How to Space Dye

Space dyeing is a technique used to create lovely fabrics which shade from one colour to another. Depending on the method used the fabrics can be softly muted or vibrant.


  1. 1
    Line a sink with damp fabric. Holding the containers, carefully mix approximately 1 teaspoon of dye powder in a small amount of lukewarm water. (If you are using a Dylon tin, sellotape the remainder closed and put into a plastic bag.) Mix to a paste and then add up to 100ml of water. Wear a mask for this stage. The fabric in the sink is to catch any dye spillages. It can be added to the dye baths later. If your containers have tops, screw them on and put to one side.
  2. 2
    Mix 200g of washing soda in a jug of boiling water. Stir until it is dissolved. Make up to 1 liter (0.3 US gal) of solution by adding extra water.
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Method One: To Create Soft Muted Colours

  1. Cut your fabric into pieces – fat quarter size works well. Soak in a bucket or sink of plain water for 15 minutes.
  2. Arrange fabrics in a container – you can make formal pleats or just scrunch it in. If you use jam jars just push half the fabric into the jar and leave the rest hanging out.
  3. Drip or spoon dye onto areas of the fabric. It helps to drip a different colour down each side of the jar. Then push more fabric in and drip more dye into the jar.
  4. Using rubber gloves, press the fabric down firmly until no white is showing. Add more dye if there are still white areas. Leave for at least 15 minutes and preferably longer.
  5. Pour washing soda solution over the fabric, making sure all areas of fabric are in contact with the solution. You don’t want the fabric swimming in solution, just damped by it. Leave for 45 minutes. It will not harm if it is left for longer – in fact the longer it is left the more time the dye has to bond to the fabric.
  6. Take the container to the sink and pour excess dye away. Fill the container with water, pull out the fabric and rinse very well. At this stage the dyes will still contaminate other fabrics so if you have a lovely yellow piece do not rinse with a dark blue piece or sections will go green. Keep rinsing until the water runs clear. Then rinse again in hot water, again until the water runs clear. Finally, put through a hot wash or rinse in the washing machine. Hang out to dry and iron when slightly damp.
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Method Two: For Bright Vibrant Colours

  1. Cut the fabric into pieces as before but this time soak in a bucket of washing soda solution.
  2. Continue as from step two above. The fact that the fabric already has the fixative means that as soon as the dyes hit the fabric they will start to bond with the fibres and you will get less colour mixing.
  3. Leave the fabric in the dye solution as long as you can, for at least an hour. If you are impatient it is best to do this last thing at night and then leave overnight and rinse in the morning.
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Colour Mixing Theory

Just mixing two colours will produce a fantastic range of colours. Blue and a pinky red make purple. Blue and yellow make green. Yellow and red make orange. If you are using three colours then be careful not to mess around too much or you will get muddy colours with no pure areas left – but this might be just what you wanted.

If you use the same dye powders again you will create fabrics that tone with the ones you have made but they will not be identical. Subtle changes in temperature, water hardness and fabrics used will all affect the final result.

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General Background

Dyes are different to paints in that they react with the fabric fibres and create a chemical bond. To make this bond they need a fixative – washing soda or soda ash is used for cold water reactive dyes. Other dyes have different fixing agents.

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Sources and Citations

Things You'll Need


  • 100% cotton fabric prewashed to remove any dressing.
  • Procion MX reactive dyes (Dylon cold water dyes).
  • Washing soda powder (look for one with no added bleach).
  • Bottle to hold the dye solutions (Body Shop bottles are good – you can buy empty recycled ones).
  • Tubs and jars for the fabric dyeing containers: ice cream cartons, mushroom cartons, etc.
  • Cat litter tray to hold all the dye mixes (saves spillages).
  • Newspaper or plastic to protect working areas.

Article Info

Categories: Sewing