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.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Scrunch Dyeing variations - Part 1

One of my favorite dyeing methods is “scrunch dyeing”, where you literally scrunch up fabric that has been pre-soaked in soda ash solution, and add dyes to create wonderful organic patterns and color combinations.  I struggled for awhile in the beginning to come up with the look I was striving for, but once I finally ‘got’ it, I have 
been happily scrunching ever since!  Somewhere along the way, I started doing a little experimenting with alternates to the standard Low Water Immersion dyeing method, and I found I could get some pretty interesting results, so I thought I would do a little ‘compare and contrast’ demo here to let you see what the different methods look like, side by side.  But first, a little ‘housekeeping’.


If you are an experienced dyer, you already know the safety guidelines for dyeing, but if you are new to dyeing, please use the following guidelines:
Only use tools that are dedicated to your dyeing, not to be re-used for food preparation. 
To ensure you do not ruin your work area, it is advised that you cover your surfaces with plastic before working with dyes or the auxiliary chemicals associated with dyeing, or have an area set up that you can easily wipe down after a dye session.  I work in my laundry room, so I can use rags to wipe up after myself. 
When mixing dyes, it is suggested that you use a mask or ventilator to prevent inhalation of dye powders, especially if you have pulmonary issues such as asthma or allergies.
Always wear rubber gloves when you dye, to prevent staining your hands, and wear old clothing that will not be ruined by dye splatter.
Keep rags or paper towels handy to wipe up spills.
If you need basic 'how to' information on dyeing, I can recommend Dharma Trading Compay, where I buy my Procion MX dyes and other supplies.  They are great, have an online store, as well as lots of experienced folk to help you on your way.  
For all of the following examples, I pre-soaked the fabric pieces in soda ash solution (1 cup soda ash powder stirred into 1 gallon hot water prior to starting my project; any unused solution can be stored in a covered container indefinitely).
First off, I tore 4 pieces of cotton muslin into fat quarters; then I numbered them 1 – 4, so I could keep track of which dye variation I applied on each

Then I mixed the dyes.  I chose one of my favorite color combinations: Orchid, Lilac and Avocado.  I mixed them at medium strength – 2 tsp dye powder per 1 cup of water.  I don’t use urea, salt or any other additives.


I like to store my mixed dyes in Spaghetti Sauce jars – they have measurements on the side to help me make the proper amount.  With a few exceptions, I can store my mixed dyes for at least several months in a refrigerator out in the garage without them losing their strength.  I have noticed that yellows and blues tend to lose their strength sooner than other colors.  I also try to remember to agitate the dyes a little when they have been sitting for awhile, to mix any solids that have separated and migrated to the bottom of the container.
Below is the soda ash container, with the fabric soaking.  I also stir the soda ash to dissolve any solids that have settled to the bottom.  I pre-soak the fabric (which was pre-washed to prepare for dyeing) for about 15 minutes.  Then I squeeze out the excess solution and prepare to scrunch the fabric for dyeing. 

Next, I spread the fabric on the top of my washer for scrunching: 


Then I scrunch the fabric, trying to keep the ‘peaks and valleys’ pretty even:

Once I have the fabric scrunched to my liking, I place it in my container:

Now it’s time to dye!

1)      Standard Scrunch dyeing
I pour a small amount of my first color into a measuring cup with a spout, then I pour randomly over the scrunched fabric:


Then I repeat with the remaining colors, usually working lightest to darkest.  Below is the first piece with all 3 colors applied.  I batched for about an hour before I rinsed and laundered.  I rinse first in cold water with a few drops of Synthrapol textile detergent; then I wash with hot water and more Synthrapol, and finally I rinse 2-3 times in warm water.  If you do a large batch of dyes, you can do the wash/rinse in your washing machine.  Then I dry and press.  

Here is the first piece:


One reason I love scrunch dyeing is that I am able to achieve light and dark, and I love the fractured patterns that frequently occur.
In my next post, we will explore a couple of variations that I have experimented with, and compare the results to standard scrunch dyeing.  Stay tuned!


  1. Thank you for this clear explanation of scrunch dyeing! Can´t wait to give it a try!

  2. ohhh yeah I'll be trying this out - what an informative post!! thanks!

  3. I love the effects scrunch-scrumbling the fabric produces. You just never know what beautiful patterns will emerge. I have some batching under snow right now......who has more fun than fiber artists! :-)

  4. I love dyeing of any kind. Just did some LWI pillowcases to match a quilt.

  5. I have all the supplies... just need the excuse to try it!

  6. I LOVE the effects you get with this technique, but what I'd REALLY love is to see how some of you use these fabrics. I'm beginning to get quite a stash of these fabrics and am never quite sure how to use them.

  7. Quilter Beth, I am auditioning fabrics on my design board right now, and hope to have at least a decent start on a piece very soon! I will share what I end up with before the month is out, because I'm like you... loads of stash to use up, and in
    desperate need of coming up with projects! Maybe we need a challenge? ;-)


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