Low immersion dyeing is basically just tie dyeing by dumping everything together in a jar. It’s an easy and fun way to get texture on your fabric.
- Latex or rubber gloves
- Dust mask
- Measuring spoons and cups
- Plastic spoons (for mixing)
- Plastic or glass containers large enough to fit one piece of fabric (aim for at least 32 oz per yard)
- Cups or jars for mixing dye colors
- Synthrapol (professional textile detergent) or laundry detergent
- Soda ash
- Sodium hexametaphosphate (aka Metaphos) water softener (optional – for hard water only)
- Prepared for dyeing (PFD) cotton fabric
- Procion MX fiber reactive dye (aka tie dye or cold water dye)
These instructions are written for 1 yard of fabric. If you plan on making more simply scale up.
Before you start, you may want to wash your fabric. Do not add fabric softener or any other additives – this will interfere with the dying process. I always say this pre-wash is optional because I have found that as long as I use PFD fabric it hasn’t made a difference whether it’s washed or not.
1. Make the urea water by mixing 1 tbsp urea with 1 cup of warm water. If you have hard water and are using the optional water softener, also add ¼ tsp of softener.
2. Prepare the dye by mixing the desired amount of dye powder with a tablespoon or two of the urea water making a paste. This helps break up the clumps of dry dye reducing the chance of having speckles on your fabric.
There’s so many possible color combinations that I unfortunately can’t just tell you how much dye to add. Getting the exact color you want is going to take a little experimentation. In general 1 tsp of dye per yard will get you good color, however some colors require more dye powder than others. If you want a paler color, you’ll need to use less dye; for darker, use more.
Add the rest of the urea water to the dye. If you mixed in a smaller container like I did, you can add the dye to the urea water but this leaves a lot of dye sticking to the container.
Pour the mixture back and forth between the two containers until you get all that leftover dye into the solution.
3. Make the soda ash solution by adding 1½ tsp of soda ash to 1 cup of warm water.
4. Scrunch 1 yard of fabric into the plastic or glass container. Pour 1 cup of plain warm water over the fabric.
5. Pour the dye solution over the fabric. Gently press and squish to help the dye move through the fabric.
6. After approximately 15 minutes, pour the soda ash solution over the fabric.
I used clean 64 oz peanut butter jars for my fabric. Can you guess what my kids like to eat for lunch most days? We go through so much peanut butter around here.
7. Let sit for approximately 24 hours. Rinse the fabric under cold water until the rinse water runs clear. Repeat using warm water. Then machine wash in hot water using either Synthrapol or laundry detergent. Repeat machine washing as necessary.
You can test the color fastness by ironing the wet fabric between two layers of white fabric. If color transfers to the white fabric, more washing is necessary.
Here’s what the finished fabrics look like. I just love this gradient and that gorgeous texture!
My quilt + dye pattern, Dazzling Dream uses this low immersion dyeing method and comes with the dye recipes for all these colors!
You can pick up the pattern in my shop which includes full dyeing and quilting instructions to make this beautiful quilt!