Color Your Cloth, and have almost exclusively worked with Procion MX cold water dyes. There are a lot of advantages to this type of dyeing: the colors are pretty true, very vibrant, and even. There are a lot of disadvantages too. They are expensive, toxic, and the process takes about 8 hours plus setup and clean up.
A few weeks ago I wanted to see what I could do about finding alternative dyeing and resist techniques to make it more accessible. It was fun to experiment and see what I could come up with! These techniques use RIT dye, and aren't a true replacement for the other method, but they are a great place to start if you're interested in learning to dye fabric!
see their safety information here). The disadvantages: It is more difficult to achieve vibrant colors.
Fabric to dye: For RIT dye I'd recommend using 100% cotton fabric, like Kona Cotton White. It can be used to dye synthetic fabrics, but you're going to get better results sticking with natural fibers. Fabrics that are white-on-white prints look really cool when dyed because for the most part the printing stays white! Pre-wash and dry all fabrics before dyeing. If you're dyeing right after washing you can skip drying.
Liquid RIT dye: The liquid version is easier to use for this process and it can be used multiple times since you won't need much.
Salt: Plain table salt, not iodized.
Soda Ash: This is the dye fixer. It can be found with the tie-dye supplies and dyes at most craft stores. It is Sodium Carbonate, and is also used to raise the PH level in pools, so it can sometimes be found with pool supplies in large quantities.
Rubber Gloves: I just use a pair of regular kitchen dish gloves.
Plastic containers: I make my dye baths in big empty yogurt containers, cheap plastic pitchers or plastic dish tubs.
Measuring cups & spoons: I picked up a set of each at the dollar store.
Stirring spoon: A plastic spoon for stirring.
Basic Dyeing Technique
1. Fill your dye bath container with 1 quart of HOT water.
2. Put 2 Tablespoons of salt in the water, stir until dissolved.
3. Carefully measure out 2 Tablespoons Liquid RIT into the salt water, stir.
4. In a separate container, wet fat quarter (or 1/4 yard) of fabric. Squeeze out excess water.
5. Put fabric in the dye. Stir constantly for the first 5 minutes or so to ensure even coverage. Leave in bath for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes..
6. After 30 minutes, carefully remove fabric from dye bath. Add 1 Tablespoon of Soda Ash to the dye bath. Stir until dissolved.
7. Add fabric back into the dye bath, stirring for a few minutes. Leave in bath for 30 minutes to 1 hour, stirring every 10-15 minutes.
8. Remove fabric from dye bath, dump dye down the drain.
9. Rinse out fabric, starting with cold water, then warm water, then hot water until the water runs clear.
10. Wash normally with detergent on warm/cold. If I've dyed a dark purple and a light yellow I'll often do two different loads, otherwise I put multiple colors together. Add 1/2 cup of salt to the washer (in water for top loading, with detergent for front loading) to help reduce bleeding. Dry or remove from washer and press with a hot iron.
RIT has a Color Formula Tool on their website that helps you create up to 500 different colors by mixing different RIT dyes. Personally, I like to just wing it, but it would be a great place to start if you have a certain color in mind.
Alternative Resist Methods
For all of these methods I applied the resist to dry fabric before dyeing. Let the resist dry if need be and then dye with the instructions outlined in the beginning of this post.
2. Crayons: I am wondering how much wax is in traditional crayons, because this was the worst method I tried. I used a white crayon to draw on the fabric and it's barely even visible. I wanted to try these wax-resist sticks but couldn't find them locally. They may be worth a try, but traditional crayons are not! Crayon will come off in the wash.
3. Elmer's School Glue Gel: This by far worked the best of the three
methods I tried. It was pretty consistent and the results are pretty
similar to what you can achieve with wax. I applied it pretty thickly
onto the fabric, which took most of the day to dry. I'd recommend
applying it and letting it dry overnight. It worked well being squeezed
onto the fabric and dipping a tool into it and stamping. This is a
great resist to try! Elmer's Glue will come off in the wash.
Elmer's School Glue Gel. For the Purple fabric I squeezed the glue straight onto the fabric, creating a shape with simple lines. For the orange fabric, I poured glue into a small dish and dipped a cardboard toilet paper roll into it and stamped it onto the fabric, twisting it a bit on the fabric to get more glue onto it. Both methods provided great results!
Don't hang it up to dry unless you want drip marks! Dry flat.
For the fabrics above I used the following dyes (purple, green, and orange were made by mixing): Cherry Red, Fuchsia, Petal Pink, Lemon Yellow, Aquamarine, and Teal.
Procion MX dyes or wax-resist dyeing, I highly recommend Malka Dubrawsky's Color Your Cloth! All of the fabrics in the above image were dyed using Procion MX cold water dyes!
Disclaimer: I am not an expert when it comes to dyeing. I have
learned some tricks and tips while experimenting on my own, but please
exercise caution when working with dyes. Keep small children and pets
away from dye baths and supplies. Dye is permanent and will stain
clothes and tile grout. It will temporarily stain bathtubs, but can
usually be cleaned up pretty easily with bleach-based cleaning products. Use your best judgement and consult the RIT website for more information on their dyes.