Fabric Dying CAN be:
Simple, Done in a bowl right in your sink, Fun, Experimental!
Now, I’m not a professional or skilled fabric dyer (if that’s a real word). Most of my DYEING projects have been baby onesies and knits. The first time I attempted to dye fabric, I followed the instructions from the RIT website. They were useful and I’m sure tried and true. But I found it frustrating that dyeing had to be done in my washing machine (or slaving over a boiling pot of water, constantly stirring). I felt wasteful, when all I wanted to dye was a couple of shirts. Basically, I was disappointed with the process.
Then I found a much simpler method HERE on This Mama Makes Stuff. I combined it with my own experimentation. And I’ve been sticking with that ever since. It’s a simplified and fun method for dyeing fabrics.
So let’s get started!
Each step will be explained in detail below but here are the bullet points
5 Easy Steps for DYEING fabric:
1. Gather supplies
2. Mix Dye and hot water in a bowl
3. Add fabric and mix periodically for one hour (+)
4. Drain and rinse fabric
5. Wash and dry fabric in a machine
1. Gather your Supplies.
* Plastic Bowl- large enough to hold 3-4 onesies or a couple T-shirts.
* Mixing Spoon - use one you don’t care about. It will be dyed along with the fabric.
* Clothing for Dyeing - Today I’m dyeing 4 things: some white onesies, a clearance t-shirt from Old Navy (which I’ll sew some sort of applique on top of), and a green onesie that I dyed a year ago but hated the color.
Have an old onesie with milk stains? Or pink onesies that once belonged to your daughter? Dye them for your baby boy!
* DYE Options:
- RITdye, both liquid and powder forms, are the only ones I’ve used. They’ve both worked fine for me. Haven’t had any problems. However, I’m anxious to test out some other DYE brands which have been recommended by our readers….
- DYLON Dye (which you can find at Joanns). Just looking at their fantastically designed website gets me excited to start dyeing.
-Procion MX Dyes, found at Dharma Trading. The quality and spectrum of colors is simply amazing. The site states:
All 110 colors are brilliant, mouth-watering, and permanent. They don’t fade, even after repeated washings. They are economical, safe, and easy to use. Superior to supermarket dyes in every way! Buy in small quantities, in bulk, or in kits.
So, grab your DYE of preference. In this Tutorial, I am only using RIT, “Dark Brown” powder in the box. If you want to mix colors, go for it! Experiment on your own, or reference the Custom Color list on the RIT site (of course then you have to follow their washing machine instructions). Dyeing should be fun, not a pain. And if the color isn’t what you hoped for, you can dye it a different color! (like the green onesie above).
In this tutorial, I used THE ENTIRE box of Dark Brown powder dye. At other times, I’ve used just half of a box. Again, I’m always experimenting. If you decide to save half of the powder, make sure you fold it up, put it in a ziplock bag, and store it where little hands can’t reach it:
* Rubber Gloves - your hands will be plunging in the fabric dye, so these are a must:
2. Mix Dye and hot water in a bowl. Just turn your tap to the hottest water you can get and fill your bowl (no need to boil water on the stove):
Pour the dye (powder or liquid) into the hot water. I chose to use the entire box of RIT Dark Brown powder. It also helps to add a bit of table salt to the mix….about 1 Tablespoon:
Mix it all together for a minute or so, making sure all the powder dissolves (like making Jello):
3. Add fabric and mix periodically for one hour or more
Get your fabric or clothing wet first with water (this will help it to dye more evenly). Then with your gloves on, plunge the fabric into the dye bath (mmm, looks like a bowl of hot chocolate)
Squish and plunge all your fabric around in the dye so that every piece gets an even dye. Then submerge everything back in the DYE and let it sit. Repeat this every 10-15 minutes, stirring/squishing/sitting. You can stir it with a spoon or use your hands (with gloves) to squish it around. If you forget and it sits for a 1/2 hour, no worries, just mix it when you remember! There are no right and wrong answers here.
Leave your fabric in the dye for as little or as long as you like. The finished color will be slightly lighter than it looks like when wet. I recommend leaving it in for at least ONE hour, or longer. But for a lighter shade leave it in the dye bath for only a few minutes (make sure the dye has spread evenly on the fabric).
For fun, I experimented and took out one of my fabrics at the ONE hour mark, and the rest came out after FIVE hours. Here’s how they look after being washed/dried (both were white at the beginning):
NOTE: the Green onesie (mentioned in Step 1) was left in for 5 hours, and looks just as brown as the white onesies which also stayed in for 5 hours. I can’t tell them apart.
Also NOTE: the Poly thread on store-bought onesies does not dye along with the fabric, which is a nice touch! I love the contrasted stitching look!
4. Drain and rinse fabric
When your fabric is the desired color, pour the dye/water down the drain. Rinse each piece there in your sink. No need to be thorough. It will be get another wash in your washing machine.
Ring everything out and set it all in a bowl. You don’t want anything dripping on your floor as you walk to the laundry room!
5. Wash and dry fabric in a machine
Wash your dyed fabric on the Smallest Load setting with soap. When you’re done, dry it in a dryer. And….you’re done!
Washing in the future: If you’re nervous that not all the dye got out, you can wash them again (I usually only wash once). And when you wash your dyed fabrics in the future, continue to wash them with like-colors. I have incorporated Owen’s dyed t-shirts into our normal laundry routine and haven’t had any problems. If you’re worried though, keep them separate.
If the color isn’t exactly what you hoped for, dye it again!
Or add a little Freezer Paper Stencil on top: