All of my jewelry is made with hand-dyed silk I dye myself at home. If you’re interested in trying to dye some silk fabric yourself, here’s a basic tutorial.
You can purchase your silk fabric dye and other supplies from Dharma Trading Company. (I buy all my supplies from Dharma.) They have a great selection of silk fabric by the yard as well as silk scarves you can dye. They also have all the supplies for dying: fabric dye, resists, activators, detergents, etc. I use fiber reactive Procion dye, which are ideal for natural fibers.
Step One: Preparing Fabric and Mixing Dyes
- Wash your silk in synthrapol. Let it dry. (Note: One drop of synthrapol goes a long way!)
- Mix about 3 to 5 tablespoons of urea into a about 2 quarts of warm water. Add two tablespoons of activator. Mix until the urea and activator are dissolved.
- Mix your dye colors separately to dissolve them completely before adding them to the larger tub of water. Mix a few tablespoons of dye with a small amount of cold water until you have a paste. Stir this into the water with the urea. Mix well.
- Dip the tip of a small scrap of fabric in the dye bath, so you can determine if the color and saturation are what you desire. Feel free to adjust with by adding more water or more dye. Make sure to mix thoroughly before adding fabrics.
Step 2: Immerse the Fabric
- Immerse your fabric in the dye bath making sure all of the fabric is below the surface.
- Let the fabric sit in the bath for about 5 or 10 minutes.
- Wring out the fabric, and hang to try. (Note: It is best to wear rubber/plastic gloves because dyes will stain your hands.)
Step 3: Steam the Fabric
- When the silk is completely dry, wrap it up in newsprint paper making sure the fabric does not fold over or come into direct contact with another part of the fabric. Tie or tape the paper-wrapped fabric into a bundle.
- Fill a large pot with about two inches of water. (Note: If you don’t have activator, you can add vinegar to the water (a 2:1 ratio of water to vinegar) to set the dye.)
- Set the fabric bundles on a platform above the water, and bring the water to a boil. Make sure the fabric does not come into direct contact with the water.
- When the water is boiling, turn the burner down to a simmer, and cover the pot with a couple of large towels. (Note: Don’t use the pot lid because condensation will build up and drop down on the fabric before the dyes are set.)
- Let the fabric steam for about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Turn off the stove. Remove and unwrap the fabric.
Step 4: Rinse and Wash
- Rinse the fabric thoroughly until the water runs clean.
- Wash the fabric with synthrapol.
- Optional: If you want your silk to be extra-soft, pour a cap-full of Milsoft into about two courts of hot water and let the fabric soak for about 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly.
- Hang your bright, beautiful silk to dry, and iron on a low setting.