A Tale of 2 Dyeing Sessions…

Yesterday I had the chance to “run away” from home to play with friends. Three of us got together and had a dyeing party… Fabric Dyeing that is….  I had a blast scrunching fabric into little plastic containers and squirting dyes onto the fabrics. After a bit of waiting, we began opening up our new creations. It is so much fun to start  rinsing out a piece of dyed fabric, unfolding it so see all of the little nuances and color variations that were created in the process. My day ended up being more of a learning process than I thought….

Yard of Bright Dyed Fabric

The above photo shows a piece of fabric that I dyed back in April and blogged about Here. This was sort of what I was expecting to see from the newest dyeing session. I did want to get some pieces in various shades  of greens from deep, dark to light, as well as some pieces in blues, purples and multicolors.  The following is what happened, and some very important lessons learned:

Dyed Fabric Soaking 1

This photo shows a few pieces soaking after their first rinses and an overnight soaking. I had used my dyes full strength like I had in the April session. I also used the leftover dye concentrates from April, too…. That ended up being my problem….

Dyed Fabric Soaking 3

Above photo- my “Dark” Greens and a sweatshirt that looked like it would be pretty deep blue with purples upon first rinse……

Lessons Learned:

  1. Mix your dye concentrates fresh for each dyeing session if you want vibrant colors. Mine were mixed in April and used in July, stored in my kitchen which reaches temperatures over 80 degrees in summer even with the AC running. Just because I got away with old concentrates in the past (during the winter), doesn’t mean I’ll get away with it again.
  2. When using old dye concentrates, if your fuchsia is a bit lumpy or “clotted” looking, take that as an indication that things are not right…. Fuchsia can have a few specks, but lots of gobs… not good.
  3. The way a piece of fabric looks upon first rinse out is not always what you will end up with after all the unused dye particles are gone. Each rinse ended up with my fabrics getting lighter and lighter. The colors pretty much rinsed all out.
  4. If your darkly splotched clean-up fabric pieces that have been soda ash treated wash out to super pale colors, realize that there may be something more going on than too short a batching time. Mine rinsed out really pale, and still I thought that I could get deeper colors by just trying again. I don’t learn too quickly at times…
  5. Never have preconceived ideas of what you want to end up with when you are playing with dye- the same goes for paint… you never know what you will end up with. I think that is the best part of playing with paints or dyes.
  6. Most of all, Enjoy the process, no matter what you end up with.

Another bucket of fabric. I did get some pretty purplish blues that kept some good color, but as you can see a lot of the pieces washed out to very pastel shades.

Shibori 1

This is one of my first attempts at pole wrapped Shibori dyeing. I had wrapped this piece around the pipe back in April, but didn’t add the dye because I had already made a big enough mess in my kitchen at the time. This piece was spectacular when it was first unwrapped and given a quick rinse. By rinse number 2, it got lighter…. then by the time the water was running clear, this is what I ended up with. The golden yellow stuck around the best because it was freshly mixed dye that my friend gave me. I just added it without thinking too much on the end, and it ended up being the only “bright spot” in this fabric. I do love the patterning I ended  up with, and the pastel colors are different than what it looked like at first. I also love the colors that did stick around… I do like pastel colors.

Dribble Catcher 1-2

This I call a “dribble catcher” because I placed it in the bottom of the bucket I used to catch the dribbles of dye as I poured it onto the above Shibori piece. I also let the pipe rest in the bucket while I let the soda ash do it’s job. This caught a bit more color in places…. This fabric is a white on white print, and this is the back side of the fabric. I love to play with these because you get something different on each side. Most of this 2 yard piece did end up rinsing out to the pale blue shades, but you can definitely see the golden yellow.

Dribble Catcher 1 Front

This is the “front” of the dribble catcher piece. I prefer the look of the back, but this side is interesting.

Shibori 2

This is my second Shibori piece. It also began looking much deeper colored. I wrapped this one a bit differently than the first, but both pieces ended up being pastel, too.


This began the day as a white sweatshirt…. It then looked as if it would be deep blues with rose and purples… now it is a pretty near turquoise blue with a few flecks of pink.

More Fat Quarters

Even though I was expecting to end up with some deep colored fabrics somewhat like the ones in this photo, the results were wayyy lighter. The great thing about fabric is that if I really don’t like what I end up with, I can just go ahead and mix up new dyes, re-scrunch the fabrics and pour on new colors, and it’s like Christmas all over again…. Opening up and rinsing out dyed fabrics is a lot like opening up Christmas gifts. You never know what you have until you open it up (and in the case of dye- rinse it out).

In the two dyeing sessions of this year, I have learned a LOT about dye and what I can and can’t get away with (OK, I am always trying to break rules :). Even though I didn’t end up with fabric colors I was looking for, I ended up with some really pretty fabric that I can leave as it is, overdye, or even add a bit of paint (sunprinting over some of these might be really fun). The best part of the day yesterday was being able to have a “play date” with a couple other fabric lovers. That is better than getting the “right” colors.

Now more fun begins…. Time to see what I end up with playing with my newly colored fabrics.


I am a former textile artist and new pattern designer with a degree in horticulture, wishing to share my love of nature, flowers and gardens with everyone through my photos, sunprinted fabrics, and now pattern designs. Chronic Lyme Disease has caused major changes to the direction my life. I have to limit the amount of time spent digging in my gardens, and quilting has become more difficult. I discovered pattern design as a way to get art back into my life. I now use my gardens and photos to inspire designs that can be used on fabrics and print on demand items.

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4 comments on “A Tale of 2 Dyeing Sessions…
  1. Sue Kaufman says:

    Absolutely, good or not so good, it was a fantastic time with fellow fabric loves! We’ll do it again of course 🙂 Interesting to see Tina start from scratch and end with some gorgeous pieces. A new hand dyer is born! It was good to see you Sue, hope to see you again soon 🙂

  2. Norma says:

    It looks like you had a lot of fun and got some pretty results, even if it wasn’t what you had in mind. I have used mixed dyes that were several months old and they worked just fine, but I had stored them in the refrigerator.

  3. Deb says:

    Experience has taught me that “paleness” is more often a function of the fabric & preparation than the age of the dyestock! I abuse my concentrates terribly. The set I mixed in late march were stored in a bucket under the dyeing table on the deck. The most protection they had from Georgia heat was the shade!
    I used to have a little beer fridge for my dyes but since it died, I’ve found no appreciable loss in intensity.

    I have found that machine washing the cloth in HOT water with DAWN and then letting them soak in the soda ash soup for at least 24 hours gave me the best chance for vivid intensity of colors no matter the age or freshness of the dyestock – also my concentrates are water + dye powder, nothing else. no salt, urea etc.

  4. Sue says:

    I think I may have also rushed the rinse out a bit, too with only an hour or so in the soda ash…. The final rinsed and ironed results left me with only one piece I really don’t care for, the others have lots of subtle patterning and I ended up with colors I really do need in my stash. Before ditching the concentrates I will give them another try…. GA heat with good results sounds intriguing…. My kitchen can’t be any hotter than that! I also got an idea for rinse water… I will just have to go to my son’s house to use his water 🙂 We are in “drought mode” here at home. The well is holding out, but with no rain, we aren’t taking chances.