DIY Ombre Caftan Project

Posted by – July 14, 2010

The other day I decided to embark on an ombre DIY project.  For anyone who doesn’t know, ombre means “shading” & it’s basically when a garment is dyed in gradient shades, either of the same color or multiple colors.  The process involves dunking a garment in a dye bath & slowly removing it while increasing the amount of dye in the bath.

If you want to give it a shot, here’s how.

Gather all of your materials:

- Bucket

- Rubber gloves

- Measuring cup

- Measuring spoon

- Towel

- Procion dye in the color of your choice (I used “Better Blue Green”)

- Soda ash

- Synthropol

- Hanger

- Twine

- Scissors

- Stick for stirring (I just used a chop stick)

- Egg timer

Prewash your garment blank. (Garment blanks & other dying supplies can be purchased at Dharma Trading Company).

Fill the bucket with water (amount of water will depend on the size of your garment.  I used about 1 1/4 gallons of water).

Mix up your soda ash separately in a measuring cup with a little water.  Be sure that the soda ash is completely dissolved in the cup before you pour it into the bucket.  It tends to harden & clump up when it’s added to the water.  Any unmixed particles will cause spotting on your garment.  I learned this the hard way.  Big pain in the butt.  Mix, mix, mix!

Decide how many layers you want your ombre to have.  I wanted five layers of dye on my caftan, so I chose an amount of water that was easily divisible by five in which to mix my dye (1 1/4 cup of water).

THOROUGHLY MIX THE DYE into the measuring cup of water.  Even the slightest unmixed particle will leave a dark, obvious, & disappointing spot on your garment.  Mix, mix, & mix again, I say!!

In my case, I then poured 1/5 of the dye into my bucket of water.  Make sure the dye is well mixed into the water then submerge your entire garment into the water.  Stir the garment around in the water for about 2-3 minutes.

You will need to rig up a sort of pulley system.  I folded the caftan in half, & then in half again, & clipped it onto a children’s pant’s hanger (because it was narrow enough to be lowered into my narrow bucket) Then I tied a length of twine to a nail in the roof of my covered patio.

Pour an additional 1/5 of the dye into your water & stir thoroughly.

Hang your garment on the hanger & lower the garment into the bucket so that 4/5 of it is submerged in the dye bath.  Tie your twine so it holds the garment in this position.

Allow to stand in the dye bath for about five minutes.  Stirring occasionally.

Pull the garment out another 1/5 & retie your twine so it holds the garment in this position.

Pour in an additional 1/5 of the dye & stir thoroughly.  Allow garment to stay in this position for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Repeat these steps for the number of layers you desire, adding additional dye & additional time to each subsequent layer, & retying your pulley system to gradually raise the garment out of the dye bath.

Once you have completed all of the layers, rinse the garment in cold water until the water runs clear.

Wash the garment in the washing machine with hot water & synthropol.

Dry in the dryer.


Here is my finished caftan which has several disappointing dark splotches on it because, even though I mixed till I was blue in the face, there was still some undissolved dye in my dye bath.

I’ll have to over-dye this caftan to rescue it, but I will totally try this ombre process again.  I really love the effect!

Thanks for visiting!



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  1. The RabbitNo Gravatar says:

    This is the epitome of awesome. Call me over next time. I want to sidesaddle.

  2. jeminaNo Gravatar says:

    me too, besides the rabbit, I want to side saddle too, how awesome, YAY!!! for NICKIE :) ), love love love, xoxo
    jemina recently posted..splat- belt n bleachMy ComLuv Profile

  3. jeminaNo Gravatar says:

    Nickie darling, please check my comment at my blog, I just replied to your query darling, love love, J, xoxo
    jemina recently posted..splat- belt n bleachMy ComLuv Profile

  4. nickiefryeNo Gravatar says:

    HAHA! You guys are funny! :D xoxo

  5. AliciaNo Gravatar says:

    NICKIEEEEEEEEE!!!!! This is amazing. AMAZING!

    *doing the “we’re not worthy” Wayne’s World thing*

    Seriously. I can’t imagine having the patience to do this. It’s beautiful.
    Alicia recently posted..…outfit post- i can see my feet…My ComLuv Profile

  6. apparellelNo Gravatar says:

    i love this nickie. now i know why a few of my rompers had some spotting too. damn soda ash. well regardless it sure turned out gorgeous!

    apparellel recently posted..00035My ComLuv Profile

  7. nickiefryeNo Gravatar says:

    Yes, Tessa, that soda ash is the pits but I think the dye is even more tricky. I’ve heard it recommended to pour it though a piece of silk habotai so the silk catches any particles of unmixed dye. I just didn’t have any on hand & I tend to cut corners. ;)

  8. NickiNo Gravatar says:

    just found this article, and this turned out lovely. just thought i would share, whenever you are using fabric dye on store clothing you should always scour it first to remove any weird chemical treatments or dust or oil. 1 gallon hot water and 1/4 cup of soda ash, let your garment marinate in that for about 20 minutes and rinse it out before dying. it will take dye better and you’ll end up with more vivid colors and need to use less dye.

  9. SarahNo Gravatar says:

    awesome tutorial, thank you so much!




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