Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ombré dyeing tutorial: batch dye

During an unusually warm spell early this December, I tried my hand at ombré dyeing. I wanted a duvet cover with hues like this duvet cover:

and sewn like this knotted squares bedspread (an Anthropologie knockoff DIY):

I had over 12 yards of white linen on hand, otherwise I would have used jersey sheets to make the knotted squares duvet. I also had another bolt of pale ivory linen, so I used the extra dye to dip-dye fabric for ring slings.

Here's the end result of my first foray into ombré dyeing:

Now that I've done two different methods of ombré dyeing, I wanted to share my tips & tricks. Today's tutorial will be on ombré batch dyeing (dyeing each shade separately). Stay tuned for a dip-dye ombré tutorial.

  • Dye appropriate for your fabric type. I used Jacquard iDye in the following proportions to achieve the end color:
    • 2 packages turquoise
    • 2 packages royal blue
    • 1 package kelley green
  • Non-iodized salt (if needed)
  • Dye fixative (optional with iDye, but I found it made a difference)
  • Mason jar with lid (for mixing dye)
  • Large pots or buckets
  • Stovetop, camp stove, or bucket heater (optional, but keeping the fabric close to a simmer helps the dye absorb better)
  • Old clothes

Preparing the dye concentrate
  • Add the dye powder/liquid into a Mason jar and fill with water. I used approx. 1 cup (250 ml) of water per package of iDye, resulting in a full quart/liter of dye concentrate for 5 packages of iDye. (Note: I dyed a total of 18 yards of 56" wide linen with this concentrate and still had lots left over. If I had dyed the colors successively in the same bucket, rather than in separate buckets, I would have had at least half a jar of concentrate left.)
  • Fasten the lid tightly and shake well. Even a few drops of this concentrate will stain your fingers a deep hue!

Dyeing the fabric

I batch-dyed six different shades using 2-yard pieces of linen. I used six 5-gallon plastic buckets and dyed outdoors. This will be very messy, so try to do this outside if at all possible! I kept the water hot using a bucket heater (found at farm supply stores).

Now that I've done this once, I recommend dyeing everything in one bucket, one shade at a time, starting with the lightest shade and adding successively more dye to the same water (Method B). But first I will explain how I actually did it using concurrent batches (Method A).

If your dye calls for it, pre-moisten your fabric before putting into the dye bath.

Tip for adding additional dye concentrate to a dye bath: Remove the fabric before mixing in additional dye concentrate. The last thing you want to do is to pour dye concentrate right onto the fabric; you'll end up with a dark spot!

When the fabric has reached the desired shade, rinse with cool water until the water runs clear. (Remember, the fabric will be lighter once it's been rinsed, washed, and dried.) I dyed my fabric outside and had a hose on hand, so it was easy to refill my rinse buckets.

Machine wash the dyed fabric with dye fixative. I washed the 3 lightest hues together, then the 3 darkest hues. You could probably wash them all at once too.

Method A: Concurrent Batches (Not Recommended)

I filled six 5-gallon buckets with 4 gallons of very hot water per bucket and added about 1-2 cups of non-iodized salt into each bucket. Add a small amount of dye to the first bucket and successively more amounts of dye concentrate to each bucket.

I started the first bucket (lightest hue) with about 1 Tbsp of dye concentrate to 4 gallons of water and it was WAY too much. I'd suggest starting with 1/4 tsp or less of dye concentrate per 4 gallons of water for the lightest hue. Remember, you can always add more dye if needed. My last bucket (deepest hue) had 6-8 Tbsp of dye concentrate. So ideally, your starting to ending dye ratio will be at least 1:50 and perhaps close to 1:100.

Darkest dye bath (#6) on the left; shade #3 on the right.

For the first few shades, you really won't need much dye. It's better to have a more dilute dye solution and let your fabric sit for a while, than to have a more concentrated solution and a short dyeing time. Why? If your fabric is in the dye bath for only a few minutes, it won't come out evenly dyed. (I learned this the hard way!). Aim for at least 15 minutes in the dye bath for the lightest shades.

Once you've mxied the dye concentrate into the water, add the wet fabric. Keep the fabric hot using a burner or a bucket heater. While you're dyeing each shade, stir constantly to ensure the fabric is evenly dyed. Again, aim for a minimum of 15 minutes for the lightest shades and more for mid- and deep tones. Your deepest hues will sit the longest in the dye bath, ideally 30-60 minutes. Rinse dyed fabric until water runs clear.

Method B: One Bucket For All Batches (Recommended)

Fill your pot/bucket with very hot water. Start by adding a tiny amount of dye for the lightest hue, around 1/4 tsp or less per 4 gallons of water.

Add fabric and stir constantly. Aim to keep the fabric in the dye bath for at least 15 minutes (for the lightest shades) and 30-60 minutes (for the darkest shades) to ensure an even tone, so don't add too much dye concentrate at first! You can always add more if needed.

When the fabric has reached the desired shade, remove & rinse. Keep your rinsed, wet batches close by so you can visually assess when your next batch is the right shade.

dyed and rinsed batches #2-6

Using the same dye bath, add a little more dye concentrate (maybe 1/4 tsp) for the second lightest hue. Then add your wet fabric. Rinse when the fabric is the right shade.

Repeat for each successive shade. Each time you go a step darker, you'll be adding successively larger amounts of dye concentrate. So while you might add 1/4 tsp for the 2nd batch, you'll probably add 1tsp for the 3rd batch, 2-3 tsp for the 4th, 1-2 Tbsp for the 5th, and so on. Remember, you can always add more dye if the fabric hasn't darkened sufficiently after at least 10-15 minutes in the dye bath.

Why do I recommend doing each hue successively in the same dye bath, rather than all at the same time?
  1. You have more control over the end results. By starting light and going successively darker, you will have the best results achieving gradual tone changes.
  2. It's hard to do 5-6 batches at the same time, especially with larger pieces of fabric. You simply can't stir, heat, assess dye color, and rinse all by yourself. You'll likely find that some batches have gone too dark too fast and that others are splotchy. 
  3. You only need one large pot/bucket for dyeing, instead of 6!

1 comment:

  1. This is so cool! Looking forward to the dip dye tutorial too- I was just thinking about trying to turn some Ikea curtains into an ombre pattern....


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