Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Machine Dyeing with Rit

The first thing I ever dyed was a pair of white jeans. I was following the instructions in Seventeen magazine to get a pair of chili-red pants. My mom helped me dye the jeans in a big pot on our stove, using the combination of Rit dyes the magazine suggested. Instead of a saturated red, though, I got a color closer to that of a barely ripe tomato. I wore the pants, but the disappointment put me off dyeing for years.

When I spotted Dylon dye in my Hancock Fabrics a few years ago, I gave dyeing another go. I successfully overdyed many denim items – jeans, skirts, and a jacket – using the bucket method. I grew disenchanted with the brand, though, because it had no instructions for dyeing in a washer, was not readily available (Hancock is the only source I’ve found), and my store carried a limited number of colors.

On the recommendation of readers, I turned to Rit again. I can buy it at drugstores, grocery stores, craft stores, and online. It comes in oodles of colors. And you can use it in the washing machine. I’ve (mostly) successfully dyed at least ten items. This is what I’ve learned:

1. Read the instructions and follow them.

2. Wash the garment with detergent before dyeing. I suspect this was my problem with the white jeans. They were brand new and likely still had sizing in the fabric, which prevented the dye from fully penetrating.

This is the best picture I have of those dyed-to-red jeans. Unfortunately, it is not the best picture of my ass.

3. Add a cup of salt to your dye bath. (The instructions say this…but it is in fine print and hard to find.)

4. For vibrant colors, over-estimate the amount of dye to use. The Rit instructions direct one box of powder dye per pound of fabric (or one bottle of liquid for 2 lbs), more for deeper shades. They aren’t kidding. I used one bottle of yellow dye for the skirt on the left and one box of denim blue dye for the skirt on the right (plus a hand towel I threw in the washer.)

Both skirts are 100% cotton, but the first turned out a vibrant color and the second rather pale. I theorize that the shorter skirt didn’t get the color I wanted because that silly towel soaked up some of the dye I would have rather had absorbed into the skirt.

5. Synthetic fabrics will not absorb dye and synthetic/natural blends will yield a lighter color. I dyed a pair of white cotton/poly pants with black dye and got gray. The trim (almost 100% synthetic) tuned out an even paler gray.

Click on the picture for the blog entry and before pics

The thread used for stitching garments and most trim is synthetic or a synthetic blend. Expect that these components will not dye or come out a paler color.

6. If a garment comes out of the dye bath looking patchy, try sending it through a wash cycle with soap. I’ve found that the spots are just excess dye and a wash removes them. I thought this khaki jacket was ruined when it came out splotchy. A second wash remedied the problem.

Again, click the photo for a before picture (but not one of the splotchy in-between state).

7. Rit gives instructions for blending dyes to make any of 500 colors, but results are not always as expected. I followed the instructions to dye a white tee to a color Rit called “bittersweet.” (I called it “mustard.”) I got orange.

Rit has revamped their color-mixer since my experiment, so the formulas might be a little more accurate now.

8. Be sure the garment remains in the dye bath for the recommended time (30 minutes). While dyeing an off-white vest in a dark green bath, the washer drained early. The result: a light blue vest instead of dark green.


9. Be prepared for the unexpected. Little things can throw off the process and yield a result you didn’t anticipate. Maybe the fabric content was incorrectly listed. Maybe the washer drained too soon. Maybe the garment shrank in the hot dye bath (and the liner didn’t!) Maybe the fabric weighed more than you thought it did. But the surprise is part of the fun.

29 comments:

Collette Osuna said...

i LOVE how you dye things...Im really scared to try it....maybe I just will:)


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Rebecca said...

The first thing I dyed was a pair of white jeans, and they didn't turn out very well. I need to get more creative with dye, since your projects always look so nice.

Joy said...

Thank you for this! I am about to dye a khaki shirt dress black for a Halloween/Dragon*Con costume. And I've never dyed before!!

EvaNadine said...

i once overdyed a pair of faded jeans back to a dark denim wash because of your inspiration -- those jeans ended up having another 2 years of life in them after that!

every time you post about overdying, i start mentally going through my closet, trying to think of items i could dye...
youre dangerous. ;)

Melanie said...

Your dying has inspired me to start as well! I over-dyed a pair of too-light jeans and LOVE them so much now I have to force myself not to wear them everyday. I also dyed a dress and a cardigan recently and really like the results. Thanks for giving me the courage!

GG said...

I love dyeing and the surprises that come with it, but here in the UK, Dylon dyes are not cheap, especially if you, like me, prefer to dye in the washing machine rather than by hand. At nearly £6 per pack, you might as well buy a new item of clothing rather dye an old one. However, on a recent visit to the US, I bought many packs of RIT dye (Oh SO cheap! wish I'd brought lots more!) and spent a brilliant weekend dyeing some old clothes into 'new' ones for autumn and refreshing a few tired-looking ones. The best of the lot were a pair of jeans dyed from cream to chocolate brown, another pair of white ones dyed to a rich purple and a fuchsia jacket, which I wanted dyed black, but got a rich plum colour instead. I prefer the plum to black. And the icing on the cake was thrifting a woollen maxi skirt that goes perfectly with the jacket. SO PLEASED!

Gretchen said...

I loved the khaki pants you died to postal blue. They looked absolutely perfect.

gina said...

Quite a timely post! I've been setting aside some things that I want to dye, and now that I have my own washing machine, it's about time to get around to them.

Tamia said...

I am scared to death of dyeing my clothes, though I've considered it many times. A tragic elementary school tie-dye incident in which several innocent t-shirts were harmed haunts me to this day...

Tamia
TheStyleSample

Dodz said...

Unrelated BUT...

http://www.forever21.com/product.asp?catalog%5Fname=FOREVER21&category%5Fname=footwr%5Fdressy&footwr%5Fstyle=&footwr%5Fsize=&footwr%5Fcolor=&footwr%5Fprice=&product%5Fid=2079530703&Page=2

Striking resemblance?

Healthy and Homemade said...

You have such great success with Rit dye! I'm too chicken to try it out =/ Also since we rent I'd be afraid of permanently dying the bath tub =P

Kasmira said...

Dodz - those actually look more practical than my designer-for-Target pair. I'm so paranoid about getting the colored suede wet!

RETRO REVA said...

thanks for the tips. I am "shopping" my closet more and need to update some stuff :)
I also left a comment on your last post. great tips as always.
We still need to get together and go thrifting/mocha(ing)!
I also have some swap stuff as well.
I had a yard sale, but folks weren't into buying clothes, so I kept them. I am smaller now ( a 6(ish) and you may benefit from my over-thfriting. Should we set up a swap meet?
I am open to it if or when you have the time :)

Dodz said...

I understand your concerns about coloured suede. I went to a place called Wet Bar in suede wedges, and let me tell you, your paranoia is not misplaced!!

Abby said...

Dylon is easily purchased from Jo-Ann fabrics. It's even on sale right now. You can find it also on their website here:

http://www.joann.com/joann/catalog/productdetail.jsp?pageName=search&flag=true&PRODID=prd45370

Anonymous said...

will this dye work in a front load washer that is high efficiency. I only see the pics of this with the top load washer.

Kasmira said...

Anon,

I don't know how well it would work in a HE machine. I would guess not as well, since there is less water.

Anonymous said...

My husband gets ink stains in his work pants (which are cotton). Can I just dye them a darker color? Navy or black? Maybe I'll just try it once. What can it hurt.

Kasmira said...

Couldn't hurt and will probably work!

Anonymous said...

I have a linen skirt that I would like to dye from "Sunset"(pale orange) to Sunflower Yellow. Is this possible? Or will it ruin the fabric and cause it to shrink?

Kasmira said...

Anon - you orange skirt is currently colored with red and yellow dye molecules. If you add more yellow, you will create a more yellow orange (because the red molecules will remain). You can try using Rit color remover first, but I've never used that product and cannot vouch for its efficacy or how rough it is on the fabric.

Most dyes require hot water and that can cause linen to shrink. Depending on how the fabric was used, it may shrink in length, or width. If it is cut on a bias, it will shrink in such a way that the shape of the skirt will be ruined. If the skirt is lined with polyester, the shrinking may reveal the lining.

If you dislike the color and are willing to risk the shrinking, I'd recommend dyeing it a dark, neutral color like brown or black. The intense dyes should disguise the original, pale orange color. If you use a dye of an opposite color (like blue), you will get a muddy shade.

Tyese Lee said...

Thanks! Question do you think I could die a teal colored dress to royal blue?

Kasmira said...

I think it's possible to get a deeper blue, but I suspect it will still have a greenish tint.

Anonymous said...

I have tried to dye 2 pair of cotton pants/jeans black for work. The first pair was Dark Chocolate Brown, and the second was a khaki/olive color. The Brown ones, I have dyed twice, both with 2 pks of powder dye. Used less-than-called-for water, and STILL ended up with a Charcoal Gray. Tried to dye the khaki/olive ones with 3 pks of powder dye, and very little water. STILL Charcoal Gray. I am using the needed amt of salt, if not more. I am rinsing. in cold water. I let the garments sit in the dye bath for 4 hrs, at least. What am I doing wrong??? Please Help!

Kasmira said...

All I can think of us that they aren't 100% cotton. Or maybe something in the water (minerals or additives) is interfering with the dye. Dyeing can be unpredictable!

Jennifer Bailey said...

Hi! I want to dye a pair of grey pants red. Is this even an option? Thanks.

Kasmira said...

If you use red dye on gray pants, you will get a dark, muddy red. If the pants are a very dark gray, you will see little red (because there is too much black.)

Anonymous said...

Do you think dyeing gray sweatpants to orange would work? Though they are 70% cotton, and 30% polyester.

Kasmira said...

If the gray is light and the dye is intense, you should get a muddy orange color. Basically, you are adding black to the orange by starting with a gray base.