Silk Tie-Dye with Fiber Reactive Dye

Tie-Dye is a classic textile art technique but did you know you can tie-dye on silk, not just cotton t-shirts? This is a great technique to make rainbow playsilks as well as elegant shibori fabrics, clothing or accessories. We will walk you through the process with a few tweaks to make the Soda Soak Tie-Dye Method work for silk. This eliminates the need for steaming!

Let's get started!

1: Fold and tie your silk- Ideally, first pre-wash silk in HOT water and Synthrapol or Prof. Textile Detergent to remove any oils, dirt or anything else that might resist the dye. Fold and/or tie the fabric into the desired patterns. For more defined patterns wet the shirt and squeeze or spin out excess water before folding. Because silk is thin and has unique wicking properties, make sure you get your ties tight enough if you want any white leftover in the design or don’t want colors to run together. We have several books and DVDs with great pattern ideas!

2: Soak silk in soda ash solution- Wear your dust mask & gloves! Use half the strength that you would use for cotton - 1/2 cup (4 oz.) of Soda Ash Fixer per gallon of warm water. A gallon will soak 10-12 adult XL tees – so it goes quite far with silk.

Soak the tied silk about 1-5 minutes, but not longer as soda ash can be hard on silk, DO NOT soak overnight. Squeeze out the fabric so it is damp but not dripping. You can reuse solution until gone.

3: Wear your dust mask & gloves! Measure urea and warm water into a container, an old pitcher works well. Use the chart below for amounts. Paste up your dye with the urea water (see below), then add rest of water and stir ‘till thoroughly dissolved. Pour into squeeze bottles with a funnel. Our normal rule of thumb for these kits is that an already wet (but wrung out), tied up 8 oz. adult tee will absorb about 4 oz of liquid dye, depending on how much you apply. Again, that’s the equivalent of lots of silk. If you weigh the dry silk you will be dyeing, it will help you figure out how much dye to make, so you won’t waste a lot. Use this as a guide to help you decide howf much liquid you need to mix up. Check the name of each color on the label of the jar, as colors where you need to use more dye are marked with an * or ** by the name.

4. Apply dye with squeeze bottles, paint brushes, sponges, etc., as many colors as you want. We started with yellow, then red and blue.

After you apply the dye to one side, carefully flip your tied silk over and apply the colors to the other side in the same order. Make sure to get into the folds with the dye bottle for the best coverage.

5. Let it rest. Put the dyed fabric in a plastic bag or cover with plastic (you want to keep it damp). Let it cure for at least 4 but no more than 12 hours, the silk can’t handle that long in the soda ash.

6. Wash it out. Pre-fill your washing machine with hot water and 1/4 cup Synthrapol or Professional Textile Detergent. Rinse the tie-dyes thoroughly before putting in the machine. Leaving ties on, rinse under cold running water (faucet, hose or shower), to stop the dye reaction. Next rinse in warm water while you untie the folds, keep rinsing until water runs fairly clear. Throw in machine as soon as it is rinsed, running it through a full cycle.. You can use Milsoft professional fabric softener in the final rinse to make your silk tie-dyes super soft!.


Written and Photographed by Elizabeth Holdmann for Dharma Trading Co.

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About Tiered Discount Levels

You can combine cotton and rayon clothing & accessories to get the greatest discounts. Your discount is figured on the total number of cotton and rayon items we ship, not how many of each type, style or size. Mix and match them to get the best discount.

Example; adding 4 each of 3 different T-shirts in size Large should give you the 12+ price on all 12 shirts.

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