Host Your Own Outdoor Dyeing Party

Last year about this time, I was inspired by a group dyeing adventure at the Interweave offices to host my own dyeing party at home.

how to host your own fabric dyeing party invitation
An invitation to dye.

Ranging in age from 13 to 70-something, our band of seven women–most of whom had never tried textile dyeing before–dyed silk and rayon scarves and other textiles using several techniques including shibori, low-water immersion, and ice parfait dyeing.

The whole experience was a blast! There was a lot of planning and organization, I must admit–plus, I made them lunch and snacks–but it was all worth it! And the experience resulted in a stash of many of the supplies needed to safely dye more fabric.

As the weather warms up here in New England and across the U.S., I thought it would be a good time to share some of the tips I learned from my fabric dying party experience.

  • Know your guests and plan accordingly. If most are inexperienced dyers, start with a small project such as a hemmed silk scarf that has been prepared for dyeing (PFD).
  • Have clean-up cloths available on each table. If you use PFD fabric, these cloths–which are sometimes the best dyed pieces of the day–can have a life after the party.
  • Using alphabet beads, string your guests’ initials onto a large safety pin and have them ready to attach to the fabric. After the pieces come out of the dye bath, you’ll know whose is whose.
  • Provide take-away bags filled with a small amount of synthrapol, an extra set of gloves, and written instructions on rinsing, washing, and drying the hand-dyed fabric.
  • Supply plastic bags or containers for safely transporting the freshly dyed fabric home.
  • Be sure to dispose of dyes responsibly at the end of the day.
how to host a fabric dyeing party
Textiles from the fabric dyeing party.

The article I wrote about my dye party experience, including more how-tos and a practical advice, is included in the new eBook from Quilting Arts, Dye Your Own Fabric.Dye Your Own Fabric includes 10 tutorials on how to dye fabric, including ice dyeing, ice-parfait dyeing, flat dyeing, snow dyeing, techniques using thickened dyes, and shibori techniques. With dyeing season approaching, this eBook is essential for a colorful, hand-dyed season.


P.S. Have you ever hosted or been to a dye party? Add your tips to mine in the comments section below.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Fabric Painting & Dyeing, Quilting Daily Blog
Kristine Lundblad

About Kristine Lundblad

Kristine is Associate Editor of Quilting Arts Magazine, Modern Patchwork, QuiltCon magazine, International Quilt Festival: Quilt Scene, Modern Patchwork Holiday and Quilting Arts TV.

10 thoughts on “Host Your Own Outdoor Dyeing Party

  1. My charm group decided to exchange and learn about batik fabrics one year. We planned our August meeting to be a day-long dying meeting. Each member chose a method of dying fabric and researched it and prepared it for the meeting. On the day of the meeting, we all went from station to station and tried several different types of dying. We had wax-resist, shaving cream, painting with dyes, sun-dying just to name a few. It was a lot of fun and we learned a lot!

    I would recommend this for any small group. Even if you’ve never considered dying you will have a new perspective on all dyed fabrics at the quilt store.

  2. My charm group decided one year to exchange batik fabrics. We also planned to learn about how they were dyed. Each member chose a method of dying and researched it. At our August meeting everyone setup their dying stations outside a member’s home. We went from station to station trying all the methods. We had a ball and learned a lot in the process. We tried wax-resist, sun-dying, shaving cream, folding, and overdying just to name a few. Great article! I would recommend this to other charm groups!

  3. I am just buying supplies to start trying various dyeing techniques. The party sounds like a great idea. I am just retired and spend a few months in Florida. I think it would be fun next Jan to get a few friends together and dye some scarfs!!Thanks for sharing!!

  4. I’ve had the great pleasure of teaching dyeing techniques to both kids and adults. Surface design is so magical and fun! I always warn people to wear clothing and shoes that they don’t mind *ruining* with dye – that way everyone understands that this can be a messy day. Disposable plastic aprons are an option, too.

    I like the alphabet bead idea. When I teach tie dyeing, I have each person write their name on the t-shirt tag with a Sharpie.

    I’ve recently begun rug hooking and am planning to experiment with wool dyeing with a couple friends. Kool Aid, anybody?

  5. My friend Wendy and I have taught dye classes to members of our Quilters’ Guild out of Wendy’s and/or my garage several times, and it was a blast! We learned short cuts such as pre-mixing the dyes, then just demoing how to mix dyes, having a handout with basic instructions, and limited ourselves to a certain number of techniques to teach. Classes were no more than 14 adults and/or teens, and usually ran around 6 hours with a lunch break. Students went home with their fabrics in zip lock bags, with a small amount of synthrapol so they could wash out after batching. Everyone gave us good marks on class content, and seemed to enjoy themselves, so I’m sure we’ll do the classes again!

  6. Loved the safety pin with initial beads idea for keeping track of dyed pieces. To make the whole first time dyeing process super easy I use Color Hue instant setting silk dyes. I get hemmed silk scarves from either Thai Silks or DharmaTrading and mix up my liquid dyes in 4 ounce bottles or larger if there will be 10-15 people. I teach using a variety of techniques: dyeing in the baggie, folds and clamps with sticks, twist and spray floral images, pleat wet silk and spray to make zebra stripes. Lots of fun. For someone who hasn’t dyed before they are a no-brainer easy to use dye, non-toxic and no heat setting so you don’t have to send anyone home with synthropol. They are ready to wear when they walk out the door. Lunch provided makes a nice break. You can email me for my dye party/group instructions as it works well in a classroom. I had a 12 year old and her mom read them instructions, get the dyes and then show her class of 20 to make silk scarves. So much fun and I am in Clearwater, FL so come over and play at my dye day on Sat.

  7. I host and teach dye parties all over the country at guilds and fabric shops as part of my business, Hands On Hand Dyes. I put kits together with everything needed to learn the various dye methods, so everyone just has to show up and have some fun. I teach anywhere from 5 to 50 quilters at a time, with guaranteed results. Nothing is more empowering for a quilter than starting a quilt with fabrics they dye themselves.

  8. The quilting group I am in did this last summer at my house. We had different stations set up for all the things everyone brought. We all shared techniques with each other and everyone got to try whatever they wanted to do. We did discharge with dishwasher gel, drip dyeing, immersion dyeing, spray dyeing, and several others. We had so much fun. Even my 7 year old daughter dyed several pieces for her stash! This past winter, several people came to my house again to dye silk scarves. Ages ranged from 5 years old to over 50.

  9. Kaw Valley Fiber Guild (Lawrence, KS, area) has had several dye parties. Members are all ages and levels of skill. We use Tyvek labels to keep items identified. Participants bring brown bag lunches for several reasons: it frees up the host from putting on a luncheon, folks can eat at different times, saves a lot of time and most importantly, less opportunity for dyes to reach common food areas. It is good to set some size limits on yardages so no one person uses an entire color on one item (or plan ahead for large items). Enjoy!

  10. We have wonderful Dye Days at a local enthusiast’s rural place. Her husband clears out his farm shed. We have tables set out, hot water in an old laundry copper over an open fire, some measuring jugs, wooden spoons, all dyes and soda-ash supplied (and other chemicals if we’re using different dyes). We bring our own fabrics, ziploc bags and large trays/crates for carrying the goodies home. We bring a share dish for lunch and Erika supplies tea/coffee/juice.
    One of the BEST ideas is to have 2 or 3 “slush buckets” – large deep plastic trays eg kitty-litter trays, each designated with a colour mix – yellow/blue, red/green, red/blue or whatever seems a good idea on the day. Each has the soda-ash solution in it, and we pour in without mixing, any excess dye mixtures. We lay long pieces of fabric into the unmixeed patches of colour and collect our own at the end of the day. The resulting pieces are invariably the most beautiful products of the day.
    Erika has been doing this for years – she has developed a series of samples with the recipes for the dye mixes set out so we can select any colours we want and we pay her for the appropriate quantities of dye used.
    This is more organised than a group starting out would be, but many of us here are using our own dyed fabrics as a matter of course and sometimes want to match up colours. If you’re into Modern Quilting (what a blessing I have lived long enough for this wonderful style to arrive) it is the perfect partner.
    A Dye Day in Erika’s beautiful garden with yummy food and total sharing and fun is the best thing I know for revving up the slow patches in my life.