1st Wrap Graduation: Nati Bamboo Pearls

August 2010

When my new Natibaby Bamboo/Cotton Pearl arrived it looked like it had been stripped and dyed blue so being entirely un-original I decided to grad dye it purple .   For a first attempt at this, the graduation looks ok, though there are a couple of random patchy bits (I think that’s where the fabric was folded to make it fit the too-small tub I used).  On the whole I’m pretty chuffed and like it much better than when it was plain.

Before dying (these wraps originally start off like this:

…um ick… definitely not me!  Apparently mine passed through various mamas & was possibly stripped first, then dyed grey, then intense violet, then a bit of blue to make a darker purple, then stripped and became this lovely bright blue). This is it as it came to me, before grad dyeing:

After Dyeing:

Since this was my first attempt at a graduation dye I sort of made it up as I went along. I didn’t manage to find much info online, so took pics in case this helps anyone else…

Here’s the set up I used:


Dylon Hand dye and salt and a biggish plastic tub for dying

Laundry rack, clothes hangers with clips, string, weight for the dipping

Other equipment included and spoon for stirring, gloves, spray bottle full of water, ruler.

The set up:
I used a drying rack with a tub below it for the dye. After washing it and leaving wet, I folded the wrap in a sort of concertina way and clipped it by one edge to a couple of hangers (I used 2 hangers to help seperate out the layers of fabric – probably best to use more/hang them further apart to avoid patches).

I tied the hangers to string which ran over the top of the rack (looping it around one bar for stability and to help control the lowering) and was then tied to a weight.

The weight wasn’t enough to allow for how heavy a wet bamboo wrap is and so I had to use a big box as a sort of brake.  I put a ruler on the floor next to the weight to show how much it moved each time.

I used Dylon cold water dyes – by weight the fabric needed at least 2 packs and I used one each of 2 different purples – intense violet and burlesque red (I couldn’t decide which would be best, so went for both ).

The Dyeing:
I put the first 10cm in the dye (measuring first to check where the fabric hung – see pic) and left it for 10 minutes while stirring and separating the fabric layers to help circulate the dye (note my tub is too small so I don’t think the dye circulated as well as it needed to).

[NOTE: next time I do this I won’t dip the first 10cm like this – I think I’ll graduate the dye all the way to the rail/edge of the wrap to make it smoother at the edge – this doesn’t massively change how fast you dip the fabric so the method is otherwise pretty much the same]

I then moved the weight and average of about 1-2cm nearer to the tub every couple of minutes.

WARNING – SUMS AHEAD (don’t worry, it’s not scarey really, but sorry if I don’t explain well):

I worked this out using the width of the wrap that I wanted to end up graduated.  This is the total wrap  width of 65cm minus the 10cm on the blue edge that I wanted to leave the original colour and the 10cm on the purple edge that was just dyed plain purple  => 65 – 10 – 10 = 45 cm to be graduated.

I allowed a total dyeing time of 1 hour ( = 60 minutes) as per the Dylon instructions.  So take off the first 10 mins when I didn’t move the fabric.  This leaves me 50 minutes to grad dye 45 cm of fabric

=> 45 cm/50 minutes = 0.9cm per minute.  So basically it needed to drop about 1 cm further into the dye each minute and a bit.   The loop of string on the bar of the rack helped to slow the fall of the wrap so it moved down steadily, even if I moved the box too much.


I also tried to keep moving the fabric back and forth and seperating the layers:

I sat next to the tub feeding DD and reading and, using the ruler on the floor to guide me, moved the box about 1-2 cm nearer to the rack every couple of minutes….ish.  So the routine was: move box a bit, carefully stir dye in bucket, seperate out all layers of fabric, move box a bit, read a page, move box a bit, seperate layers of fabric,stir dye, move box, re-attach baby…. etc. etc.

I also wanted to keep the fabric damp to help the dye spread up the fabric smoothly, so used a cleaner spray bottle full of water to periodically spray warm water on the exposed fabric to keep it damp (I don’t know if this really makes a difference, but I did it anyway!)

To help try to make the graduation really smooth, when the fabric had only 12 cm left sticking out of the dye, I left it for a minute and then dipped the last 2 cm very quickly just as I took the whole thing out of the dye and into a bucket (not letting the dyed side touch the other side).

Rinsed in warm then cold water until the water ran clear and washed at 40 as per Dylon instructions.

I’d be interested to know if there’s a better or simpler way of doing this as it all seemed a bit of a palaver (though very satisfying now it’s done ).

Action shots 

Action Shots as a Wrap:

And later half of it as a No Sew Ring Sling:

And over a year after I dyed it, part of it is off being converted into a lovely snuggly Pouch Sling (the other half is still mostly a scarf!)

And, Finally, Some (Hopefully) Helpful Notes:

Raising or lowering (or even diluting): Having thought about this since doing it, there’s probably many other ways of acheiving a graduation.  I think that next time I’d try a similar method, but raising the fabric out of the dye, rather than lowering in to hopefully make it smoother all the way to the rail (this one has a darker stripe down the purple edge where it was left in for the first 10 mins and the dye fixed better there).

To avoid the stringy bits of my set up, you could also try starting off with a very concentrated dye solution in the bottom of the tub, hang the fabric in to the bottom of the tub, and gradually add hot water to the solution (stirring and moving fabric as you went) so that more fabric would be in the solution, but the dye would be less concentrated (and so result in a paler shade) the further up the fabric it got.

Dying Bamboo Wraps: Some mamas have apparently experienced awful shrinkage when dyeing bamboo wraps – I didn’t with this wrap, though probably because it had already been dyed by someone else (and so already shrunk). I’ve also dyed bamboo fabric and nappies with no ill effects.  If in doubt with any dye project, always do a test scrap first!

I’ve got dyed and/or stripped wraps in cotton, bamboo, linen and hemp + it definitely makes them scrunchy at first (but washing always does that anyway for me in our super hard London water).  They soon soften back up + the ones I wear regularly are now softer + floopier than before I dyed them.  I haven’t had any problems with permanent shrinking, but I know that some people have lost loads of length; I guess this could be partly the temporary crunchiness (at least one of my dyed ones wraps noticably longer after 2 months of not washing it!) + some dyes need hot washing/rinsing which can shrink/damage some fibres, so I’ve only used hand dyes or machine ones at 40.  Bamboo fabric as a standard has a shrinkage of around 5-10% on it’s first wash, so that should be taken into account too.  Having subsequently dyed other new natibaby bamboo blend wraps, they do loose some length and change texture on first dye and feel thicker/cushier;  if you stretch/iron them while still wet, I found that I didn’t end up loosing much more length than I would expect with a normal first wash.  However, another nati bamboo pearls that I dyed twice did loose another 10% in length the second time I dyed it, and some of that loss does seem to be permanent.

Bamboo should never be rinsed/dyed/washed in water hotter than 60, and preferrably stick to 40 or less to avoid damaging the fibres, but it’s usually fine to dye bamboo.  There is also no reason why bamboo should dye patchily (unless, as with all dyable fabric, it has hidden greasy stains – wash in synthrapol first to remove these).  And, since bamboo’s actually up to 60% more absorbent than cotton, you can often dye to a deeper shade than cotton would in the same dye.

Example:  These 3 terry cloth nappy boosters were dyed together for the same amount of time in the same tub.  The 2 pics both show, from left to right in order of absorbency; One Life 100% Cotton, Very old and well-used Motherease 100% Cotton, new-ish Unbranded 70-100% Bamboo:

Without flash:                             With flash:

See how the right hand bamboo one is a darker shade of purple to the cotton ones, and that the least absorbent one on the left is the lightest shade?

‘Graduation’ vs. ‘Gradation’: I was later told that I hadn’t found helpful dye tips before I started because I searched for ‘graduation dye’ (well the colour is gradually changing, so it must be graduated … I thought).  Actually, this is often referred to as a ‘gradation dye’ (- possibly an americanism?), so you can find other examples and helpful pics from much more experienced mamas than me if you search for gradation rather than graduation.  Who’d’ve known? 😀

Later on: I LOVE this wrap – it’s soft and lush and warm and the colours are so delightful…. unfortunately for wrapping it ties the most enormous knot in the world and I find it unwieldy and annoying… so I chopped it in 1/2 and how have one gorgeous scarf/ baby blanket and one gorgeous pouch sling!  They get LOADS of use now… Mmmmmmm snuggly! 😀

I since found some good photos and advice on these sites, and am now planning several more graduations :
http://celtikbatik.canalblog.com/ (in french so you may need to translate it – I used babelfish.yahoo.com)


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2 Responses to 1st Wrap Graduation: Nati Bamboo Pearls

  1. Alex says:

    Thank you so much for this! I am about to embark on a mission of grad dying 3 of my own wraps (2 x silk/cotton and 1 x bamboo/cotton) and this is exactly the instruction set I needed! LOVE your taste in colours! X

  2. Mary says:

    I have to agree, your taste in colors is excellent! And thanks for posting this. It’s helpful to see how you managed a grad dye at home and has me psyched about my own projects. Thanks!

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