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Tuesday, April 9, 2024

What do these three clothing items have in common?

They're all going into a black over-dye bath today.

There are two pairs of "black" jeans and one long sleeve t-shirt. The oldest of the black jeans are now gray. The newer ones are just beginning to fade. The older pair actually fits me better these days. So I'd like to bring them back to a darker black color. And I just want to refresh the newer pair. They'll fit better again someday. The t-shirt has cotton sleeves and a lace-over-cotton front. The sleeves have faded so much, yet the lace has not at all. I'd like the entire t-shirt to be black again.

I happened to have one package of black Rit dye in my craft and sewing stash. I think I'd long ago planned on over-dyeing the older pair of black jeans. Then I grew out of them, so I nixed that idea. But now they fit again. So, I'm hoping to make these a nicer pair of jeans to wear when I go out. (I have other worn jeans that I wear around the house and in the garden.)

(a couple of hours later)

I followed the directions on the dye box. I just had the one box, and generally it's recommended that if dyeing dark colors to use two boxes. So I did everything I could to make the most of this one box. I made sure the dye powder was completely dissolved by heating it in a pan of water on the stove, then used the least amount of water I could in the washer, and ran the agitate cycle for 60 minutes. The box recommends at least 30 minutes.

Everything is out of the dye now and hanging to dry. I've just finished cleaning out the washer. The dye did stain some plastic pieces on the inside of the washer, but I hope that will lessen over time. It's not bad, though and shouldn't rub onto clothing. The stains are up high where water splashes just under the lid.

It's too soon to tell just how dark everything dyed. However, here are the still wet items hanging to dry.

the black jeans, older pair on the left, newer on the right

The jeans look like they'll look improved. The older pair won't look "new" but they should look a lot less gray and more "almost black." The newer pair should look really good once dry.

the black and lace tee

Here's the t-shirt hanging on a drying rack. I think this will look improved quite a bit, although it's still too soon to tell. One cotton sleeve is hanging to the right of the lace front. It's still damp, but if you compare it to the photo up above, it does look like the sleeves will look more black and less gray.

What I need to do is take a photo in the same place as the one at the top of this post and in the same lighting conditions once everything is dry. Then I'll be able to see how dark I was able to dye the items. I'll let you know how they turned out.

All in all, I think I'll be pretty happy with the results. I improved 3 items of clothing and I used up a box of dye that had been taking up space in my sewing box.

Do you ever refresh older clothing with dye?

edited 4/10 to add a photo of the finished items:

So here are the dyed items. The shirt sleeves and neck trim are definitely darker. And both pairs of jeans look darker, too. The lighting in this spot washes out color intensity. But you can make a comparison with the photo at the top of the post. I wore the older black jeans today. Their color is an off-black or very, very dark gray. Before dyeing, they definitely looked worn. Now they look pretty decent. The newer black jeans look like new now. It's hard to tell in the photo, but they are thoroughly black and nicely refreshed. They could easily be mistaken for new black jeans. When I do another batch of black dye, I think I'd like to do the shirt another time and try to intensify the black sleeves further. Anyway, I'm overall pleased with the outcome.


  1. I have never dyed anything; it frightens me! Do you need to turn the pieces inside out before washing - after the dye process?


    1. Hi Shelby,
      You might be interested to read today's post about dying items.
      On turning clothes inside out, no I don't. But I do wash clothes with like colors for the first few washings.

  2. I'm with Shelby--I've always been nervous about dyeing my clothing. Seems like something I could make worse, not better. ;)

    1. Hi Kris,
      It's not so scary if you start with something that you no longer wanted or something you bought at a thrift store with the intention of dying it. The post I wrote today goes into all of the ways I've learned to improve chances of success with dying. It may interest you.

  3. I'm also shy about dying. Have you been successful in setting the colors?

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      There are a few ways to set the dye. You can buy a fixative product. Those do work really, really well and are recommended for dying vivid colors. I mostly dye cotton or cotton blend items, so I use ordinary salt as a fixative. If dying wool, silk, nylon, or linen, then vinegar would be the right fixative. I will say that home-dyed textiles fade more than commercially-dyed ones. I'm usually okay with that, though, as I know I can re-dye them. As for colors bleeding in future washes, most of that is minimized by thoroughly rinsing the dye out during the dye process and laundering items with like colors for the first few washes.

    2. I have toyed with the idea of refreshing jeans like you did, but haven't gotten the nerve up yet. But your items do look good.

    3. Hi Live and Learn,
      My best advice is to choose something older that you don't care a whole lot about to take a first step into dyeing clothing, or buy something from a thrift store of garage sale with the intent to dye it. Refreshing jeans is pretty easy, too. Imperfections are hard to see by a casual observer and generally fade away with subsequent washings.


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