Gypsy Rope Garland
a Dharma featured tutorial
Making a Gypsy Rope, or fabric garland is a great way to reuse and recycle fabrics and is a fun craft just about anyone can do! Do you have a bunch of fabric scraps and other crafting odds and ends taking up space in your home? This tutorial makes for a quick way to make something beautiful out of those scraps you've been saving, while highlighting them in a new way.
- Fabric Scraps and ribbons! Just about any kind will work. For the dyeing part of this tutorial, use scraps that are natural fibers, like cotton, linen, hemp, rayon, silk, wool, etc. Two exceptions are nylon, which can be dyed with Acid dyes and Polyester, which can be dyed with iDye Poly.
- We also used, in the final garland making step, scraps of our colored silks and other pre-dyed leftover fabrics.
- Synthrapol, or Dharma Textile Detergent - good for getting your scrap fabrics clean and ready to be dyed (as well as best for washing out the excess dye after). If you're working with vintage or really stained materials, you can also try using Retro Wash and Retro Clean, which is tough on stains, but super gentle on fabric.
- Bits of lace, ribbons and yarn can also be incorporated into your fabric garland.
- Yarn, twine or cordage which you can use as the base for tying your fabric onto. Our Rolled Silk Cord or Rattail Satin Cord will work really well for smaller garlands and can be dyed to match the colors of your garland. We opted to use the regular cotton rope that is available at most hardware stores as well as our stronger Jute Cord. Make sure it's sturdy if you're planning a long garland as it can get heavy!
- Dye - this depends on the fabric you're using. For cottons, and other plant-based fibers use Fiber Reactive Procion dyes. For silks, wools and other animal-based fibers use Acid Dyes. For polyesters, use iDye Poly. Note: You can use Fiber Reactive Dyes on silk too, just keep in mind that some Fiber Reactive dye colors may not be the same color on silk as they are on cotton. (For example, #44 Better Black on silk can turn out Eggplant Purple!)
- Additional chemicals - depending on which dye you will be using, you will also want to have any additional chemicals required to make your project a success. To make sure you have everything you will need, please refer to the Tub Dyeing directions for the appropriate dye you're using. (Links and information below in text)
Let's get started!
First things first - you'll want to pre-wash your fabrics to make sure they're all clean and able to accept the dye. A pre-wash with Synthrapol or Dharma Textile Detergent will do a good job for removing any dye resisting dirts and oils which may be on your fabric.
Next, you'll want to decide how long and how many colors you want on your Gypsy rope. Once you know how many colors, separate out your scraps into your dye color groups. You can be as detailed or as free-form as you want in deciding how much fabric of each color you want in your garland.
Pro-Tip: To help create visual interest, consider using different shades of colors, patterned fabrics or different fabric types. The more variation, the more interesting and eye-catching your garland will be. Also this is a great time to go through your fabric scrap pile to look for goodies!
Now that you have your fabric separated out into what colors you want to dye them, you'll want to start dyeing! Again, please use the appropriate guide for the kind of fabric you are dyeing. For cottons and other plant-based fibers here's the Tub Dye instructions. For silks, wool and other animal-based fibers here is the Tub Dye instructions. For polyester or synthetic fabrics, here is the iDye Poly instructions for polyester (it's on the same page as the iDye dyes).
We ended up using these Procion dye colors for some of our cottons and linens and we used them on our silks too:
#21 Teal Blue
#146 Kingfisher Blue
#95 Royal Blue
#161 Power Berry
Pro-Tip: Since Procion Dye is also able to dye silks, this can be a great choice to dye your silks and cottons all in one go. Since silk absorbs the Procion dye differently, especially with mixes containing blue, you can often get different shades and colors out of one dye vat.
Once your fabric has been rinsed out and dried, the fun begins. Decide how thick and long you want your garland strips to be. We opted to cut our strips into approximately 3 inch pieces thick. Since you will be doubling over the fabric to make the garland, we cut ours into strips that were about 20 inches long.
Most woven fabrics can be ripped by hand. If you're not familiar with this technique, you may want to check out the internet where there are a lot of tutorials on how to do it. It's an easy way to get fabric into strips without too much cutting involved. Essentially, you will want to cut about ½ inch into the fabric where you want the strip to start. Remember though that fabric normally only rips in one direction, from selvage to selvage. If you have scraps with no selvage, you will need to test to find the direction it will rip in. Once you have your cut, use both your hands to pull apart the fabric - like Hulk Hogan ripping open his shirt! The fabric will tear all the way down the line and then you have your fabric strip all set. Rip rip rip, fun times! Please note, this technique won't work with knit fabrics (like t-shirts), so for fabrics like that you'll want to cut them completely with scissors.
Now that you have all your fabric ready, it's time to set up your rope. We opted to make two loops using a square knot tie at the end of each part of the rope so that they could easily be hung and removed from a nail or hook. You will now want to select your first fabric scrap and using a Girth (or Strap) hitch knot attach it to the rope. You can check out how to do this knot here.
You may find it easier to attach the fabric pieces to a suspended rope as if it were hanging like a banner already.
If you are planning an Ombre look or a specific striping look of colors, it can help to measure out your rope and place little string markers at different lengths down your line to let you know when you need to switch your colors.
Keep on placing your fabric pieces onto the rope until it's finished. You can slide the fabric pieces on the rope far apart to make a thinner garland, or slide them close together to create volume.
Pro-Tip: Not all scraps need to be a solid color! Once you get into the swing of making Gypsy Rope, you can start experimenting with other dye styles, Tie-Dye, Shibori, Ombre or Stamped/ Stenciled garlands could be great!
Enjoy your fabric garland! They can be a decorative way to rope off areas for party guests, craft booths, colorful banners, tablecloth decorations, a fun play piece for make-believe, and any other way you can use this easy, eye-catching project.