Hand-Dyed Fabrics for Quilts or

Dyeing for Fun

The following information is provided for personal use, not for mass distribution or commercial purposes.  Always follow Safety Precautions when using dyes and chemicals.

Buying & Preparing Fabric

 Purchase Fabric Prepared for Dyeing --- which has no finishes, bleached or white will give the best, purest colors, unbleached will produce duller, muted results, mercerized cotton will give strongest colors. Procion MX dyes will also dye rayon and silk. For a look at how different fabrics react to dye from a website by Heddi Craft, click here.


Dharma Trading variety of fabrics, dye, chemicals, clothing for dyeing, books, everything 1-800-542-5227
Earth Guild dye, chemicals, tools and books 1-800-327-8448
Testfabrics, Inc
variety of fabrics, fast, good prices, good quality 1-570 603 0432 
Pro Chemical & Dye for dyes and auxiliary chemicals 1-888-2-BUY-DYE

If you find that one of the links does not work, please let me know sbritt@swva.net

Step One: Pre-Scour Your Fabric
        Wash in HOT water with syntrolpol. (Use warm water for silk) Rinse. Dry for later use or leave damp if dyeing immediately.

Pre-scour even PFD fabrics for vat/immersion dyed solids.

Pre-scouring of PFD fabrics is optional for tie dye or mottled effects

Leave yardage intact (up to about 10 yards) for pre-scouring. It can be torn into "bucketsworth" sized pieces after this step. The entire dyeing process shrinks your fabric. If you want a finished piece of one yard, estimate a piece about 40" long. By the time you are done, pre-scouring and dyeing, it will be a slightly generous yard in length.

Step One-A:  For dyeing in Jars, a low water method an additional fabric preparation step is required
        Presoak fabric to be dyed, torn into single-jar lengths, in soda ash solution for 15 minutes. Wring out excess, scrunch fabric and stuff in jars.
        Soda Ash Solution: 1/2 cup soda ash per gallon of water, the soda ash solution may be stored and used again and again.

Dyes and Chemicals

Dye Safety

Please take dye safety very seriously. Dyes should not be used where they might contaminate food and precautions should be taken not to inhale any powdered dyes.

Procion MX fiber reactive dyes

Primary colors include: Fuchsia, Red, Blue, Turquoise, Yellow (lemon or golden), and Black. Many other colors are available, some, which have MX numbers might be considered basics, but many of the colors available from Dharma for example, you can mix yourself. Turquoise is not usually used for standard mixing, but is a basic color that cannot be obtained otherwise. It also requires more time to completely exhaust (up to 48 hours).

Soda Ash this is not the same as washing soda you buy at the supermarket, can be obtained through pool supply houses or from companies listed above

Non-iodized Salt used in vat/immersion dyeing, not essential for low- water or jar dyeing

Urea although listed in some sources, this wetting agent is optional except for dye painting

--- Recipes

 #1. Simple value gradation for six to eight half yard pieces

The procedure below is the basic procedure for regular immersion dyeing. Other gradation recipes, such as change in hue, vary only in the way dye is added to the dyebath.

You will need one bucket for each dyebath. In each bucket put

Water 1 gallon minus 2 cups

Salt -1 cup per gallon (less for reds, more for darks)

Calgon Up to 1-1/2 T. powdered (opt)

Prepare Soda Ash for each bucket but do not add yet!

Soda Ash dissolve 2-4T in 1 cup of hot water for each bucket

Prepare Dye concentrate

Dye powder approx. 2 T. dissolved in 2 cups of water

the amount of dye depends on the color, some colors are stronger than others. Fuchsia is the strongest, use only 2/3 the amount of fuchsia as of basic blue for example. Turquoise is also a special case and requires more dye for full color to develop. Yellow is both weaker and lighter requiring proportionately more dye as well. The amount of dye also depends on the depth of color desired. (Some dyers recommend using much more dye than this.)


Line up buckets. Start at one end. Pour 1 cup of dye into bucket #1, add 1 cup of water to dye concentrate so you again have 2 cups. Pour 1 cup of dye concentrate into bucket #2, add 1 cup of water to dye concentrate. Continue this process, which dilutes the dye by 50% for each subsequent bucket until you reach the last one. You will have 1 cup of weak dye concentrate left over.

Add one half yard fabric to each bucket, and stir as desired. More stirring and agitating makes for smoother solid colors, if you want solids, stir at least every five minutes. Less stirring makes uneven colors. Leave fabric immersed in dye bath for 10-20 minutes, with or without stirring.

Add prepared soda ash solution to dye bath. If possible, lift fabric to one side and mix soda ash in without it directly touching fabric. When mixed, lower fabric back into bath. Continue stirring (or not) for at least 50 minutes.

Remove fabric from dye bath and rinse thoroughly. Wash in hot water and synthopol. Dry and press.

Mixing for overdyes: Similar procedure, use stronger dye solution to overdye in a gradation. To overdye many pieces of fabric in a single color, mix a strong solution of dye in a single bucket, one gallon of water per yard of fabric and proportionate chemicals. If tie-dyeing one gallon will overdye more than a yard, as much fabric as will fit in the bucket.

#2. Gradation Changing Hues --- One up, one down

Prepare fabric and dye buckets as in recipe #1.

Prepare two different colors of dye concentrate as in recipe #1: Color A & Color B

Line up 6 (or more) buckets. Starting at one end of the line with color A, follow the procedure to add dye to your buckets as in recipe #1. To bucket #1, add 1 cup of Color A full strength, to bucket #2, add 1 cup of Color A diluted by half and so on to the last bucket. Do the same with Color B but begin at the opposite end of the line so that in bucket #6 for instance, add 1 cup of Color B full strength, in bucket #5 add 1 cup of Color B diluted by half and so on to bucket #1, which will have the weakest solution of Color B.

Follow recipe #1 to add and agitate fabric, to add soda ash, complete dye cycle, rinse and wash fabric.

Links to Dyeing Resources

Lynne's Webpages



Color by Accident by Ann Johnston

Complex Cloth : A Comprehensive Guide to Surface Design by Jane Dunnewold

Dyes & Paints : A Hands-On Guide to Coloring Fabric by Elin Noble

Mickey Lawler's Skydyes : A Visual Guide to Painting Fabric by Mickey Lawler


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This page was designed by Susan Brittingham
Created on : 05/09/99
Last Updated : 03/03/12