Immersion Dyeing

Kimberly Baxter Packwood

Immersion dyeing is simply immersing your fibers into a dye solution, completely covering the fibers with liquid.  In doing so, you want to be sure to allow the fibers to move around freely so that consistent saturation of dye color occurs.

There will be times when you want your base color, for your designs, to be a color other than white or natural.  Immersion dyeing allows you to dye your fibers, by placing them into a dye pot, and forget about them for awhile.  It also gives better coverage than dye painting, for a base colors. 

You may dye your fibers with either synthetic or natural dyes, for your base color.  The method you chose depends on the effects you are striving for. 

NOTE: when immersion dyeing, with either synthetic or natural dyes, this will affect the top colors you chose to design with.  For instance, if you immersion dye your cloth using Osage Orange, or a synthetic yellow first, and then stencil a design onto the fabric, using indigo, you will end up with a finished design that is green.  These changes will occur whether screen printing, stenciling, stamping or painting.  

Remember any dye colors that you add to the top of your fabric surface will be altered by the fabrics base color.


Basic Immersion Dyeing Instructions:

1.     Scour Fabrics

2.     Mordant the fabrics

3.     Place dye materials into large pot, see section on Equipment.

4.     Cook the dye materials according to recipe you have.

5.     Remove the dye materials from the dye liquor

6.     Place fabrics into the dye pot, bring just up to a boil; simmer for two hours.

7.     Remove heat source after two hours

8.     Leave fabric in the dye solution overnight or for 24 hours to batch.

9.     For red colors allow to batch longer, as this will allow for greater uptake of the red dye molecules.

10.   Remove fabric from the dye bath and rinse until the water runs clear (you could do this step in a washing machine, do not use a soap/detergent at this point.

11.   Line-dry the fabric.

12.   Machine wash and rinse the fabric using cold water and a gentle soap. 


Gradation Dyeing with Natural Dyes
Ifyou want to do gradation dyeing, with natural dyes, you can achieve this by
using bound resist techniques in one of several manners.

First you can bind off the center of the fabric, clamp boards to the
fabric, putting the clamps on the center (outside) only so that they
ease up as they approach the fabric.  This allows dye, not a lot but
some, to creep up onto the fabric that is under the board, but you
will have an uncolored line along the center edge.  Submerse your
bundle into the dye bath and dye as normal, use plastic clamps here
as some metal ones will react with the dyes and change the color.

Once that is done you can remove your fabric, rinse rest etc.  
Take another set of boards, only wider and repeat this process until
you have acquired the gradation you desire.

 Your selvedges will typically dye differently than the main fabric, 
due to the density of the weave or knit on the edge.

 Another method for gradation is to bind off the area you don't want
dyed, dye the fabric in a weak dye bath, remove the bundle from the
bath, rinse and rest.   Make the dye bath more concentrated, and
dye the fabric again, you can change the resist areas if you desire, 
adding more or less each time.  

 Repeat this process until you achieve the gradation you desire.

 Mind you you can do this with an untold number of times, and not
just with fabric, but there isn't any quick and easy method to do
this work.  But it's very rewarding once you are done.

Kimberly Baxter Packwood

If you found the information on this page to be helpful, please consider making a donation. I spend many hours researching and testing natural dye techniques, to ensure that you will achieve the best results when working with natural dyes. Your donation will allow me to continue with these endeavors. Thank you ~ Kimberly