A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Parfait Dyeing

Parfait Dyeing

I chose parfait dyeing for my April technique. I own a little fiber art business called Stoney Ridge Fiber Arts that I presently run out of my home. The main trust of my work is art quilts or what I call wall art. I love this technique for dyeing fabric and use it in the background of my pieces.

This is one of my pieces where I used a parfait dye for the background and some of my hand dyed fabric for the leaf. I find using the hand dyed fabric enhances the joy of making art. The process is simple and anyone can do it. I am going to try to give you what you need for instructions to be able to accomplish beautiful fabric to use.

(Side note..... the stamp on the bottom is one I made and it says dragonfly)

First I would like to give you an abbreviated list of safeguards.

  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke in areas where dyes and chemicals are used.
  • Work in well ventilated area.
  • It is wise to use newspaper, plastic tablecloths, etc. to protect your work area. (Ask me why I have pink, blue and other colored grout on my tiled counters.)
  • Wear a disposable dust/mist respirator if you dye fabric only occasionally. If you dye fabric on a regular basis, wear a MSHA/NIOSH approved respirator with cartridges for dusts, mists and fumes.
  • Contact wearers should be careful around powders to avoid eye irritation.
  • Wear rubber gloves to protect hands.
  • A complete list of safety rules can be found on the ProChemical website (www.prochemical.com)Below is a list of items you will need to do Parfait Dyeing:
Bulleted List
This is the bare bone material list that you need:
  • Dust/mist mask or respirator
  • Funnels
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Soda ash
  • Mixing cups
  • Mixing sticks (I use chopsticks)
  • Soda Ash
  • Something to wipe up spills. (Sometimes I use a piece of fabric - it turns into a nice piece to work with.)
  • Rubber gloves
  • Dye remover for your hands. (ReDuRan)(Not mandatory...it will wear off eventually...LOL)
  • Fabric (100% cotton)(I use Southern Belle fabric made in China. You can get it from JoAnn on line.)
  • Dye (I use either procion mx dye from ProChemical or from Dharma Trading Co.)
This is a list of items you will need for this project. If you get bit by the dyeing bug, you will want to research to see other items that make dyeing easier.

Parfait dyeing is a form of low level submersion dyeing.

Soda Ash Solution

(This makes one gallon - cut recipe for less)

1 gallon of warm tap water (between 75 degrees and 95 degrees F)
1/2 cup salt (non-iodized)
1/2 to 1 cup of of soda ash (Can be purchased in pool supplies in some stores)

Dissolve soda ash and salt in the water.

Dye Solution

(This makes 8 oz of dye solution)(USE YOUR MASK HERE)

1 tablespoon of procion mx dye
Make a paste with the dye and a small amount of plain warm water( again in the 75-95 degree range) in a one cup measure and try to make sure that all the powder is mixed in and then fill to the one cup line and gently mix again. (I store my dyes in plastic bottles with a spouted cap.)

  1. First prepare you fabric by washing in hot water with a little synthrapol. (3 fat quarters)
  2. Use a screw-top quart containers or a container that will hold a quart for your dye container. I use a screw top plastic quart freezer container. The idea is to have a fairly small container with straight sides.
  3. Wet one fat quarter with 1/4 cup plain warm water in your dye container. You may scrunch or twist or pleat the fabric to get different design results.
  4. Decide how dark you want your fabric. Put the amount of dye from the following in an eight ounce cup. I use a 250 ml beaker or equivalent. (See above)
  5. Pale = 1 drop of dye concentrate
  6. Medium = 2 teaspoons dye concentrate
  7. Dark = 2 tablespoons of dye concentrate
  8. Darkest = 4 tablespoons dye concentrate
  9. Add plain water to this cup to make a total of 1/4 cup (60ml) of the dye liquid.
  10. Pour this solution over the wet fat quarter and press down to distribute the dye. If you want a more solid design, move the fabric around a bit. I like the spontaneous result so I do not move it around.
  11. Measure 1/4 cup (60ml) of soda ash solution and pour this over your fabric.
  12. Wait ten minutes; wet another fat quarter with plain water and arrange it on top of the first layer.
  13. Follow steps 4 -12 for this layer.
  14. I often will stop at two layers because I like the way they come out. However, it is intended for three layers.
  15. Follow steps 4 - 12 for the last layer.
  16. Let the parfait sit for at least one hour after the last layer of fabric and soda ash solutions is added. Press or turn the top layer a couple of times during this time. Fabrics can stay for overnight for stronger color. I usually can not wait that long.
  17. After the setting time, pour off the excess dyes and then rinse in cold and wash with some synthrapol in hot water. (This can be done in the washer with synthrapol and a color catcher added.)
  18. Dry, iron and enjoy.
These directions are courtesy of Ann Johnston's book "Color by Accident".

First Layer.

Yellow dye and soda ash added. (I used Pro Chemical Dye Sun Yellow, #108)

Blue dye and soda ash added for second layer.( I used Pro Chemical Turquoise # 410)

Last layer dye and soda ash added. (I used Pro Chemical Deep Navy #414)

Here we are just waiting to exhale :o)

You really didn't think I could stop at one did you?


Bottom layer:

This layer was folded like a fan and then twisted before putting in the dyeing container. You will note the difference in this layer and the next.

Layer 2
This layer was just scrunched up and put on top of layer 1.

This is the top layer. You can see that the top layer does not have any yellow and is much more muted.

All that know me know that I am a what-if kind of gal. So I thought "What If". Here is what happened.

I took only 1 piece of fabric and squirted multiple dyes on it.

I also like to use cheesecloth on my art projects, so, I put a piece of cheesecloth in with all the dyeing I did.

Here are the results:

I hope you have enjoyed this technique. PLEASE, if you have any questions please let me know. You can get a starter kit for beginning dyers at the following link for $19.50:


  1. I used to live in America but I have forgotten how many ounces are in a gallon. Don't say how many pints because our pints are 20 ounces and yours are 16 ounces. I do know that much, but I am not sure I could do the Maths! LOL

    and of course a half-gallon still won't help. :)
    Thanks so much.
    Sandy in the UK

  2. Hi Sandy,

    A gallon in US weight is 128 ounces. I hope this helps.

  3. Great post, Rosalita! And I can recommend that starter kit... got mine back in '97, and haven't stopped since then! BTW, I use the multiple dye technique on my shirts quite a bit... love the results! Have you ever tried freezing your fabrics, then adding your dyes? The markings come out very crisp and fractured-looking!

  4. Judy, can you tell me whether your fabric has been treated with soda ash solution before you freeze or do you just wet with plain water? I have never tried freezing fabric before dyeing but you can bet I will now. Thanks.

  5. ooh I love the cheesecloth! I did my in onion skins for a gorgeous hot rust orange.

    glad to have found you!!
    ~Monika Kinner-Whalen
    Saskatoon, Canada

  6. Rosalita, do you wait a few minutes in between colors/layers when doing the parfait dyeing so the colors don't end up blending together too much?

  7. Laura, I wait 10 minutes between the layers. Monica, what a great idea. I am going to try that. Have you ever used red onions to dye with?

  8. Great post and directions! So much fun to see your results! I just took a workshop and we soaked our fabrics first in soda ash so we didn't have to add it to the dyes. Wonder if results are much different.

  9. Gina,

    I really don't know if putting soda ash on first would make a difference but I can't imagine it would make a great difference. I can't wait to try tiedyejudy's suggestion to freeze the material before you put the dye on. Happy dyeing.

  10. I adore the muted blues. Cant wait for my supplies to arrive! Ozzie Laura


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