A Colorful Duvet Story

How to dye a duvet cover with Procion Dyes and Kids

My mom, having finished decorating her house long ago, now has a Pinterest board for every room in my house. (As do I. Sometimes these work well together and sometimes they don't.) Her sights have been set on upgrading my kids' rooms, which they did desperately need, so this spring she generously purchased full size beds for my daughter's room, replacing their twin beds...And so started the Duvet Cover Battle of 2020 (in case 2020 needed any additional battles).

It should have been straight forward: you get big new bed, you pick a pretty duvet cover and, boom, we're done. However my 6 year old and I had differing ideas about what made a good duvet cover for her room:

She wanted unicorns or mermaids. I didn't want characters.

She's drawn to the sets that cost a. lot. of. money. I didn't want to spend all that much.

Then...she didn't want a duvet cover at all and I couldn't make her have one and why was I so mean? I entirely disagreed with that.

The 3 year old just wanted "blue"... sadly she lost on all accounts.

As things went very, very south in the duvet debacle I had a brain child like none other: we would paint a cover together and she would love it!

She informed me she would not love it.

I didn't inform her that I had already bought the duvets to dye so she had no choice.

The big day came and I excitedly started to amp her up. My 6 year old is generally level headed and easy going. She gets excited about only a few things: monkey bars, roller skates, bubble gum and baking. She was not going to allow herself to be amped up.

Then I told her she got to use special measuring cups. Measuring cups are her tools of the trade for baking so I had her attention. She wasn't going to admit that it was intriguing to her, but I could see her softening just a bit and I was going to run with it.

About Dyeing with Kids

Here's the thing about dyeing fabric with kids: it's not for the feint of heart. As in: it's a good thing my husband wasn't watching this go down. This was an INCREDIBLY messy project. We will all have pink feet for weeks.

You also need to read the crowd. If your kid can't be trusted to keep things out of their mouth, not resist the temptation to flick a dye-filled paintbrush at their sibling, or generally follow rules and guidelines---- don't take on this project (or at least not one this large).

Other than that it's super fun and, with a little preparation on your part, you can make it easy and safe for them as well!

The Materials

The Dye: I use Procion Dyes by Dharma Trading Company for this project (in Black Cherry, Fuchsia Red, Amber Waves, and Terracotta). Procion Dyes work with natural fibers like cotton, silk and linen. I chose to dye cotton but they have a ton of great info on their website about dyeing other natural fibers!

Dharma Trading Company has a ton of different colors to choose from. We just selected a few from the dyes I already owned. If you don't want to buy a million you can get some of their primary colors: lemon yellow, fuchsia and turquoise and mix to your heart's content.

Dharma Trading Co. Fiber Reactive Procion Dyes and Soda Ash Dye Fixer set on grass

Essential Chemicals: Yep, you do need chemicals, but you're going to handle them-- not your kids. You want to pick up some Soda Ash from Dharma Trading when you're buying your dyes. I usually buy the bigger bags but I do a fair amount of dyeing throughout the year. If you're planning on dyeing 2 duvet covers like I did then you want the 1lb bag.

Optional Chemicals: You can also get Urea. I used a little in my dye pots but didn't have enough on hand and I don't think it made much of a difference. You can learn more about Urea from Paula Burch here (she's an excellent source of info if you're new to dyeing).

The Duvet: This was almost the hardest part. Finding a 100% cotton duvet cover was really difficult. Eventually I found it on Amazon (of course). I will say that I loved this cover in it's natural state. It had a perfect crumpled-cotton-I-just-got-home-from-the-beach-and-need-to-take-a-nap kind of look. Then my 3 year old drew all over it with pink marker and I was reminded why white duvet covers weren't going to work.

White cotton duvet cover on full size bed waiting to be dyed with Dharma Trading Procion Dyes.


-Buckets: You need a large enough bucket that you can submerge your fabric. I used the taping style bucket you can buy from a hardware store. Each bucket was perfectly sized for a full size duvet cover and two shams.

-A mixing bucket/jar: I use these (from the Dollar Store). They are only 3 Quarts and it would be better if it was a full gallon, but either way it works.

-Dye containers: I use empty yogurt containers. They're big enough not to tip over, fit a brush and hold enough dye.

Different size containers for dyeing fabric.

Other Supplies:

-Vinyl Gloves: Get some good ones, not these junky ones I had that ripped almost immediately! Definitely have a pair for yourself because you want to protect your hands when mixing chemicals. It's a good idea to have some for your kids but mine took this as an opportunity to really "be one with the dye" so gloves would have done nothing.

Hand with bright pink fingertips from leaking vinyl gloves.

-A Dust Mask: When you're mixing the dye powder you absolutely want to have a mask on and keep your kids away (but more on that later).

-Long spoons: EVERYTHING you use for dye should ONLY be used for dye. I like to pick up a multi pack of long plastic or wood spoons from the Dollar Tree for this. I also write DYE on them in sharpie so nobody mistakes their purpose.

-Measuring Cups: Again, DOLLAR TREE and write dye all over them.

-Measuring Spoons: Same deal

-A large piece of plastic: we used a roll of construction plastic that worked well. If your project is small enough, an opened garbage bag would work too.

-Disposable spoons-- 1 for each dye color

-Paint brushes: We used the inexpensive chip brushes from the hardware store. They will get very, very, very stained so inexpensive is best. We nearly had one for each color.

-Water: Everything mixes best with warm water. We were mixing outside so I used the hose for most of it and did runs with our electric tea kettle to "top" it off.

-A washing machine


-Mild detergent

Measuring cups, spoons and paintbrushes for paint dyeing fabric with Procion dyes

I know that it seems like a lot and in the beginning it is. But if you dye multiple times than the measuring tools, mixing buckets, dye buckets and plastic all become part of a set that you have hanging around for when inspiration strikes!

The Chemically Part

1. Scour your duvet (or chosen fabric) by washing it in your machine on the hottest setting the fabric can handle (cotton can handle really hot water). This gets rid of any sizing (similar to a starch) they put on the fabric during manufacturing. You want all of that stuff gone. Plus it makes your duvet super soft.