Fabric Dyeing Techniques

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Humans have been dyeing fabrics since the beginning of time using natural and synthetic dyes. In this lesson, we will learn about three tried-and-true fabric dyeing techniques that deliver professional results.


Did you know that fabric dyeing dates back to 2600 B.C.? Many of the first dyes were created using natural resources like plants, insects, and the ocean's many exotic creatures. The ancient art of fabric dyeing is complicated and requires dedication, skill, and an eye for detail. Luckily, fabric dyeing is much easier today with the invention of synthetic dyes that don't fade over time and deliver bright, brilliant colors. In this lesson, we will look at three fabric dyeing techniques that can be used to render artistic and professional dye applications.

Shibori Pole Dyeing

Shibori Pole Dyeing Technique
Shibori Pole Dyeing

Shibori pole dyeing is a Japanese fabric dyeing technique that results in parts of the fabric resisting the dye. In other words, sections of the fabric do not soak up the dye, which gives you a striated patterned of dyed/undyed fabric.

To accomplish this look, the fabric is wrapped around a pole, which can be PVC piping or a wooden dowel. The fabric is secured with string, and then it is compressed into a smaller space. Afterwards, the fabric is submerged into a dye for at least five minutes. After being removed from the dye the fabric is allowed to dry, and then it's ready for use!

When using Shibori pole dyeing, only wrap the fabric around the pole a few times to ensure that the dye can be absorbed through all of the layers.

Glue-Resist Batik Fabric Dyeing

Glue-Resist Batik Fabric Dyeing
Glue-Resist Batik Fabric Dyeing

Traditional batik fabric is fabric that has patterns on it that are made using hot wax, but a more affordable and easier option is to use glue in a dyeing process called glue-resist fabric dyeing. The glue is used to create a pattern on undyed fabric, and then allowed to dry completely before submerging the fabric into the dye. The glue application prevents the fabric from fully absorbing the dye. Once the fabric has been submerged in the dye for roughly 30 minutes, the fabric is pulled out. The glue is then removed by hand after rinsing the fabric under cold water.

The result is a fabric that has a very light toned pattern with a brightly shaded background. This fabric dyeing technique is best used on natural fabrics, such as cotton or bamboo.

Ombre Fabric Dyeing

Ombre Fabric Dyeing
Ombre Skirt

Ombre fabric dyeing means to dye a fabric from light to dark, or from one color to another color. The idea is that the transition from one color to the next is gradual - that's actually what the word ombre means. For example, if a piece of fabric is to be dyed blue with an ombre technique, one side of the fabric would be dark blue, while the other end would be light blue.

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