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Ombre Silk Scarf

Ombre -- a dyeing technique that creates soft color gradations -- brings its stylish haze to the home.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, May 2008


Begin by learning How to Dye Fabric and refer to the fabric weight guide.

Soft, fine-spun silk scarves are an elegant and fitting medium for the delicate gradations of ombre. Muted pastels, such as robin's-egg blue and lemon chiffon (see image) keep the hue as light as the fabric's texture, while more intense tones such as coral, center, create a bold, striking look.

Dye 100 percent natural, store-bought silk scarves, or make your own scarf.


  1. Cut a piece of silk charmeuse to 75 by 20 inches. Machine-wash fabric in hot water using the gentle cycle with professional textile detergent. Air-dry. Weigh fabric (the amount of dye solution you'll need to mix is based on fabric weight). If you don't have a scale, compare fabric with a T-shirt (about 5 ounces) or a pair of jeans (about 1 pound). Consult dye's label for instructions, or calculate the dye formula based on the following proportions.

  2. Cover work surface and floor with drop cloths. Saturate fabric with water; wring it until no longer dripping. Smooth fabric. Fold in half lengthwise. Decide how far dye will extend, and mark limit with straight pins on right and left sides of fabric, pinning through all layers. Divide area to be dyed into 5 even segments, and mark intervals with pins. Fold down remaining fabric, and secure with binder clips to keep it out of the solution.

  3. Position bin for dye solution near basin or tub. Dissolve salt in warm water in bin, according to formula. (Note: You'll want the liquid to reach a minimum depth of 4 inches.) Wearing gloves and mask (some dyes can be toxic), measure dye, and place it in a bowl. Add 1 or 2 teaspoons warm water, stirring with a nonreactive utensil to make a paste.

  4. Slowly add 1 cup warm water, and stir until dye dissolves completely and mixture forms a slurry. Add the slurry to bin, stirring until mixed. Measure soda ash fixer, and place it in second bowl; add about 2 cups hot water slowly, stirring until dissolved. (Avoid splashing, as fixer is caustic.)

  5. Add the soda ash fixer mixture to the dye solution, mixing well for about 30 seconds. The solution will remain potent for about 1 hour and cannot be reused. Place prepared fabric in dye solution, immersing it to the topmost pins; hold in place for 30 seconds. (The damp fabric will draw dye up, creating blurred gradations.)

  6. Raise fabric until solution's surface aligns with second set of pins; hold for 1 minute. Raise fabric to third set of pins; hold for 5 minutes. Repeat at remaining 2 pinned levels, holding for 5 minutes each. Carefully transfer dyed fabric to basin or tub. Fill with cold running water, swishing gently to rinse. Drain. Repeat until liquid remains clear. Machine-wash fabric in hot water on the gentle cycle with professional textile detergent. Air-dry.

  7. Cut dyed fabric into 2 pieces, each 71 by 8 inches. Pin together, right sides facing. Sew together using a 1/2-inch seam allowance; leave 1 short end open. Trim excess from corners, and turn scarf right side out. Hand-sew open end; press.

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