Washing indigo fabric – a DIY tutorial for hand-dyed fabric

Hi, I wrote a post earlier this month about the indigo dyeing workshop I organized for the Bay Area Sewists, which you can read here. However, that post just focused on the dyeing part. That post got really long and then I realized that I didn’t discuss washing indigo fabric after it has finished oxidizing. So here’s that important bit of information.

Indigo dyed fabric - Bay Area Sewists meetup - CSews.com

When you take your fabric out of the indigo dye bath, it starts turning blue when it’s exposed to oxygen. It takes about 20 minutes for indigo dye to oxidize. When I took the Craftcation indigo dyeing workshop, we were told to rinse the fabric and then launder it. This will prevent the dye from “crocking” or transferring to something else, such as a white couch. 😉 You may need to wash your indigo dyed fabric more than once to prevent crocking.

I’m going to make a skirt with some of my indigo-dyed fabric and I don’t want to worry about ruining someone’s furniture when I sit down. So I called Dharma Trading, which sells a wide range of their own fabric dyes, including indigo and the Jacquard indigo dye kits. I was told to rinse the indigo-dyed fabric for 20 minutes under running water and then I could try washing it with hot water with Retayne. Well, it turns out Retayne is for commercially dyed fabrics and when I called my local fabric store Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics, to see if they carried Retayne, I discovered that it not only carries Retayne but Synthrapol, which removes excess dye from hand dyed fabrics,” according to the label.

Synthrapol - for hand dyed fabric - CSews.com

So I needed Synthrapol. I got this 16 oz. bottle for $6.95 from Stonemountain. You can also buy a 16 oz. bottle on Amazon for $13.75 (affiliate link here). There’s also a 4 oz. bottle available as well.

The directions on the label says that when you wash your hand dyed fabric for the first time, wear gloves, add 1 teaspoon of Synthrapol per gallon of very hot water, wash for 5 minutes, rinse well and dry. You can also machine wash in the hot cycle and add 1-2 teaspoons per load to form 1/4″ of suds, run 8 to 10 minutes. Then run through complete warm rinse.

After that initial laundering, wash with warm water, not hot.

To recap, here’s the process for washing your hand dyed fabric for the first time.

Step 1: Rinse hand-dyed indigo fabric under running water for 20 minutes. I rinsed it in the bathtub but I didn’t want to run the water that long. We’ve been dealing with drought in California so I couldn’t bring my self to run the water that long. I rinsed for about 5 minutes. Squeezed out the excess water and then rinsed for another 5 minutes.

Washing indigo fabric - rinse for 20 min. under running water - CSews.com

Step 2: Washing indigo fabric in hot water with 1 teaspoon of Synthrapol. I use a Rubbermaid dish tub I got at a hardware store (15.25 quarts, 14.43 liters). It has convenient handles on the sides. You can get it on Amazon, too (affiliate link here).

Washing indigo fabric - for first wash, wash in hot water with Synthrapol - CSews.com

Step 3: Rinse in warm water.

If you want to machine wash your indigo dyed garment after this initial hot wash, I would recommend washing it with a color catcher – a dye-trapping sheet you throw in with your wash. It picks up stray color and prevents dye from depositing from one garment to another. I use the Shout color catcher, which you can find in the grocery store sold near the laundry detergent and dryer sheets. (Amazon affiliate link here.)

Keep in mind that the indigo color will fade as you wash it so wash with care. I think I’ll wash in cold water and line dry.

For a more in-depth explanation of how to prevent color transfer, bleeding, and fading, check out this post from the home and garden website Dengarden.

I still need to write Part 2 of my Indigo dyeing experiments. I’ll do that in September so stay tuned!

Tutorial - How to treat indigo-dyed fabric - hand dyed, Synthrapol, DIY - CSews.com

How to Add a Patch Pocket to a Skirt – Tutorial

Patch pocket sewn in place

I started making this skirt (Butterick B5756) in August (how time flies!) using this cotton voile, which I got at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. I’m making version C but a little longer (mid-calf length), which has gathered fabric below the yoke. But this version doesn’t have pockets so I decided to add one. I didn’t think side pockets would work because I’m using a lightweight fabric and I thought it would put too much strain on the side seams. Plus I didn’t know how it would look with the gathering. So I decided to add a patch pocket and see if I could line it up with the fabric design, which I haven’t done before. Here’s my brief tutorial on how to add a patch pocket to a skirt.


This fabric has a rather large repeat design so I decided to make a pocket that would line up with the pattern.

I needed to determine its size. So I thought about:

  • the purpose of the pocket, how I would use it
  • the weight of the fabric and how it would look.

When I’m at work, I often go to a cafe around the corner and I pay with my phone using an app called LevelUp. So I  wanted something that could fit my iPhone and building access card. However, my fabric is lightweight and because the skirt would be gathered, I didn’t want it to gape too much. This meant the pocket couldn’t be too wide.

Also, I knew I would be placing the pocket below the yoke but near the gathering because I didn’t want it to be too low on the skirt. Thus my pocket is narrow (X inches wide finished) – about the width of one “family” (yes, that is a family in the design!) – and wide enough to fit my hand. The height was determined by the fabric design. The family was about 8 1/2 inched tall. I added an inch to that measurement.

So I drafted a pattern with rounded corners, which seemed appropriate for the fabric design. I made it big enough to fit my hand.

Patch pocket pattern

I cut out the fabric.

Patch pocket cut from fabric

Then I ironed a strip of 3/8 inch double-sided fusible tape (I like “ultra soft double sided fusible” by Design Plus) to reinforce the fabric around the sides and bottom of the pocket and to make it easy to fold over. It’s paper-backed on one side so you iron over the paper strip, fusing the other side to the fabric, then remove the strip, fold over the fabric and iron. It’s tacky enough so the fold easily stays in place.

Patch pocket reinforced with double-sided fusible tape

I folded it over about 1/4 inch, ironed it and then folded it another 1/4 inch. Though I think I could have made a little narrower – 1/8 inch. I folded (and ironed) the top over 1/2 inch and then another 1/2 inch. Then I sewed the top fold down and checked how it would fit on the skirt front.

Patch pocket lined up

Then I pinned and basted the pocket in place (big enough for my iPhone!).

Baste patch pocket in place

Finally I was ready to sew!

Patch pocket sewn in place

And it matches!

Have you added pockets to anything? Have you ever lined up pockets to your fabric’s design?

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