Techniques for Dyeing Twisted Cotton Rope

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Cotton rope is a material that dyes well due to cotton’s ability to easily take up dye and maintain color. Many people choose to hand dye their cotton rope in order to achieve specific hues and patterns that may not be available to purchase. Below, we’ve compiled several techniques for dyeing cotton rope so that you can decide which is best for you.  

Materials

If you wish to dye our twisted cotton rope, we suggest using our natural white rope as it will easily take up any color that you wish. Our colored ropes can also be dyed, but it would be best to use a color that is darker than the color of the rope you are dyeing.

These methods offer instruction primarily for store-bought dyes such as RIT, which are used to dye natural fibers like cotton. The same techniques can be used with natural dyes, but be sure your natural dye has a mordant that will prevent the color from washing out. Food coloring can also be used to dye cotton rope, although if you wash the rope it will wash out as well. Keep in mind that any dye that is used for dyeing 100% cotton T-shirts is effective for dyeing twisted cotton rope, as they are made from the same material!

Prep

  • Wind your rope into a loose hank to prepare it for washing. To form a hank: Wind yarn into a circular shape around a stable object, then tie this circle with small pieces of rope in several places to hold is shape.

  • Wash the yarn. This will remove any waxy residue and ensure that the yarn is clean and will easily take up the dye. To wash: Place the rope in a large saucepan with mild soap, pouring in warm water until it just covers the hank. Simmer on a stovetop for about an hour.
  • After an hour, rinse the rope until the water runs clear (it may be a bit brown—this is normal) and let it dry.

The Stovetop Method

The stovetop method uses hot water and is the most common means of dyeing cotton rope.

  1. Be sure to wear rubber gloves to prevent dye from getting on your hands!
  2. Fill a large pot with enough water so that the hank can swish around in the pot while remaining submerged, but do not put the hank in the water yet.
  3. Heat water until it simmers and add the dye to the water. DO NOT let the water reach a boil. Follow the instructions that come with the dye.
  4. Add one cup of salt to the simmering water and dye mixture to prevent the color from fading.
  5. Add the cotton rope to the water. It’s okay if it is still slightly damp from washing.
  6. Move the yarn around in the pot with a spoon for half an hour to ensure that the cotton rope becomes fully saturated with the dye. You may vary the time the rope is left in the dye mixture depending on how dark or light you would like it to be. 5-10 minutes in the mixture will result in a light pastel color.
  7. Remove the rope from the water and rinse it in warm water to get rid of excess dye. As the water begins to run clear, gradually make the water colder.
  8. Allow the rope to dry.

The Bucket Method

The bucket method utilizes cold water and is ideal for dyeing a large amount of rope at once, or rope with a large diameter.

  1. Follow the above method to wash your rope and if desired, wind it into a large hank.
  2. Fill a large plastic bucket or bin with cold water, adding in your dye of choice and anything else the dye packet instructs.
  3. Place hank of rope inside, and stir or agitate the rope continuously using a wooden spoon or gloved hands. Because the water is cold, the rope will need to remain in the mixture longer than with warm water methods. For a light color, the rope will need to remain in the dye for at least 30 minutes. For darker colors, it will need to at least 60 minutes.
  4. After the rope has reached your desired color, remove it from the dye and rinse it in fresh, cold water until the water begins to run clear.
  5. Hang rope up to dry.

The Washing Machine Method

Some people prefer to use the washing machine method because the washing machine does the work of moving the rope and mixture, and you can also dye large amounts of rope at once.

For a top-loading washer:

  1. Set the heat to the highest setting and allow the washer to fill with hot water.
  2. Add dye and any other ingredients to the mixture as specified by the dye packet.
  3. Add the rope and allow the machine to run its full wash cycle.
  4. Follow the proper machine-cleaning instructions immediately after dyeing so that dye does not stain your next load of laundry.

For a front loading washer:

  1. Set the heat to highest possible setting, add dye mixed with hot water into soap dispenser, and start cycle.
  2. Ten minutes into cycle, add a cup of salt diluted with hot water, and resume cycle.
  3. Follow the proper machine-cleaning instructions immediately after dyeing so that dye does not stain your next load of laundry.

 

Enjoy your newly dyed twisted cotton rope! Check out our DIY cotton rope projects and uses here.

Cordage & Rope

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Comments


  • No need to untwist Ravenox’s twisted cotton rope to dye it. It is easily dyed as is. The natural white variation accepts dyes well and can take just about any color.

    Sarah B on
  • Do you have to “unbraid” the yarn to dye it? I need it to remain twisted to use as handles on a crochet pocketbook, but need to dye it to match my yarn.

    Kelly Walter on

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