It happens to me every year. The second spring hits, I’m standing in front of my closet going, I am so sick of all my clothes, if I see that shirt again I’ll throw up, but I don’t have any money for new stuff, I’M SO TIRED OF EVERYTHING I OWN. You know that feeling?
Let’s kill it with instant-wardrobe-transformer (aka RIT dye). RIT is a brand of clothing dye that’s been around since the 1930s. It turns drab-colored clothes and accessories into bright works of art, and I am obsessed with it. You can go from these:
And it’s not even hard.
Now, there are other kinds of clothing dye out there, but I chose RIT because it’s got simple instructions on the back of the package, it costs about $3 per box, and you can find it almost everywhere in the U.S.—fabric stores, craft stores, or places like Target. It comes in boxes of powder and bottles of liquid, and either kind works the same way.
I’m gonna show you how to do a basic stovetop dye job. It’s such a cheap and fun way to transform your wardrobe. You’re gonna get addicted to this.
But! Before we start, A WARNING: Dyeing your clothes has the potential to be really messy. EXTREMELY MESSY. And PERMANENT. With the right preparations, it doesn’t have to be a disaster, but there are no second chances with dye. You spill this stuff, it will last forever. This may be one of those times that you want to tell whomever you live with what you’re up to. Also, the back of the package says that you can dye clothes in a washing machine, bathtub, or kitchen sink. Nooooooooo. Don’t try any of these unless you’re already a skilled dyer, OK? You could potentially leak dye all over the inside of your washing machine or turn your kitchen sink say, permanently orange if you’re a beginner.
OK! Let’s get started!
You will need:
- Something to dye: choose a white, off-white, or beige item of clothing made of natural fiber (cotton, wool, silk, linen), a blend of natural fibers (like a cotton/linen blend), nylon, or rayon. RIT dye doesn’t work very well on clothing made of 100% polyester, acrylic, leather, fake-leather, or acetate. Items that dye especially beautifully are: vintage slips, underwear of any kind, fabric purses, wool sweaters, T-shirts, socks, most pants, and leggings.
- RIT dye in whatever color you fancy.
- A BIG pot (like two gallons) you don’t care about and can put nasty chemicals in (i.e., you’re not gonna eat out of it—ever).
- A spoon or chopstick for stirring
- White vinegar
- Rubber gloves—you don’t want to get this stuff on your hands, or they will be a weird color for a very long time.
- For mess prevention: paper towels, a sponge, and a bowl to hold your stir-spoon.
So now that we have our materials, let’s dye this elegant-yet-boring purse I found at a garage sale for a dollar!
Fill your pot ¾ full with water. Turn your stove burner on, around a medium heat.
Examine your item. What’s it made of? If it’s made of a not-from-nature fabric (like nylon), add one cup of white vinegar. If it’s made of a natural fiber, like this silk purse, add one cup of salt to the water.
Carefully tear open the box of RIT dye. This is where you want to use EXTREME caution. Don’t let little grains of dye spill anywhere. Dump the whole package into the now-hot, but not-yet-boiling water in your pot. If you’re using liquid RIT dye, pour in half the bottle. Stir.
Gently drop your item into the pot. Poke it down with a spoon, until everything is covered with dye.
The water will start to boil. Turn the flame down low, and let everything simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring it often to make sure everything dyes evenly. You can dye more than one item at a time if you’re so inclined—I’m also dyeing a vintage slip in this picture, along with my purse.
Turn off the stove. Using two spoons or your gloved hand, carefully lift the item you’re dyeing out of the pot and drop it in the kitchen sink. PLEASE NOTE: I have a stainless-steel sink that dye doesn’t affect. If you have a worn enamel or porcelain kitchen sink, take your item to the sink in the laundry room where you live. This is also where you can dump your dye water. If you don’t have a laundry sink, you can carefully dump the dye water into a cellar or basement floor drain or a shiny, non-worn porcelain toilet, and then carry out step seven over your now-empty pot in the kitchen sink.
Run HOT water over your item(s). Lots and lots of dye will come out, but don’t worry—that’s supposed to happen. Run gradually cooler and cooler water over it until the water coming off your item is clear. Then run ice-cold water over it. This helps set the dye.
Hang up your item somewhere to dry, making sure to put an old towel underneath, where it drips.
Come back when it’s dry and go, “OMIGOD!!!!” and shriek a little because it looks so cool.
From here on out, you’ll (annoyingly) need to hand-wash your dyed item, so it doesn’t bleed color on other clothes in the washing machine, but I mean, c’mon! Go from this great-yet-drab knitted cape:
Turn these plain white cotton gloves:
Take a pair of plain white tights from the dollar store,
wad them up in a ball, tie string tightly around the wad, and dunk them in a vat of dye,
AND GET THESE:
The possibilities are endless, you guys! Knowing how to dye clothes and accessories makes you look at stuff in a whole new way. The plainest things, like this scrap of white fake fur:
can become something magical!
Like a new spring coat for your baby pet rabbit, Timothy Maxwell Thumperton. Just, you know, for instance. ♦