How to Dye Your Clothes

Hubble bubble…

Welcome to my blog; I put out new posts every Wednesday.

Today I’m going to show you how you can dye your own clothes in an easy and cost-effective way.

There are massive benefits to the environment when you fix or dye your clothes to renew their energy. Imagine if we just transformed our clothes into something new, rather than throw them out and waste them? Vivienne Westwood says that we should “buy less” by paying more – but you can buy fewer clothes *and* save your money by rejuvenating your old ones.

This is an especially great way to make your clothes feel truly yours. Have you ever paid a bit too much for an item of clothing and realised – just a little too late – that you’re just not feeling it? Whether fashion is important to you or not, I do believe our clothes tell a story about who we are and where we are in our minds.

I’ll give you an example: Just a couple of years ago, I was known around the office for my “femme-fatale dress sense”. I kid you not. And those aren’t even my words – more than a few times, I was told I had a “1940s vibe”. It was probably more to do with my obsession with pencil skirts, platform heels, and bobby pins. I was putting out an ultra-feminine image which, at the time, made me feel powerful. It didn’t help that I worked in a huge office building at the time, full of pretty people, and I was “just an admin”. Psychologically, I probably felt I had something to prove – not just in terms of job performance or climbing the career ladder, but in my appearance too. I lived by the mantra: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have“.

2016. Colour-coordination eluded me. A bit “extra” for the office environment, no?

As things have changed for me, different styles of dress make me feel powerful. I now feel better in my Dr Marten boots and a thick black dress. I’m competing less and feeling stronger with both feet on the ground. It’s better this way, though I don’t regret my time in skirts and heels – I still had my offbeat, slightly awkward sense of style. That’ll never die! (dye?)

With that in mind, I’ve been going back to my DIY roots. As a teenage goth in platforms and dreadlocks, I am old-hat at adapting clothes. I fondly remember sharp pins pinging all over the dining room as I sewed lace onto my umbrella, and breaking the needle as I haphazardly sewed directly over the metal struts in the canopy. Pin-studs played a big role in my youth too, as did brooches, badges and odd accoutrements.

Dyeing, however, is new to me. The following is a guide on my first go with Rit dye.

This is not a sponsored post and you are encouraged to use whatever dyes you think are best.

I bought a coat and a dress from a charity shop – the coat was in a ‘new’ condition, Β£5, 100% cotton, in a cream leopard print design. The label was H&M.
The dress was another charity shop find, 100% polyester, Β£3. Polyester is a problem, but I’ll get to that later. Cream leopard print design (again!).

The dyes cost between Β£7-Β£10 each – not too much for a hobby or a one-off!

I used Rit all-purpose dye in Dark Green for my leopard-print coat and used the “bucket method” as per their instruction on the website. I also used their colour-stay dye fixative formula.

This method worked a dream.

I used a huge black plastic bin, which I washed out beforehand as it was probably a spider’s paradise (sorry speedies). Then I followed the bucket method step-by-step, using hot water from the hose pipe, some dish soap, and some salt. I used a length of wood for stirring, as – my god – that dye gets everywhere.

I plonked the whole lot in and stirred for about 40 minutes, watching it turn from cream to a subtle dark green.
I believe these dyes are non-toxic, as the instructions say you can pour these away in the drain like normal, and you can even use these dyes in your washing machine.

It needed a lot of swimming space, because although this is a fairly thin jacket, the stiffer material does require more space to flow freely through the dye, absorbing it evenly.

I washed it out several times with warm water until it ran fairly clear. Then I soaked it in another tub of fresh warm water and the colour-stay fixative.

I rinsed that out, hung it up on a hanger, and left it to dry overnight. I was absolutely overjoyed with the results! The dye left a subtle, dried-out sort of colour, which was perfect for me because while I love bold colours, I didn’t want it to offend the eyes.
You can see the result here:

A muted dark green that doesn’t assault your eyes – I love it.

Then came the polyester dress.

The dreaded polyester

This did not go so well, for one reason which should have been obvious after reading the website: Polyester does not like dyeing.

While I was hoping to achieve a midnight navy blue, I ended up with a soft pastel shade.
Now, if that’s what you were looking for, then I guess you could call that a success – but unfortunately, I wasn’t, and I do not wear baby blue.

Even with the Rit dye for synthetics, the Polyester fabric just wasn’t going to take on that depth of colour.

Still, this was my first try with a synthetic dyes and I’m happy to share the result with you.

I used the Rit synthetics dye in Midnight Navy, and followed the recommended stove-top method. I also used salt, dish soap, and more colour-stay fixative.

This actually felt a lot trickier because, let me tell you, getting a huge pot of water to a rolling-boil on an electric “stove” was practically impossible. However, this level of heat is required to get the colour to take to the fabric, and needs to be kept consistently at that level throughout the dyeing process.

I plonked in my whole bottle of Midnight Navy with the salt and dish soap and stirred that Mother for a good 40 minutes, feeling like the fourth witch in Hocus Pocus.

Unfortunately, I could tell that it wasn’t going quite dark enough, and I soon realised I wasn’t going to get a great result. Sad times.

Still, I persevered!

Once the dress dried, I was left with a sort of baby-blue-grey. Some research taught me where I went wrong with the fabric, and I noted for the future: never buy polyester. Or at least, don’t bother trying to dye it. You can see the result here:

A grey failure. Sad times.

On a plus (sized) note, I actually tried this dress on and found I didn’t like the way it fit me! So even if it had worked out, I would have been forced to send this dress back to the charity shop, or perhaps sell it on Ebay. I was hoping it would fall in a more boxy-shape like so many of my other dresses, but it clung around the hips and wrecked the look I was going for. That’s not to say it looked bad at all, but it just wasn’t exactly what I wanted.

So I guess some things just aren’t meant to be, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a lot of fun trying. As they say, you win some, you lose some.

Overall, what do I think of Rit dyes?

For a subtle look, ease of use, and price – I’d say go for it. However, don’t expect bold results.

I hope this inspires you to give clothes-dyeing a go yourself.

Best wishes,

2 thoughts on “How to Dye Your Clothes

    1. Oh, that’s genius – why didn’t I think of doing that?! Different shades of black are the bane of my life – never has a pair of leggings matched my black dress, ever.

      How many items would you be able to put in the washing machine with one bottle of dye?


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