Archive for December, 2014

First of all, I’ll recommend that you just get the color satin you want in the first place- it’s much simpler.

However, for various reasons, you may be looking to dye some satin garment at home.  In my case, I’m taking the white satin flower girl dresses I made for my brother-in-law’s wedding over the summer and making them into dresses to wear for Christmas and beyond.

white satin dress before  flower girls dresses before


Perhaps you have a yard sale find, something you have on hand, or you happen to really like the uneven dyed effect and/or want multiple colors for a wild dyed look.  Whatever the reason, here’s a process you can try.

This was done on white costume satin- nothing fancy- not silk satin or bridal satin.

Second of all, this is an experimental process.  It worked for me, but I don’t know how long it will last as the dresses are washed, and I’m certain there is lots of tweaking that could/should be done to improve the process.

I haven’t done those experiments- to see if the color can be darkened or evened or what have you.  I’ll pass along a few suggestions at the end, but it’s an untried process.

Thirdly, this is a very messy, smelly process.  The rubbing alcohol can be very overwhelming.  I recommend a well ventilated area and a place you can get messy, and time to let yourself have a breather as needed.  If you clean things up right away, it helps.  However, drying after dip-dying creates run-off.  Unless you really like those colored rivers on your bathtub, protect your surfaces (or use an area where surfaces can be stained).  If you end up with a stain issue, you *should* be able to clean up hard surfaces with some more rubbing alcohol, but please use careful judgement.

messy process

Because it’s a messy process- use tools and/or gloves or prepare to be the same color as your project!  It’ll probably be very drying to your hands as well given the alcohol.

And fourthly- this process has imperfections and is an uneven process.  It will not create perfectly evenly stained fabric.  It will not create deep, rich colors.  In searching for a way to dye satin online, I found the need to use specialty products, and still to expect nothing more than light colors.

close up of dry from dip dye  dry from dip dye   close it's still not even

I only tried this on white fabric.  I am fairly certain only light colors would work, and any color the fabric has will create an undertone color that affects your end result.

Use a scrap and trial your project first.  Some colors wash out differently than they begin (red and orange produced hot pink, dark green turned blue).

On to the process.  You will need rubbing alcohol and permanent markers.  I got my markers at the dollar store- so cheapies work fine.  The rubbing alcohol I used was 91%.  I don’t know if the dilution of the 70% or 50% would affect how the dye worked, but I felt the higher % was probably an asset to this project- for drying time and for dye concentration.


This is loosely based on the sharpie marker tie dye commonly seen in tutorials online.  I first tried fabric dye dissolved in rubbing alcohol and it didn’t work.  But a trial of rubbing alcohol  dripped onto a sharpie marker spot on a satin scrap did work and didn’t completely wash out.

Proportions:  I used 3 markers to 1-32 oz. container of 91% rubbing alcohol.  (it’s fine to use different color markers- I used blue, light green, and dark green in combination).

I mixed mine up in a pail (first an ice cream pail, then a 5 gallon bucket- obviously use a container that will hold your item if you are dip-dying).

First, get a pair of pliers and pull apart the marker.  Throw the felt (the part you write with) into your rubbing alcohol. Then pull the marker apart and take out the fountain- the part that holds all the extra ink that feeds into the felt.  It’s likely enclosed in a plastic tube/straw.  Some of these will pull apart easily- just take the inside ink portion out and drop it into the alcohol.  If it won’t just pull out, you have to cut off the plastic portion.  I used a seam ripper to rip up one side and then pull out the innards.  A small pair of scissors would also work.  Swirl it all around to disperse the color into the alcohol and out of the marker innards.

marker partly pulled apart          the marker innards in the alcohol

You now have finished making your dye!

Now for your garment.  Dip-dye or spray dye- these are the 2 methods I used.

dip dye in bucket     spray bottle of dye mix

Since I had tucked fabric rather than flat, my process was affected.  It altered how the alcohol evaporated and dripped/ran , so it left the dye unevenly.  I imagine it would work this way with most anything, but especially the tucked fabric.

I also couldn’t just spray the fabric, as it wouldn’t get into all the tucks evenly.  So I ended up dip-dying first, letting it dry, then spraying it (with some attention to get into the majority of the tucks, but not every nook and cranny).

So dip and wring and hang to let the alcohol evaporate (dry) or spray and leave it for the alcohol to evaporate.

just dip dyed       all spray dyed and dry

Repeating the dipping process will NOT deepen the color.  The alcohol dilutes and disperses the dye, so really all that is happening is the marker ink is left on the garment after the alcohol evaporates.  Re-dipping simply allows the ink to be moved into solution again and put into a different spot.  That’s why rubbing alcohol works to remove permanent ink from some surfaces.  But it’s also why this process will work on the satin while water-based dyes will not.

The spraying worked to increase the concentration of the dye a little at a time onto the garment.  A smaller amount evaporates more quickly, leaving more of the permanent ink more evenly on the fabric.  (One of the reasons why I think the higher % of alcohol is a better carrier in this process).  There’s still limits to the concentration achieved by spraying, as fresh alcohol on the surface affects the ink already there.

If you are dipping, then spraying, let the garment dry between applications.  Likewise, let it dry between coats of spray if you are trying multiple coats.  Once you have added all of your dye and let it all dry, you can do a rinse in water.  It should be pretty stable.  You will get some wash-out of the color in the rinsing, as in any dying process. Note below the changes.  The greenish dress on the far left has been dyed, but not rinsed.  The more blue in the center has been rinsed in the water.  So really, do a trial or you may be surprised.  The far right picture shows the completed dresses.

rinsing and magic color change      all done!  rinsed and dry

I’ll also repeat here that I’m unsure of the long-term staying-power of this dye- for all I know it gradually lightens with each washing and will be gone after a half a dozen washes.  If I ever find out, I’ll try to update.  So as a precaution, wash gently- perhaps hand-wash, and use limited soaps or detergents.

Variations to try:

greater concentration of color (=add more markers to increase the concentration of your dye).  Since there’s a limit to the color as it’s dipped or sprayed, your only ability to deepen the color will come from increasing it’s concentration before it’s applied.

“gel stain”- they have gel stains to make them “no drip” for applications like concrete.  To make a gel stain version of this dye, I had thought about trying hand sanitizer (check the % on the back of the bottle).  If the color wont disperse directly into the sanitizer, I would try a very small amount of regular alcohol to disperse the dye, then mix it into the sanitizer.  This would be more expensive, and I don’t know how it would dry.  It still probably dries unevenly and will leave a mottled effect.

You might possibly be able to achieve colors by mixing that you can’t get straight from the marker.  Example: the orange marker turned hot pink, but perhaps red and yellow markers would create an orange-ish color.

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