When I was planning our wedding, ombre and watercolor seemed to be super in at the moment and I fell in love with the concept. I knew I wanted to incorporate it into as many aspects of our wedding as possible, and one obvious place to do that was our table linens. I looked high and low for economical options to purchase ready-made ombre dip-dyed napkins in our wedding colors, but they just didn’t exist. So – in true crafty-girl fashion – I decided to make them myself. I won’t lie… it was much more time-consuming and difficult than I thought it would be. I was also super picky about having JUST the right shade of green and pink, so it took forever to find the perfect dye. But I promise that the end result was totally worth it!
- Stock pot
- 100% cotton napkins
- RIT Dye
- Rubber gloves
- Clothes drying rack (or a ladder works really well, too!)
- Unwitting assistants (you can do this alone, but you won’t want to)
- A good attitude, patience, and a bottle of wine!
When you dye fabric, the type of fabric matters. If money is no object, go for white linen – 100% linen typically takes dye better than cotton. If you’re on a budget, like me, 100% cotton will work just fine. Just make sure your napkins do not contain any synthetic materials, like polyester.The type of dye that you choose can also affect the outcome of this project. There are all kinds of different dyes out there that range from simple to extremely complicated. It all depends on how much time and money you are willing to put into your project, and how long you want your dye job remain vibrant. I highly recommend doing some research first. I did not plan to re-use my napkins so I went with the cheap/easy option. I used RIT liquid dye in Emerald for my mint napkins and RIT powder dye in Fuchsia for my pink napkins.
Step 1: Prep your area. We were lucky enough to have a grill with a burner so we could dye outside – if you are dying inside, be sure to lay down a tarp or sheet around your work area because this WILL get messy.
Step 2: Fold your napkins in half once. Roll the top folded edge down a few times and pin with a clothespin – this is the part of the napkin that will remain undyed. The clothespin will help you keep the excess fabric under control (learned this was necessary the hard way!).
Step 3: Pre-dip the free ends of your napkins in water – this will allow the dye to bleed up your napkin and will give you a nice soft edge instead of a hard line.
Step 4: Mix your dye bath in your stock pot following your dye instructions. How much dye you use will depend on how deep you want your color to be – we used 1 part dye to 8 parts water and 1/8 cup of salt to help set the dye. Allow your dye to heat up before you begin dying – you want it to be super hot.
Step 5: Now to dye! Dip the free end of your napkin in the dye about 3/4 of the way up. Gradually pull the napkin out of the dye to create the ombre effect. I divided the dyed portion of my napkin into 4 parts in my head and counted to 20 for each section. The ends of your napkin will stay in the longest to create the deepest color.
*Remember – this is not a science and you will NOT be able to dye each napkin the same. This is what will make your napkins unique!
Step 6: Rinse the napkin in cold water as you squeeze out excess dye, but make sure to rinse with the folded white area of the napkin at the top near the faucet so all the extra dye drains away from your white area. You don’t want the dye to seep into the undyed portion.Step 7: Allow the napkins to dry on a drying rack overnight. Once they are completely dry, wash them to remove any excess color – you don’t want to stain your guests fingers!! If you want to take your dye game to the next level, you can wash your napkins with a textile detergent. It’s a surefire way to get the color to stay in the fabric and minimize fading. After washing, line dry again and then iron so they are nice and crisp for use!