Tie Dye with iDye
  • I recently bought some packets of iDye, thinking that it might be fun to use for tie dye. But once I started to read more about the process online, I've started to have some doubts.

    Is it possible to tie dye with immersion dyeing? I planned on using the stovetop method. I don't want super vibrant colors like traditional tie dye, but I do want to try binding the fabric to get the tie dye look. We planned on trying for an ombre effect as well.

    Also, do we need to treat the fabric with soda ash before using iDye? There is no mention of this on the packet. Will the color set in 100% cotton without this step?

    Thanks so much!

    PS: I would like to use the iDye instead of buying another product--my boyfriend opened all the packets so I can't return them!
  • iDye appears to be all purpose dye. You can tie-dye with all-purpose dye if you use extremely hot water and more traditional techniques, as opposed to the modern multi-color tie-dye that is now popular. The washfastness of all-purpose dye is poor, but you can correct this problem with a cationic dye fixative such as Retayne.

    Soda ash won't help set all-purpose dye. Soda ash increases the pH so that fiber reactive dyes can react with the fiber, but all-purpose dye does not react with fiber and does not need soda ash. All-purpose dye associates relatively loosely with the fiber via a property called substantivity. Adding salt as directed in the instructions helps a little.

    The most traditional form of tie-dyeing requires that you tie your garment, then drop it into a pot of simmering dye, about 190°F. (Lower temperatures produce paler colors.) After boiling your garment in the dye long enough to reach the desired color, probably about half an hour, wash the shirt out in lukewarm water, never hot water. That may be all you want to do, for a single-color effect with bound areas in white or a paler shade of the main color. For multi-color tie-dye according to the traditional method, retie the garment in an overlapping pattern. This will produce several colors. For example, if you use pink dye in the first bath, retie, and dye with turquoise dye in the second bath, you will end up with white where both ties overlap, blue where the first ties protected the fabric, pink where the second ties protected the fabric, and purple everywhere else. (If you use scarlet instead of pink and royal blue instead of turquoise, expect to see a brownish purple instead of a true purple where the colors overlap.)

    The Rit dye company gives instructions for obtaining a swirl design with all-purpose dye. It's a laborious and somewhat dangerous process, because each color in the swirl is obtained by holding only part of the tied shirt submerged in boiling dye, while holding it in place by hand; after half an hour (or less for paler colors), excess dye is squeezed out and a different part of the disk held in another color of dye, and then yet a third color. The idea of standing over pots of simmering water for an hour and a half to do one shirt, whil risking scald injury all the while, makes one want to run screaming for some easy-to-use cool water fiber reactive dye, such as Procion MX dye. It seems far more sensible to stick to more traditional immersion tie-dyeing techniques when using all-purpose dye.

    After you dye with all-purpose dye, you have to be careful not to wash it out. All-purpose dye does not last nearly as long as Procion MX dye before it fades. Do not create a design that depends heavily on pristine white areas, because there is usually some bleeding, so that the white areas end up a pale pink or purple. Although you can wash Procion-dyed shirts in boiling water without loss of color, don't use even warm water to wash anything dyed with all-purpose dye. In order to preserve the color, wash each garment by hand, separately, in cool water. Substantivity is reduced at high temperatures, so hotter water causes more loss of the direct dye. To make it safe to wash all-purpose dyes in your regular laundry, get some Retayne from your local quilter's supply shop, or order it from Dharma or another dye supplier. Retayne is applied in hot water, so you do have to wash out the excess dye first, unless you keep the ties in the garment for this step.