do or dye!

last year, around september or october, i found a great old cotton crocheted tent dress at mission thrift, a thrift/vintage store on mission street in san francisco’s mission district. it was around $15, and i decided that had to have it: i loved the texture of the dress an the shape of it as well.

i did not, however, love the color. off-white has to be my least favorite color on the face of the planet, and you know how i feel about color…i love them all. but off-white does nothing for me, it looks old-fashioned, and almost a little dirty to me. i guess you could say i prefer my colors to be “pure”?

anyhow, i bought the dress, and from the get go, intended to dye it. and did…yesterday! almost 8 months later!

while i was at it, i also decided to dye a pair of cotton off-white gloves, and a hand-crocheted cotton collar, both of which i also thrifted, several years ago.

do or dye

do or dye

what color did i decide to dye these items? ORANGE, of course! would you expect any less from the likes of me?

do or dye

the brand of dye i used was procion mx dye, in a color called brilliant orange. i found a small little bottle of it last year at pearl paint and art supply.

procion mx dye is a fiber-reactive dye intended for use with natural fibers, similar if not exactly the same as these dyes sold by dharma trading company, a terrific northern california-based mail-order source for dyes and other supplies for fiber artists. this is no RIT, baby: procion produces brilliant colors, and doesn’t wash out, even after multiple spins through the washer.

the procion dye takes a little effort, and a few extra supplies besides the dye, to help set the colors and make the whole process run smoothly. at the minimum, you need things like salt (sans iodine, pls!), soda ash (to make the color permanent), several gallons of warm water (at about 105F), and stirring/agitation to make it all happen. once it’s been in the dye bath for the correct amount of time, you rinse it out and wash with soap and hot water in the washing machine. you can do the whole dyeing process in your washing machine, or like i did, you can use a bucket and stir it by hand. the whole process from beginning to end, probably takes about 1.5-2 hours, and is pretty brainless. i passed the required stirring time by watching a little television.

dharma trading company provides a super easy list of instructions to follow, which i used to guide me through the dyeing process.

here are the results!:

do or dye

do or dye

do or dye

i am extremely happy with the how these items turned out! i now have what are essentially three new, fun pieces to mix into my wardrobe, in my most favorite color. it’s fun to see how something can be completely transformed with a small amount of effort. love that!


next up on my *to dye* list? i want to try overdying denim!
i shall report back with my results on such at a date that is to be determined (by the level my motivation!).


  1. tricia

    nadia: haha, if only i ever went to the beach, much less wear a bathing suit! 😛 but in another alternate reality where i could find a said bathing suit to fit me or a body that looked good in one….heck yeah! 😛

  2. Christelle

    Love the dress! I use the Dharma Procion dyes to dye thrifted stuff, too. It’s so much fun. I have overdyed denim, too. Mostly blac. I’ve used Dharma’s Industrial dyes. They are not as permanent, but very easy to use in the washing machine. Nearly instatn gratification!

  3. shrinkykitten

    Was this a hot water dye? The procion dyes I usually use are cold water ones … but they don’t take as well to unnatural fabrics (like when I dye slips – the color is more muted than I like).

    Another cool use for the dye is to sprinkle it dry right onto wet fabric – it is super duper vivid then, and gives a funky look too (I did this to some t shirts). I also like doing tye dye by putting the dye into a squeeze bottle, and then squeezing it onto fabric that has been twisted and tied up (did this to a linen skirt – and it was great). I keep meaning to try dip dying to see if I can do an ombre look at home.

    I hate cream too, btw – I tried on a cardigan I loved today, but it was cream. I would dye it, but part of what I love about it is the embroidery.

  4. tricia

    shrinkykitten: it was a warm water dye, as it states in the entry…it required water of about 105 degrees F. best for use with natural fibers, again, like it says in the entry. it was procion dye.

  5. shrinkykitten

    Oh, I knew it was procion. At Pearl art supply, they just started carrying two types: a warm water and a cold water version – so I was curious as to which it was.

  6. jenny

    happy in orange!!!! what great results. i haven’t done fabric/garment dying in AGES. you are an inspiration!

    and might i add: i am loving your hair! 🙂

  7. ambika

    Wow, what a dramatic difference. I’ve gotten better at noticing fabrics I like when out thrifting, but now I’ll have to take notice of anything in a color I don’t like but a great shape (or knit). Very cool.

  8. Jessica

    wow! what a way to put your own personal spin on these vintage pieces. These came out great and look brand new, congrats on the effort!

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  10. Veronica Darling

    That is just wonderful! My husband would be totally into that dress! He’s always after me to wear that kind of orange!

    That is just a 100 per cent success rate on all three counts! Great!!!