Friday, 15 June 2012

Live and Let Dye - A Fabric Dye Experiment

One of my little challenges in my list of 25 things I wanted to do before my 25th birthday this month, was to spruce up a tired-looking item of clothing. It also just so happens that I have been hankering after a pair of lilac sneakers for some time now (yes, my love for icecream colours has not yet abated), so the logical solution to both of these issues was to don my Marigolds and get stuck in with some fabric dye.

I'd never used dyes of any sort before, and had heard they can produce mixed results, to say the least, so I chose a white shirt that had turned distinctly grey over many washes, and a pair of cheap white sneakers - neither were items I would have shed tears over in the event of my experiment not going to plan. Then I rooted through my clothes and chucked a pair of boring white socks and a greyed vest top (to wear under the shirt) in there too.

I had the choice between two Dylon products - Machine Use Fabric Dye (the one in the box) and their Hand Wash Fabric Dye (the one in the packet). I went for the hand wash version simply because I was trying to make this as thrifty an experiment as possible, so two washing machine cycles for a shirt, a pair of sneakers, a pair of socks and a vest top was excessive on this occassion. I am fully aware that I chose the rockier road, however! The shade I used was French Lavender, and I got it from Wilkinson's for £2.99.

Anyway, after rinsing my clothes and dissolving some ordinary table salt in warm water, in my clothes went with the dye...

...And here are the results!

Okay, so lilac isn't the best colour to show up in photos!

To be more accurate on the outcome, the shirt is 100% cotton, and it took the dye perfectly. I was worried that because I wasn't dying many items it would come out more purple than lilac, but I needn't have fussed. It was clear right from the start that I'd have no trouble with the shirt turning out well. The socks, also 100% cotton, turned out well too.

The sneakers - bearing in mind that they were the entire reason for the experiment - were tricksy things. For a long time I was (shaken and) stirring away and it looked like they wouldn't take at all. I started to wonder whether they had been treated with some sort of protective coating, and cursed myself for not rubbing acetone over them first. Eventually, though, after I'd left them in the solution much longer than the packet's instructions suggested, they too turned out well. Okay, perhaps not absolutely perfect, but they are a uniform colour, and hey, I got my lilac sneakers for next to nothing.

Would I dye again? Well you only live twice, so definitely. It's great to know that those greyed white items needn't be consigned to the duster pile, but can be revived and recycled, especially as I get bored easily. I got a whole new look for £3 plus the cost of a little salt and some water. If I was dying a larger quantity next time I'd probably try the machine wash dye, but the hand wash method was nowhere near as complicated as I expected - one hour on a weekday evening and my clothes were drying in the airing cupboard while I sipped a cup of tea.

My advice:
  • Dylon advise that polyester won't work. They're right. I plonked a bra (ooh!) and a synthetic wool pillowcase in the dye afterwards and they didn't alter one jot. Use only cotton and real wool fabrics.
  • You can combine different dye combinations to get the exact colour you want (good, eh?)
  • If you're using the handwash method keep your fabric quantity down because it's bloomin' hard to stir in so little water - most of it just gets absorbed.
  • Dylon also sell 'dye salt' - don't bother. Just use ordinary table salt.

So there you have it. What has been your experience of fabric dye? Any tips?

This, by the way, is probably the last time you'll see me in jeans. I've been finding them so uncomfortable compared to dresses! The shirt in these photos was just a leeetle too short for me to wear with leggings, though. Sigh.

P.S: Apologies for the James Bond jokes. I couldn't help myself. I'm as bad as those hair salons of questionable talent called 'Curl Up and Dye'. Hardly a good advert, eh. Shocking...


  1. Good job! The shirt in particular looks lovely! I've long been a fan of home-dying and often dye white clothes a different colour when they're getting a bit tired. I've always had very good results. The only thing to watch out for when dying light items a lot darker is that if the garment is cotton, the stitching may still be polyester. The stitching won't take the dye so you get a contrast stitch look which doesn't always look right :-s

    1. This is a good point - at first it looked like the stitching of the shirt wasn't going to take, and although it did eventually it caused a mental note to self to check this in the future.

  2. Hello lovely Anna,
    Firstly so sorry for not replying before now,I have been a busy bee at work and had alot of evenings at my daughters sixth form college after hours!
    Thank you so kindly for your nominee,but I am afraid I am the poorest on here at these things( my hands run away before my brain is in gear)
    I love all the blogs I visit and couldn,t choose ten, over others...
    Have just caught up with you on here and must say,I loved sylvanian families and can remember collecting them for my son( awww he will hate me saying that) as 23 years old now!
    Loved your post on dyeing also...
    Soo I nominate all my blogging pals and you included for the award..
    Thank you once again as you are very lovely!

  3. Such a pretty pastel colour!
    Victoria xx

    1. I've fallen in love with lilac this year. I can't stop noticing it wherever I go! x


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