Tray Dyeing Tutorial

There are so many ways to color fibers. In this tutorial I used MX dyes and a tray dyeing method which is definitely one of my favorites. It is called tray dyeing because many people do it in a tray. I am not a fat quarter dyer. I like to dye at least a full width half yard of fabric so I transferred the IDEA of tray dyeing onto a flat surface. When I dye really large pieces (over a yard) I use 1" Styrofoam insulation board which is cut into 2' X 4' sections. I covered my table or Styrofoam board with a plastic bin bag so I can easily move and carry them. For this tutorial I used full half yards and left them on the bin bag to batch. Here's how I did it.

First I scoured the fabric in hot water and Synthropol to remove any finishes. Then I soaked the fabric in soda ash solution. I usually use an electric spinner to spin and recapture most of the soda ash solution but with this technique I wanted the fabric a bit wetter so I squeezes the pieces of cloth out by hand.  I laid the fabric out on the table on the bin bag which is opened full length.
As you can see I added one skein of #3 and #10 crochet thread and a skein of this odd unbleached weird thread a friend gave me as part of a challenge. It was kind of water resistant and dyed badly. Next I gathered up the fabric into channels. This helps the dye stay in lines and gives the fabric the striped appearance. I squirted the first color along the folds.
 This was purple
This was olive
After I felt I had enough dye on the fabric, I dropped the skeins of yarn onto the fabric and pressed it down to saturate it in dye. This turned out to be not such a great idea. I should of had the thread under the fabric which is the way I usually do it. I also pressed the fabric down flat so my finished pieces were not as linear or striped as I would have hoped.
 The red I added to the blue to make purple came out in globs making these red specks. This was an old purple. Live and learn. The old fuchsia was so clotted that I threw it away and made fresh dye after this.
Here are some more process pictures.

When I was done with one piece I folded the bin bag over the fabric and folded the open ends up to lessen dripping.
I took another bin bag to hold the individual pieces and put them on the floor until I was ready to batch them.
When I had all four pieces dyed and wrapped I folded up the outer bag. It was starting to leak so I added a second outside bag then folded them up.
I took an "art" towel and put my heated rice bags on top to meet the proper temperature during the critical first hour. I used a second towel to keep the heat in.

I put these under my parents bed because their apartment is very warm and my house is cold. I wanted the "package" to stay flat. Under the bed was the safest, warmest place to batch for 24 hours.
The next afternoon I took the package out and lifted each piece of wrapped fabric out of the towels.
I washed each piece of fabric in ice cold water and left them to soak in ice water until I was ready to wash them.
 I put the thread into a separate container of ice water to make it easier to transfer them into my lingerie bag for the wash and dry.
I put them in a quick hot wash for 30 minutes with Synthropol and 2 Color Catchers. If you don't have Synthropol. Use a soap without bleach or optical brighteners.
I dried the thread skeins in the lingerie bag. When the fabric is dried, I spray with water and steam press. Here are the fabrics whole and with a close up picture.
 This piece was red, purple and intense blue

 This is intense blue and olive and green

 This is navy, turquoise and olive

 And my Fave, purple and olive

 This is the thread just out of the dryer not yet dry. I open the skeins and hang them to dry. Tomorrow I will re-twist them back into skeins and store them for future projects.

 This is an old piece a few years old. Wouldn't this make a wonderful sunset?
And this was dyed especially for sky. I folded fabric in half before gathering to get a perfect "reflection" of sky on water (not shown) and I used it in a quilt of a Vernal pond.

I hope this gives you ideas of how to create some wonderfully stripped fabric. If you can just gather and not press the ridges down, you're outcome will be better. Using the Styrofoam boards helps too.
I hope you have a wonderful time experimenting with tray dyeing.

1 comment:

  1. In this traying dying tutorial, you didn,t say what kind of dye you used to dye the fabric and DMC thread. Thanks, love those tutes! Pat Miodonski (


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