Category Archives: Techniques

Dyeing some old makes

I did a bit of a taking-stock exercise the other day: digging all the garments I’ve made out of my wardrobe and re-assessing the ones I’ve not been wearing very much. Generally my reason for not wearing something falls into one (or more) of three camps:
1. Never fitted well or no longer fits (I’ve lost a little weight over the year)
2. Doesn’t suit or isn’t consistent with my wardrobe/style
3. Not suitable for everyday wear and/or any occasions

I can address Reason 1 by taking items back to the machine for alterations, and I’ve got a little pile that needs reworking (namely my Tania culottes and Kelly skirt, both of which are too loose on the waist now.). Reason 3 is a bit trickier. I love my midcentury dress for example, but it’s a bit formal for everyday and a bit cleavagey for family things. Hmm. I’ll come back to you on that.

Reason 2 is often due to my colour or fabric choice. I’ve got much better at picking prints and colours that I feel comfortable in now, but some of my earlier makes have some questionable choices. So I selected a few garments that I thought would benefit from a little colour change.


I’ve been seeing a lot of super cool dyeing techniques on sewing/refashioning blogs lately (photos above from Charity Shop Chic, SallieOh, Crab & Bee, Victory Patterns, book), and decided it was time to give it a go myself. Nineties throwback tie-dye this ain’t: the new trend seems to be inspired by traditional Japanese shibori, which typically uses indigo dye and complex folding and tying techniques to create intricate dye patterns.


I couldn’t really do the technique properly because I already had completed garments to work with, not yardage. But I had a go at pleating and tying them up in the hopes of creating some interesting patterns. I used twine because I didn’t have any elastic bands to hand.


Into the dye bath they go. I used two sachets of black Dylon hand dye with 500g salt.


Pro tip from me to you: make sure your rubber gloves don’t have holes in, or you end up with tie-dyed hands too.

After a soak and rinse, here are my garments with their new looks!

I love how the chambray Scout came out the most. The placement of the dye is really cool: it looks a bit like a spine or ribcage because I folded it down the middle before rolling and tying. I never wore my Scout before as I thought it had a bit of a hospital scrubs vibe, but I love this new-look one.

The tie-dye effect didn’t really work on my previously-icky-pink raglan tee but at least it’s now a lovely shade of grey. There’s some faint pinkish streaks left which look a bit accidental so I might give it another dip sometime.

The ballet dress came out a bit odd: there’s a weird dark area at the top, but the skirt has some cool stripes. I might re-dip the entire top half in black to even it out. Not bad for a first try, and I learnt a lot to do differently next time.