How to Dye Denim

I’ve been following 31 Days to a No-Brainer Wardrobe by The Tiny Twig which, of course, I found on Pinterest.


I had my reservations, not the least of which was taking fashion advice from someone who refers to herself as “the tiny twig” when I’m more like “the whole damn tree”.  (Yes, I’m listening to the Hairspray soundtrack while I’m writing this.)  But I’ve spent 90% of my time in scrubs for the past twenty-three years, and have avoided buying clothes almost completely for the past decade because I was “waiting until I lost weight”.  So even though I’m not working right now, and I never go anywhere, and I certainly don’t have money to spend on clothes, I thought this thirty-one day program might at least help me put together the clothes I have a little more fashionably.

One of the first assignments was to search Pinterest for looks I liked and then see if there was a pattern.  Many of the looks I liked involved the Tshirts, cardigans, and scarves I already owned, but denim jackets kept popping up in my pins.  I hadn’t had a denim jacket since college, but I wore that sucker to death.  So I was on a mission to find an affordable denim jacket.  With my current financial limitations (i.e. my short term disability insurance company hasn’t paid me for five weeks for no apparent reason) I knew this was going to be a thrift shop mission.  I headed downtown (way downtown) to my favorite shop.  I couldn’t find anything I liked in the women’s section, so I headed over to the men’s racks.  There I found a nice, basic denim jacket that fit me well enough and was in good condition.  Since I was shopping on customer appreciation day and would be getting 25% off, the jacket would be only $7.  The only problem was that it was light denim.  I mean almost white light, not in style at all anymore.  But I figured I could dye it.  After a little research, these were the instructions I pinned:

Source: via Angie on Pinterest


There were other articles that suggested using one package of black dye and one package or navy for a very dark wash look, but I went with two packages of navy.  I forgot to take a picture of the jacket before I washed it, but here it is straight out of the washer.  Since it was this light wet you can just imagine how light it was dry.

I followed the eHow directions and dyed it in my (very deep) kitchen sink.  It was completely submerged, and I stirred it around a little bit with an old plastic serving spoon I was willing to sacrifice.  During the hour it soaked I hunted down a pair of long, heavy yellow gloves so my hands wouldn’t look gangrenous after this was all over.  I drained the sink and started rinsing the jacket, but it soon became apparent that there were some issues.  Due to natural folds in the fabric and lack of proper stirring on my part the dye job was pretty splotchy.

EEW!  Kind of an eighties acid wash – not what I was looking for.  So I took a shower and got dressed (also not part of my plan for day) and headed out for another package of RIT navy dye.  So, next time I do this I will fill an empty water bottle with dye for touch-ups before I drain the sink – lesson learned.  I mixed the package with only a couple of cups of water so it would be stronger, then used a kitchen sponge to start soaking the lighter spots.  I started out in the kitchen sink, but after splattering dye all over the granite counter top, a barstool, and my hardwood floors I decided I’d better do some cleanup and move the project outside before I did any more damage.  I hung the jacket on a clothes hanger from the clothesline and sponged away in the bright sunlight, where I could see every imperfection.  I let it hang there about twenty minutes, then brought it back in to rinse until the water ran clear.

Then I put in the washer without detergent, added about a cup of white vinegar to set the dye, and washed and dried it.  Here’s the final result:

I love it!  It’s nice and dark, but there are still graduations of color like you’d expect to see with any denim.  The stitching darkened a bit, but not enough to be obvious.  I’ll wash it alone the first couple of times it needs washing, and I’m seeing it with a black maxi skirt to dress it up, or with khakis, a pastel T, and a silky scarf for something in-between.  Although this black knit pants and white T combo with a chunky necklace works pretty well, too 🙂

I’m linking this up to Oh, How Pinteresting, The 52 Weeks of Pinterest Challenge, Works for Me Wednesday, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Pinterest to Real Life, and The Mommy Club Resources and Solutions.

Priced at just $4.99, it is now available in every format your little heart could desire at Smashwords, or, if you prefer, it’s also for sale in a Kindle version at Amazon or a Nook version at Barnes and Noble!


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6 thoughts on “How to Dye Denim”

  1. Ok, it’s cute, YOU’re cute (you have the most gorgeous skin) and thank you for posting. Yes, I need to get a denim jacket, probably to embellish and I need to find this tiny twig pinterest thing so I can see what I like. Thank you for posting.

  2. I am so glad I saw this post, I have a pair of jeans that fit me but are a light color that I hate. I have been wondering about dyeing them but was worried i would ruin them and then have no pants that fit. Thanks for conducting the experiment.

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