05 September 2012

Tutorial: Color Your Pants

I am in love with dyeing my own clothes.  More specifically, I am a pants-dyeing fanatic.  It's a disease, and I really hope you get it too.  If nothing else, I feel like it's necessary to at least try it out once.  

Here's what it looked like before the pants-dyeing process:

And here is the finished result after dyeing:

Did I mention that I bought these pants for $4 at a second-hand store?  And might I suggest that if you go to a second-hand store, you look out for stains.  Some stains will not dye, and it ends up making them that much more obvious.  It's generally not going to be the look you're going for.

So, what do you say?  Won't you dye your pants?  Eh?




  1. Procion MX Dye.
    •  Here is where I purchased mine. (Dick Blick Art Materials)
    • This is a fiber-reactive dye, meaning it will not work on synthetic materials.  Be sure to check your labels!
  2. Measuring Cups
    • I bought mine at the Dollar Store so I could keep this set separate from our food set.
  3. Salt: Non-Iodized
    • You normally use Iodized Salt when making food, but for dyeing you will need Non-Iodized Salt.  It should specify on the front of the container.  And bonus--Non-Iodized Salt is cheaper!
  4. Rubber Gloves
  5. 5 – 15 Gallon Bucket
  6. Stirring Spoon
  7. Face Dust Mask
    • Because the Dye and Soda Ash are powders and aren't super great for your lungs
  8. Soda Ash
    • Purchased Here.  (Dick Blick Art Materials)
  9. Synthrapol Detergent
    • Purchased Here. (Dick Blick Art Materials)



Pre-wash the garment in the washing machine with detergent. I used Synthrapol (1T) and Soda Ash (3 T).

Though people often skip the pre-wash step before dyeing, it really helps remove dirt and oils from your pants so that it will take in the dye better and more evenly.  I really suggest you take the extra time to pre-wash!


I essentially followed the directions and tips for Immersion Dying Cellulose Fibers with Procion MX Dye found here, but I thought it might be helpful to walk you through the specific steps I went through for dyeing jeans.  I also have some tips of my own.

  1. Soak the pants in water for 15 minutes.  
  2. Pour the non-iodized salt and dye powder into the dyeing bucket. I used 3 1/2 cups salt and 3 T of dye.   
    • The Procion MX Dye Immersion instructions linked above provide a list of suggested proportions of salt and dye based on the desired depth of intensity for your final color.

  3. Fill warm (~105° F) water into the bucket.  More water means a more diluted dye mixture.  I used about 5 gallons of water.

  4. Stir the dye, salt, and water until the mixture is completely dissolved.  Oh, yes.  The wooden spoon is now permanently dyed a nice red-pink color.

  5. Lower the pants into the bucket of dye and fully immerse for 10-15 minutes.

    IMPORTANT: Stir the pants frequently to prevent discolorations from the dye collecting or missing wrinkled areas or pockets.

  7. Remove the pants, add the soda ash to the dye mixture, and stir the ash in completely.  I used 1/3 cup of soda ash.  

  8. Place the pants back into the dye mixture and immerse fully once more.  Keep the pants in for 30-60 minutes depending on the depth of color you are hoping to achieve.  (Or, if you're too anxious like me, go ahead and pull your pants out at 20 minutes and you'll have pink instead of red pants.  But, learn from me instead.)  STIR FREQUENTLY!

  9. Remove the pants and hose them off until the color is no longer visible from the dripping water.

  10. Wring the pants a few time, and hose off remaining dye mixture.

  11. Place the pants in a bucket and take them inside for post-dye rinsing.


Send your dyed pants through the rinse cycle on the washing machine a few times until the water is clear.  Again, I rinsed with Synthrapol (1 tsp) each time. 

Then, wear those suckers.  Do your pants dance?  Go to the nearest second-hand store and dye all of the pants ever.

I had a friend tell me that since I'm a young woman, I can get away with bizarre color combinations without much worry.  Whether or not this is true, I certainly have chosen to pretend it is.  I am in full support of vibrant, mismatched colors.

I'm just happy that I'm living in a world where I can buy pants for $4 and turn it into this.  Please.  Tell me how the dyeing goes.  I'm dyeing to know...?

1 comment:

  1. I'm dyeing to know if we can do this together!? I want pretty jeans!