My name is Charlotte, sometimes known as Ms Lottie, occasionally as The Slightly Mad Quilt Lady. This is my blog, where you'll find me writing a lot about my quilting and textile arts and a little about my family's life in a small seaside town in New Zealand. Haere mai!

Friday, March 17, 2017

How to dye silk organza. Technique 1

I've been asked for some more information about how I dye my silk organza.  I'm planning to show you several different techniques that I use, one per blog post, so watch for more to come.

Note:  Safety first folks!  Wear your protective gear when you're dyeing and use a dust mask when working with the dye powders.  Use measuring, mixing and dyeing equipment that is reserved only for dyeing and keep food and drink out of the dyeing area.  Use your common sense and you'll be fine.

First, I purchase silk organza in bulk so I can cut off what I need when I want it.  It's not cheap, but it's worth it.

Next, I make up my dye solutions.  I use fibre reactive dyes from Dharma Trading Co and mix 1 tablespoon (that's a spoon that measures 15 liquid millilitres in NZ) per 2 cups of water (500 millilitres in NZ).  I know people weigh their dye powders to be more precise and get percentage solutions, but that's a bit too exacting for me).  I leave these dye solution concentrates in my studio fridge and then I can mix these together, dilute them or whatever I want to do, whenever I want.

Piggyback serendipity is what I sometimes call the technique that I'll show you today.  I often have some bits of organza already cut and just grab one when I'm dyeing my cotton fabric and do the same treatment on it.  So it's piggybacking off what I'm doing with the cotton fabric.

You'll always find a bucket of soda ash solution in a corner of my studio.  I like to leave my cotton fabrics soaking in there for at least 24 hours before I dye them.  I think it helps with 'opening' up the cotton fibres to accept the dye.  And of course, soda ash is needed as part of the chemical reaction with the fibre reactive dyes that I use.

But I don't leave my silk to soak.  Silk prefers acid rather than base solutions to preserve it's lustre, so I keep the exposure to soda ash to a minimum.  I just dunk it in the soda ash bucket and squeeze it through.

Today I was planning to do a tray dye on a metre piece of cotton.  So I accordion folded up my organza before I put it in the soda ash.  It's hard to handle and fold when it's wet, so unless you like wet silk organza sticking up all over your arms, try and fold it dry.

I fold and scrunch it into different shapes depending what I'm planning.  An accordion fold means that the colours will repeat across the length.  Then I scrunched it to fit into the tray.  If you wanted water ripples, you could pleat it up more regularly.  Or you could scrunch one area and have another area lying completely flat.  Experiment, it's part of the fun!

My cotton fabric goes on top folded into whatever shape I want and then I pour my dye solutions over.  Today I used some yellow and red to make orange, added some water to dilute then added a bit of navy for brown.  I'd pour on a bit and then add some more dye to alter the colour a bit but keep it related to the first colours.  I added turquoise, then some navy and then some more yellow and a bit of water here and there.  Now you can see where the serendipity bit of the name come from.

Press it all down so you know it's squeezed through then leave in a relatively warm place for at least four hours, and overnight if possible.

Rinse it all under cold running water until the water runs fairly clear.  I then soak the fabrics in warm water, changing the soaks every now and then, usually leaving it overnight at some point, until all the excess dye is gone.  Then separate the silk from the cotton, wash the cotton in your washing machine on hot and hand wash the silk with warm water.

Dry, press and use in whatever way you wish!  Above you can see the two finished pieces from this particular dyeing session.  Organza on the left and cotton on the right.  Silk picks up the dye very well so the colours look a little deeper on the organza, but remember you are seeing it double thickness and with a green backdrop (thanks to the recent rains for greening everything up!)

And look how that cross shape comes through the there's a little piece of inspiration....


  1. Thanks Charlotte, I love this easy to follow tutorial and great to see that I can dye silk the same as I do with cotton. (I made the request in your last blog post but a glitch at my end (not turning on share profile box!)meant I came up as "profile". Looks like I might be buying silk Organza and putting the fabric paint down for a bit!I think your work on herons are your best yet - inspiring! Regards
    Lee-Ann Newton

  2. I wondered who 'Profile' was! Thanks for your kind words and have fun experimenting. You can use fabric paints on organza too, just water it down a bit so that it colours the threads but doesn't glob in the spaces in between if that makes sense. If it's too watery it will do the same thing. Maybe I should do a how to on that as well....


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