Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dyeing My New Favorite Sweatshirt

I love dyeing things. Inevitably, I find some sweater, top, t-shirt, or sweater in a style I love but there aren’t a lot of color options. Or I want to refresh/revamp a Goodwill find or a hand-me down. Or I realize just what a bad idea that white bathmat was.

So I dye it!

Here’s how I turned 3 gray sweatshirts into a gray sweatshirt, a turquoise sweatshirt, and a green sweatshirt!


How to dye:

1. Start with your awesome garment/bathmat/whatever. Make sure it is mostly (60% or more) made of a fiber that will accept dye:  cotton, wool, silk, linen, ramie, rayon, or nylon. Know that blends will dye a lighter color than what’s on the box or bottle, and that different fibers/fabrics accept dye differently. (That’s one way of saying, be willing to just go with the flow when dyeing. I’ve never tried to perfectly match a color, so I’m already not setting myself up for disappointment!)

I got this awesome sweatshirt from Old Navy (of course it’s no longer available). I like it because it’s got a cute style, but it really is comfy like a sweatshirt. I actually got it in a heather navy color, and I loved it so much that I ordered the only other color, gray. But since it’s 60% cotton/40% polyester, I knew I could dye them! So I ordered 3 grays. (I actually also ordered another navy one to dye a black/gray!)


2. I went to Jo-Ann’s and picked out my Rit dye colors. I chose Aquamarine and Apple Green (never mind the black – that’s for the navy sweatshirt). I’ve used both the box (dry powder) dye and liquid dye super successfully. The liquid just had the colors I wanted this time.

I totally just follow Rit’s directions for washing machine dyeing. I always use the washing machine method! (I’ve only ever done it in a top-loading washer.)  Anyway, the directions tell you to add a cup of salt to the dye bath, hence the salt.


3. Before I started dyeing, I removed the buttons.  My sweatshirt is 60% cotton/40% polyester, so I knew they would dye a little lighter than the bottle. The cording on the buttons and loops looked like they were 100% cotton, so I knew they’d soak up the dye, and to its full brightness! I didn’t want them to look funny, and I wanted to keep the cute contrast, so I used a seam ripper to take them off, planning to sew them back on later. (Wood can accept dye also!)

It was tedious, but worth it!

2012-02-17 dyeing sweatshirts


4. Then, I set my washer on the hottest temp that the fabric will allow. Hot water and cold rinse, and on the smallest load setting.

I thoroughly wet the sweatshirt to ensure even dyeing. I just used the water from the washing machine till it was soaked through. Then set the sweatshirt aside.

2012-02-17 dying sweatshirts

(A note about shrinking cotton: I learned in fashion school that cotton will only shrink so much over it’s lifetime, say 3%. So if you buy a new item, and shrink it to that max 3% immediately, it won’t shrink any more. We think our clothes shrink in the washer or dryer because they’re always shrinking a little each time till they reach that 3% mark. Does that make sense? So just shrink your sweatshirt (or whatever) right now as you dye it, and it will stay the same forevermore!)

5. Add a cup of salt to the washing machine.


6. Pour in the dye.  I let it all agitate for a bit to mix the salt and dye in the water before I put in the sweatshirt.


7. Then I put the sweatshirt in, and let it agitate.

HERE’S THE IMPORTANT PART: Whatever you’re dyeing has to remain in the dye bath for at least 30 minutes. Most washing machines have an agitate cycle of 10-14 minutes, so I set my cell phone stopwatch (what would we do without cell phones?) to 10 minutes or so, and kept going back to the washing machine to reset the agitate cycle 3 or 4 times, whatever it takes to keep the sweatshirt in there for 30+ minutes.


8. I let the washer complete its cycle. It rinses and rings out the sweatshirt and voila!

2012-02-17 dyeing sweatshirts1

9. Because I was also doing a green one, I repeated the whole thing with the green dye, without washing the washing machine (ha) in between. I figured I didn’t mind if my green was a little aqua.

2012-02-17 dyeing sweatshirts2

10. To clean your washing machine of all this dye, just run a large load (the highest water level) with detergent and bleach. I just pour some of each in without measuring! :) And I wipe down any dye splatter with a rag soaked in bleach.

(Also, it’s up to you if you wash your sweatshirts again right now or just do it later.)

11. I dried the sweatshirts and sewed the buttons back on.


I kind of had to finagle with my scissors to get the cording back into the little pockets.


12. And woohoo!! 2 new sweatshirts! Now I’ve got 3 different colored sweatshirts to wear this early winter/spring!


(My aqua/turquoise sweatshirt debuted in yesterday’s post with Baby Cole!) :)

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