I recently stumbled upon a dyeing project, using tissue paper (gasp), on Pinterest and for days, I couldn't stop thinking about it. It seemed too good and easy to be true. After much experimentation, I'm happy to report that, indeed, tissue paper legitimately dyes fabric! Testing this also quickly became a lesson in dyeing natural versus synthetic fabrics. I started by dyeing a polyester slip dress and loved the muted pastel outcome so much, I actually preferred it despite reading warnings against dyeing synthetic fabrics. Of course, I had to try it on silk as well, which turned out equally as beautiful. Again, dyeing with tissue paper will give you a soft, pastel-like palette and it'll be even more muted and faded with synthetics. I've documented both examples below and hope you give either one a try!
- spectra tissue paper (must be "spectra tissue paper" or "bleeding tissue paper" or the colors may not bleed onto your fabric)
- light colored silk, satin or polyester silk slip dress or skirt. preferably choose a natural fiber fabric versus synthetic.
- spray bottle
- white vinegar (for silk or satin dyeing)
Let's start with silk. Note that this skirt is 100% silk. When dyeing anything, preparing it for dye is very important. Hand wash the silk in lukewarm water and a few drops of dishwater or laundry detergent. Rinse clean and then soak in white vinegar and water (approx 1 cup of white vinegar to a gallon of water). Let it soak for an hour.
You can either hang your skirt to dry or lay it down immediately to dye. I like to do this outside on the grass to give myself more room. Start tearing pieces of tissue paper and laying it on the damp skirt. If your fabric starts to dry out before you're finished, you can rewet it with your water sprayer and then add the tissue.
Note: The tissue paper will bleed onto your fingers when wet. Gloves are a good option to have on hand. Also, when tearing your pieces, don't stress about being too exact. The colors will bleed and the edges will most likely blend together.
If any tissue paper flutters away, you can use your spray bottle and give it a few sprays of water to keep it in place. Cover the entire surface of the clothing and spray it down with water. You'll really want to saturate the paper with as much water as possible. This is what makes the color bleed from the tissue onto your fabric.
After a 10-15 minutes, occasionally spraying with water in case any areas dry out, remove the tissue paper. Notice that because the skirt was wet when I started, I couldn't get a totally even spread on the dress. So the tissue paper didn't bleed into folds. If this bothers you, you can always work on a dried dress or just take the time to pay the dress totally flat.
Rinse under lukewarm water and hang to dry. I personally wanted the colors more muted so I let it soak in lukewarm water for about an hour, occasionally squeezing the water from it and starting a new warm bath. Hang to dry and and then heat set by pressing it with an iron. Dry clean or hand wash to clean.
Notice that the color is more saturated with silk versus polyester. Shapes are also a bit more defined. Dye takes to natural fibers far better than synthetic fabric . . .
Now, let's see what happens when I attempted to dye polyester.
Wash your dress with soapy water and then soak in a diluted vinegar bath (4 cups water to 1 cup vinegar). Soak for an hour. Lay the dress down and start adding tissue paper. Make sure the dress is plenty wet/damp before adding your paper. This will allow the paper to saturate the fabric better. This time, I tried horizontal long strips for a bit of an ombré look.
Spray with hot water and leave the tissue on for at least an hour (even better in the sun) to allow the colors to saturate. When I did this for the first time, I quickly realized that almost all the color faded after washing. So I went back and added several more layers of paper and allowed it to sit longer, spraying water every half hour. You want it as saturated as possible.
After removing the tissue paper, allow the dress to dry completely. Polyester takes dye better with heat so run an iron, on the proper setting (no steam), over the dress to help heat set it. It is very important to heat set the garment properly. Take the time to run a hot iron over every section for at least 2-3 minutes each. It's the only way the color will stay in the fabric. To clean, hand wash with cold water. Note that when you wash it, more color will wash out.
Let me know how your tissue paper tie dyeing experiments go! And remember, silk works best as far as locking in color. I found the polyester to be more tedious, as I had to repeatedly re-dye it with tissue until I got the right saturation. And if you're looking for a saturated, bolder dye job, I would definitely recommend ice dyeing!
images and tutorial by HonestlyWTF