Leggings Made to Go- Get a Glimpse into Printing Your Own Patterned Leggings

I live in leggings this time of year. And since I'm seeing printed leggings everywhere now, here is a quick look into how you can make them yourself. 

This project is not necessarily a diy tutorial, there are too many steps in mixing dye and creating its formulas just for one post. For today, I want you to get a glimpse into how great dye work is and how you can do it in your own home or studio. The printing part any one can do but the advanced part is learning the formulas of how to mix dye and color. I studied this for many years in my MFA studies, and attended many different intensives and workshops to learn how to mix dye and its agents and apply them to cloth. I get all of my supplies for dye from ProChemical and Dye and you can check out the various formulas on their site.

Time: 1.5 hours

Cost: $8 for leggings, and about $25 in dye and agents

Step 1: Mix soda ash and salt in a bucket. How much depends on how dark you want the dye to be. I've been doing this for many years, so I have practiced my own formulas to achieve desired saturation of color. 

Step 2: You must add the dye to the salt and soda ash mixture. Stir well, and then begin dipping in the leggings. I am going to dye these chocolate brown.

Step 3: You need to stir regularly, otherwise, you will get a blotchy tie dye effect on your pants. The longer you keep the pants in the dye bath, the deeper the color will saturate.

Step 4: Take out the leggings and rinse out the dye. Then dry them to prepare for printing.

Step 4. While your leggings are in the dryer, set up your station. You need gloves, a cupcake tin, your dyes, some paint brushes, and your screens. Cover your table with butcher block paper and a plastic tablecloth from the dollar store. I have a thermafax machine that makes my screens, but you can also do this using stencils or silkscreens or paint the dye right on the leggings with a brush.

Step 5. The cool part about alginates is that you can thicken up the dye with them, which makes it easy to print and paint with it like an ink. That clear stuff is sodium alginate, a dye thickener. 

Step 6: You have to add soda ash to the alginate in order for the dye to saturate and set into the cloth. Just add about 1/8 of a teaspoon. Then add a 1/2 tsp of dye and stir it up.

Step 7: Now you are ready to print. I tend to go very abstract and layered with my printing, but you can do whatever you want. Put a cat on it. Make a tribal print. Whatever you want, that's the beauty in learning how to print with dye.

Step 8. Keep on printing until you are done. Then, you have to dry them to set it the dye. What I do is first hang them up outside, and then I put them in the dryer  and the heat sets the color. Some real dye masters would say you have to steam them, but with my leggings I have never had to do that.


Okay here is the finished result- I'm wearing them today and already getting lots of compliments. Looking at the picture, I don't think these are quite yet done- I"m going to bleach them to make them really interesting. I tend to go for abstract painterly looks with my printing. In this palate I chose brown, red, purple, and black for the first round of printing on these leggings. Next week I will show you how bleach works to add complexity by taking out some of the color.

This type of dye work and printing does not just have to be for just leggings. It for any kind of clothing and you can do this for your home too! Imagine making your own pillow and curtain designs. HMM! I'm going to do that-my home can never have enough custom color! Stay tuned, I'll show you more in future posts.

If this is something you really want to learn, schedule a private lesson with me. I will teach you the formulas and help you design your project in an hour and a half. We have all of the dyes, alginates, and agents- you just need to bring some cloth. Contact me with questions, this may be the best and fastest way to start designing your own textiles.