Costume | My Blog | Sewing

Adventures in Dying Fabric- Trying Ombre Dying

October 12, 2017


In 2014, I made a post documenting my first attempt to dye a jacket. Even though that attempt turned out well and I mentioned that I wanted to write more posts about fabric dying, I never did because I didn’t have a reason to dye fabric. Recently, I decided to make a costume that was on my to-make list for years. I never perused making this costume because I felt it was too advanced for my skill level for me to make at that time and I believed I wouldn’t look good in it. After some encouragement from a friend of mine, I decided to make it anyway.

Even though my sewing skills are advanced enough to make the costume (I almost make the base of the costume in one weekend) and I lost enough weight that I felt comfortable wearing it, there was a problem with the costume’s construction that has bothered me since I wanted to make it for the first time: I would need to dye the fabric. And it’s not just dying the fabric like I did in my 2014 blog post. It’s ombre dye with more than two colors.

I was nervous about ombre dying because I believed it was hard to do. After doing a lot of research about ombre fabric dying online, I became even more nervous about attempting ombre dye because all the tutorials I found online talked about dying with one color, not with multiple colors. After many months of on and off thinking, I believed I thought of a way to ombre dye fabric with multiple colors and is easy for me to do.

I’m not sure if this is the way I want to dye the fabric for the costume I plan on making, but it is a start. If I change anything, I plan on making a formal tutorial later so others will have another option to ombre dye fabric as well.

The first thing I did was pick out the fabric dye. I bought two different colors, Aquamarine and Fuchsia, in Rit Liquid Dye.

I picked these two colors because I thought they would contrast against one another better than other colors I thought about using. I also like to use Rit dye because it’s easier to find where I live and, if I need more, I can find it easily.

The fabric I used to use to dye was muslin cotton…

And knit fabric…

I originally planned on making the costume out of natural fiber fabrics, such as cotton, and the knit fabric I used to dye. I used all the natural fiber fabric on the costume, so I used some scrap muslin fabric I had left over from something I was working on because it would take the dye the same way the natural fiber fabric would.

After I prepared the area I would be using to dye by laying plastic cling wrap on the ground, I made the dye baths. Shortly after I made the dye baths, I realized the concentration of the dye would be more intense and darker than I wanted my costume to be, but since this was an experiment I didn’t mind the dye turned out to be brighter and darker than I ultimately wanted it to be.

Then, I was ready to dye!

In the photo, there are three strips of fabric instead of two. I ended up dying two strips of cotton fabric and one strip of knit fabric. I wanted to dye two strips of knit fabric, but I didn’t have enough knit fabric for two strips.

While researching ombre fabric dying techniques, I learned that the fabric needs to be wet in order for it to accept the dye and blend the dye better. So, before I put the fabric into the dye baths, I made sure all the strips of fabric was pre soaked, but rung so it would not be dripping water.

I started dying the fabric by putting one end of the fabric strips into one dye bath and the other end into the other dye bath. Then, I moved the fabric from one dye bath into the other until I had an area in the middle of the fabric that was a purple color. The whole entire time I dyed the fabric, I wore gloves to protect my hands from getting dyed. This really helped when I tried to blend the dye colors together. After I let the fabric sit in the dye baths and passed the middle of the strips enough times to make it the color I thought looked ok, I took the strips out of the dye baths and laid them out to dry.

Once they dried, one of the cotton strips looked like this…

And the knit fabric looked like this…

After looking at the dried fabric, I could see the cotton fabric already had more vibrant colors than the knit fabric. This concerned me because, if I used the knit fabric in the costume, the colors would not look the same as the cotton fabric and I would need to possibly dye the knit fabric longer or in a different way than the cotton. Since I wanted to dye all the fabric for my future costume at the same time, I didn’t want to make two different fabric dye paths for each dye color. Even though I was concerned, I wanted to rise the colors out and wash the fabric in the washing machine.

After rinsing the color out and washing the fabric, the cotton looked like this…

And the knit fabric looked like this…

So, yes. The knit fabric does not take the dye very well. In fact, I don’t think the dye will stay on the fabric at all if I continue to wash it. After thinking about why the fabric didn’t take the dye as well as the cotton, I believe the reason is because the fabric does not have cotton in the fiber content and instead has only polyester and spandex fibers. Since I dyed the knit fabric the same way cotton should be dyed (Water and salt with the dye), the dye did not take.

Since I do not want to make multiple dye baths to dye my costume fabric, I plan on buying new fabric to replace the knit fabric in hopes of getting a fabric that will take the dye like the cotton. I do not have replacement fabric yet, but I’m currently on the hunt for some. I hope once I find fabric that will take the dye better, I can write a tutorial on my method of how I ombre dye fabric.

That’s all for now and thank you for reading!