Sourcing Secondhand Fabric: Dyeing Old Tablecloths

I have a love/hate relationship with Dylon dyes. I absolutely love that they can be used to update/upcycle existing garments and reinvent textiles such as bedding and tablecloths for my home sewing projects. I hate that they are so polluting and use so much water. I cannot decide which is worse, disposing of my old clothes and textiles that I would happily use if they were a different colour or using the dyes to change them. I had two Dylon machine dye pods in my stash that I bought in a Hobbycraft sale last year, I felt like I should use them but after this I am hoping to spend the summer researching and experimenting with natural dyes.

I had two Dylon machine dyes in my stash – Navy Blue and Emerald Green. I bought these last year after I picked up two beautiful white embroidered tablecloths at the fabric swap for Sew Up North in June. I have been working on trying to figure out what my preferred colour palette is and made sure to pick colours I know I will wear – these definitely fit the bill!

I really wanted the dyes to colour the tablecloths a rich, saturated colour so I was wary of adding too many other items in the wash as well. I really didn’t want to end up with faded or pastel shades so I was careful what garments I chose to colour along with the fabrics. I chose a once-white-now-grey cardigan and the lovely cross-back top pictured above. I hold my hands up and admit – I don’t seperate my washing into colours and whites. I don’t find it matters much, as with a toddler around, none of us wear many pale colours! But it does mean the odd white thing I do own ends up a sad grey after a while. Two of these items, cotton knits, were chosen for a refresh – one in each of the machine dyes.

I was highly impressed with the ease of the machine dyes, you literally do just pop them in with damp fabric and switch on the machine. There is no patchiness and I am really happy with how saturated the colours are. Pictured above are the results of the navy dye. The tablecloth has taken the colour beautifully and will be sewn up into something lovely soon! The cross back knit also took the colour beautifully but was obviously sewn up with polyester thread which won’t take the dye and therefore stayed white. This usually wouldn’t be a problem as the threads are usually not seen on the outside of a garment but because of the open texture of the broderie anglaise on the back it is rather visible.


To deal with this I have two choices: colour it in with a navy sharpie or unpick the sitches and re-sew it back together with navy thread. I am yet undecided what is least hassle and it is sat in the naughty corner of my sewing room!

A far more instant success was the cotton cardi above that I dyed using the emerald green dye pod – with only the buttonholes sewn in white polyester thread it was easy to colour with a sharpie and I am much more likely to wear this lush green cardi than a faded white one! I also love the finished tablecloth and it is now one of my most precious pieces of fabric. I have not yet decided what to make but I really want to show off the beautiful embroidery.

I am highly impressed with these results, I had to put my machine on empty after I had finished the dyeing but nothing I have washed in it since has come out dyed or miscoloured. I think I would use these again if I had a lot of things I could dye in one go and I can’t find any natural dyes I like much. Please note – whilst this sounds like a rave review, it isn’t sponsored by Dylon or anything, I bought the dyes last year and am pleased with my results, that’s it!

Any other great dye successes out there? Anyone got any good natural dye resources?


3 thoughts on “Sourcing Secondhand Fabric: Dyeing Old Tablecloths

  1. I love the results of your dyeing! I have used Dylon dyes in the washing machine with success, although your colours have come out very bold – very pleasing. Chemical dyes are a bit of a worry, but it is not a perfect world, and colour is lovely. Natural dyes can be great, but not always necessarily completely ‘natural’. I believe you have successfully given garments an extended life, which has saved them from being disposed of. The amount of dye you have used is insignificant compared to what is used to produce jeans and denim.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your reassuring words Sara! I think it often takes an outsider’s words to get me out of my own head! Of course your right – my ‘new’ cardigan has been in constant rotation and I am so excited about working with these new fabrics I can’t decide on a project!


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