Experimenting with Fabric Dye (& holiday cookies!)


Experimenting with Fabric Dye // Boots & Cats

You may be wondering what fabric dye and cookies have to do with one another, especially as dye can be, y’know, toxic. Well ladies and gents I have to tell you that they are absolutely in no way related except I decorated cookies this weekend and happened to be wearing my own custom dyed outfit while doing so. So there you go.

A few Christmases back, I got this awesome sweater. It is warm, stretchy, the sleeves are super long (a major plus) and it is one of the comfiest I own. In the dark, endless days of winter I call back to this sweater many a time. However, the light, baby blue colour seriously wasn’t doing anything for me. I would resist wearing it out some days for more visually complementing pieces. Which was really sad because I love it.

I decided to do something about that. If colour is the only thing keeping me from embracing it’s awesomeness, I should be able to change it! I picked up some dye and was ready to rock.

Experimenting with Fabric Dye // Boots & Cats

The thing was, RIT can only dye natural fibers (cotton, wool, linen). I went to check the fabric content of the sweater to determine what dye to use when I noticed the tag was torn out (probably too itchy for my likes). Luckily, I didn’t take three textile science classes for nothing! The fastest (and most fun) way to determine fiber type (or narrow it down at least) is a burn test. I snipped a loose thread from an inner seam, stuck it in my candle flame and watched it completely melt into charred black beads. Synthetic fiber it is…probably acrylic and polyester I am guessing. (I had photos from my totally un-scientific set up and results but they are lost or were deleted somewhere in the abyss). Well the dye I had clearly wasn’t going to work…

I put the project on hold for an indeterminate amount of time seeing as polyester/acrylic dyes aren’t super easy to come by.

Until a late summers’ afternoon where you find yourself wandering downtown Calgary, mosey into a small art store and see a glowing stand of iDye Poly staring you in your face. A miraculous moment that shall be remembered through the ages.

It was time to get dyeing! I chose a rich crimson dye for my sweater, hoping the blue underneath would make it a little less intense and maybe even purple. While I was going to be making a mess anyway, I pulled out two pairs of oft-unworn, yet still good fitting light wash jeans. (Light wash it also really no-go on me). These would make good use of the other RIT dye, since they are cotton.

Experimenting with Fabric Dye // Boots & Cats

Dyeing the jeans was super simple, I dyed one pair at a time in a plastic tub nested in the bath-tub and let each pair sit in a bath of Navy and Royal Blue dye for about an hour each. Spills and drips just wiped away with a bit of soap and water. “Wow”, I thought, “this is the easiest thing ever!”

Onto the the sweater. Polyester and manufactured fibers are a lot harder to get the dye to take, so it needs constant heat on a stove top to get any kind of results. I bought a dye pot from Value Village (you can’t cook with the tools after, so I didn’t want to use my nice cookware) and got it going. I got a nice boil, kept stirring constantly and enjoyed the results. I also threw some socks into the pool too for fun. “This is pretty easy too!” my ego said.

Experimenting with Fabric Dye // Boots & Cats

Then came time to dump and rinse the dye bath. There is a lot of dye in that bath and of course some of it spills and sloshes..and what…this stuff doesn’t just wipe away like the other dye did. The sweater dyed beautifully, and so did my floor, and microwave and somehow even the overhead oven fan (???). Note to self: any future polyester dyeing will be done in a studio or garage space. Gah.

Experimenting with Fabric Dye // Boots & Cats

Ignoring that though, once rinsed, washed and dried, I happily have 3 new pieces of clothing. AND I am totally a specialized trend forecaster and totally knew that my sweater was going to turn out close to Pantone’s 2015 colour of the year.

Experimenting with Fabric Dye // Boots & Cats

My new outfit took to the streets for an afternoon of cookie baking and decorating with friends to swing us into the holiday spirit.

Experimenting with Fabric Dye // Boots & Cats

A perfect way to celebrate a new challenge and get creative and festive for the season.


Have you ever dyed anything at home to change it up? I’d love to see your creations. And any tips for dyeing with polyester in the future is mucho appreciated!


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