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Dying a red dress purple!

I have this amazing fire engine red dress that I bought to go to a graduation. The young man I was supporting had a black suit with a red tie and wanted me to wear the same colours. I found this dress for $10 at the local op shop and managed to pick up a pair of shoes, a scarf and a clutch bag all for the princely sum of $20 in total!

I wore it again to an 80th birthday party but decided that it was a bit bright for me and never wore it again. I love the dress but found bright, bright red to be a little (a lot, really) too bold for me. I toyed with dying it but didn't want to ruin it and so it hung in my wardrobe.

I was reading some books about clothes dying and one author pointed out that if I tried to dye it and it didn't work, I wasn't going to wear it anyway so what difference would it make to try and fail???

I couldn't refute that logic and decided to give it a go!

Here's what I did...

I researched on line for the right kind of dye for the material. The dress is a poly-cotton and I thought it would be better to dye it a darker purple than a lighter one and so looked for dyes that would dye that material. The dress has an underskirt that was tulle and I knew it wouldn't dye with this dye and decided that a flirty red petticoat was bold enough for me! In the end some of the stitching must have been done with nylons or other materials and they didn't change colour either.

Darker colours dye better if you use a hot water dye and so I looked for that in my dye as well. In the end I chose a royal blue high temperature dye. My reasoning was that the red wasn't going to wash or bleach out. It was going to be part of the new colour. If I went for a purple, I thought I would increase the red component of the final colour, rather than reduce it. I could also live with a blue dress if I was wrong! We all know that red and blue make purple and so I went for the bluest blue I could find to go with my red red.

These two packets cost me $11 each online (with free postage) and arrived in two days from the manufacturer, Tintex. I used these dyes when I dyed my faded bath towels a few years back.

To know how much dye to get I weighed the dress and used the Tintex online guidelines to assess how much dye I would need. As each garment is different and each dye requires different things its not so helpful to explore all the variations here.

I boiled up my biggest pot with fresh water and guessed how much room the dress would need.

I mixed up one sachet of dye to the manufacturers instructions and added it to the pot. If you look at the picture you can see dye granules sticking to the edge of the glass jug. Make sure they dissolve. I have granule marks on my dress as I didn't dissolve them properly. Its not obvious unless you look closely but I wish I had taken the extra minute or two to dissolve them or to sieve them out.

Add the dye to the pot and reboil it.

Wet the dress thoroughly - move it around and make sure its all wet as they dye wont dye evenly if its got dry patches in it. wring it out enough to transfer it to the pot with out drowning you and the kitchen.

Gently lower the dress in and as quickly as possible submerge the dress into the dye and keep it moving gently so it dyes evenly. I used both sachets for this dress as I wanted it to be as purple as possible.

I used gloves to move it around and lift parts out and turn it over trying to get the dye evenly into all the creases and crevices.

Once I had exceeded the manufacturers times and quantities, I took the pot off the heat. They assured me that It wouldn't get any darker or make any difference after 20 minutes. (I was pretty bored by it all by then anyway!)

I tipped the whole pot (very carefully) into the sink and let the dye drain away. You can see the colour of the dye compared to the dress in this image.

Then I turned on the cold tap and rinsed and rinsed and rinsed the dress until the water ran clear. I wrung it out by hand as best as I could and put it back in a bucket to take outside.

I hung it on the line in the shade (it was an overcast day) and left it to drip dry. It was really heavy and so I folded it in half. Once most of the weight of the water was gone I put it on a clothes hanger to finish drying.

The tulle part didn't dye at all even though when it was in the pot you couldn't see any red. Some of the stitching didn't dye either... You can get dye that will dye these materials but I didn't think it was really worth the extra time and expense. It adds detail and charm to the hand made product to have red stitching and a red underskirt!

All in all I think it was a success. I have a half baked thought to dye it again with the same royal blue dye to see if I can make a more blue purple that I prefer rather than the maroon reddy purple that I've got... but I haven't done anything about it!

I'm glad I did it. I wore the dress on Christmas day and I love it! If it hadn't worked, I wouldn't have worn the dress if it had been red - so it wouldn't have made any difference. I could have just given it back to charity and bought a new dress but this one fits really well and is lots of fun - it was just bright red!

If you have dyed a dress successfully or otherwise, pop a comment or a link in the comment section below and let us know how you dyed a dress new!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for being able to continue to wear a dress. 3/5 for water consumption - it took a lot of water to rinse all the dye out... I'm glad I'm not on tank water!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for getting a new Christmas dress for $22 and not having to leave the house!
Time cost: About an hour from who to on the line. A days drying and a weeks worth of anticipation of wearing a new dress on a special day!
Skill level: Just follow the instructions! Pretty basic as long as you do do what they say!
Fun-ness: great fun to have a new dress in a colour I love!


Janet Camilleri said…
It's a beautiful dress, I'd love to see a pic of you wearing it now it's been given a new lease of life!
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