Introduction: Water-Powered Fabric Dyeing

About: Welcome! Pleased to meet you, I am Barb; a Maker. I have been making things AND explaining how to make things for as long as I can remember. I was all about DIY before it was a popular term. I absolutely love …

Water is an amazing thing! We tend to overlook it since it serves us so well. But as an artist I have really come to appreciate it for how it can perform. When you really think about it there is nothing that can enable creative expression quite like water... This instructable shows how the amazing water finds it's own way to make the most interesting and unique prints and designs. And it's just a bonus that they look like nature's gems and geodes!

Step 1: The Materials:

Water is the power but it needs some pigment. Fibre Reactive dye is water soluble and quite permanent on natural fibres. It can be found in many colours and various brands. Fabric made of cotton, hemp, linen, silk, rayon, bamboo and rami are all examples of fibres found or derived from nature.

You will need:

Step 2: Prepare Your Water & Fabric

Heat the water in the crock pot to about 170 degrees. For each 4 cups water add 1/2 cup soda ash and mix well. The soda ash helps the dye bond permanently to the fibres due to it's alkalinity.

As a an extra preparation soak the fabric in a similar soda ash solution for at least 20 minutes. With gloved hands wring out the fabric well.

Step 3: Tieing Your Design:

The water will decide where it wants to go but you can help by limiting it's path; ie tieing it. This is not a new concept however I have discovered that working with sinew is amazing. I'm tired of elastics that break and sore fingers from tying knots. Sinew (artificial) is waxed and will slightly stretch when pulled crazy-tight, but it will cling to itself and stay without having to tie a knot.

Pull up sections of the fabric in a random or controlled pattern. Wrap the sinew a few times around it and then use the dowel/pipe to make a sort-of handle to gain leverage by wrapping around it a few times. You will be able to pull as hard as possible on this dowel now - genius!

Rather than cut go on to the next wrap and so on... until you are happy with the amount of ties.

Step 4: Heat the Water:

The 'magic' solution for enabling the dye will need to be at least 160 degrees. It will lose some degrees during the process so it can be a bit hotter to start.

Step 5: Where the 'Colour Magic' Happens:

For safety please wear a dust mask when working with the Fibre Reactive Dye Powder.

Using a small stick or spoon sprinkle tiny amounts of the dye powder in the colours that you have chosen on areas of the tied piece. I LOVE blue since when it is diluted it is still a pretty colour. And it IS the colour of water...

Using the syringe suck up some of the water from the crock pot and slowly wet out the powder. This will make it create a dye and flow into the folds and details as it likes. Mix colors or not, drench with colour or not... it's up to you. It will be quite mysterious as to how it will turn out. Do let the water have some freedom to create the design. If you like, you can sneak a peek into the folds to see how much colour has spread with the 'watering'.

Step 6: Finishing Up:

Since the heat was applied via the 'watering' from the crock pot it does not need to be heat processed or let sit for 24 hours.

Rinse immediately under cold water until it runs clear. Untie the sinew and further rinse. I love the opening of the bundle as the colours and pattern always amaze me! How well water 'paints'!

Look at those rings of 'gems'!

Step 7: Try 'Water' Painting a Geode T-shirt

Follow the same process as previous. I used mostly only 'Navy'. See the concentric circles and rings each made with the tying of sinew.

Move over old-fashion tie-dye and create sophisticated pretty designs using water... I love to up-cycle or create new from old. If you love to dye check here to see more.

I'll warn you; once you start dyeing it's hard to stop. And no, you do not need to be an artist. I'm sure you can do it...

Happy making and for more unique projects check my site

Step 8:

Water Contest

Participated in the
Water Contest