In today’s zero-waste world, we are more careful about what we release. We constantly look for more natural alternatives and DIY methods to do it.
One practice that a lot of people have adopted is dyeing their clothes. A lot of us get tired of our clothes eventually and we want something new to wear. But a lot of us don’t want to or can’t buy new clothes.
So what’s the next best thing?
Dyeing our clothes! It gives our old clothes a new identity with minimal cost. Shall we get started?
Two quick but important reminders though. First, scouring. Scouring deep cleans the fabric, especially the new ones. This will also ensure that color will be even and help achieve truer color by holding maximum natural dye molecules.
It’s easy but takes two hours to complete. Worth it though.
For cotton fabrics, use a big non-reactive cooking pot. Add a lot of water then add baking soda (2 to 3 tsp per gallon of water) and 1 to 2 tsp of fabric detergent without a lot of additives and unknown chemicals. The more natural it is the better. Add the fabric, turn on the heat and bring it to a simmer. Stir constantly so that scouring is even throughout the fabric. Rinse in cold water when done.
Second, soak your fabric in a fixative to help the set the color and won’t wash off every time you do the laundry. If you’re using berries for your dye, boil and simmer fabric in salt fixative (dissolve 1/2 cup of natural salt in 8 cups of cold water) for an hour. If you’re using other plant-based materials, use vinegar fixative (mix 1 part vinegar with 4 parts cold water). Rinse with cold water when done.
Add the dye to a pot of water, then the fabric and boil for an hour. Turn off the heat once you’ve achieved your desired color. You can opt to let it soak for an hour or overnight. Rinse with cold water.
If you want to use solar dyeing, with no simmering, place in a basin, pot, or jar and top up with the dye water. Let it sit out in the sun for a few days.
Okay, are you ready to dye your clothes now? Here are 30 examples for you to try.
1. Grape Skin
Grab a handful of purple grapes and place in a mesh bag. If you don’t have a mesh bag, you can use an old and clean pantyhose. Attach it to the rim of tall glass or glass jar and pour water. The grape skin will release pink pigments. Let it steep for an hour until it becomes a dark color. Transfer the water to a pot with the fabric and start the dyeing process.
2. Ice Dye
This method is easier and doesn’t involve a lot of simmering. Make sure your fabric is dry before you proceed with the ice dye method. Place fabric on top of a cooling rack inside a baking pan. Add ice and sprinkle fabric dye all over the ice. YWait for the ice to completely melt and wash the fabric with cold water. Let it dry.
3. Purple Cabbage
Slice the cabbage evenly and add to the pot. Add a tablespoon of salt for every 1/2 of cabbage. Simmer for half an hour. Turn off heat and strain. Add fabric to dye water and start the dyeing process. You can also add vinegar to the dye bath to make it pink or ammonia to make it blue. Make sure to use rubber gloves while handling the purple cabbage.
4. Mashed Blackberries
Halfway through simmering the blackberries, mash the blackberries to release its purple color. Remove from heat, cool, and strain. Submerge fabric in the strained liquid and let it sit overnight.
Shred a pound of carrots and boil for an hour to create a rich orange color. Strain the liquid when done and start the dyeing process.
6. Sharpie And Alcohol
For this method, you’ll need Sharpies (in your favorite or preferred color), rubbing alcohol, syringe, and the fabric. Use the Sharpies to draw the design on the fabric. Use a syringe to add four to eight drops of rubbing alcohol on the design. Let it dry completely before washing. You can let it dry under the sun or use a hairdryer. Let it set for 24 hours after drying before washing the fabric. Then wash with cold water.
7. Red Onion Skins
If you’re dyeing cotton, hemp, or bamboo fabric, dyeing with red onion skins will give it different shades of a pink tint. If you’re dyeing with silk or wool, it’ll give a brown tint. Boil and simmer red onion skins in a pot for an hour. Best to simmer fabric in red onion skin dye bath for an hour instead of using a solar dyeing process. Rinse with cold water and let it dry.
8. Elmer’s Glue
Use a water soluble pen to draw your design on your fabric. Use Elmer’s Glue to trace the design. Let the glue dry completely before soaking the fabric in the dye bath. Let it soak for 30 to 45 minutes. Dry before washing.
9. Avocado Pits
Use 10 avocado pits for this process. Turn off when the water becomes red, around 30 to 60 minutes. Use a strainer to remove the pits and add your fabric. Boil and simmer until you reach your desired color.
10. Eucalyptus Leaves
This method is great for placemats, scarves, handkerchief or bandana. It uses a different method from the other ones already discussed so far. It involves arranging eucalyptus leaves on one side of the fabric and wrapping it tightly so it can be steamed. Steam for two hours to get the desired effect.
11. Fresh Rosemary Sprigs
Boil rosemary sprigs until it reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover and let it simmer for 40 minutes. Check temperature every 10 minutes and adjust heat to make sure temperatures stay within 140 degrees. Stir constantly. The rosemary sprigs will give a pale, yellow-green color.
12. Coffee or Tea
Brew coffee as usual or add hot water to instant coffee. If you’re a regular coffee drinker, save your used coffee grounds and use it for this purpose. The more coffee grounds you use, the darker the color will be. For tea bags, steep at least 40 black tea bags in hot water for 15 minutes.
Add marigold flowers to a pot with warm water and cover with a lid. Let it steep overnight but not more than two days. Mash the petals in the pot and bring to boil before letting it simmer. Be careful not to boil the fabric for more than an hour as it could add brown tones.
14. Salt Resist
This method uses Salt Resist to add more texture to your fabric. Dye your fabric as usual or you can follow their Fabric Dye method. Once the fabric has been dyed and still wet, sprinkle Salt Resist according to the design you’d like to use on your fabric. Let it sit for four to six hours. Brush off Salt Resist and wash inside out with warm water.
15. Painted Jeans
Want to brighten up your white jeans? This is a super easy method to give them a new look. After scouring your jeans, use a foam paint brush and Rit dye to create patterns on the jeans.
16. Bleached Denim
This method is easy but it does take at least a day before you can see the results. Wrap the jeans with rubber bands tightly and soak in a container with bleach and water. If you want your jeans to be lighter, you can add more bleach but be careful not to leave them soaked for more than 24 hours or they might dry rot and tear.
17. Shibori Technique
Wrap different parts of the fabric with rubber bands as tight as you can. You can use a bull’s eye effect, an accordion, or small circles. Make sure to cover your work area completely with plastic and use rubber gloves.
18. Ombre Dip Dye
Prepare the dye bath the same way as the Shibori technique. For this method, it’s imperative that you wear rubber gloves. To create the ombre gradient look, submerge the bottom half first for a few seconds. Dip the fabric in and out to create a smooth gradient.
19. Bleach Dye
For this method, use a colored plain shirt. Decide on the design you want and the shapes you’d like to dye on your shirt. Cut out these shapes on contact paper and stick to the shirt. Make sure to insert cardboard or poster board in between the top and bottom layers of the shirt to prevent the bleach from bleeding to the bottom layer. Fill a spray mist bottle with 50/50 solution of bleach and water. Lightly spray on the part with the shapes and on the shirt. After a few minutes, the shirt will change color and, after it completely dries and has been washed, it’ll be ready to wear.
20. Low Water Immersion
With this method, use rubber gloves once again and make sure your work area is entirely covered with plastic. Scrunch up your wet fabric before placing it in a container for dyeing.
21. Hand Paint Fabric
Before you start this method, make sure to cover your entire work area with plastic. Use one cup for each color. Use a foam paint brush to paint your fabric. You can use a dropper to add small details. To help set the color even more, cover with plastic wrap, fold and heat in microwave for 30 seconds.
22. Spiral Dye
Use a fork with this method. Place it upright in the center and twist until the entire fabric is curled around it. Secure with elastic bands to hold in place and create a pattern. Paint each part with different colors.
23. Sponge Tie Dye
You can use this method using dry or wet fabric, depending on what type of look you’d like. Using dry fabric will give a more lined look and using wet fabric will give a softer striped look. Pour your liquid dye in a shallow container and use a sponge to apply the color. Be sure to use different sponges for different colors.
24. Leftover Red Wine
This method is especially helpful when you’ve already stained your fabric with red wine. Soak the fabric completely for at least an hour in the boiled red wine, depending on how dark you want the color to be. You can get anything from a pale pink to deep mauve.
25. Kettle Dye
This method is almost similar to the earlier methods discussed. Best to use powdered dye with this method. Take a very small amount of dye and sprinkle it on the fabric. Use your spoon to push the dye down on to the fabric. Turn the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
26. Milk Paint Dye
With this method, you can give your fabric a vintage look. Add 2 gallons of waters to a clean bucket. Add around 1/3 cup of Folk Art milk paint and mix with a stick. Test the color on a scrap of fabric first to check if you want to add more paint.
27. Flower Pounding
For this method, be sure to scour your fabric first and soak in a fixative to make the color last longer. Arrange the floral design on the shirt on a solid surface and cover it with wax paper. Pound on the flowers and wax paper with a hammer or rubber mallet. Check the fabric every now and then to see if you have to add more flowers. When you’re okay with the design, remove the paper and flowers and let it dry. Once it’s dry, you can set the color by ironing it.
28. Marble Design With Shaving Cream
For this method, you’ll need a straight pan (similar to a baking pan), shaving cream, toothpicks, ruler with metal edge, fabric paint (in your preferred colors), and iron. Cover the entire pan with shaving cream and squirt dots of the paint on the shaving cream. Use the toothpick to swirl the paint around and create the look that you want. Place the fabric on top of the swirled paint and gently pat it down until you see the design on the fabric. Gently lift the fabric from the corners and place it on the other side on top of a garbage bag or large plastic. Scrape off the shaving cream with a smooth consistent motion using a ruler with a metal edge or any stick with a flat edge.
29. Water Gun Tie Dye
This method is probably the funnest tie dye technique! Use water guns to spray paint on each other’s shirts. Make sure to switch guns so that you get all the colors you want on your “new” shirt.
30. Tissue Paper Tie Dye
For this method, use the colored tissue paper that usually comes with gift bags. Lay out the tissue on the fabric and spray with water. Spray with vinegar when you’ve achieved the color you want. Once it’s dry, set the color with an iron press or in the dryer.