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Dyeing fabric just got easier

A Fabric Dyer's Dictionary

A decade ago, fabric dyeing was more simplistic
When I was young, my mother occasionally dyed a shirt or blouse to brighten the color back to its original color. Detergents and bleaches were not as fabric-friendly as they are today, so it was not uncommon for bright colors to fade considerably over time. Once in a while, Mom would dye fabric to a new color. I remember once when she dyed a yellow dress orange to wear for a Halloween event. Although the Rit dye that she used worked beautifully, there weren’t a lot of colors to choose from, so dyeing fabric wasn’t as interesting as it can be today.

The Rit Dye website makes color creation easy
If my mother were alive today, I know she’d love Rit’s Color Formula Guide which is available on their website. You can find the exact “recipe” for just about every color of the rainbow using Rit’s liquid dyes. It’s an interactive tool that helps you determine how to create dye for 500 different colors. You start by clicking on a color family, let’s say PURPLE. A new page appears giving you the formula for 12 to 48 different colors in that family (there are 48 for purple). When you click on the specific color you want, the exact formula pops up. There’s even a link for information about dyeing techniques. It includes all of the variables that might affect your dye results including fiber content, weight of the item being dyed, amount of dye and water, water temperature and dyeing time. It also clearly spells out the steps required in order to be successful. If you want to get inspired by the prospect of dyeing your own fabric for a special project, this website will definitely get your creative juices flowing.

The book “Fabric Dyer’s Dictionary” is a wonderful resource
If you want even more information about dyeing fabric, you’ll want to read Linda Johansen’sFabric Dyer’s Dictionary” (C&T Publishing, 2010, $23.95). This book is a fabulous resource for anyone who is considering dyeing fabric. It literally turns fabric dyeing into an art form. In addition to a wonderful introduction describing all of the basics—including precautions—it provides detailed step-by-step instructions. It also explains the techniques required to dye fabric to produce unusual results like ombre, layering and more. A complete source list is included for several types of dye. The book’s color formulas are all yardage specific. Recipes for 900 different colors are given in quantities needed to dye 1 yard of fabric or 1/4 yard of fabric. This book presents a simple. straightforward approach to fabric dyeing that makes playing with color fun and exciting.

Have you had experience dyeing fabric? Did your project come out as you had expected.  Please share your experience and your advice with our readers.


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  1. sewsewnerdy | | #1

    I've been dyeing fabric since college, but still get a kick out the process. It is always so dramatic then you take a white/off white fabric and end up with a vibrant new color. I use fiber reactive dyes, which are mainly for cellulosic fibers such as cotton, linen, hemp and rayon, but have had good results with silk as well, though the resulting colors can be very different.
    My advice for anyone interested in dyeing for the first time: take your time, always do test swatches, and even when you are dyeing "for real", always throw in samples of other fabrics/fibers to build a library of colors for reference.


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