my venture into the wonderful world of dyeing

Posted: May 14, 2012 in diy propaganda
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

since my last post, i’ve gotten completely obsessed with dyeing fabric. it’s such a basic crafty thing, but has such an awesome impact. & is so much fun! i highly recommend it to all you beginning crafters, advanced crafters, people who never craft.

in the past few weeks i’ve dyed with the standard dylon dyes, idye, tea, coffee, natural dyes from vegetables & fruits. i’ve dyed clothes from both natural fabrics & synthetic, fabric scraps, lace. some experiments have failed horribly, others have turned out marvelously. & i still feel like i’ve only scratched the surface.

the first thing i started with was my pastel pink gibbous dress, pictured in it’s old state here. i loved that dress so much, when i was still into pastels. & as my only gibbous purchase so far, i highly valued it. only i outgrew pastels. so dramatically that i got rid of all my exclusively pastel coloured clothes, save this dress, a vintage blouse & a vintage cardigan. i still really liked this dress, just not the colour. then i had the ingenious idea to dye it to a more agreeable one.

so i went to the drugstore, bought a packet of green dylon dye & attempted to. as i stirred the mixture, i got so excited about the outcome. it was such a lovely green. then came the rinsing. to my horror ALL of that lovely green washed out. & apart from some bits of lace & a tiny scrap, i was left with the original pastel pink. apparently my dumb ass had overlooked that the majority of the dress was synthetic. polyester, probably. & most fabric dyes don’t work on polyester & other synthetic fabrics. so naturally i went to google for the solution. synthetic fabrics are very hard to dye, blah, best left to professionals, blah, materials only available at specialists, blah. but then i discovered the dye shop, where they sold these miraculous idye polyester dyes. they made it ridiculously easy to dye these hard-to-dye fabrics. later i read in a review elsewhere that the colour of idye wasn’t permanent, but that’s a problem for another day.



this was the result of that fabulous green idye polyester dye. i love it so much! i was also amazed that even the buttons became green.



only after dyeing it was i able to fully appreciate all the different materials that went into it. they all dyed differently & it came out so beautifully. i would have found it very boring if the whole thing became the exact same shade.

after that dress, i went back to the easily available dylon dyes & natural fabrics.


i dyed this orange top i got from my sister when i was in the very short-lived phase where i liked orange. i only had a packet of navy blue dye at my disposal when i decided to do that.


it became a pretty interesting grayish brown, with the letters remaining red & the stitching turning the full navy.


i’m not finished with this top yet, i’m still thinking of a way to reconstruct it.
fun fact: while i was dyeing this, i somehow managed to get my gloves full of the dye & my hands looked like this for DAYS:


& itched like crazy.
not long after that i used the same navy on a pair of white patterned pajama pants.


i really only dyed these because i could. but it turned out to be a really nice change, with how often i wear these. it felt completely new after the dye job.


then a pastel pink pajama top followed. i actually meant to dye these black, but i must have added too little salt, because it turned out charcoal gray. it was not a bad mistake. i probably would have liked it less if it had turned the full black.


of course the synthetic ribbon & lace & stitching did not dye. i think it looks really nice in combination with the charcoal gray. i also really like that the pattern of the cotton insert shows through.

after all that i wanted to try something new. i was looking into dyeing with tea & coffee, when i came across a link for natural dyes, which i clicked. i didn’t really know what natural dyes were & was absolutely delighted to find out that they were very varied dyes you could easily procure from things like berries, vegetables, flowers & roots. i learned all about them at money crashers & pioneer thinking.

this same way of dyeing i was so delighted with also led to much frustration. this was the first thing i attempted to dye naturally, with red cabbage:



it was one of the several vegetable dyes that failed miserably. the ‘dye’ i got out of the red cabbage was such a lovely deep purple & it was pretty sad when my white fabric only turned a light blue. i had done everything described on those websites too. i thought it was just the damnable red cabbage that was the problem. i tried it again. same thing. also with spinach. i only got a very light green out of that.

then i tried it with raspberries. for berries you could use a salt fixative, whereas it had to be vinegar for plants.


i got such a lovely uneven pink out of those. since the only difference between dyeing with the raspberries & the vegetables was the type of fixative, i concluded that that must have been the problem.

after my raspberry dyed lace, i tried it with another vegetable. beets. i added a lot more vinegar to the fixative than before. & some salt, just in case. again i got a lovely deep colour dye, but it just wouldn’t take. i concluded that it must just be the kind of vinegar i was using. i had seen the 4% on the bottle, but hadn’t really paid attention to it before. then i asked my mom. yes, the 4% meant there was only 4% real vinegar in the thing. so i was using vinegar that had already been diluted with 96% water, which i diluted more with four times as much water which i prepared my fabric in. goddamn. there’s no stronger vinegar available in the regular grocery stores here in the netherlands either, so i’ll have to see where i can get pure vinegar before i can dye with plants again.

in the meantime, i’ve also tried tea.



tea is my favourite to dye with so far! i LOVE the antique, blotted effect you can get out of it. unfortunately that effect is very hard to capture, so you can only catch a glimpse of it through my camera. the second picture is pretty close to the original colour though.


this hoodie also needs to be reconstructed into something more-ish.


as i’m writing this, i’ve also got two bleach projects drying on the balcony & a jar of cherries next to me, waiting to become immortalized through a dye solution. i can’t wait till i have enough to sew into a new multi-hued garment!

if you’re planning to start dyeing yourself (which you totally should) or you’ve already started, but don’t know that much about it yet, i hope this article was somewhat useful to you. i hope you can learn from my mistakes & avoid them yourself. & that your projects turn out marvelously (:

as always, thanks for reading!

  1. […] just read this lovely post by Mara of Tickled Pink about dyeing clothes… so tempting! This entry was posted in fashion. Bookmark the permalink. ← […]

  2. Julianne says:

    I love that green the dress came out! I’ve become obsessed with dyeing things myself, after I dyed a couple of shirts lovely shades of purple.

    • maraleopard says:

      thanks! me too. awesome, isn’t it? the day before yesterday i tried it in the washing machine with a purple dye & now i have a bunch of purple things too :p only they’re all the same shade.

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