Hand Dyeing Shortcut: Make and Keep a Soda Ash Solution – Quilting Daily

No matter which fabric dyeing techniques you use, dyeing fabric can be a fun–some might even say transformative–creative experience. Pulling the hand-dyed fabric from the dye bath to reveal the colors and patterns you have created is absolutely magical.

Yet hand dyeing, especially when you use chemical dyes, takes some preparation. You must take safety precautions, protect your clothing and work space, prepare your fabrics and resists (if you are using resist-dyeing techniques) and so on.

Tiny dye baths ready for hand dyeing threads.

Unless you have a dedicated wet studio, this preparation can take a lot of time. So I’m for anything that will speed up the prep process.

One way to do this is to mix up your soda ash solution in advance. When textile dyeing, soaking the fabric in soda ash changes the pH of the fiber-reactive dye and cellulose fiber so that the dye reacts with the fiber, making a permanent connection that holds the dye to the fiber.

Many people mix up a batch of soda ash solution for each dyeing session, but you can do this in advance, saving pre-dyeing time, says Carol Soderlund. Carol and Melanie Testa write about thread dyeing in the August/September 2014 issue of Quilting Arts.

Soda ash solution can be kept from dye session to dye session, writes Carol. It never goes bad. A re-purposed gallon drink container is perfect for both mixing and storing the solution.

Here are Carol’s tips for making soda ash solution for dyeing:

To mix a gallon of soda ash solution:

1. Pour 1/2 cup soda ash powder into the jug. (See Note, below.)

2. Fill the jug halfway with very warm water.

3. Shake the jug to dissolve the soda ash.

4. Fill the jug the rest of the way with more warm water.

how to hand dye fabric and threads with soda ash
Carol Soderlund shows how to dye variegated threads.

The soda ash dissolves very easily and the half-full jug is easier to shake than a full one. Once mixed, then I pour out only what I need for my project.

Note: Instead of soda ash, you can also use sodium carbonate which is found in the pool supply area of the hardware store. Called Balance + or pH Up, it is used to balance the pH of swimming pools.

Now you’re one step closer to hand dyeing your own fabric and thread!

Discover more about thread dyeing when you download your copy of the August/September 2014 issue of Quilting Arts.

P.S. Do you have any tips for fast-tracking your fabric dyeing process?Leave them below.

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