When you’re interested in dyeing fabric another color and you’ve never done this before, it can make you a little nervous. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way because learning how to dye fabric is easier than you think. Even learning how to dye fabric naturally or how to dye fabric black when the original color is another dark color is easy once you know what you’re doing.
When you’re dyeing fabric, you can use store-bought dye or a more natural dyeing method, but remember that going from light to dark is a lot easier than the other way around. You also need to be familiar with the type of fabric you’re dyeing because natural fabrics dye better than synthetic fabrics.
Why Does the Fabric Matter?
As a general rule, fabrics such as silk, cotton, wool, and linen – which are considered natural fabrics, dye better than synthetic fabrics do. Dyeing fabric is part art, part science, which means you can even combine different dyes in order to come up with new and unique colors. If you want to lighten a fabric before you dye it, you can use a color remover on it first, but it’s not a necessity for the dye job to come out nicely.
It’s easy to tell what type of fabric you’re working with when you learn how to dye fabric because all you have to do is look at the label. It also doesn’t mean that synthetic fabric is impossible to dye. It’s just that it’s sometimes a little harder for the dye to “take,” and the color occasionally comes out a bit different than you were expecting.
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How to Dye Fabric
Now, let’s cut to the chase and learn how to dye fabric so that you can get started yourself.
Step 1: Make Sure Your Fabric Is Clean
If your fabric is brand new and has never been washed before, you’ll want to make sure you wash it – just like you would before you start sewing with it. No need to do anything special – just run it through the washing machine and dry it so that it’s clean and dry.
Step 2: Prepare for the Dyeing Job
First, you’ll want to cover the entire working surface with some type of old cloth or rag. Remember, dye is permanent and if it gets on a countertop or sink, that item will be stained for good. After this, take a bucket or sink made out of stainless steel, and fill it up halfway to the top with either boiling water or very hot water.
Keep in mind that if you’re working with wool fabric, the water should not be hot but instead, warm. Finally, you’ll want to don some rubber gloves to protect your hands and wrists from the dye itself, not to mention the hot water.
Step 3: Add the Dye to the Water
We’re not learning how to dye fabric naturally here, with natural ingredients. These instructions are for store-bought commercial dye, even though some of the steps might be similar. Once you get the bin or sink set up, go ahead and add the dye. If you’re working with linen or cotton, add some salt as well. For silk or wool fabric, add white vinegar.
How much salt or white vinegar should you add? That depends on the size of your bin or tub. Use 1/4 cup of white vinegar or salt for one gallon of water, 1/2 cup if you’re using two gallons, and a whole cup if you’re using three gallons of water or more.
Why do you do this? White vinegar and salt both help the dye “take” in the fabric, which means it goes deeper into the fabric and produces a much more vibrant color. It’s a simple step that makes a big difference in how your fabric looks when you’re done.
Step 4: Wet the Fabric Before Putting It in the Bin
Regardless of the fabric you’re using, the dye job is easier if you wet it first. You can simply run it under a faucet or, for large pieces, run it through your washer’s rinse cycle. This will make sure the fabric is evenly wet. Then, go ahead and put it into the water/dye combination.
You’ll have to stir the fabric frequently in order for the dye to reach all parts of it. Otherwise, you might get uneven coloring on the fabric itself. Check the instructions to learn how long you should keep the fabric in the bin, but most brands suggest anywhere from about 10 minutes to 60 minutes.
Always keep the fabric in the bin as long as the instructions recommend and stir it with a stainless-steel spoon very frequently. If it gets a little too dark, this is a good thing because it is common for fabric to fade just a tad when you rinse and dry it.
Step 5: Remove the Fabric from the Bin
When the time is up, take the fabric out of the bin carefully then rinse it under a running faucet. Start with the water warm, then make it a little cooler, and keep rinsing the fabric until the water runs clear. Once this happens, go ahead and wash out your bin as soon as the rinsing is finished. Also, you can rinse your fabric in the rinse cycle of your washing machine if you wish.
Step 6: Wash the Fabric
After the fabric is dyed and thoroughly rinsed, you’ll want to go ahead and wash it in your washing machine. Always use a mild detergent and wash the fabric using cold water. Afterwards, you can put it in the dryer and dry it completely.
When you want to learn the basics of how to dye fabric, these are the rules to follow.
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How to Dye Fabric Black
As you can imagine, the steps to take when you’re learning how to dye fabric black are a tad different than using other colors, simply because black is so dark. That being said, darkening an article of clothing that is already black but a bit faded gives that clothing a great new look, so it’s good to know how to do this.
Below are the steps to take when dyeing any type of fabric black.
Step 1: Always Go with the Right Type of Dye
Once again, pay attention to the type of fabric you’re dyeing. If the item is made out of natural fabrics, you can safely use most dyes made specifically for fabric. On the other hand, if your fabric is acrylic, polyester, or spandex, you’ll have to make sure the dye brand says on the package that it can dye synthetic fabrics.
This is an important step if you want your fabric to turn out just right.
Step 2: Fill Up Your Bin with Boiling Water
In a large bin or bucket, place enough boiling water to make sure it can accommodate the fabric or item that particular size. The fabric or article of clothing has to be completely submerged in the bin, so you’ll need enough boiling water to do this. You can also use hot tap water, but you’ll get better results if the water is boiling.
If your item is small and you decide to do this on your stovetop, you can turn your burner down to low once the water boils. It doesn’t need to be boiling throughout the entire process, but it does have to stay hot the entire time.
Step 3: Put Your Black Dye Into the Water
After reading the instructions, put enough black dye in your hot/warm water to make the fabric as dark as you want it to be. The more dye you put in there, the darker the item will be in the end. This means you might have to use all of the dye in the package to get the results you want.
At this point, start stirring the water with a metal spoon of some type. You can use a wooden spoon if you like, but you’ll have to use that particular spoon only for dyeing from that point forward. Regardless of which spoon you use, keep stirring as often as you can.
Step 4: Add Salt to the Bin
Adding salt can help you get a great-looking vibrant color in the end. Use 1/4 cup of salt for every half-pound of fabric. This means you’ll have to know about how much the item weighs. So for instance, three pounds of fabric will require 1.5 cups of salt.
You can use regular table salt for this step and remember that it isn’t a necessity. It does, however, make all of your dye colors much more vibrant.
Step 5: Stir as the Dyeing Process Is Taking Place
When learning how to dye fabric black, the stirring part is crucial. Darker colors need consistency to look good, and to prevent some parts of the fabric from looking lighter than others, you have to stir as much as possible. Move the fabric around in the water and try to use the stirrer to unfold the item so that all of it is dyed properly.
Since this is a dark color, you’ll want to let the fabric sit for 30-60 minutes. If it doesn’t soak for a minimum of 30 minutes, the color may not stick the way it should. When your time is up, empty the water into your tub or sink but leave the fabric or item inside of the tub.
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At this point, you can add a dye fixative if you like, which will make your colors look even better. Fixatives can be sprayed or poured on the fabric, then you should let it soak for about 20 minutes. Afterwards, rinse the fabric well with hot water, then switch to warm and finally cold water.
You’ll want to rinse the item until your water runs clear. Afterwards, machine wash the fabric on a normal setting, then put it in the dryer. Once you wash the item once, you can then wash it however you like in the future, but never use water that is too hot because hot water can make dark colors fade.
How to Dye Fabric Naturally
Learning how to dye fabric naturally takes some time because you’re using mostly plants and foods instead of commercial dye, which means it will take a little research and a little experimentation to get it right. Below are some of the things you can use to make all-natural dyes:
- Tea leaves
- Fruits and vegetables
- Onion skins
- Beets, beetroot, or pomegranates (red)
- Paprika, celery leaves, or sunflower petals (yellow)
- Turmeric or carrots (orange)
- Mint leaves, artichokes, lilacs, or spinach (green)
- Purple cabbage or black beans (indigo)
The process is also simpler than you might think. You essentially chop up the ingredients and let them simmer in water for an hour, modify your colors with ingredients such as baking soda or lemon juice, then set them with either vinegar or salt. There are hundreds of things you can use to make natural dyes with, and the “recipes” can be found on the Internet.
If you’re wondering if natural dyes work as well as commercial dyes do, the answer is a resounding “yes.” In addition, there are no chemicals in the dyes, making them an excellent choice for dyeing all types of children’s clothing.
The fact is, there are many good reasons for using foods and plants to make your fabric dye, and once you learn how easy and how effective it is, you’ll likely never go back to commercial over-the-counter fabric dyes.
Learning how to dye fabric isn’t as complicated as you might think. In fact, there are only a few steps involved whether you’re working with natural or synthetic fabric. Learning how to dye fabric naturally takes a little more know-how, but you can get all of the information you need online. Finally, learning how to dye fabric black, which is sometimes a challenge, is easy if you follow the suggestions mentioned earlier. All in all, dyeing fabric does not have to be difficult, regardless of your level of expertise.