tutorial: how to dye your own silk scarves pt. 1

Dyeing scarves is a two day process for me, as they need a while to dry before you steam them. So this is part one of a two part tutorial on how to dye your very own silk scarf! For this project, you’ll need:

  • haboti silk scarves (mine are the 11″ x 60″ from Dharma Trading Company)
  • dye (i’m using jaquard silk dyes, also from Dharma)
  • salt (Dharma sells “silk salt,” however, any old salt will do)
  • spray bottle full of water
  • spray bottle full of alcohol
  • paint brush
  • something to mix your colors in (i’m using baby food jars)

The first thing your going to want to do is to wash your scarves. Sometimes the industrial washing process can leave chemicals on the fabric, and we don’t want them to interfere with our dying. I simply washed mine in hot water with a little bit of dish soap. After your scarves are dry, you need to stretch them out onto a frame for painting. I made my frame myself, based on the instructions I found on this website.

Now it’s time to mix some colors and get to painting. I’ve done a lot of cool-toned scarves lately, so I thought I’d go with a warmer palette for this one. Because the dyes are going to get mixed and blended together, this step dosen’t need to be perfect. Have fun and experiment!


I tend to start with darker colors first. Keep working, mixing colors and adding them to your base swirls.

until all the white space is filled in.

At this point the scarf is probably going to look pretty weird, but fear not! We still have to blend!
Begin by spraying your scarf down with the alcohol. You’ll see that the alcohol reacts with the dye and forms a kind of rain drop pattern. This will work with the water and salt to make our dye blend more.
Next, spray the piece down with water. You really want to saturate the scarf at this point, it’s what will blend your colors together and get rid of some of the harsh lines.
Now that your scarf is wet, you may have noticed it’s starting to sag and the dye has started to run into the wrinkles. I like to re-tension my scarves at this point to prevent dye pools. I’ve also noticed that tension helps the salt pull the dye in interesting patterns.
After it’s all tensioned up, it’s time to add salt. The salt will pull the dye in interesting, organic ways and help to blend the colors even further.

Now, leave it alone to dry! This is the absolute hardest part for me, because I like to keep toying with things. But trust me, leave it alone and let the salt do it’s work.

Next time we’ll examine how the salt pulls the dye, and talk about setting and finishing our scarves!

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