Garment Dyeing

Maria asked in the comments section about how to dye a garment, so I thought I'd write about it here.

Dyeing can either be done on a stovetop or in the washing machine. I prefer the washing machine, as it is less messy, and so that is what I will write about.

Materials: Washing machine, clean garments to be dyed, rit dye, salt, detergent

Method: Make sure your clothes are clean, and stain free. Small grease stains will take the color differently and show up even more after you dye them.

To dye three shirts black, I got three boxes of dye. The darker you want your color to be, the more dye you need to use. Otherwise black is gray, brown is tan and red is coral.

Small load on HOT setting, mix the dye and a cup of salt in with the water and 1 tablespoon of detergent.

Mix, and then add the garments, and get them all the way in there. Let the water finih filling and start agitating. Half way through the agitation part, turn off the washer and let it sit for several hours.

Later, when you remember, start it up again and let the cycle continue.

When it's done, remove the clothes and dry them.

Run a cycle empty with a bit of bleach and wipe down any splatters that my have gotten on the inner lid or rim of your washer.

I have NEVER had any clothes in the following load have any dye effects on them, when doing this.

Assume your newly dyed garments are NOT color safe, and wash them separately or with like colors for a while after you do them. Perhaps throw an old white wash cloth in the load. Eventually the white cloth will stay white. After that you can throw caution to the wind, I suppose.

I just dyed what was originally a pink sweater (cotton with stretch), a bright pink cotton shirt and a pale purple linen shirt. The sweater is now a very dark/deep charcoal gray/off black color. The shirts are similarly black but the thread they were sewn with was apparently polyester, which won't take color, so I have the seams showing in pink and purple, respectively. I don't know if I like that or not. For sure I'll wear them around the house.

Often, when garment dyeing, the color is a bit splotchy. It's not going to look quite the same as something that comes from a factory. The splotchiness can be taken advantage of and enhanced in various ways. I think that's called tie-dye. He he.

It works best to dye natural fibers. Fake ones don't wick the color so well, or at all. If you can't wash a garment on hot for fear of shrinkage, I don't know what to say. Try it on cold but don't be surprised if you get less color.

Be adventuresome and don't have any set notions of what you will get. I've had both disappointments and some pleasant surprises over the years. One dress I tried to dye red turned out to be a lovely coral color, for instance, because I did not use enough dye.

I always try bleaching whatever I'm going to color first unless it's already white. The garments I did yesterday went through a bleach load but did not fade at all. Evil man-made dye vats!

If you are truly adventuresome, go out in the forest and collect one type of fall leaf, nut or berry in great quantity, boil them down to make a cauldron full of "tea" and boil/dye some cloth in it, with salt, and see what you get. For such an adventure, I'd use some uncut muslin fabric that can then be sewn into something lovely or some carded or freshly spun sheep's wool. Hang to dry. Natural things like black walnuts, chestnut leaves, cherry leaves, etc. can yield some very very lovely colors. I have not really done this in a very long time except in tiny amounts here and there. Other possibilities include tea leaves, coffee grounds or of course a year's worth of saved up onion skins.

Have fun.


Anonymous said…
Do you remember the dying you did the summer before you left Switzerland? Nuts and leaves and onion skins remindedme of it. :)
Alana said…
Um, yeah. That's what I was referring to.
Liz in Seattle said…
For non-color-safe fabrics, Shout makes a wonderful product called "Color Catcher". It looks like a dryer sheet that you throw in the wash.

A family member regularly brings back T-shirts for the boys, when he travels overseas. The boys both love red, and often third-world shirts never hold their color. Lots of pink underwear around here, until I bleach and use the washer sheets. But if I use them the first time, no problem.
Anonymous said…
I was reading your blog about dying cloth and I was wondering if you knew more about using walnuts to die cloth? I wondered if you could use the washing machine just like you do for using RIT dye or if it would leave a residue in the washer which would cause staining to future loads of clothes or even to the washer itself. I was wanting to dye some cream rugs to a darker tannish brown color. I have already used walnuts to make the dye. Thanks
Alana said…
short answer: I have no idea.

Long answer: Personally I would restrict things like nuts and leaves dying to using a kettle over some sort of fire (stove top for camp fire, your pick). I'd be worried about something clogging something or other in an expesive appliance such as a washing machine.

Just my two cents.
Anonymous said…
I have some streaks on my black fleece that need dying? Not the whole thing just where the colour has faded. Is it possible to spot dye?
Alana said…
Ooooh, I have no idea about that. IF it were my garment, I would dye the whole thing and see how it turns out. It's already less-than-perfect, so whatever results you get would be either an improvement or a lateral move...just different.

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