The Colorful Moods of Ombré Dyeing

Try adding ombré dyeing to finish off your favorite crochet projects! If you’re looking for a more in-depth tutorial on dyeing Brenda K. B. Anderson’s Ombré Nesting Baskets from Interweave Crochet Summer 2018, you’ve come to the right place! Read on to discover her extra tips and tricks and the specific types of dye she uses.


– 1 lb soda ash dye fixer
– 1 ⅔-oz jar Jacquard Procion MX dye 079 midnight blue (or desired color)
– About 4 oz Synthrapol (I used a Jacquard brand.)
– 2 cups noniodized salt, divided
– Plastic tub or bucket (See Dye Notes.)
– Rubber/nitrile gloves (Having 2 pairs will make things easier—see Safety Notes.)
– NIOSH-approved particulate respirator (This can be purchased at your local hardware store.)
– Clean plastic or glass jar with tight-fitting screw-on lid for dissolving dye, salt, and soda ash (See Dye Notes.)
– At least 2 old towels, plus enough old towels or newspapers to cover work space

Dye Notes

• These baskets were dyed together at the same time while nested, speeding up the process. This may cause imperfections in the dyed surface.
• Using warm water will give a stronger color in less time than cold water.
• Find a tub, bucket, or bin about 1″ larger and 2″ taller than your largest crochet basket. A much larger bin will need more dye to achieve the same color saturation, because the dye particles will spread out in the tub.
• Use water to ensure that your jar can be sealed tightly before using it to dissolve the dye.
• As you begin the dye process, remember that the color will be dark near the bottom of the crochet basket. Some of it will wash out, and it will dry to a lighter color.

Safety Notes

• Use your respirator when handling the soda ash and dye in powder form. Once they are dissolved in the water, they are not harmful to breathe.
• Use gloves throughout the dye process.
• Any tool that is used in the dye process should never be used again in the kitchen.
• Cover your work space with old towels or layers of newspaper. Some dyers use a spray bottle to wet the towels or newspapers so that if dry dye particles land on it, they will stick and not float back up into the air. Have an extra old towel ready nearby to use in case of spillage. You may clean up spilled dye with household cleaners, including bleach.

Presoaking the baskets

1. Place nested baskets in the plastic tub or bucket. Mark the water fill line (just above the top of the crochet basket) on the tub with a piece of tape so that the baskets will be completely submerged to soak. The water level will rise 1–2″ once the baskets are submerged.

ombré dyeing
2. Remove the baskets and set them aside.

ombré dyeing
3. Add 1 cup of soda ash to your tub. Add hot tap water to the fill line. As the tub fills, drizzle 2 Tbs of Synthrapol into the tub. Wearing gloves, reach into the tub and stir to dissolve the soda ash.

ombré dyeing

4. Slowly lower the nested baskets into the tub. This is to practice how you will lower the baskets into the tub when it is filled with dye. Fully submerge the baskets until they no longer float. Let the baskets soak for 30–60 minutes. Prepare the dye for the dyebath.

Dissolving the dye

ombré dyeing

Put on the respirator and gloves. Pour dye slowly and at an angle into your dissolving jar so it doesn’t release into the air. Pour slowly so you do not kick up the dust. Place the cap on the jar and let the dust settle for a minute. Slowly add warm water (down the side of the jar to avoid splashing) until the jar is about three-fourths full. Screw the lid tightly onto the jar and swirl or shake the jar until the dye is completely dissolved.

First dyebath

ombré dyeing

1. After soaking the baskets, place them on a folded towel or in a second plastic tub. Drain the tub or bucket and place the baskets back inside. Use a piece of tape to mark the fill line for the first dyebath at about one-third of the height of the largest basket. Remove the baskets from the tub and set aside.

ombré dyeing
2. Fill the tub with warm tap water until the water reaches about 1″ below the tape mark. (Baskets will raise the water level.) Add 1 cup of salt to the water and stir with gloved hands until the salt is dissolved. Give the dissolved dye a swirl in the sealed jar and then slowly empty the contents into the water. Stir slowly with gloved hands to evenly distribute the dye.

ombré dyeing

3. Slowly lower the nested baskets into the dyebath. The dye will wick up the sides of the baskets. Let the baskets sit in the dyebath for 10–15 minutes. Carefully raise the baskets out of the dyebath. After they drain, place them on a folded towel or in the second tub. Do not drain the contents of the dyebath.

Second dyebath

ombré dyeing

1. Fill the dissolving jar halfway with warm tap water, and add 1 cup of soda ash. Shake until the soda ash is dissolved, and pour the mixture into the dyebath. If you have some sludgy leftovers that remain in the jar, just add more warm tap water and repeat. Place 1 cup of salt in the dissolving jar and again add warm tap water to dissolve. Pour the contents into the dyebath and stir it gently with gloved hands to distribute it evenly.

ombré dyeing

2. Carefully add the baskets back into the dyebath.

ombré dyeing

3. After 5 minutes, use the dissolving jar to add warm water to the dyebath, pouring it carefully down the sides of the tub to avoid splashing. Add enough water to raise the water level 1″. Soak the baskets for 10 minutes.

ombré dyeing

4. Repeat Step 3. Color should continue to be wicked up the sides of the basket and should be fairly faint near the top edge. Adjust the dye height on the baskets by adding more water, if you prefer.

ombré dyeing

5. When you are happy with how the baskets look, carefully raise them. After they stop draining, set them on the folded towel.


1. Bring the baskets (with the towel under them to catch the drips) to a sink or bath, and rinse them in cold water until the water becomes very light in color. Gradually begin rinsing with warmer water.

2. Drain the dyebath and rinse out the tub.

3. Fill the tub with enough warm water to cover all of the dyed parts of the baskets. As you are filling the tub with water, drizzle in about 2 Tbs of Synthrapol.

4. Place the baskets back in the tub to soak for 10 minutes. Rinse and repeat if necessary. When the water rinses clear, you are finished. This will take quite a while, but if you do not rinse the baskets thoroughly, they may crock (rub off on other surfaces). This type of dye is very colorfast, but you need to rinse it properly before you let it dry. Let the baskets drain in the tub, and then use towels to pat some of the excess moisture out of the baskets. Shape them with your hands, and place them in front of a fan to dry. This may take a few days since they are dense projects.


After the largest basket is completely dry, sew handles to it by using a strand of yarn (doubled) and a yarn needle. Weave in ends.

BRENDA K. B. ANDERSON crochets and knits on her end of the couch after her kids have gone to bed. She is the author of Beastly Crochet and Crochet Ever After and just can’t seem to resist starting new yarn-y projects. Find her on Ravelry as yarnville.

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