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How to Dye Fabric

Everyone has been talking about the dollar fabric at Walmart. Everyone. I finally remembered to look and found some dollar a yard fabric. The problem was that it was ugly…and a bit see through.

I have seen people dye fabric and I even adventured once in my youth and dyed ballet slippers to go along with my Tinker Bell costume. Let’s just take you back to 1998 for a brief second…


Right – so back to the present where I have little experience dyeing fabric. 🙂 Let’s get started!

Fabric you want to dye
Rit Dye
Stirring Stick
Washing Machine

This is the dye I used.

Begin by washing and drying your fabric. This gets any chemicals from production out and shrinks your fabric. Grab your bucket and fill with hot water.
I used about three gallons of water for two yards of fabric. You just want to be sure the fabric is completely covered by the dye mixture. The Rit dye I used required one cup of salt to make the color vibrant. This is optional, but it kind of like adding the vinegar to the water when you are dyeing eggs. It boosts the color.

Add your dye. I dumped it all in. Mags was my helper during this project. Careful! If you spill at this point it’s a huge mess.


Mix. I grabbed a piece of scrap wood.

If you have the space, I would now go outside. Mags was super interested in this part so it was just easier to be on the back patio than leaning over the sink.

Mags put the fabric in a little at a time. This was where we started to see the pattern of the fabric start to emerge.





Once it’s all in there, MIX!

You want to be sure each and every part of the fabric soaks up the dye.


Now comes the hard part….waiting and waiting and waiting. I was bad at waiting to I grabbed the old rug from the bathroom that had spots from Stella’s magenta hair dye and worked on a second dyeing project.


I had no more big buckets so I used a small trash can and followed the same method, but did not add the salt just to test it out.


They both sat f.o.r.e.v.e.r. It was very difficult to keep kids away and to not mess with it.

The next morning…
I have heard my mother tell me to never dye in my own washing machine, but the internet is full of people who do all the time. I should have listened to my mother….or had a plan that was better than the one I schemed up. I just dumped the whole bucket of dye and fabric in my front loading machine. You can do this, but I would dump the excess dye first.





Be sure to put down an old towel in case of spills. Now wash your fabric on hot on the longest cycle it can do. Mine was about an hour and a half. I picked up the fabric after that load and my hands turned pink. 🙁 I washed again and a third time putting in color catchers and finally go to the point where I could handle the fabric without dye bleeding out. I dried on high heat and held my breath.

It turned out beautifully! I included a few of the color catchers to show you what I meant about the dye bleeding. The color is fabulous and the pattern is now visible. Stella now loves this fabric!


Now, my machine was in need of a deep clean. I ran the cleaning cycle with bleach twice to get it ready for the rug.

I followed the same steps with my rug and had the same issues with my machine except this time everything was navy. Eek! The major difference was the salt and the bucket and boy could I tell. See the shading and the difference in tone? Not where the stripes are because I love that, but where the dye didn’t soak into the fabric evenly. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great either.





So, I learned that salt and containers matter, my mother was right about the mess, and I can’t wait to dye something else. Watch out dollar fabric – I’m comin’ for ya!


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Becky Benedict

Sewist/Graphic Designer at Crafty Betty
mother of four. sewist. photographer. graphic designer. scrapper. all around silly lady. Find her at Crafty Betty

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