About Low Water Immersion Dyeing

Most of the dyeing I do is low water immersion of natural cellulose fabrics using fiber reactive dyes.

Low water immersion is a dyeing technique where very little dye solution is used. Fabric is scrunched or crumpled and a small amount of dye solution is added. The fabric is not stirred in the solution so the dye is absorbed unevenly. This results in light and dark shading and blending of colors.

Natural cellulose fabrics are made of cotton, bamboo, silk, linen, hemp and/or modal fibers. Polyester, nylon and other synthetics cannot be dyed using fiber reactive dyes.

Fiber reactive dyes are also known as Procion MX type dyes. They chemically bond with natural fibers giving a permanent, fade resistant color. When washed, they will not bleed as long as they have been properly fixed and rinsed.

Below (left to right): Single primary dye, premixed brown dye, blue and red primary dyes mixed.


For More Information

There are many books on how to dye fabric using fiber reactive dyes. They focus on dyeing very small quantities of fabric for quilts, not yardage or clothing. And some perpetuate myths about techniques which can be very confusing for the beginner.

However, there are excellent web sources to help you get started if you're interested. I highly recommend the following:

  1. Paula Burch's All About Hand Dyeing. Paula is a chemist who loves dyeing fabric. She shares her knowledge freely and answers questions in her Dye Forum. Whether you are just getting started or want to understand the chemistry behind the dyeing process, you'll always find clear, concise explanations.

  2. Dharma Trading Company sells anything you could need for hand dyeing. I buy clothing blanks from them. This link will take you to their "scrunch dyeing" instructions but be sure to look around the rest of the site.

  3. Pro Chemical and Dye is where I get most of my dye simply because I am closer to them than Dharma. This is their instruction page. Look for Low Water Immersion.