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More Fabric Dyeing Tips

Cheryl Lynch is a quilter, designer, author, teacher, and fabric designer. She taught a workshop at Road@Home May, sharing her fabric dyeing tips.

fabric dyeing tips

Cheryl spent a lot of time at the beginning of her workshop demonstrating how to prepare for the fabric dyeing process. That preparation was covered in a previous Road to California blog post. The following fabric dyeing tips are for when you are ready to begin the actual dyeing.

Dye Activator

Before the class, Cheryl had her students purchase a dye gradation kit of their choice from Pro Chem. Each kit came with three packages of dye, measuring about 10 grams each. In addition to the dye, students also had to purchase a dye activator. This product is what sets the dye by bonding the color to the fabric. It is a Ph changer. You can use it one of two ways: either use it when washing the fabric before dyeing or use it with the dyes as you are dyeing.

fabric dyeing tips

The type of dye activator Cheryl uses is called a synthrapol: “a special detergent used in pre-scouring fibers before dyeing, and in washing out fiber reactive dyes after dyeing. It is also sometimes used as a surfactant or wetting agent to improve dye penetration.

A synthrapol detergent contains long, thin molecules which each have one end that “likes” oily substances, and another end that “likes” water. Detergent molecules will completely surround a tiny particle of something too oily to be washed away by water alone, leaving just their water-loving ‘tails’ sticking out, to be easily swept away by the water. Water is the strongest of all solvents, but it requires detergents to wash away oily substances.”

Add ½ to 1 cup of dye activator to a gallon of water.

30 Dyes for 30 Fabrics

The three dyes were first mixed in juice bottles then transferred a little bit at a time into condiment squeeze bottles. Cheryl recommended labeling A, B, or C on the shoulder of the squeeze bottle so that you can see which color dye you are using. Refill the squeeze bottles during the mixing process.

Fabric dyeing tips

Starting with 3 ½ yards of fabric, cut the fabric into fat eighths. Label each piece 1 to 30 to correspond with the mixing cups or baggies. This helps you keep track of the color gradations. Put each piece of fabric in the corresponding cup or baggie.

Begin the dyeing process by adding two tablespoons of water to each fabric filled cup.

Cheryl shared that there are two ways to dye:

  1. Add dye to the fabric then add the dye activator. If you were to omit the activator, Cheryl commented that fabric would be pale in color.
  2. Soak the fabric first in the dye activator before you dye. This method is especially good for tie dyeing and is the method that Cheryl prefers. She told her students, “This works for me but we are all creative. If you have a better way – do it.”

Follow the color mixing using the formulas that come with the dye chart. The longer you let the fabric sit in the dye, the deeper the color will be. Cheryl said she likes to leave the fabric in the dye overnight to create the darkest, richest colors.    

Fabric dyeing tips

If you don’t do anything to the fabric after you add the dye, the end result will be a “mottled” color. Stirring or squishing the fabric changes what the result will look like.

Cheryl added these fabric dyeing tips before she let her students start creating: “Be sure to rinse and mark everything after each step so you don’t get mixed up in case you get distracted.” And finally, “Dyeing fabric takes time. Go slowly and take frequent breaks.

If you want to learn more about Cheryl Lynch, please visit her website.

One Response to “More Fabric Dyeing Tips”

  1. Connie German says:

    no dyeing for me yet

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