What are the right kind of tie dye fabrics and why….

Cotton and silk (the only protein fiber suitable for tie dyes) are ‘stereo type’ tie dye fabric choices. However, your options for tie dyeing also include linen, rayon, bamboo, jute, hemp, soy and paper.

The only real requirement is that the fibers of your fabric are plant derived because it’s these cellulosic fibers that readily accept dyes and allow the dye molecules to actually become part of the fibers themselves.

Synthetic fibers won’t accept dye staining and neither will protein fibers like wool and angora. The only really good exception is silk.

What do you need to do to prepare your tie dye fabrics for tie dying?

It’s best to simply wash, or rather ‘scrub’ any fabric you’re going to dye to remove any sizing that may be on the fabric. You might want to try PFD fabrics that are specially made for tie dying. However, most experienced tie dyers find that you can get the same or better results from cheaper sources of cottons (such as plain white quilter’s cotton) and other regular purpose tie dye suitable fabrics.

Note though, that if you don’t pre-wash or soak your fabric in a soda ash solution before tie dyeing it could result in undesirably uneven dye distribution.

How to get the best out of your tie dyes for beautiful tie dye fabric…

Soaking in a solution of soda ash or just plain (warm) water is necessary to help the fabric readily absorb the dye. Sometimes, however, a dry fabric needs a bit of help to get thoroughly ‘wet’ through and through. To aid and speed up this process you can add urea to the wash or soaking solution.

Adding urea to the dyes themselves will result in the dye powders dissolving faster in the water as well as helping the dye colors to better absorb into the fabric.

When your tie dyed fabric is ready to rest for a while. or you want to store your left over dye, you should note that, when the dye is mixed with water, the color starts to break down as the dye deteriorates. This can cause the resulting color to be ‘weak’ and, if you let your tie dye project sit too long the colors can become ‘fuzzy’.

To prevent this from happening you can add Ludigol to your dyes once they’ve been mixed with water, as it acts as a dye preservative and helps the dye react more with the fabric.

If you live in an area where the water tends to be ‘hard’ your tie dyed fabrics may not come out looking as evenly or richly colored. To solve this problem you can get a water softener to add to your soaking solution and dyes.

If you want to have greater control over how your dye pattern will look on your fabric, you can choose to add a thickener such as sodium alginate to your dyes so you can apply the dye colors as paint to your fabric.

Two last tips about tie dye fabric applications are:

1. The darker or stronger you want your dye color to be,  the more dye powder you need to use in your dye mix.

2. The best temperature to work in is when it’s warm. It translates to everything involved; room temperature, water temperature, damp fabric temperature and temperature at which your freshly tie dyed fabric should be stored. The warmer the temperature, the stronger and more permanent the dye will be.

How to keep your tie dye fabric from bleeding:

When you tie dye fabric you want the dye to stay in the fabric without fading. You don’t want it to get muddied with the other colors and, you don’t want it to leak out and stain other clothing that will eventually get washed with it later on.

To take care of all of these issues you can add a little Synthrapol detergent to your wash water when you first put your tie dyed fabric in the washer (by themselves) and, the excess dye will be removed from the fabric and the colors will both be more permanent and be prevented from coloring the remaining white areas of your cloth.