Tutorial: Dyeing Fabric

by This is Carrie on September 30, 2008

The best advice I could give on DIY dyeing is just go for it, experiment and learn.
Other than that, I am far from an expert on the subject, but here is what I do:
  • I use a large plastic bowl for dyeing since I usually don’t dye very many things at once.
  • I don’t use my washing machine because a.) I have a front loader and b.) you don’t have very much control over the color and c.) I am never convinced all the dye is cleaned out after I’m done.
  • I use hot water out of the tap.
  • I use liquid Rit Dye. I hate the powder because the colored dust goes everywhere.
  • I prewash whatever it is I want to dye because factories can sometimes leave chemicals on the fabric that effect the dye.
  • Don’t use any fabric softener because the “film” it can leave on the fabric can cause uneven dyeing.
  • I pour the dye into the bowl full of hot water and mix with my “dye spoon” or my hand.
  • I test the color with a piece of scrap fabric.
  • I plunge the item into the dye and mix every few minutes until it reaches the color depth I want.
  • I try to use gloves so my hands don’t get stained.
  • I rinse the item in the sink to try to remove as much dye as I can.
  • I run the item through a wash cycle (with soap).
  • I dry the item.
  • I dye the item again if it turns out to be not what I wanted.
  • I would suggest washing your newly dyed item alone or with like colors for the first few times just in case there is residual dye.

A few extra tips from experience:

  • A dyed item with always look a few shades lighter once rinsed, washed and dried, so don’t take it out of the dye until it look quite a bit darker than you actually want.
  • Adding a complimentary color can neutralize a color. For example, if you have a brown that looks too red, add a little green. If you have a grey that looks too blue, add a little orange.
  • Adding a complimentary color also works to dull a color. For example, if a yellow is too bright, add purple.
  • For more even dyeing, use enough water for the amount of things you want to dye – ie: don’t stuff a ton of stuff in your small bowl of dye. items should be able to “swim” loosely in the dye bath.
  • For more even dyeing, slosh your item around in the dyebath every few minutes.
  • For more even dyeing, allow item to stay in dye for a longer period of time.
  • To dye an even light color, use just a little dye and let the item stay in the dye bath for longer.

Please feel free to add your own dyeing tips!  Check out Rit Dye’s website for lots more tips and tricks to a wide range of dyeing techniques.


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Dragon*Con onesies, part I: Dyeing. | raisinglittledragonslayers
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Rachel@oneprettything.com October 1, 2008 at 1:09 am

This is such great information! I still remember the giant mess the first time I experimented with Black Rit dye. I’ll be linking to this!

dana October 1, 2008 at 3:22 am

This was so very helpful. Thank you. I’ve only done one batch of dyeing and I did it in the washing machine. But it was just too much and too many things. In the future I’m going to try your bowl method and just do a few items at a time.

dandelionmama October 1, 2008 at 8:31 am

Awesome Carrie! Thank you. I tried the other night, and made a huge mess. I got freaked out by how dark everything looked, pulled it too soon, and now it’s all too light. I’ll be re-dyeing this week.

Do you use salt at all? I used the poweder stuff, and I think for the re-dye I’ll opt for the liquid like you use.

Pretty Jane November 18, 2008 at 7:13 pm

I’ve had an epiphany while reading this–and am now full of inspired plans! Thanks so much for the tips! The last time I dyed anything at all was in college when I trued to turn a worn-out drop-waist cream-colored knit dress into an ombre masterpiece. The humiliation and trauma have kept me from even considering dye as an option, but now I feel like it’s time to try again… I’d like to echo the question about the salt??

Thanks for the light bulb!

LocatheCat December 4, 2008 at 8:41 pm

I’ve been meaning to dye my daughter’s jacket from last year and hadn’t yet worked up the courage to do so. Now I’ll be sure to pick up some dye (liquid) next time I hit Wal-Mart. Thanks for posting this!!

Eldred February 12, 2009 at 10:01 pm

This is awesome! I couldnt figure how to get the onzies the colors I wanted and this is perfect!!!! Thank you! Thank you!

Candy June 16, 2010 at 8:52 am

The Rit company will send you a list of “recipes” on how to
achieve colors variations. It’s a great resource for more trendy
colors. Adding salt to the dye bath or white vinegar to the rinse helps to set the color so that there is less fading.
Thanks for reminding me about dyeing. I havent done it
in years.
Grateful Grannie

Linda September 20, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Years ago, I couldn’t afford new towels to go with the color I wanted to make my newly painted bathroom. I dyed them! I wanted a deep purple. I put my towels in my washing machine & used 2 pkgs of purple & 1 pkg of navy blue. They came out perfect! I 1st filled my washer with hot water & added the dye when the tub was full. I let the color agitate for a few minutes to fully dissolve the dye. Then I added the towels & let them agitate for 5 minutes. I then stopped the washer & let the towels soak for 1 hour & then resumed the cycle. I only wash those towels together so that there is no chance of colors running. I refresh the colors every 18 months to keep the rich color. After dying, I run 2 cycles with bleach to remove any remaining dye.

Anna May 3, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Thanks for the tips! I have been wanting to dye a pair of jeans that have faded drastically. Last time I used the denim colored dye, I hated the color it turned out. Any tips?

This is Carrie
Twitter: thisiscarrie

My advice would depend on what you didn’t like about the outcome. What didn’t you like?

Diane Hammer February 22, 2012 at 8:32 am

Can you die outside cushions that have faded, or want new color? They are fabric, not mesh.

Linda Reply:

It really depends on the fabric. Cotton is the best choice for dying. Polyester might pick up some of the color, but very little. Not really sure about other fabrics. Use the hottest water possible for dying. As stated in article, check out the Rit dye website for tips & info. http://www.ritdye.com/

Kay Simpson February 13, 2013 at 4:50 am

have you tried this with drop cloth fabric?

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