How to: Low Immersion Dyeing

When I first started dyeing years ago I posted about low immersion dyeing. Since that time I’ve learned a lot and decided to share how I now do this type of dyeing. Also, I had several readers email me asking about low immersion. Like other dyeing, there are lots of ways to do this. Mine is just one of the ways.

I am using that Royal Blue that didn’t dye well in this post.

Here is what you need for low immersion dyeing:

  • Prewashed cotton or other natural fibers fabric
  • Fiber reactive dyes
  • Tyvek, Sharpie, and stapler if you want to mark your fabric
  • Soda ash/ hot water/container with lid/long gloves/paint stick
  • Dye water containers and Dye containers. I’m using yogurt cups and containers. You also can use ziploc bags.
  • Scale to weigh dyes/ measuring cup or beakers to measure water
  • Blue Dawn and regular laundry detergent
  • dust mask, gloves
  • plastic bags to cover dyed containers
  • towels to clean up
  • Container for rinsing/soaking


For that post I used fabric that Dawn had given me – Kona Cotton Solids  in white. For this test I am using her Kona Cotton Solids and then the fabric I always use – Test Fabric 400, which is bleached desized Mercerized Cotton Print Cloth.

I also decided to dye each fat quarter with a different amount of dye. Because of those variables, I tagged all of the fabric with tyvex. I used a Sharpie to mark each piece of tyvek, and then stapled it to the corner of the fabric. These are the three pieces of 400. The numbers are the grams of dye I will be using.

These six pieces then went into the washer. Before I dye anything, I always wash the fabric in hot water. It doesn’t need to be dried since it’s going into the soda ash solution after the wash.

Mix up a half cup to a cup of soda ash into a gallon or more of hot water. This solution can be used again, so mix it in a bucket with a lid. Make sure to wear gloves. I like to use a paint stick to stir the soda ash to make sure it’s dissolved before I add the fabric.

Add the washed fabric to the soda ash solution and let it soak for 15 to 30 minutes or longer. While it’s sitting in the solution get the dyes ready.

Add warm water to six small containers. I’m dyeing fat quarters so I will need only 1/4 cup of water or 60 ml for each piece of fabric. I will be mixing the dye in these containers.

Usually I’d use just 1.25 grams of dye for that amount of fabric, but I was concerned since this dye was old, and my first experiment didn’t do well.

For this session I dyed both fabrics with 1.25 grams, 2 grams, and 3 grams of dye. With my mask on I measured the dyes. I use paper cups for measuring. I love my new scale. It’s much more accurate than the one I’ve been using and was only $15!!


Now add the measured dye to the water and stir.

With gloves on remove the fabric from the soda ash solution. I like to squeeze out as much of the solution as I can. Each piece is then taken to my table where I scrunch it up.

Place this scrunched fabric into the dyeing container. I make sure the label is visible so I’ll add the correct dye water.

Then I add the dye water. Taking my fingers I scrunch the fabric down into the container, making sure the dye completely covers it.

Then let the dyes batch for 24 hours in a warm place. Since the dye studio (aka the garage) is cold, I bring them into the laundry room. You don’t have to let them set that long. Some dyers only have them batch for a couple hours. I like to give the dyes plenty of time to work.

After the batching time, rinse them out. I start rinsing with cold water until the water is almost clear. I would normally not be rinsing them out in the same container. However, since they were all the same color it didn’t matter.

Then gradually add warm water and then hot. Empty and add hot water and Blue Dawn.

Then let them soak for an hour or overnight. Sometimes after the soak, there is still a lot of dye in the water even after it had been pretty clear earlier. I’ll just rinse again until I see the water run clear.

Wash in hot water with two rinses, and the put in the dryer. Remove from dryer and iron.

Here are my results.

They all turned out lovely. This test showed that all three amounts worked.

Below is the original 2 grams Royal Blue piece on the left that I dyed for the last post, and the two pieces dyed with 1.25 grams.

So what happened? The only reason for the poor result was my lack of adequately stirring the dry dye. It was a full jar and I was reluctant to stir real hard fearing I’d have dye all over the place. I suspected that might be the problem, so this time I stirred it real good, and got great results with all three amounts of dye. Also, both fabrics dyed great.

So it looks like old dye is still good dye!! Dave liked these results so much that he requested that I dye a shirt in Royal Blue. For an experiment I will be dyeing two shirts: a 100% cotton and a 50/50. I know the latter will be lighter since fiber reactive dyes don’t dye polyester, but not sure how it will look. But you know, I love to experiment.

Hope you have a colorful week!