Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tyeing and Dyeing a Rainbow Playsilk

I recently had someone inquire about how to tie-dye a Rainbow Silk. She was frustrated because her attempts resulted in white areas where the different color section were tied off. This is a common problem that is easily remedied.

In tie-dye, string or rubberbands create an area of 'resist'. This means that the dye is prevented from  going into the area that is tied. In most cases with tie-dye, binding in strategic places helps to control the spread of dye into other areas. This is the case when dyeing a Rainbow Silk.

The key is to tie the string or rubberband tight enough to 'encourage' the dye color to stay in it's designated area, but not too tight that you get a harsh delineation between colors. A nice 'meeting of the color' is what we're after.

I prefer to use cotton kitchen twine to tie my items with. I feel I get better control of the tie and it's tightness with it. I used to use those tiny hair rubberbands, but once I started using the twine, I have never looked back. Artificial sinew works well, too.

I tie my silk off in five sections. One for red, yellow, green, blue, and purple. I generally eyeball the size of each section, maneuvering the tied string when I am finished if the section sizes seem uneven.

After the silk is all tied up and has soaked in the soda ash solution (and is as wet or dry as you like), it's time to start dyeing.   Find a good spot to set-up. When it is warm out I like to set-up outside. Another good spot is the the tub. I set-up using a milk crate with some newspaper on top to dye on. For quick directions on how to mix up your dye, please refer to the Star Mandala tutorial.

I prefer to work from darker to lighter, purple down to red. Freely saturate the open areas of the silk with color, just be careful not to oversaturate creating puddles of dye on your dyeing surface. Things get tight around the area where the color sections meet and have been bound by string. Get the nozzle into the folds around the tied areas and gently squeeze dye into them. This is also a good time to gently give the tied area a squeeze to encourage the dye to get in the nooks and crannies. It also helps to prevent the stark delineation between color sections and encourage blending.

Once you have dyed your whole silk, give it some more gentle squeezes to encourage some nice color blending. wrap your fabric in plastic wrap or a plastic bag to ensure that it stays moist during the curing process. Find a warm spot for you dyed mandala to cure for about 24 hours. For the dye to react and cure properly it needs to be kept at or above room temperature. When it is not sunny and warm outside I like to place my dyed silks on a baking sheet and set it inside the oven(not on).

After your dyed mandala has cured for 24 hours, rinse it out. I use a special textile detergent, but a mild detergent such as Dawn dish soap will do. Fill up a dish tub with fairly hot water and detergent. While still bound, place your dyed mandala in the tub. Swish it around to encourage excess dye out of the fabric. Dump the water and add some more. Add more detergent, too, if you feel it necessary. Swish it a bit more, and then cut the ties binding the folds. Place your mandala back in the tub and swish some more. Dump the water again, and then add more water. On this step I usually let the fabric sit in there for a little while to encourage excess dye to be released. After this, you can pull the fabric out of the tub and do a final rinse under the faucet.


  1. Thank you so much for posting this tutorial! This is not how I have been dying my rainbow silks at all, and now I know why mine just don't seem to work out. Your silks are beautiful!

  2. Wow, gorgeous pictures! Lovely! Thanks for sharing your tutorial. =)