How to Dye Fabric

By Contributing Writer

Fabric can be easily dyed by using commercial dyeing products or by using natural things such as tea (which makes a tan to light-brown dye) and onion skins (which make a yellow dye). Simply finding a dye color to match the color of the stain can salvage stained fabric. Simply remove as much of the stain as possible, and then dye the fabric to match what is left.And, anyone who was a child of the 60s, or had parents who lived during that “colorful” time, can remember tie-dying.

Using Commercial Dyeing Products

Wash the fabric you will be dyeing, according to the instructions on the commercial dyeing product's box. If you're using natural products, wash and rinse the fabric as you normally would/ However, for wool fabric, do not rinse it completely. Leave some soap in, as this will help the wool accept the dye better.

Follow the instructions on the box for mixing commercial dyeing products.

Boil the dye until it has reached the proper temperature and then reduce the heat until the dye has stopped boiling but is still very hot.

Submerge the fabric completely into the pot or bowl, and stir it, using back and forth and side to side motions. Repeat this action for about five minutes.

Lift the fabric completely out of the dye solution and submerge it again. Repeat this action for about five minutes.

Squeeze the excess liquid from the fabric, then “set” the dye according to the instructions on the box.

Dyeing With Tea

Brew at least a gallon of tea, using twice as many tea bags as you normally would to make tea for drinking. Put the tea bags in a pan of water, bring it to a boil, and allow it to boil for about three to five minutes. Then, allow the tea bags to sit in the water for another three to five minutes. (You want the tea to be very strong.)

Once the tea has brewed and cooled somewhat, but is still warm (comfortable enough to drink without burning your tongue), submerge the fabric completely into the pot or bowl, making sure all the fabric is covered with the tea.

Follow the instructions in Steps 4 and 5. For a light-tan color, keep the fabric in the tea solution for only two to three minutes. For a darker-brown color, keep the fabric in the tea solution for five minutes or longer, depending on how deep you wish the color to be.

Lift the fabric out of the tea solution, and check to see that it is evenly dyed, and is the color you wish it to be.

Squeeze the excess liquid out of the fabric, and allow it to dry naturally.

Dyeing with Onion Skins

Peel only the outer (paper-thin) skins from the onion and just a very thin layer off the onion surface. You want only the skin, because that’s where the color is.

Place the onion skins in a pot of water, and bring the water to a boil. Allow the skins to boil for three to five minutes, and then allow them to sit in the water while you proceed to Step 14.

Soak the fabric to be dyed in a solution of alum and water (1 part alum to 4 parts water) for one hour, and then soak the fabric in a solution of tannin and water (1 part tannin to 4 parts water) for one hour. Keep the onion skins/water solution at the same temperature as specified for the tea solution in Step 8 while you are doing this.

Follow the instructions in Step 4 and 5, using the times specified in Step 9 to achieve the desired color.

Squeeze the excess liquid out of the fabric, and allow it to dry naturally.