Dyeing silk with ties 2023

I’ve posted about this technique several time in the past. The last post was back in 2016 when I demonstrated it on one of our local television stations. Here is that post. But in this post, I’m focusing on dyeing on silk to use in projects instead of silk scarves to wear. Of course, this technique works great for that. Also, this dyeing will only work on silk. These ties will not dye cotton.

First we need some silk ties. Make sure the ties have a tag on the back that says 100% silk or they won’t dye. Here are a few I picked up at my local thrift store.

Here are the supplies you will need:

  • silk ties
  • cotton fabric to be used as the carrier
  • silk fabric – can be scarves or any silk fabric
  • Scissors
  • string or sinew
  • dowel or a stick
  • pot for boiling water
  • water
  • white distilled vinegar
  • weight for holding down fabric bundle in pot. I use an old glass pie plate.
  • towel

To get started, cut your cotton fabric the length you want to dye your silk fabric. It can’t be real wide because it needs to fit in the pot. So measure you pot to see what the width can be. My carrier is 9 inches wide. Cut two of these. These carrier can be used over and over, so save it for future dye sessions.

Cut your silk piece about the size of your carrier. In the past I dyed the lightweight habotai silk. For this project I’m dyeing a couple different silks that are sturdier and will be easier to work with in an art quilt. I love the look and feel of raw silk so I’m using a piece of it. And I’m also using a piece of silk broadcloth. I included a silk charmeuse just to see how it would take the dye.

Now take your ties, cut off a section to fit your silk piece, and cut off the ends. You can save these to use later.

Turn the tie over and snip the stitches holding the piece together.

Open it up and remove the stabilizer, and iron flat.

Place your carrier on your table and top with your silk piece right side up. Place your tie pieces on the silk right side down.

You don’t have to use the ends of the ties, but I like to use them for my test of how the ties die on the silk. So what I’m doing right now is just doing a couple test dyes to see which ties I want to use in my final piece. I’m always surprised at which ties work, and which ones don’t. I’ll show you that at the end.

Once  you are finished placing your tie pieces, here is what you get. I left the ties in the same order so I can compare the dyeing to the ties when I’m finished.

Top your silk now with the other carrier sheet. You can use another piece of silk as the top carrier. Since I’m using the end of the ties there are seams on the back that will show on the top fabric. But if you work with pieces that are seamless, you should get a nice dye.

Next take your dowel and slowly roll up the bundle. The ties will shift, but the slower you roll, the less shift.

Once it is rolled up, tie it up. You can use string, but I like using sinew.

Remove the dowel.

Add more string or sinew.

Now it’s ready for the pot. Add water and 2 – 3 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar and bring to a boil.

Once it’s boiling, add the fabric bundle.

Use a spoon or stick to push it to the bottom of the pan. I found this great wood fork at a thrift store awhile back and it works great for this.

To keep the fabric fully submerged, add something to weigh it down. I use an old glass pie plate.

Then set your timer for 20 minutes and let it boil away.

At the end of the 20 minutes, take it out and set on your towel to cool off. However, I have a really hard time waiting for it to cool down so I usually cut the ties and open it right away!

Now for the reveal! It’s always so exciting! Here is a video of my second bundle. Click on the link to watch the video.

Silk Tie Dyeing

Then you let the fabric dry, and iron to set the dye. I also like to then hand wash with a little soap in warm weather, rinse, hang dry and iron before I use it.

Now to show you how some of these ties dyed. This is silk broadcloth. The second tie on the left doesn’t dye much at all. The yellow one is interesting but nothing like I would expect.

This is raw silk and I really love how these have all dyed.

This is also part of the raw silk piece. I loved the second from the right tie but it hardly made a mark. So one lesson to learn from this is gray doesn’t transfer well. You see the one next to it, the colors transferred but not the gray lines.

Now to compare the raw silk (top) to the silk charmeuse. I used the charmeuse as the cover carrier so it was dyed by the underside of the tie. The colors are a bit brighter because of the smooth texture, but they both look great.

And the final three pieces. From top down: Silk charmeuse, silk broadcloth, and raw silk.

Since I’m wanting to sew this fabric, I will be using the raw silk and the silk broadcloth. The design on the broadcloth is a bit clearer, but only because it’s a smooth fabric as opposed to raw silk which is nubby.

Now I know how they dye on the fabric. My next step is to decide which designs I like, and dye more fabric for my project.

That was fun. What takes the most time is cutting up all the fabric and getting it ready to bundle. Otherwise it’s a fast dye.

Thanks for dropping by.