re-dyeing jeans to make them dark again

**10/12/12 NOTE – This post is a couple years old, but thanks to pinterest it brings in a lot of visitors. I’ve received comments and emails from others who are trying to redye faded jeans. Many folks have had trouble with pants that turn out purplish…some have had better luck with using ALL black dye (no indigo or navy). I haven’t tried all black yet. My recommendation is to buy a pair of jeans from the thrift store that are a similar shade to what you’re wanting to dye, cut them into swatches, and test out different “recipes” before you dunk your favorites*******

Last week I was whining to my friend about my jeans. The cut is great, they fit just right, but they’re alllll faded.  My office is pretty casual, but even so I refuse to wear faded jeans in a professional setting. And faded jeans don’t look right for dressing up, no matter the cut. It felt wasteful to have a drawer full of totally wearable but not-dark-enough jeans. In the future, I can use preventative measures like washing them inside-out on cold, but how to return the already-faded to their former glory???

I found several tutorials online about DIY jean-dyeing. This one (including comments) was probably the best. But nobody had before and after photos. And that’s what I was REALLY after. So I decided to give it a try, and I did my best to photograph everything.

Synopsis – Re-dyeing jeans to make them dark again WORKS, but is only worth the trouble if your jeans have some stretch in them (i.e. not 100% cotton)

BEFORE, 100% cotton jeans

BEFORE, jeans with a little stretch (synthetic) in them

Mix 1 packet navy blue RIT dye, 1/2 packet black RIT dye, and hot water in a 5-gallon bucket. Get your jeans wet, wring them out, and dunk them in the bucket. Keep them in the dyebath for 30-45 minutes.

Rinse the jeans until the water runs clear (at least 5-10 min). Wash them by themselves, on cold, inside out, in the washing machine. Dry (keeping inside out) in the dryer.

AFTER – the 100% cotton jeans. Nice and dark, but the color is almost too saturated. Like trendy jeans worn by people younger than me.

AFTER – the 100% cotton jeans. I still wear them in casual settings, even though the color is kinda weird.

AFTER – the stretch jeans. The stretch fabric contains synthetic white cross-threads, which don’t accept dye…so the final color is very “realistic”. I have started wearing these to work again.

50% success rate isn’t too bad


Silk-dyed eggs

This easter, forgo the candy-colored tablets and vinegar for dyeing eggs with silk neckties. You can always find silk ties at the thriftstore (or maybe this is your chance to free the men in your life from any outdated neckwear). Dyeing eggs with neckties is one of my favorite seasonal projects because it incorporates green-crafting practices and, since you never know which ties will make the prettiest eggs, there’s a delightful mystery to it all.

My best friend’s aunt showed us this when we were kids. I remember the first time I unwrapped my tie-wrapped egg…MAGIC!!! They’re still so fun to unwrap. Martha Stewart featured this method in her online magazine in 2006, but I’d like to think that we beat Martha to it.

Anyway, on with the egg-dyeing!

Dyeing Eggs with silk ties

Materials: raw eggs, fabric shears, sewing thread (white or light colors are best), and 100% silk neckties

Dyeing eggs with silk ties

Look for labels that say “all silk” or “100% silk.” Dont guess! It wont work with anything but 100% silk.

Dyeing eggs with silk ties

A word on choosing the ties: Blue and red are a dime a dozen. Greens and browns are rare so snatch them up if you see some. Sometimes the ugliest ties make pretty eggs, so dont discriminate 🙂

Dyeing eggs with silk ties

Dissect the tie, separating the silk from all of the liners and backing

Dyeing eggs with silk ties

With the right side facing the egg, cut a rectangle that easily covers the egg

Dyeing eggs with silk ties

Now wrap the egg with thread, carefully tucking the ends in like youre wrapping a present

Dyeing eggs with silk ties

Keep wrapping until you cant see any silk. Sometimes this takes a whole spool of thread

Dyeing eggs with silk ties

Boil for 15-20 minutes, cross your fingers, and unwrap!

Dyeing eggs with silk ties

My favorite of the bunch – an impressively crisp paisley

Dyeing eggs with silk ties

Blue checks with a tinge of pink (I think from the red thread)

Dyeing eggs with silk ties

Such pretty soft yellow dots!

Eggs dyed with silk neckties

All lined up

I hope this inspires you to give the silk-dyeing a try. As for what to do with your dyed eggs, I’ve read some warnings online about not eating them since the dye isn’t technically food-safe. However we’ve always eaten them with no ill effects. Maybe the ill effects are coming…reader Joan who is a fiber artist commented below to remind everyone to a) not eat these and b) dye them in a separate pot. Thanks Joan!

You can keep them in a cool, dry location and after a few years the eggs will naturally dry out inside. As long as they don’t crack (which would be a nasty, smelly affair) you can use them year after year as decoration. My mom still sets out eggs that we dyed over a decade ago.

Several commenters have asked why not hollow out the eggs first. I’ve done it both ways and in my experience, hollowing them out makes the eggs pretty fragile. The pictures transfer best when you wrap the eggs TIGHTLY, which is hard to do when you’ve hollowed them. Maybe I just don’t have a delicate enough touch…you can certainly try hollowing them first and you might have better luck than me! I’d rather just let them dry out naturally over time.

Here are links to other crafty bloggers who have used this method and notes on their variations:

The Magic Onions (weight the eggs down in the pot with a stone…brilliant!)

Crafting in a Green World (use different ties on the same egg for a stripe effect)

Our Best Bites (cover the silk with a piece of plain fabric instead of thread)

Snaps and Blabs (some of the best pattern transfer I’ve seen!!)

Cucina Testa Rossa (suggested by Lisa; rub finished eggs with oil for impressive shine)

Dyeing alpaca fiber


Sal the alpaca

Sal the alpaca


This week I tried dyeing fiber for the first time. Until now, I’ve been using undyed fiber from Read’s mom’s alpacas, Sal and Pepe. True to their names, their fiber makes a salt-and-pepper yarn. I decided it would make a nice pair of mittens (maybe lined with fleece, for winter bike commuting).

Sal and Pepe: undyed

Sal and Pepe: undyed


With a few spools of salt-and-pepper under my belt, I decided I was ready for some COLOR. The saleswoman at the Eugene Textile Center suggested I buy just the primary colors and then custom mix. She kindly warned that red is a much more potent color than yellow (i.e. if you mix equal parts of red and yellow – you’ll get something oddly similar to red). Don’t worry saleswoman, I wasted enough muffin tins of tempera paint in art class learning that rule the hard way. 

fiber dye

yellow sun, fire red, sapphire blue


I washed the fiber in the sink with a little dish detergent. This got out most of the dirt, but some of the straw bits are very persistent. Has anyone else found a good way to remove them?

Washing the alpaca fiber

Washing the alpaca fiber


I filled a pot with enough water to let the fiber swirl freely, and added to it this previously-mixed solution: 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon yellow, 1/4 teaspoon blue, and a pinch of red. My thinking was that only yellow and blue would make a kool-aid kind of bright green, and maybe I could create something more sophisticated. I cooked it at near-boiling for 30 minutes, stirring often.

Heating the dye bath

Heating the dye bath


In my effort to avoid a child-like green color, I created a color still familiar to children: Oscar the Grouch. Now, my upstairs neighbor assures me that the color is olive and retro, but she can’t fool me. For better or worse I definitely made a pile of muppet replacement fur. Sam said that if I don’t use it, he has some costume ideas.

They both love trashcans

They share a thing for trashcans...


For the next batch I used less yellow,  more blue, and no red, which resulted in a more pleasant deep teal. Last night I carded them both together and spun some yarn. I will post more about that later. ..

Oscar the Grouch replacement fur?

First attempts at color-mixing