Awards Show Countdown: Ombre Dye Party DIY

We are so excited to be honoring the amazing work of outstanding makers next month at our Awards Show. It's the reason we got into this because we believed that makers really need a way to be recognized by their peers. If you are going to be in the LA area on March 7, we hope that you will be able to join us.

As a prep for the 2nd annual show, we had an ombre dye party for what will become our decor. We invited whoever wanted to come hang out with us, eat snacks and dye alongside co-founder KC (who is the dye master with a degree in fiber arts from Savannah College of Art and Design). A lot of you were interested in coming, but either don't live here or couldn't make it. And then we posted photos and everyone became even more interested in doing something similar.

So, we wanted to share some photos from the day and share what went into making in case you got the urge to dye 100+ yards of fabric. If you are looking to ombre dye something a little smaller, step-by-step instructions AND video are all here on Creativebug (2015 Awards sponsor!). 

The idea for this project is inspired by the graphic at right created by our Awards Show graphic designer Laina Miller of Happenings Co. Our show art director CJ of CJ is Rad had the idea to create strips of fabric that would mimic the idea of the layered color bars in the graphic.

Know Your Fabric

Before getting your ombre on, know what your intentions with your fabric are and what kind of dye will work well with it. For our fabric, we knew that washing it would not be important since it looking good at the event is our most important. Because we would be using bright dyes from Rit, natural fabric is best (though a blend is OK, but your dye will just not absorb as much). So we were able to procure about 100+ yards of cotton bleached muslin using some keen couponing at Joann Fabric.

Know Your Dye

Like we already said, if you're using Rit or another common craft store dye, things are pretty simple, but if you have more complex needs make sure to check with for complete instructions. While Rit recommends hot water, we were prepared for tap water that wasn't since it was a big outdoor project. KC let us know this would have meant soaking the fabric longer in the dye. 

Collect Your Supplies

For a big project like this, we knew that this would be outside. Luckily our fabric-dyeing friend Miriam Dema {#ahasmember} has an amazing home already set up with clothesline (you'll also want to rustle up some clothespins). We used about four or five buckets-- one for the soapy prep water and the rest for the different ombres we would want to achieve. These changed all day and by the end each bucket was a different color than when it began. If you care about your manicure, get some plastic or latex gloves. You'll also want the long paint stirrers (available most hardware supply places) to stir the dye. Find some kind of tarp or drop cloth to put the fabric on as you pull it out of the buckets. 

The Basic Steps

  • Prepare dye in buckets. If you are going to go from light to dark in just one color, don't dump in all of the dye. We would start with about a half of a packet or a quarter of a bottle
  • Always go from light to dark with mixing colors. This is obvious with one color, but if you are turning a yellow into a green, you have to remember that going green to yellow would not be possible. Figuring out the color combinations was probably the most strategic part of this. 
  • Soak fabric to be dyed in a bucket of water (hot is better) with a bit of synthrapol (a detergent). This will help prep the fabric to better receive the dye.
  • Dip about 80-90% of the fabric in dye. Make sure to leave part of one end white. How much will depend on the ombre effect you want.
  • Dye for about three minutes and move a section out of the bucket. Remember that this is just the first layer and will be the lightest part of your fabric (except the white). Remove a section approximately the same amount you had left white or more. This is up to you and there's no right or wrong amount. 
  • Add more dye. With the remaining part in the bucket, add the next layer of dye you want in the ombre. If you ever overdo the amount, you can always add water or soak for a shorter period of time.
  • Repeat! Keep doing this until you've ombre dyed the length of the fabric. We dyed strips that were probably about 10-15 yards long. Some longer and some shorter. As the dye got soaked up by the fabric, we just kept filling the bucket with more water which would create a diluted beginning dye for the next fabric.
  • Let dry! We had a relatively sunny and breezy day when we dyed. It took about four hours to have the fabric dry in total (not all the fabric was up at once). Some of it was slightly damp and we just threw in dryer at home.

You Can't Mess this Up

The funnest part of this process was that once we knew the steps, we could experiment and be creative. There really was no messing this up. Promise! Sometimes the large fabric would cause parts to not receive dye or as much dye. Because of the effect we were going for, we were fine with this.

We can't wait to show you the finished product at the Awards Show. Hope to see you there!