DIY fabric dyeing at home

Looking to breathe new life into fabrics around your home? This comprehensive DIY guide is your ticket to a new-and-improved space.

DIY fabric dyeing at home

Refresh well-worn clothing and rejuvenate faded fabrics with a little dye. You can buy synthetic products, but remember that effective natural dyes have been used for centuries. Often you need look no further than your own home or backyard.

Before dyeing, there are a number of factors to consider. Figure out what kind of washing machine you would be using, or whether a plastic basin is a better choice. The type of fabric to be dyed is also of great importance.

Ground rules for dyeing

Only natural fibres of plant origin — that is, cotton, rayon, linen, half-linen and natural-fibre blends — can be dyed. Synthetic fibres such as polyester don't absorb colour. When dyeing blends of natural and synthetic fibres, only natural fibres will react to the dye, so they should make up at least 60 per cent of the fabric to ensure a dark enough colour. Keep the following rules in mind:

  • Always dye light-coloured fabrics darker rather than the other way around, and don't dye high-performance fibres such as Gore-Tex, microfibres or down-filled articles of clothing.
  • Dye fabric with synthetic colours in the washer.

Preparation for dyeing

  • Use a washing machine to dye. A medium shade will result when 1.15 kilograms (2 1/2 pounds) of fabric is placed in a large machine; if less fabric is in the machine, it will be darker.
  • It's easiest to dye with a top-loading machine. Put the fabric to be dyed into the washing machine and spread 150 grams (five ounces) of dye powder over it. Dissolve the powder in one litre of water and start the wash cycle at 40°C (105°F) .
  • When the washer fills with water, pour in the dissolved dye as well as one litre of water. Once you've dyed the fabric, run it through a wash cycle.
  • When using a front-loading machine, measure the amount of water to put in the machine based on the amount of fabric being washed. Therefore, you will have to add the fabric before adding the pre-dissolved dye to the washer's dispenser.
  • When dyeing in plastic basins, weigh the fabric first; you need two litres of dye bath for every 100 grams (3 1/2 ounce) of fabric. Heat the water to 40°C (105°F), pour it into an appropriately-sized basin, dissolve the required amount of dye (see instructions on the package) and add 15 millilitres (one tablespoon) of dye powder per litre of water. Move the fabric back and forth in the dye bath for one hour. Then wash thoroughly.

Dyes from nature

These natural additives can all be used with the basic dye formula. The more berries or flowers you use and the longer the boiling time, the darker the colour.

  • Oak leaves — dark beige to olive.
  • Blueberries — purple.
  • Chamomile flowers — yellow to golden-yellow.
  • Red beets — carmine red.
  • Sorrel — corn-yellow.
  • Walnut leaves — medium brown.

Plant dyes

  1. Boil 200 grams (seven ounces) of plant leaves or flowers for one hour in two litres of water.
  2. Dissolve 10 grams (1/3 ounce) of alum in two litres of water for every 50 grams (1 1/2 ounce) of material to be dyed. Put the fabric into the solution, heat it up to 70°C (160°F), then let it cool.
  3. Wash fabric well, then place it in the plant brew and let simmer on the stove for about one hour. Place the fabric in vinegar and water to set the colour.
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