but I was unaware that it would work ok with these dyes. I will update the post with that information! As far as salt goes, this recommendation is based off of the author’s experience. It’s great to hear your own experience to give the article a more complete perspective! Thank you for taking the time to make the tutorial even better Melankalia <3

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