Fabric Colouring and Dyeing

Part of Module 7 for the Level 3 C&G course in Machine Embroidery was to experiment with dyeing and colouring fabrics.  I had a go at mono-printing on fabric but mainly had a great time playing with colour and experimenting with Batik using cold water dyes. I love the excitement of washing out the dyes and seeing the colours emerge like magic!  Here’s how I did it, although it’s not the only way, I’m sure.  There are many really helpful resources on Pinterest and YouTube too.

 Low Water Immersion Dyeing

I used Procion MX dyes from Jaquard in Lemon Yellow,Fuchsia and Turquoise.  You’ll need water, your pre mixed dyes in small plastic cups and some larger plastic pint pots to put your fabric into.

Make up the Dye as follows: 1 tsp dye to 1 cup (approx. 250ml) water

Make up the Fixative as follows: 1tsp soda ash and 1tsp salt to 1 cup (250ml) water.  This can be kept in an empty plastic bottle as it doesn’t start to work until mixed with the dye, but be careful to label it well so that nobody accidentally drinks it!

Wash your 100% cotton fabric before starting to dye – this will remove any size on the fabric and mean it will dye evenly.  I dyed my fabric when it was dry but you should get more blended colours if your fabric is wet to start with.


  1. Scrunch approx. 1/8 metre cotton fabric (pre-washed) into each plastic pint pot – 5 pots for each set to be dyed
  2. Pour dye 1 (in this case blue) into a small plastic drinking glass A.  up to approx. 2/3 full
  3. Pour ½ of dye 1 into another plastic glass B.
  4. Pour remainder of A. into Pint Pot 1
  5. Top up B to 2/3 full with plain water
  6. Pour ½ into A and pour onto cup 2.  You’ll find you get into a rhythm pretty quickly – adding half the dye then topping up with water, adding half to the next and then topping up and so on.
  7. Carry on until your cups are as follows:

Dye cup picture

  1. Start again with dye 2 (e.g. red) and do the same thing but this time pour the first cup A onto pot 4, the second onto pot 3, third to pot 2 and fourth to pot 1.  The remainder pour onto pot 5.  This means that each piece of fabric should have 2 dye colours added but each of these will be in different proportions leading to different colours.
  2. In the end the proportions of dye should be as follows:

Low Water Immersion-1 copy

11. Once all the dye has been added, top the pots up with soda ash/salt water to cover the fabric.

12. Leave for 3 hours and then rinse thoroughly, putting in the washing machine on a 40° wash to finish and leave to dry.

This dye batch turned out as follows:

Low Water Immersion Text Red Blue

Low Water Immersion Text Yellow Blue

The following colour wheel shows the above fabrics and an additional dye batch done in the same way using yellow as dye A and red as dye B. You can see that the different proportions of blue and red/ blue and yellow/ red and yellow have worked really well and that you get a lovely tie-dye effect that would make great fabric for quilting.

Low Water Immersion with Procion MX Dyes
Low Water Immersion with Procion MX Dyes

I also experimented with dyeing the fabric a pale colour and then using batik wax to make patterns before over dyeing it.  This is really fun as you don’t see the final pattern until the second dye is applied.

Procion MX Dye/Batik
Procion MX Dye/Batik

I really enjoyed the magic of dyeing and it couldn’t be easier using this method.  I hope you have as much fun with this module as I did…Happy dyeing!

Kate 🙂