Hand-Dyed Scarf and Sarong

Melanie Audet makes a sarong using a string-bound resist. To match, she also constructs a scarf with silk-screened leaves using a dyed corn-dextrin resist.

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Melanie Audet from Manitou Springs, Colo., began making scarves because she found them to be the most inspiring format in which to experiment with colors, processes and designs.

Materials and Tools:

pre-made rayon sarong
pre-made silk scarf
Procion MX dyes
corn dextrin
soda ash
Synthrapol (mild detergent)
squirt bottle
pot for boiling and steaming
old sheets
plastic spoon
dust mask

Note: DO NOT USE items used in the kitchen. This project employs chemicals that should not be consumed. Separate items should be used when doing the following processes.


1. For string-bound resist: Pre wash rayon sarong in warm water and Synthrapol. This opens up the fibers and removes any starches within the material.

2. While the sarong is still wet, bunch up the sarong and wrap a good length of string around the bundle to keep it in place.

3. Fill a bucket with warm water and salt. In a separate small container (yogurt cup is fine) and using a dust mask and gloves, add powdered dye to a small amount of water to dissolve the dye. Mix until no clumps are present.

4. Add dye to bucket, mix. Add string wrapped bundle to bucket. Leave in for 45 minutes.

5. In the same yogurt cup, add HOT water to at least a tablespoon of soda ash. Mix until completely dissolved.

6. Take out bundle, add soda ash, and replace bundle. Leave in for 45 minutes.

7. After 45 minutes, take bundle from bucket and rinse out. Start unraveling the string and open the bundle.

8. Re-bunch the sarong and re-wrap it in place with the string. Repeat using a different color of dye.

9. When both colors have been applied, take the sarong out and unravel the bundle.

10. Hand wash the sarong in progressively warmer/hotter water with Synthrapol.

11. Boil in pot of water and Synthrapol for 10 minutes. This takes out any leftover dye not washed out and prevents the dye from bleeding over time.

12. Rinse in cold water and iron if you would like.

13. For the corn dextrin resist: Make up corn dextrin using one level cup of corn dextrin to 375 ml of boiling water. Mix in a blender. Let cool overnight.

14. Make up chemical water by adding urea to boiling water and mixing in a blender, 6 tablespoons per quart of water.

15. Pin or tape silk scarf to a stable surface. This ensures your scarf will not move mid-process.

16. To make dyed corn dextrin, warm up a small amount of the chemical water. Using a dust mask and gloves, dissolve dye and soda ash or baking soda in the chemical water. Add to corn dextrin. Note: The adding of water/dye to corn dextrin will thin the paste-like consistency of the corn dextrin. If your dyed corn dextrin is too thin, add more corn dextrin, or add small amounts of the dyed chemical water to the corn dextrin until you get a consistency you like. Also, the dye will chemically bond with the corn dextrin, so add more dye to the corn dextrin to be sure a good amount transfers to your fabric.

17. Using your silkscreen, push the dyed corn dextrin through the silkscreen using a squeegee. Repeat pattern down the length of the scarf. Let dry.

18. Heat up the remaining chemical water until it's at least lukewarm. Put into a squirt bottle.

19. Using a dust mask and gloves, add your dye to the warm chemical water. Put top of squirt bottle on and shake the contents inside, mixing them up.

20. Spray color on top of corn dextrin design, making sure not to use too much or get the scarf too wet. If too much dye is used, it will rehydrate the corn dextrin and will make the design/pattern run. Allow to dry.

21. Laying an old sheet out flat, place the scarf on top of the sheet. Fold scarf inside of sheet, making sure the scarf does not touch itself.

22. Putting a colander in the bottom of a pot of boiling water and place old sheet bundle inside the colander. Cover with a cloth or something similar to capture the steam and to ensure the steam water droplets do not fall onto your sheet bundle. Steam scarf for no more that 6 minutes. Note: You may have to do tests. Over steaming will cause discharge of the dye.

23. Hand wash the scarf in progressively warmer/hotter water with Synthrapol.

24. Boil in pot of water and Synthrapol for 10 minutes. This takes out any leftover dye not washed out and prevents the dye from bleeding over time. Rinse in cold water and if you would like, iron dry.

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