Changing Your Clothes

Shopping, Sewing, Upcycling, Repairing: Make the most of your clothes!


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If At First You Don’t Succeed… Dye, Dye Again

I’ve written several posts already about dyeing clothes, and more recently, about dyeing yarn. Now I want to focus on a process that has become increasingly intriguing to me: overdyeing!

What, you ask, is this overdyeing of which I speak? It’s simply dyeing something that has already been dyed. Yep, that’s it. So if you’ve dyed your blue jeans (or not so much blue as dirty-wash ones like mine, below), you’ve done an overdye job! Today’s post will focus mainly on overdyeing yarn, but all the basic concepts apply equally to garments.*

he Really Big Dramatic Reveal

Remember this?

Here’s a rundown of my process:

1. Ask yourself: Do I love the color it already is? If no, and if it’s not a dark color already, it’s an overdye candidate. (If yes, put that garment on right now and enjoy it!)

Tip: It may sound incredibly obvious, but the lighter your garment’s original color is, the more options you have, color-wise, for overdyeing. If it’s a dark color, any overdyeing you do will have a more subtle result; this can be really amazing, e.g. overdyeing navy blue with black, but still subtle.

2. Ask yourself: What color do I want it to be?

Tip: So far, in my dyeing experience, I’d say you’ll get the most predictable results by dyeing your garment in a darker shade of its original color. Example: The pale pink jacket I’m getting ready to overdye* is going to become (I hope) an ombré of deep red to medium-deep pink—staying in the same color family as the original hue.

3. Make an educated guess about the dye color you’ll need in order to achieve this new color.

Tip: You’ll have to take the original color into account, because it will blend with your dye color to create a unique new hue (unless your garment starts out white, in which case, technically, you’re dyeing, not overdyeing). For example, if you start with a pale blue shirt, and you want it to be a deep plum color, adding dark red dye to the blue shirt may get better results than purple dye. (For some color theory basics, see this post.)

4. Gather your materials: garment, test garment or fabric swatches, dye.

Tip: Other items needed for dyeing will be listed on your dye package, and will vary according to the fiber content of the fabric you’re dyeing; vinegar, for example, is generally needed when dyeing wool.

Another tip: There are a lot of factors to take into account, such as the fiber content, that can (and most likely will) affect your results. Ideally, you’d experiment with fabric swatches, but this is not always possible; an alternative would be to pick up a thrift-shop garment in the same fiber and color as your overdye-candidate garment, and use the inexpensive version to test your color theory. This part of the process has the added advantage of familiarizing yourself with the dye process itself, which gives you confidence to move on to dyeing your original garment.

5. Dye!

Tip: Again, très obvious: you really do need to follow the dye instructions very carefully, especially regarding safety. The Rit dye company has some useful tutorials here, and they also have a PDF with over 500 color recipes here!

How about some examples of overdyeing yarn? Yes, let’s do that. In my short but colorful history with dyeing yarn, I’ve had some amazing successes, but also some experiences ranging from “meh, I’m just not crazy about the color” to epic failures (one of these is coming soon to a blog post near you). Thankfully, unless you’ve dyed your yarn black, it’s almost always possible to give your ugly yarn a new life! To wit:

My very first overdye experience was with this merino/cashmere blend. The minty-green is not bad, it just looked a bit… flat.

Mint yarn before overdyeing

Mint yarn before overdyeing. On the right is the yarn after it was completely dry, showing how much lighter results can be than when the yarn is in the dye bath. (I had used the yogurt container to rinse measuring spoons, my gloves, etc., so the color of this water was constantly changing. For some reason, I thought I’d see what would happen if I dunked some yarn in it. Et voilà.)

Here, I dipped the mint yarn into a fairly diluted deep purple, hoping for something close to lavender.

After the lavender dip.

After the lavender dip. At left, I’m dipping most of the mint skein in the purple dye, using a clear paintbrush to hold the top of the skein; I deliberately kept this little part of the skein out of the dye, which resulted in the brighter minty spots in the finished skein (right).

Tip: This project gave me my first inkling of the transparent nature of dyes; if you look really closely at the finished overdyed skein (above, at right), you can see a little of the original mint green peeking through the lavender, giving the skein an overall watercolor-y character that I love. P.S. If you want all the sexy details about this particular skein (and my other yarns), they’re here in my Etsy shop.

Finally, a very recent example: the Emerald skeins I was dyeing for this month’s Birthstone Collection yarns. This was interesting. I dyed a skein of mohair/wool/nylon at the same time as a skein of 100% nylon ribbon (nylon and animal fibers both use the same kind of dye), and got quite different results, as shown in these swatches:

Emerald swatches.

Emerald swatches. The nylon ribbon (left) took the dye as I had hoped, but the mohair blend (right) looks like solid green, with a few turquoise-y spots. What’s a dyer to do?

Fortunately, the mohair skein was large enough to divide into 3 good-sized skeins. So I took 2 of these incredibly green skeins and overdyed each in a separate bath, hoping to achieve an ombré color sequence between the 3 skeins (I decided to leave 1 skein as it was after the first go-round). Here’s the result:

Ombré Emerald mohair set

Ombré Emerald mohair set of skeins. Skein 1 is the color from the original dye process; Skein 2 was overdyed with turquoise and sapphire blues, and Skein 3 resulted from the addition of a deeper blue and a little black. Success! (You can find this yarn in my Etsy shop here, and the ribbon yarn is here.)

Again, most garments that you dye will actually be overdyed (unless they start out white), so even though my examples focus mainly on overdyeing yarn, the same general process still applies to dyeing clothes. Once you get over your normal, basic fear of permanently ruining whatever you’re dyeing, I think you’ll really enjoy the process of changing your clothes with overdyeing— and the one-of-a-kind results!

* I have a pale pink cotton eyelet trench coat that I’ve had for years, but which needs a facelift (is that face lift?), so that’s next on my overdyeing project/post list. Okay, that might be after I dye some more yarn. Stay tuned!

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In Re-Covery: The Great Pillow Makeover!

Yes, I missed posting last week’s Makeover Monday, but in a good cause: I was in Seattle, visiting my mom/making over the pillows for her new couch.

Why change the pillows? Well, that’s what I asked Mom: what was the actual issue with the existing pillows? Wrong colors, sizes, shapes? For her, it was a combination of wrong colors and too much of them, i.e. solid-color pillows creating large blocks of colors, as in this “before” picture:

Mom's pillows before

Mom’s pillow issues, pre-makeover: Not terrible, but… the reds don’t match, the patterned pillow seems out of place, the dark-gold pillow isn’t quite the right shade, and all the pillows are the same size. Inset: both the size and the colors of the solid pillows just look off somehow.

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Makeover Monday: Second Coating, Part 2

In which I finish creating a monster: the Franken-Coat!

In last week’s Part 1, I got started on this experiment in the CYC lab. Preparations for this radical disassembly-shuffle parts-reassembly project involved analyzing the 2 thrift-shop jackets for compatibility, doing a folded mock-up, and finally, rather extensive surgical (scissor-al?) procedures on both jackets. Here’s a quick recap:

Franken-Coat prep

Franken-Coat prep. At top left and right are the 2 thrift-shop jackets I started with, and the jacket parts after cutting them up are shown at bottom. (Details of this process are in Second Coating, Part 1.)

Now that everything is ready for the next step, I’m scrubbed and ready to sew!

Action plan:

  1. Stitch jackets together at waist seam, keeping linings out of the way.
  2. Add shoulder pads to, well, shoulders, between lining and outside fabric.
  3. Repair pocket lining on lower part.
  4. Make and add belt loops to sides.
  5. Remove old linings; use as patterns, and replace the lining.*
  6. Remove existing buttons; replace with new ones. Alter buttonholes if necessary.

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Makeover Monday: Lining up!

You know how sometimes, even when something doesn’t need to be changed, you feel like changing it anyway? (I’m convinced this is the explanation for my lipgloss collection.) Well, I was in that kind of mood coming into today’s Makeover Monday; I only had to choose a suitable victim garment on which to experiment.

Enter the grey knit skirt.

I’ve had this skirt for at least 8 years, probably longer; I got it from Anthropologie, and it’s a triumph of featherweight 100% merino wool sweater-knit, with a pure silk lining, in my favorite shades of grey: charcoal and silver.

Grey knit skirt, before

Grey knit skirt, before. Nothing wrong with it, I love the style, I just suddenly want to change the lining, which, as you can see, peeks through the drop-stitch panels.

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Who Am I, Anyway? Part 4: ‘Do-ing It Differently

In my previous posts in this series (there’s a list of links at the end of this post if you want to catch up), I first confessed to being in a state of confusion about my identity, particularly as it’s expressed in my wardrobe.

Next, trying to bravely face myself, as it were, I created silhouettes of myself so I could begin visualizing how various styles actually look on me.

And in Part 3, I introduced you to my new style icon, Christina Hendricks, whose body type is quite similar to mine, and whom I admire for her willingness to dress the body she has, as opposed to hiding her curves.

Which brings me to this week’s major step forward in this process:

I got my hair done. Continue reading


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We Interrupt This Blog-Cast…

… to introduce The Renegade Seamstress! Beth is an incredibly popular blogger focusing on refashioning clothes, and I love/follow/am inspired by her!

Here’s just one example of her work:

Before

One of TRS’s projects, before

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Who Am I, Anyway? Part 3: Style Icon Found!

Okay, I know, in Part 2, I promised a list of my likes (and, now that I think about it, dislikes) in clothes, but I just had to tell you about this right now:

Newsflash: I’ve found a style icon!

Remember in Part 1 of this series when I mentioned my quest for something, anything to give me a starting point for my newly-evolving style? Well, I’ve found it incredibly difficult, possibly because I was looking more at women whose style has been famous for decades, the same ones most of us think of immediately: Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, etc. And while I love and admire all these and many more, and can find elements of their styles that might work for me, no one woman has felt like the right fit for me. This is good, actually, since it means I still have some sense of individuality going on; I don’t want to be a clone of anyone.

But it also adds to my confusion about who I am, style-wise. I mean, where do I start? Hence my search for someone who embodies not specifically the way I want to look, but more how I want to feel in my clothes.

This morning, I found her, not in our cinematic past, but very much a present-day star: Christina Hendricks!

Christina Hendricks

Christina Hendricks on my new Pinterest board. (Click on the picture to see the rest of this board.)

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