This is a clone of my article here:

Fabric Dyeing Notes

This is a collection of wisdom and protips from the costume shop all about fabric dye. I try to write down as much as I can, since the human memory is unreliable!
You should go dye! Dyeing is fun!
(as part of the course, most people who are involved in dyeing are subject to bad puns.)
Let’s dye-ve in!

  1. If it’s fabric, it may dye. Don’t be afraid to buy something with little knowledge of the fabric content and try to dye it. Natural fibers tend to do well with RitDye, while synthetic fibers do well with iDye. The key here is to have enough scraps of the fabric do multiple tests. If you can’t cut scraps off the fabric, you can’t test it!
  2. Generally speaking, it is easier to go from lighter colors to darker colors. Keep this in mind when going fabric shopping.
  3. If it’s made of natural stuff like cotton, go check out some Rit Dye. If it has some man-made material like polyester, try some iDye. It’s not to say that you cannot use one over the other, (we certainly have used RitDye on synthetics!) but this is a guideline we use at the shop.
  4. You can also dye synthetic wigs. Since wigs are plastic strands, it can also be dyed! No need to open up a sharpie or by some acrylic dye.
  5. Want to dye but have no tub? Try using your top-loading washing machine on hot water mode. Worried about dye getting in your normal clothes? After you’re done with dyeing, wash the washer by throwing in towels and rags (fabric you do not care about) and some detergent. Just wash a towel like normal, and the towels/rags should pick up all the dye.
  6. Before dyeing your fabric, keep it wet. If it’s wet, it will absorb more dye.
  7. While dyeing, you should wear clothing that you do not care about. It may get dye on it.
  8. Use less dye in initial tests than more. It’s much better to leave a garment in for 10 minutes and have it get the color you want, than dump in a ton of dye, and absorb too much dye. Fabric with water is heavy. You want to give yourself enough time to move the fabric to check.

    If you dumped in a ton of dye and it turns into the color you want in a minute, by the time you get all the fabric out of the tub/machine/whatever, 30 seconds would have already passed by and would have absorbed too much dye!.

    My test proportions are: 1 quarts hot water, to 1 tbsp dye, mixed in thoroughly like hot chocolate. For the washing machine, I may add a tablespoon minimum to quarter of cup max, and see how that looks.
  9. After a fabric test piece has been dyed, wrap it in a towel that you do not care about, and steam/iron it. We do this to dry the fabric test to get a better idea of what it looks like dried. We also wrap the test in a towel to not get the ironing table and iron covered in dye.
  10. If your fabric is wet and/or just had heat applied to it, it will be darker than normal. This is normal and fine. 🙂 If wet, it will usually be a smidge darker than what it looks like dry.
  11. If there is a shade you want to get, consult a color wheel. We use a color wheel to figure out how to add or remove a tint, such as removing a reddish tone for ma purple.

Thanks for reading! Add your tips in the comments below!

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