Tips on Upcyling with Fabric Dye

Left: Dylon Navy Blue, Right: Dylon Emerald Green: both old tablecloths

Firstly thank you to everyone who bought me a coffee last week, it was very unexpected and very much appreciated. This week, I have decided to write a bit about my experience using Dylon fabric dyes. For an upcoming project I was looking online for some real life pictures of what a particular colour looked like and found there weren’t many pictures that actually name the shade, I also came across loads of negative comments saying it didn’t work and ruined their items. I am not sponsored or affiliated with Dylon but I have bought and used their dyes several times to bring new life to old garments and I like to think I have learned a bit about how to get good results. I thought if I shared some of what I’ve learned it might help some people rescue an old garment, instead of a dyeing disaster sending things to landfill!

Firstly, I didn’t get great results using the hand dye sachets – I like the idea of these as you can do them in the bucket and don’t have to keep running your washing machine (less wasted water/no electricity). However, even though I tried to keep the dye in the bucket moving (as instructed) I still ended up with little spots of concentrated dye. The hand dye sachets are perfect for playing around with ice dyeing though! Below is a picture of some fabric that turned out brilliantly using some navy sachets and bags of ice! The full blog post on how I did this can be seen here.

Ice dyed cotton jersey using Dylon Navy Blue sachets

So, I switched to the Dylon machine dye pods – I hope they change these to not be a plastic pod soon – but I do agree they are simple to use. Firstly, I wash whatever I am planning to dye as part of a full load of washing – you need to clean anything prior to dyeing in order to remove any chemicals or dirt in the fabric. Seeing as I have to wash the intended dye garments/fabric, then I always make sure I wash a full load! While the garment/fabric is still wet, I put it back in the machine with the dye. If I am dyeing garments and/or short lengths of fabric then I put the whole dye pod in with the load. If I am dyeing longer lengths of fabric (2m+) then I make sure to empty the pod into the bottom of the machine. Rather frustratingly, the instructions do tell you to do this but only as a ‘tip’ AFTER the instruction to put the pod in the machine and switch it on. I read this too late when I dyed 3m of tencel twill and it turned out quite streaky (see pic below). It’s okay, I kind of like the effect and it hasn’t stopped me wearing this dress loads but wanted to point it out as it might account for some of the problems people have had?

This shows the streaks in my cotton/tencel twill (this is the Forest Green Colour)

Once the wash has finished and the fabric has been dyed it needs to be rinsed so the machine goes on again (see why I wanted the hand dyeing to work?) but I figure if I make sure I always dye several things in batches and it makes sure something old is usable again, then it’s worth it. I definitely don’t run my washing machine as often as I used to now we are out of cloth nappies, so I figure it’s probably worth it if dyeing saves a garment!

You can also see the dye streaks in this shirt (Again, Dylon Forest Green this is in a different light)

Finally, the instructions say once the fabric has been rinsed to run the machine again to clean it out, but in my experience it is pretty clean by then! I check inside to see if there is any dye residue I can wipe away with a rag and then I fill it with dark clothes and run one final wash (or I make a note that next time I want to do a wash it must be darks/synthetics only).

Speaking of synthetics – Dylon dyes will only work on natural fibres. I do wonder if the people having troubles are trying to dye polyester or cotton/poly blends? It will dye natural plant-based fibres such as cotton and linen, I’ve tested it on a cotton/tencel blend and it worked beautifully too!

You can see the neon pink polyester thread didn’t take on the black dye when I dyed this dress! (Dylon Intense Black)

If anyone else is looking for example pictures of dyes here are a few snaps of a few more colours:

Dylon Navy Blue
Dylon Olive Green
Skirt is Dylon Emerald Green – it is the closest they have to teal.

Hopefully these images are useful to someone, I am currently sewing an Ilford jacket in unbleached denim for my husband and he’s having a hard time choosing what colour to dye it!

2 thoughts on “Tips on Upcyling with Fabric Dye

  1. A very timely post as I’m planning on dying some fabric yardage this week. Like you I’m a long time user of Dylon (I remember my mum using them back in the eighties to dye charity shop finds too) and have never had serious issues. I do think it’s a shame they don’t do the little tins of hand dye anymore, but let’s face it, I’m busy and the machine is easier!


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