Fabric Dyeing with Kids


In a previous post, I mentioned that the fabric used to make the school auction quilt, which is still in progress (finished quilt top here), was dyed by the kids at my children’s school. In order to get almost 400 kids to dye fabric and attempt to make each piece unique, we used a small batch dyeing process using plastic bags. Sarah from Intown Quilters here in Atlanta told me about this method. I ordered my reactive fabric dye from Dharma Trading. They have a great variety and an educational website to help you with the process.

First, I cut all the fabric into 7″ squares, then pre-washed it, dried it, and gave the pieces a quick pressing. For this project I used a white Kona cotton and some other white and neutral cottons and linens, but you might want to use fabric that has not been treated. I mixed several colors of dye, each in a small cup and mixed  the soda ash with water in another container. We then folded plastic bags over larger clear plastic cups, filled them with warm water and let the kids squeeze in some of the concentrated dye with a medicine dropper (another parent thought of using the medicine droppers so the kids wouldn’t spill and it worked out very well). We then added the soda ash mixture, dropped in the fabric, sealed the bag, removed the bag from the cup,  and let the kids squish around their bag, gently. That word “gently” is key when working with five-year-olds. Out of almost 400 kids, we only had two minor spills, so not bad! Many of the kids enjoyed the sensory input of squeezing the bag of warm water and didn’t want to give it up.


Some of the bags we let sit for just 10 minutes and some a couple of hours. I changed the dyes up frequently, varying the colors and intensity so we could get the widest possible range of blues, greens, and yellows. Then I rinsed the fabric, let it air dry, then ran it through the washed and dryer. I think I bought nine different colors, but mixed them together in various ways and changed the concentration with each batch. Here is an Instagram photo some of the fabric drying on a rack at the school. The very patient art teacher let us dye fabric with the kids during art time.

Hopefully I’ll get this project basted and quilted soon!


1 comment to Fabric Dyeing with Kids

  • Thanks so much for this dying tip. I have been playing with dye and pieces of linen, but need a more contained method than my kitchen sink! Can’t wait to try this. And also to attempt a kaleidoscope quilt. Yours is so lovely. The colors are perfect.

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