Can you believe that is the same garment? I get quite a few calls with requests and questions for dying garments. I rarely ever dye garments and would never dye anyone else’s clothing.


There’s a lot that goes into a successful dye and the directions seem to change every decade. Here are my helpful dye tips.

  1. Try to keep garments in the same color family or close when choosing your dye. Going from white to black or similar doesn’t really work out. Pink to red, blue to purple and in this case salmon to purple seem to cover over the original color flawlessly.
  2. Garments need to be made from 100% cotton, linen, wool or silk. However, Rit Dye does make products that are supposed to work on Polyester. This blog is not about those. I have never successfully dyed over any synthetic fibers. Let’s keep it easy.
  3. Prime your fabric first. I like to put my garments in the washer using a small, rinse cycle. To this I add 2 cups vinegar and leave the lid up for an hour to soak. The vinegar forces the all natural fibers to open up and absorb the dye to its fullest. After that hour I put the lid down and let it “wring out” on the rest of the rinse cycle. Once finished, shake the wrinkles out and set aside. Do not dry. The dye absorbs more evenly to damp clothing.
  4. When you buy your dye it comes in liquid form. It gives decent directions on the back that state, half a bottle (4oz) per 3 gallons of water will do two large t-shirts. That really puts it in perspective. The more you use the darker your tone will come out. I bought two bottles for this sweat suit.
  5. The dye bath works best if your water is at 140 degrees. Thermometer says my water only gets up to 125, so I boiled an extra pot to get it there. In a stainless steal sink or bucket I added and stirred my two bottles of dye, hot water and a tablespoon of dish soap. The dish soap also helps promote level dying.
  6. Don’t forget those gloves!
  7. Prep your set up! Have a wet soapy towel to clean any splatter quickly and keep a bucket or tub handy to transport fabric to the washer. Move anything that could get ruined out of the way and wear black clothing.
  8. Loosely lay your unfolded, damp, vinegar primed garments one at a time into your dye bath. They should be fully submersed and loosely laying in the bath.
  9. Make sure there are no holes in your gloves.
  10. The directions do not give a real soak time, they simply say the longer it is left in the dye the better it works. I know professional tie dye artist that leave stuff in for days. I left mine in for 3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. After, straight to the wash and dry. Remember, fabric looks darker when wet.


Extra tip, public laundry mats do not let you use their facilities to dye because it gets really messy. I found a bottle of windex and some quick action to work well for any splatter. There is always splatter…

This garment may bleed out purple for the next couple of washes, they usually do. Separate accordingly.

Behind the scenes~

Here is my newest project.

Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh
Dream it! Sew it!

Tracy McElfresh
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