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Dyeing gradations using Rit All Purpose Liquid Dyes: Getting started

Dyeing gradations using Rit All Purpose Liquid Dyes: Getting started

by Jean Boyd

In September 2022, I introduced you to the Rit Shibori dye kit and showed you how to use it to create unique designs on fabric. This week I’m using a variety of Rit All Purpose Dyes to create even more special effects on fabric. Rit dyes are readily available in craft and art supply stores.

Choose a few of your favorite colors of Rit All Purpose Dyes and some Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative and get ready to create! We’ll be using both Rit Liquid Dyes and Rit Powdered Dyes this week.

4 bottles of Rit liquid dye, 1 bottle of Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative and 4 boxes of Rit powdered dye

Rit Liquid and Powder All Purpose Dyes

Here’s a list of some other supplies you’ll need. When dyeing fabric, you don’t want to use items that will be used in the kitchen for food. Many of these supplies can be found in your local Thrift Shops or Dollar Stores.



  • I used PFD (prepared for dyeing) fabric, but you can use whatever cotton fabric you have on hand. If you’re not using PFD fabric, wash it first to remove any finishes that may be on it.


  • set of measuring spoons and cups
  • thermometer
  • tongs and/or stirring stick (A paint stirrer works well.)
  • tin foil, metal or glass pan about 9″ x 13″
  • wire cake rack about 8″ square or a colander
  • six 4-cup glass sealer jars
  • 2 or 3 small plastic spray bottles
  • salt or spice shakers with removable tops
  • rubber gloves to wear when handling dyes and freshly dyed fabric
  • small amounts of table salt and dish detergent
  • plastic sheet to cover your work area

Supplies for dyeing include glass jars, Rit All Purpose liquid dyes, Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative, measuring spoons, measuring cup, thermometer, salt

Supplies for dyeing

Let’s get started

We start by dyeing 6 gradations or values of one color. I used Rit Scarlet and Indigo dyes but you can use whatever colors you like. Be sure to cover your work area with a plastic sheet and wear gloves when handling the dyes.

  1. Cut fabric into 6 pieces, each 8″ x 18″. Soak fabric in water.
  2. Put 3 cups of hot (140°) water in each of the 6 sealer jars.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and a couple of drops of liquid dish detergent to each jar. The salt enhances the color and the detergent helps promote level dyeing.
  4. Mix ¼ cup Scarlet and 1 tablespoon of Indigo in 1 cup of hot (140°) water.
  5. Pour ½ cup of dye solution in Jar 1.
  6. Add ½ cup of hot water to the remaining dye solution.
  7. Pour ½ cup of dye solution in Jar 2.
  8. Add ½ cup water to the remaining dye solution.
  9. Pour ½ cup of dye solution in Jar 3.

Continue in this way until each jar contains dye solution. You’ll have ½ cup of dye solution left over. Don᾽t throw it out! We’ll use it later.

Wring out the fabric and place one piece in each jar. The fabric can be left in the dye bath for 3 to 20 minutes. The longer you leave it in, the darker the color will be.

You can stir the fabric occasionally or just let it sit in the dye bath for a more mottled look.

Fabric in 6 bottles of dye solution

Fabric in the dye baths

Now itʼs time to prepare the ColorStay Dye Fixative to enhance the color and reduce bleeding. Mix ½ bottle (4 oz) of Fixative with 3 gallons of water.

When you’re satisfied with the color, wear rubber gloves and remove the fabric from the dye bath. Remember that the dyed fabric will be a lighter color when dry. Squeeze out the extra water from the fabric and place it in the fixative/water bath.

Stir slowly and continuously for 20 minutes.

Rinse fabric in cool water until the water runs clear.

If you wish, you can now wash your fabric in cold water with a mild detergent, then rinse and dry.

When I was pressing my fabric, I used Mary Ellen’s Best Press in the spray and misting bottle. That really gets rid of the wrinkles in the fabric and also puts a crisp finish on the fabric.

Mary Ellen’s Best Press refill bottle and Best Press spray and misting bottle sitting on wrinkled fabric

Mary Ellen’s Best Press to get rid of wrinkles

Now you have 6 pieces of fabric going from light to dark in the same color range!

6 pieces of fabric in values of red, from light to dark

6 values of one color

You can pour all the extra dye solution from the 6 jars, plus the ½ cup that was left over, into one large pail. There is still enough dye to dye more fabric. I usually dye 1 or 2 fat quarters with the leftover dye solution. Follow the steps above for dyeing and rinsing in Rit ColorStay Dye Fixative. You can put the fabric in the dye bath or place it in a mesh bag and tie it tightly. This gives a very mottled look to the fabric. I also used some of the folding and tying techniques from Shibori dyeing that was explained in my September 2022 QUILTsocial blog. Be sure to check it out!

And now I have 6 pieces of perfectly coordinated fabric plus 2 pieces that will be just right for accent fabrics.

6 pieces of fabric in values from light to dark red and 2 pieces of accent fabric

6 values of one color plus accent pieces

Come back tomorrow when I show you 2 easy projects that were created using the gradated fabric dyed with Rit All Purpose dyes.

This is part 1 of 5 in this series

Go to part 2: Using gradated fabrics to make a placemat and pillow top [Strip piecing]


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