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Want to Learn Earth Friendly Fabric Dying Techniques?

Hello IFD Insider! Are you looking to take some time for yourself to explore & learn something new? Hopefully so…and if you’re looking for some ideas, look no further than todays article. Here are IFD we are big fans of any processes that are good for people & planet and these fabric dying techniques are just that.

Read on to learn about eco-friendly options being used and instructions on how to give them a try yourself! Now go out and have some fun!

Tie-dye is one of this year’s biggest fashion trends, but the world of fabric dyeing reaches far beyond what you can do with rubber bands and buckets in the backyard on a hot summer day. 

When you dye textiles you apply pigment to fibers, yarns and fabrics to achieve a desired color. 

Different dyes and methods are used at different stages of garment production, from dyeing fibers and yarn in the textile production process to dyeing lengths of fabric or completed garments. 

Matching your dye to your textile is crucial. Nylon, wool, silk and other protein fibers are dyed with acidic dyes. Acrylic fibers are dyed with basic dyes. Polyester is dyed with disperse dyes. Cotton is rather versatile and can be dyed a multitude of ways. 

When it comes to application, here are a few classic dyes and techniques you can experiment with for your next garment or collection. 


Natural dyes are colorings typically extracted from plants and microorganisms. Research into and adoption of natural dyes is taking off as the industry reckons with the amount of pollution and waste it creates. The washing, dyeing, and finishing of textiles includes massive amounts of chemicals, water and energy used, and is the biggest force in fashion’s environmental devastation. Rivers are turning colors, textile dyes are getting into nearby crops, and some polluted bodies of water are essentially dead. 

Natural dyes are less common at an industrial level due to their unpredictability, and lack of scalability and color-fastness. While we hope to see big brands adopt natural dyes, they’re likely to be more commonly used by individual designers and smaller brands. Here’s a great list of what organic matter you can try your hand at to create a particular color in your own design work. 


Resist dyeing is a traditional method of dyeing textiles with patterns. Resist dye techniques include waxes or pastes that resist dye to create the patterns, or manipulation of cloth such as tying or stitching. Here are some common resist dyeing techniques.


Tie-dyeing involves twisting or pinching portions of cloth and tying them tightly with rubber bands or thread before dyeing. .


Ice dyeing can be done with resists or without. It is similar to tie-dye but uses powdered dyes sprinkled over melting ice on cloth rather than dipping fabric in vats of color. It uses less water and creates a more blended watercolor look.


Shibori is similar to tie-dye with a few signature characteristics. Typically done in indigo, you can bind, stitch, fold, twist, or compress the cloth before dyeing it to make smaller, intricate, typically repeating, patterns. 


Batik uses a wax resist where wax is drawn on cloth, often in dots or lines, or printed with a stamp. The wax then resists dyes and can be removed with boiling water so the cloth can be dyed again to allow for multiple colors. 


While other techniques apply the resist to the cloth, in ikat the resist is applied to the yarns before they are woven into a fabric. The technique involves binding individual yarns or yarn bundles with a tight wrapping in a pattern before dyeing. You can then change up the bindings to make a new pattern and dye the yarns another color, again and again if you want to create multicolored, elaborate patterns. The yarns are then woven into cloth.


Designers Laura Luchtman and Ilfa Siebenhaard developed a process of biodyeing with bacteria that produces a biodegradable dye requiring little water and low dyeing temperatures. They also run fascinating experiments such as exploring the possibilities of growing bacteria in patterns by exposing them to sound frequencies. 

Some start-ups are trying to swap out the chemistry of dyeing and replace it with biology, exploring engineered microbes to reduce the use of chemicals in textile dyes. Companies like Colorifix and Pili think microbes can use fermentation tanks and sugar to produce high-performance, renewable dyes that meet mainstream industry needs.

Pre-Covid, IFD held hands on workshops and we cant wait to get together again!  One workshop was held during Portland Textile Month and titled Wine and Dye, featuring Kerry Cotter from Belmont Blankets.  Check out our recap along with an instructional PDF for fabric dying with items found in nature….thank you again to Kerry for his lesson and instructions!  Download your fee copy here:  Wine and Dye Fabric dyes from Nature

Wine and Dye IFD Workshop

We want to know — What dye techniques do you use in your work?  

What is one of our favorite dyes?  Rit Proline powder dye. The ProLine formula features an advanced mix of dyes that’s applicable to natural and synthetic fibers and is ideal for scaling dye projects, no matter the size. and TOXIC FREE too!  Check out their color offering below (the fun dots). 

To shop for your own dyes, visit this link here

Let us know if you try any of these- we would love to see your work!

Images and inspiration from


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Hey there, lovely fashion friends! My name is Britta Cabanos, and I'm thrilled to have you here! 


I'm a 25+ year fashion industry design professional, and I'm passionate about supporting conscious designers, ethical makers, and sustainability. I believe that fashion can be a powerful force for good, and I'm committed to helping aspiring fashion industry pros make their mark in this exciting and ever-changing field. 


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"Conscious design is a philosophy used at the Peterman Design Firm. We use it to create brands and products that restore and sustain our planet. The Peterman Method for conscious design is the culmination of Ian’s 15+ years working in product development and Jessica’s 20 years in working as a healer and studying regenerative technologies and tools for both people and our planet. Together, we’ve written this book to lay out a culmination of our combined experiences. Our goal is to help other people start looking at the world, and design, in a more conscious way."

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