Space dyeing is a
technique used to create
lovely fabrics which shade
from one colour to another.
Depending on the method
used the fabrics can be
softly muted or vibrant
Dyes are different to paints in that they
react with the fabric fibres and create a
chemical bond. To make this bond they
need a fixative – washing soda or soda
ash is used for cold water reactive dyes.
Other dyes have different fixing agents.
Dyes are chemicals and should be
treated as such – do not inhale the
powder, drink any of the liquids used
or store where children could find and
open them. Read all the instructions
carefully before you start.
- 100% cotton fabric prewashed to
remove any dressing
- Procion MX reactive dyes
(Dylon cold water dyes)
- Washing soda powder (look for one
with no added bleach)
- Bottle to hold the dye solutions
(Body Shop bottles are good – you
can buy empty recycled ones)
- Tubs and jars for the fabric dyeing
containers: ice cream cartons,
mushroom cartons, etc
- Cat litter tray to hold all the dye
mixes (saves spillages)
- Newspaper or plastic to protect
For both methods
- Line a sink with damp fabric.
Holding the containers, carefully
mix approximately 1 teaspoon of dye
powder in a small amount of lukewarm
water. (If you are using a Dylon tin,
sellotape the remainder closed and put
into a plastic bag.) Mix to a paste and
then add up to 100ml of water. Wear
a mask for this stage. The fabric in the sink is to catch any dye spillages. It can
be added to the dye baths later. If your
containers have tops, screw them on and
put to one side.
- Mix 200g of washing soda in a jug of
boiling water. Stir until it is dissolved.
Make up to 1 litre of solution by adding
Method One - To create soft muted colours
- Cut your fabric into pieces – fat quarter
size works well. Soak in a bucket or sink
of plain water for 15 minutes.
- Arrange fabrics in a container – you
can make formal pleats or just scrunch
it in. If you use jam jars just push half the
fabric into the jar and leave the rest
- Drip or spoon dye onto areas of the
fabric. It helps to drip a different
colour down each side of the jar. Then
push more fabric in and drip more dye
into the jar.
- Using rubber gloves, press the fabric
down firmly until no white is showing.
Add more dye if there are still white
areas. Leave for at least 15 minutes
and preferably longer.
- Pour washing soda solution over the
fabric, making sure all areas of fabric
are in contact with the solution. You don’t
want the fabric swimming in solution, just
damped by it. Leave for 45 minutes. It will
not harm if it is left for longer – in fact the
longer it is left the more time the dye has
to bond to the fabric.
- Take the container to the sink and
pour excess dye away. Fill the
container with water, pull out the fabric
and rinse very well. At this stage the dyes
will still contaminate other fabrics so if
you have a lovely yellow piece do not
rinse with a dark blue piece or sections
will go green. Keep rinsing until the water
runs clear. Then rinse again in hot water,
again until the water runs clear. Finally,
put through a hot wash or rinse in the
washing machine. Hang out to dry and
iron when slightly damp.
Method Two - For bright vibrant colours
- Cut the fabric into pieces as before
but this time soak in a bucket of
washing soda solution.
- Continue as from step two above. The
fact that the fabric already has the
fixative means that as soon as the dyes hit
the fabric they will start to bond with the
fibres and you will get less colour mixing.
- Leave the fabric in the dye solution as
long as you can, for at least an hour.
If you are impatient it is best to do this last
thing at night and then leave overnight
and rinse in the morning.
Colour Mixing Theory
Just mixing two colours will produce
a fantastic range of colours. Blue and a pinky red make purple. Blue and yellow make green. Yellow and red make orange.
If you are using three colours then be
careful not to mess around too much or
you will get muddy colours with no pure
areas left – but this might be just what
If you use the same dye powders
again you will create fabrics that tone
with the ones you have made but they will
not be identical. Subtle changes in
temperature, water hardness and fabrics
used will all affect the final result.