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Fabric Dyeing

Batik, Dyeing

The earliest dyes consisted of fruits, berries and plants boiled to extract the color. Spices, flowers and the bark of trees was also used as natural dyes. Commercial synthetic dyes can be purchased in powder or liquid form. Always follow the directions on the packaging to get the best results.

Fabric Dyeing At Home
Natural fabrics such as cotton and linen can be easily dyed. Manufactured fibers like rayon, nylon and acetate also are good choices for dyeing. Pure white fabrics will attain the closest match to the color as shown on the dye package. Colored fabrics will mix with the dye color and produce a new color.

Before dyeing anything new, wash it first to remove any sizing or other chemicals used by the manufacturer. If the fabric isn’t new you will need to remove any spots or stains on it. Most dyes unless very dark will not cover up a stain.

Before placing the fabric in the dye bath make sure you wet the fabric completely. For the deepest color use the hottest water that is safe for the fabric. Stir the fabric in the dye bath with a wooden painter’s stir stick. Always protect your hands with rubber gloves. Small items may be dyed on the stovetop in an old pot. Large, bulky items should be dyed in the washing machine.

After removing the fabric from the dye bath rinse the item in cool water until the rinse water runs clear. Throw away the dye bath and clean the pots or other containers immediately with a cleaner that contains bleach. If the washing machine was used run a wash cycle through it with hot water and a detergent that contains bleach.

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Dyed fabrics may be dried on a clothesline or in the dryer. Be sure to always wash the dyed items seperately in cool water until you are confident the excess dye has quit running.

You can tie-dye 100 percent cotton t-shirts or other garments. You gather up the fabric in sections using rubber bands. Place the dry, tied fabric into the dye bath and soak for the time recommended on the packaging. Remove the fabric fron the dye and place it in warm water with a mild detergent; rinse in cool water until the water runs clear. Untie the fabric. Dry on a clothesline or in the clothes dryer, press with a hot iron to set the color.

Batik Dyeing
Batik dyeing is a method in which hot wax is poured or painted on the fabric in a design area in which you do not want dyed. Once the wax hardens the fabric is dipped into a dye bath so the rest of the fabric can be colored. The wax is then removed by ironing the fabric between layers of paper towels. Cotton, linen and silk fabrics are good choices for batik dyeing. You will need a special tool called a tjanting. You can find this in an arts and crafts store. It is a tiny cup with a handle and a narrow curved spout at the bottom. It is used for dribbling hot wax on small areas or to outline images. Batik dyeing can be complicated so it might be wise to purchase a how-to book on the subject.

Natural Dyeing
You can make your own dyes be experimenting with fruits, leaves and vegetables. You will need to add salt, vinegar or washing soda to help set the colors. Keep a record of what ingredients you use and the outcome. Blackberries, blueberries, beets, raspberries, cranberries, onion skins and carrot tops are all items you can make your own dye with. There are many more so experimenting is key.

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To make your own dye heat two gallons of cold water in an old stainless steel or enamel pot. Place your fruit or vegetation in the pot. Stir. Add about two cups of apple cider vinegar and simmer for a couple of hours. Strain the water and use as you would regular dye. The fabric should soak for at least one hour–less if you want a lighter color. Rinse the fabric until the water runs clear. Wring out and hang to drip dry.

Dyeing fabric gives you so many options. Whether you use commercial dyes or make-your-own. Have fun and experiment.