When the skirt pictured above arrived in the mail from its eBay seller, it was a sickly pale cream color. Now it’s a fantastic silvery gray, thanks to the wonders of overdyeing. I’ve had several questions about this process, so I’ve put together a little tutorial.
HOWEVER! I am a very naughty DIY’er and lazy to boot, so my main advice to anyone wishing to try overdyeing? Buy some dye, read the instructions very carefully, and follow them to the letter. Especially if you’re not using the same brand of dye as me. I’d hate to have anyone follow this tutorial and ruin a perfectly good garment.
Speaking of which, a few other things to bear in mind before you hit the dye vats:
- Only dye items you do not care about: Old tees with pit stains, thrifted garments that don’t mean much to you, items that have faded but could just as easily be given away as rescued. Don’t dye something you love. Please, I beg of you. Because …
- Your garment will not turn out as expected. EVER: Even if you’re dyeing a pure white cotton shirt, you may not get the results indicated by the packaging. In a recent batch, I followed the RIT instructions exactly, step by step, and one white tee came out with weird spots all over it. I had to pitch it, but luckily I didn’t care. (See bullet 1.) The skirt shown above? It was pale cream colored, I used black dye, and soaked it for 45 minutes. Does that skirt look black to you? You never know what you’re gonna get, so just go with the flow.
- Be careful: Dye is poisonous, so clean everything thoroughly afterwards. Wear a smock or clothing you use for gardening, car repair, or other dirty tasks.
- Don’t make a habit of it: Dyeing at home puts chemicals into shared water systems, and uses TONS of water. If you can do multiple garments in a batch, do. If not, don’t be dyeing every weekend, please. All told, I must’ve used two bathtubs full of water to dye the garment I used for this tutorial. Yoiks.
OK, now that you’ve been disclaimed to the teeth, let’s get to the tutorial! For this little dyeing experiment I used this pale pink tunic:
Why? Well, it was a whopping $12.50. It’s a little bit big, so if it shrank a little during the process I wouldn’t be in trouble. And the color is HORRENDOUS on me. I look positively zombie-like in it, don’t you think?
So, I took the dress, my grotty rubber gloves, and my packet of RIT dye for starters. Threw on a nasty old smock and cleared the cats out of the kitchen, since my preferred method is the stovetop method.
The instructions say to keep it in there for about 30 minutes, but that is definitely up to you. For instance, I used purple dye on this garment, but wanted it to come out sort of orchid-colored. And since the pink base would add a bit of yellow to the color mix, I probably only kept it in the pot for about 10 minutes. Longer, and it would’ve come out darker. In theory. Once again, dyeing is a ridiculously inexact practice, so it’s possible I would’ve gotten orchid no matter how long I’d boiled my dress.
Also, note the word, “boiled.” HOT water, peeps. Whatever you’re dyeing will likely shrink a bit, especially if it is new. Be prepared.
Next, I moved my operation down to the basement. If possible, drain the dyebath into a basement/laundry sink instead of a used-by-people sink. It is dye, after all, and could do bad things to your porcelain or bathmat or counter …
Next, I rinsed. For ages. And although the instructions say to rinse until the water runs clear, I’m pretty convinced that is impossible. I’ve rinsed tees for 40 minutes and still had dye leaking out. Here’s what the rinsed dress looked like. The photos aren’t a true representation, as it was a deep, Grimace purple at this point.
A vast improvement over Zombie Pink, don’t you think? From start to finish, this process took about three hours – although that includes waiting time in the washer and dryer. And, again, by the end I felt like a terrible steward of the environment for all the water I’d used. Next time, I’ll dye a multiple garments at once.
Have you ever overdyed anything? If not, are you curious to give it a try? Anyone dye IN their washing machine, or using another method?