Immersion dyeing is quite simple! Immersion dyeing means you will completely "immerse your fibers" into your dye. Before starting your immersion dye pot, you will first scour and mordant your fiber according to the recommendations per that fiber.
Supplies needed: mordanted fiber/item for dyeing, sink or rinse bucket, concentrated extracted dye, spoon, non-reactive (stainless steel) pot, heat source (stovetop, induction cooktop, gas cooktop etc), craft paper to protect surfaces, water
1. Start by fully wetting-out your fiber for at least 30 minutes. While your fiber is wetting, you will extract your dye by following our video "How to Extract Dye". You will see in this video that I prefer the cheesecloth method as it reduces the use for multiple vessels.
2. Once your dye is extracted into a concentrated extraction, you will top off your dye pot with enough water for your fibers to move around freely, so that an even saturation of dye color occurs. If you are using powdered dye extracts, you will add your dissolved dye paste directly into a pot filled with water. Stir well to ensure your dye paste is fully incorporated. The ideal pH of a dye bath is 7-8. Keep that in mind, as an acidic bath can be modified with a touch of calcium carbonate. Add your mordanted fiber to the cold dye pot and begin heating. Heating instructions for your immersion dye will again be determined by each individual dye stuff. Generally speaking most dyes will do well over medium heat for 30-60 minutes. If you are purchasing dye from a vendor listed on our Resource Guide, they will almost always list instructions on their website. Some dyes need a 'low and slow' approach, some need high heat. You will follow each dye's individualized instructions for dyeing.
3. I have found that the best dye take up almost always happens when you allow the fibers to cool in the pot overnight. During this time the colors deepen and darken. After the dye bath has cooled overnight, rinse in the same temperature water until the water runs clear and proceed to finishing. Leftover dye baths can be reused until they are fully exhausted (no more dye in the bath). Leftover dye baths can also be turned into lake pigment (insoluble) for art material making (ie: crayons, watercolor paint and play-dough). Lastly, you can dispose of dye baths in accordance to your local municipal code.
The most eco-friendly way to wash your item, is to hand wash in cold water with natural detergent (use 1-3% WOF) and line dry, in the shade. Drying in shade ensures that your item is not exposed to prolonged UV rays. Prolonged UV exposure will fade the color of your item. Some dyes are less "lightfast" than others and will quickly fade when exposed to light. You may wash your item with grey water, if your grey water is pH neutral. This saves valuable energy and water! Some dyes are less "washfast" than others and will quickly fade when washed in heat with harsh detergents. Acidic or alkaline environments can cause a shift in color, so pH neutral soap is highly recommended. Most natural soaps are pH neutral, but check the label to be sure. Alternatively, you may machine wash (on delicate cycle) in cold water with natural detergent (use 1-3% WOF). Most fabrics can be tumble dried on low, but check the care instructions based on your fabric/garment.
Natural dyer, natural dye educator, maker and all around textile nerd.