Now that you have your garment designed, let's get into the art and science of commercial fabric dyeing. The dyeing process will depend on the type of fiber and effect you desire. Whether you're going for a heathered, chambray, or checkered fabric, we will walk you through the dyeing process. At Maderight, we can do any custom dyeing to achieve the color and pattern you want for your apparel designs.
There are 4 main ways to have a woven or knit garment dyed: 1) at the garment level (where you dip the entire garment into the dye), 2) at the yarn level where you dye the yarn before it's woven, 3) at the fiber level before it's spun into yarn or wool, and 4) at the fabric level before it's cut and sewn. There are many dyeing methods, but we will concentrate on these four processes.
Let's start with the two most common ways of dyeing garments: Yarn Dyeing and Piece Dyeing.
When dyeing is done after the fiber is spun into yarn, it's called a yarn dye. There are several methods of yarn dyeing, but the main purpose is to have the dye penetrate the fibers in the core of the yarn, then woven or knitted into a fabric. If you're going for a heathered look or want to have more control over the colors and patterns in your fibers, you may consider a yarn dye. These fabrics are typically richer and deeper in color.
Yarn dyes are typically done to create interesting checks, stripes, and plaids with different colored yarns in the weaving process. Chambrays are usually woven with a colored yarn and white yarn. The combinations are endless: you can do checked gingham, shepherds check, plaid, seersucker, or houndstooth. There are no limits on what colors and patterns you'd like to infuse into your apparel designs.
Yarn dyes are great for cotton, polyester, and wool.
Yarn dyeing pro tips:
- Yarn dye MOQs start at 300 pcs.
- Specialty Fabrics have higher yarn dye minimums since the process of acquiring the yarn and fiber, dyeing it, and then weaving/knitting into fabric is more involved. Garments made from Specialty Fabrics MOQs range from 500-1000.
- Start early! Custom yarn dyes add substantial lead times and require art files for fabric and Pantone colors for each fiber/yarn.
Example: Yarn Dye Design File
One of the most common and economical dyeing methods is piece dyeing, which is when a continuous length of dry, greige (undyed) cloth is woven/knitted, then passed full-width through a trough of hot dye solution. This is primarily used for solid colors and is the best way to get a uniform color for a brand.
Piece dyeing pro tip:
- Piece dyeing product MOQs begin at 300 pcs
- Custom piece dyeing extends lead times. Sample yardage and bulk yardage must be run before production and each takes 30 - 45 days.
- Start very very early! Any projects that require custom dyeing should be given ample time.
Stock and Solution Dyes - Fiber Level
Stock and solution dyeing is the process of dyeing fibers before it is spun into yarn or wool. This is how polyester and other synthetic fibers are dyed. The process is done by putting the loose fibers/materials into large vats, which are heated and melted to the appropriate temperature required for that specific fiber, then dyed. The dyed fibers created are then spun into yarn. Solution dyeing is typically used for "fade-resistant" polyester fabrics, which are also more expensive. The majority of polyester materials are stock dyed for cost efficiency.
Stock dyeing tip:
If you'd like to create a muted or milder version of a color, you can spin dyed fiber with white materials.
These are commonly called "overdyed" products, which is dyed after the garment has been cut, sewn, and completed. All threads and trims attached will also be dyed, and is ideal for woven tops and bottoms. Designs considerations for buttons, labels, and other trims should taken as they'd be attached after the dyeing process.
To start this type of dyeing process, the client provides the overdye Pantone color or reference swatch. Then, our textile mills match the colors dyes.
Garment dyeing pro tip:
- Use garment dyes if you'd like to have characteristic items. Garment dyes add a cool effect on fabrics since each piece will be unique and varied. No two items will be the exact same.
- Each garment absorbs the dye differently, so it is very difficult to control the results of a garment dye
Impact on the Environment
We try to share resources and processes that are best for your brand, but also be conscious of environmental impacts. Dyeing is one of the worst and most harmful processes to the environment and is the cause of massive water pollution in Asia. Low MOQ garment runs are the worst for the planet as small batch dyeing is not as efficient as large batch dyeing. The two most harmful processes are sample yardage runs and garment dyeing. As a brand, the best thing you can do to minimize your impact on the environment is to avoid small custom batch dyeing, do efficient large batch dyeing instead, or better yet use stocked colors when possible.