It’s hard to look at tie-dyed clothes without taking a trip back in time – But fear not! There are other ways to dye and be fabulous too!

The sharpest ‘dye’ effect for these days is the graduated colour or Ombré Dyeing look which has subtle graduations of colour moving up the garment.  It can be single coloured or you an tie off and add a colour as a contrast.  The technique works best on Swiss Cotton, Rayon, Linen and other cellulose fibres but you can also dye silk but remember that liquids run like crazy on silk so go for a small bath and also do a little test run to see how rapidly the colour moves up the fabric.


1. A large, deep container (plastic garbage bin is great) to use as a dye bath and a shallow wider one to catch the drips under the dipped fabric – The wider the better for these as you can then position the dye bath, say, under a tree, hang the garment on a branch with the dye bath beneath and slooooowly dip the garment in and lift it straight out again and leave it hanging.  This will avoid any wrinkles in the bottom of the gament which means you get a more even dye coverage.

2. Some sort of a hanging system (eg. Hang a broomstick or a ladder, or large, notched tree branch, ina high position say in a tree or in the garage along the roof.  Hang your garment on a long piece of PVC pipe (nothing metal) by threading the PVC through the sleeve and thread a rope through the PVC and hang each end from the ladder with a slip knot.  This enables you to keep the garment as straight as possible, to undo and re-tie at each step and to keep it straight.  You can get a buddy to operate the opposite end as this is a good team job!

3. Decide how many shades of colour you want and divide your dye mix into that many portions.

4. Follow the dye mixing instructions. Every brand is different.  Start with the darkest colour which should be the base.  Note that you should use 2-4 times as much as normal to get around 8 layers.  If you are using some contrasts, save these till last.

5. Premix your required portions of dye (altogether allow 2 – 4 times what you would normally use) separately in some water and line them up in a row.  Yoghurt containers are good. What you will be doing is the pale stuff first.


6. Pre-plan how many layers you are going to have and how wide the bands of each will be and whether you intend to leave any undyed fabric. Add one portion of your thoroughly dissolved coloured mixture to the dye bath and stir well.  (This will be the darkest colour at the end of the process).  Carefully lower your pre-washed wet fabric into the dye bath. (Leave the ‘not to be dyed’ fabric dry and also don’t dip it in the dye, of course!  You COULD tie it off but then you get an uneven line).  Soak the garment in the dye for a couple of minutes, then lift up so that the dyed area now is out of the water.  Then stir in another portion of dye, this time allowing the garment to sit in that tone for around five minutes thus giving the first syed band a double whammy.  Raise it again, and repeat this until you get to the bottom of the garment. With each layer you will add some more dye (and gradually as you reach the top of your garment you are getting the base part – the first dipped – darker and darker) and let it soak a minute longer in between lifting it out than the last dip.  Each time, add the new pot of dye, stir with care so that you don’t splash or add any lines to the fabric.  But keep the dye as even as possible.

7. Finally,  rinse the entire garment with cold water, then wash it in hot water and salt or whatever is specified on your brand of dye.

8. If you want to use more than one colour, you can tie off any area not to be died and put in a plastic bag and tie again.  Then use the lightest colour to dye the entire garment (minus the white) then Ombré dye it another colour. You can do this on another day when the garment is dry too.  Tie off and bag any segment that should go a contrasting colour and dye separately.

There are quite a few good tutorials on Youtube including:

9. Some ideas are:
Over dye florals with varying shades of one of the highlight colours.  This is very effective.

Dye around the edges of a lace-trimmed garment as well so that you have a hem-edge match.

Use vintage fabrics and ombré dye prior to making your garment.

Ombré dye curtains made of small florals from the op shop to freshen up the colour schemes. Either keep them as curtains or make them into cushions.

Leftover dye:  Dig a hole and bury it.  Don’t flush it into the sea.  Hopefully you will use it all up anyway.  Perhaps have a ‘dye party’ with pals so that there are no left-overs.

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