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.