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Ombre Scarf

Make a fashionable spring scarf using this gradient-dyeing technique.


  • 2 1/4 yards cotton gauze or cotton cheesecloth
  • Washer and dryer
  • Scissors
  • Large (gallon or more) plastic bucket
  • Soda ash dye fixative
  • Glass jar
  • Procion MX powdered cold-water dye
  • Warm water
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • 4-ounce or larger plastic squirt bottle
  • Masking tape
  • 2 13-gallon white plastic garbage bags
  • Latex or plastic gloves
  • Permanent marker
  • Ruler
  • Electric fan (optional)
  • Mild laundry detergent
  • Sewing machine
  • Coordinating thread
  • Iron


  1. Step 1

    Pre-wash cotton and dry on high heat; it will likely shrink to about 2 yards long. Snip a small slit in the center of one of the short sides of the cotton; grasp fabric on each side of the slit, and rip down the length to create two long scarves.

  2. Step 2

    Prepare dye solutions: In a large plastic bucket, mix 8 tablespoons soda ash dye fixative into one gallon of warm water. In a glass jar, mix 3 teaspoons powdered dye with 1/2 cup warm water.

  3. Step 3

    Soak undyed cotton scarves in soda ash solution for 30 minutes or more.

  4. Step 4

    While cotton is soaking, decant dye into a 4-ounce or larger plastic squirt bottle. Mark the top of the dye level on the outside of the bottle with a strip of masking tape; place another strip of tape approximately halfway between the first piece and the bottom of the bottle.

  5. Step 5

    Cut two 13-gallon white garbage bags along the seams, and spread out on a flat surface, overlapping the long ends by about 1 foot to create a clean, waterproof work area.

  6. Step 6

    Wearing gloves, thoroughly wring out soaked cotton and spread out on garbage bags, folded in half so that the short edges are matched together.

  7. Step 7

    With a permanent marker, make a mark on the garbage bag about every 6 inches, from the edges of the scarf to the fold.

  8. Step 8

    Begin dyeing at the edges of the scarf, squirting the dye in a zigzag motion along the first 6 inches, until the dye has reached the halfway point you have marked. With gloved hands, spread and blend dye to cover the first six inches.

  9. Step 9

    Refill dye bottle to top mark with water.

  10. Step 10

    Dye the second 6 inches in a zigzag motion as before, using the dye down to the halfway point and blending into the first six inches with gloved fingers. Refill the dye bottle to the top mark with water. Repeat this process, using half the dye and refilling with water, for each of the remaining sections. Blend all sections into each other with gloved hands and fingers.

  11. Step 11

    Allow dyed scarf to sit on garbage bags until about halfway dry (a fan can be used to speed this along). Fold garbage bags and scarf in half lengthwise, and then roll up scarf within garbage bags. Place rolled scarf somewhere warm -- near (not on) a radiator or in a sunny window -- for 12 to 24 hours.

  12. Step 12

    Unroll scarf and remove from garbage bags. Rinse excess dye from scarf, starting with hot water and slowly transitioning to cold, until water runs clear.

  13. Step 13

    Machine-wash scarf in hot water with a mild detergent; dry on high heat.

  14. Step 14

    Hem scarf with a baby hem. To do so: Turn and press a 1/2-inch hem all around scarf. Machine-stitch around scarf, very close to fold of hem. Carefully trim excess fabric, right up to stitching. Turn edges again, this time creating about an 1/8-inch hem. With hem side up, sew all around edges again, following and stitching over the earlier stitch line.

  15. Step 15

    Press scarf with a warm iron. Alternatively, create a crinkled look by spraying scarf with water, folding in half and twisting from both ends, and allowing scarf to dry while twisted. Untwist scarf and shake out.

The Martha Stewart Show, March 2010

Reviews (17)

  • michwind 3 Apr, 2011

    You can buy the cold water procion dyes and all sorts of items to dye including scarves at Dharma Trading online.

  • laharrison1269 29 Nov, 2010

    I just made 6 of these and they turned out great! My dye was the kind Martha used, but my scarves turned out much darker and vibrant than the ones shown here. I used the 3 tsp. per 1/2 cup so not sure why? Awesome project! I will be making more for sure.

  • laharrison1269 11 Nov, 2010

    I want to make these but can't find the cotton gauze. Anyone have other suggestions of fabric to use for this?

  • laharrison1269 11 Nov, 2010

    I want to make these but can't find the cotton gauze. Anyone have other suggestions of fabric to use for this?

  • Kati-Roo 12 Sep, 2010

    Just wondering why on the video she says to let the rolled up scarf sit for 30 minutes then wash but the written instructions say for 12 to 24 hours. Did anyone allow theirs to sit for only 30 minutes? If so how did it turn out? I am trying to do these for a craft night and hoping to have the ladies take theirs home the same night.

  • chick-a-bee 6 May, 2010

    I followed all the instructions and my scarf ended up the same color throughout. The only thing I can think is that i didn't allow it to dry long enough before I rolled it up for the 24 hour set.

  • my3djbeads 1 Apr, 2010

    OK, they are dry now (see previous post for earlier comments). Both colors (and dye brands) turned out great. When I rinsed the teal RIT scarves I was very concerned. The bottom two sections seemed a different blue, but after washing them everything came out great. The Dylon pink ones fade to almost white at the end. Both are fabulous. I liked the RIT for ease of use but the Dylon has more vibrancy. Thanks for a great project! (PS we hemmed them first.)

  • my3djbeads 31 Mar, 2010

    We just wrapped up our little scarves in the garbage bags. We made four total (two colors each). We used cotton voile, which is perfect cotton scarf weight. You can find it at JoAnn's in the utility fabric section. We used liquid RIT and powdered Dyclon and liked the RIT better. We also found that you can do two at a time--plenty of dye. We skipped the drying stage and blotted with paper towels. We'll let you know how they turn out after the washing.

  • Colacaper 30 Mar, 2010

    Where did Martha's staff find the Indian muslin? Regular muslin seems too stiff and thick. Too difficult to discern online. Help please.
    I ordered the dye online @ [filtered word] Blick.

  • litebeer 29 Mar, 2010


  • valpomom 29 Mar, 2010

    I can't find the dye that Martha used on the show. Where did everyone find the dye, or did you use a different dye? Can't wait to make the scarf, but need the dye. Please help.

  • laurenroshek 29 Mar, 2010

    I bought the thinnest muslin JoAnn's had (paid 1.99/yd), and it worked wonderfully. Use the dye as directed in the instructions above, after rinsing and washing it turned out just right!!! It looked dark at first, glad I didn't dilute too much!!!

  • litebeer 28 Mar, 2010

    I tried the cheese cloth, but it fell apart in the washing machine. I looked everywhere for the gauze. I found some on Ebay...6 yerds for $5.00. I am in the drying stage right now. The dye was very intense, and I had to keep diluting it. I poured most of it down the drain.
    They look beautiful, but are still ,24 hous later, very damp. I can't wait to see the finished product.

  • laurenroshek 26 Mar, 2010

    Bought the thinnest muslin, making it tonight, I will let everyone know how the muslin turns out... cheese cloth seemed too thin.

  • alwaysafan 26 Mar, 2010

    I too had trouble finding cotton gauze so I went to a Kitchen supply store and purchased Cheese Cloth. It's a looser material than I thought I wanted but it's turning out ok so far. I am at the drying after dyeing time. I also used vinegar instead of the fixer and Rit dye in liquid and dry form. Liquid is easier. If anyone knows a good web site to buy Martha's suggested fabric please help. It's hard to purchase sight unseen.

  • cyanpurple 24 Mar, 2010

    I couldnt find cotton gauze, would cotton muslin work too?? any suggestions would be gret.

  • turleylady 16 Mar, 2010

    Just saw the show and cannot wait to try making this. I was going to purchase a scarf but way too expensive. hope this way will be more cost effective.
    Thanks for showing us how it's done.