Multi-colored Fabric Dyeing – One-of-a-Kind Sketchbook, Part I – Quilting Daily

A note from Vivika: The is the third in a series of guest posts by fiber artist and fabric dyeing expert Candy Glendening. Be sure to check out her tutorials on how to dye baby clothes and free-motion machine quilting a motif for a baby t-shirt, too.

Dyeing my own fabric allows me to make pieces that are unique – it reflects the handmade nature of what I do, and ensures that what I make is one of a kind. In this next pair of posts, I’ll show you how I dye multicolor fabric
and use it to make a sketchbook cover.

Multicolored Hand Dyed Sketchbook Cover
by Candy Glendening.


  • PFD (Prepared for Dyeing) Fabric, 1/2 yard pieces
  • Several different colors of Procion MX Fiber Reactive dye powders
  • Soda Ash soak (1/2 cup Sodium Carbonate mixed in 1 gallon water)
  • recycled sports cap drink bottles to hold your dissolved dyes
  • plastic containers that can hold your clothing/fabric compressed
  • plastic drink cups & disposable spoons
  • 1 measuring cup you’ll never use for food preparation
  • Particulate mask (to wear while handling the dye powders)
  • Latex/rubber gloves to protect your hands

Prep and Dye the Fabric

1. Start by soaking your clothing and fabric in the Soda Ash solution (this raises the pH of the fiber so that when the dye is touches the fiber it will form a permanent, washfast bond).

2. Prepare your dyes by placing about 2 teaspoons of dye into a plastic cup (make sure to wear your mask when working with the dry powder). In another plastic cup measure 1 cup of lukewarm water. Add a small amount of water to the dye, mixing it into a paste. Continue adding small amounts of water until the powder is completely dissolved.

3. Repeat this process with your other dyes.

For details and exact amounts on the colors I mixed for this project, see my DVD: Dyeing to Stitch.

4. Pour this dye into your dye storage containers. This clip from my DVD shows you exactly how I place the fabric in the container and add multiple colors so that the cloth is a glorious mix of intense color, not a muddy mess!

Click on the image to watch
Candy demonstrate.

Batch and Washout

5. Once you’ve added the dye to your fabrics, let them sit in the sun or in a warm part of your house. After 2 hours, if the dyes were kept at room temperature, ~95% of the dye will have reacted with the fiber. You can wash the fabric then, or wait. I usually wait overnight to eke out that last little bit of dyeing (if your room is cool, the reaction will take longer). You also can leave these til you have time, it is at your convenience.

6. Dump one piece of fabric in your sink (be careful of splashes, the dye can still stain your counter top, your grout and your clothes!!!) Rinse in cool water til the fabric loses its slippery feel and loses very little color when squeezed. When the slipperiness is gone, so is most of the soda ash, so the odds of any dye reacting with other fiber now are remote.

7. Repeat with the other fabrics. At this point you can let them sit in a big bath of water for a bit to help with diffusion.

8. After a few hours of sitting in water, wash them (altogether at this point) in the hottest temp your washing machine can do. I use a small amount of Synthrapol, which is a detergent that is sold to help keep any washed away dye particles from depositing on the other fabrics, but if you did that first soak in individual containers, you probably won’t need it and plain old detergent (without bleach!) will be fine.

9. After the washing machine runs all the way through, I usually run it again, stopping it in the middle of the washing agitation, lifting the lid and scooping out some water in a clear glass. If you see no color, your washing days are over – if you do, back to the washing machine for you!

Each of the fabrics you dye in this way will be different; make sure to dye several so you can bear to cut into it! In my post next week, I’ll show you how I use a bit of this gorgeous fabric to make a one of a kind sketchbook that has a free-motion machine-sketched flower on the cover.


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