How to Dye an Ugly Old Bag
December 4, 2010 1:43 PM   Subscribe

I have this Dickies messenger bag (by item number, anyway) that I got in a grab bag a couple years ago. The only problem? It's entirely pale carnation pink. This will not do.

I'd like to dye it something dark and/or muted - black, brown, maroon, grey, whatever. I'm really not sure how to go about it, though - will regular fabric dye work on what is (I think) nylon? Is there anything in particular I need to know to deal with it? Is there any quick way to tell if it's actually nylon or something else? (It has a canvas-y coarse weave.)

The straps and trim are black, and it does not have any lining or coating that I can see. The straps are not detachable, though, and it does have one large zipper pocket on the top flap.

I am totally ok with this coming out looking battered and unprofessional; I am just not ok with it being pink. Is there any hope?
posted by restless_nomad to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Get some Rit dye, mix up a little, us a brush and apply liberally on the back side, let dry, test for durability
posted by edgeways at 1:50 PM on December 4, 2010

Use Rit dye with the stove top instructions. It might work. I dyed a bunch of synthetic fabric for a Halloween costume and they all took the dye. Different fabrics came out different shades, but they were all some form of blue at the end. (I don't know what thick nylon would do, but I dyed a bustier and surely some parts of that were nylon?) The Rit dye might say not to dye synthetics, but the only danger is that it might not come out the exact color you're expecting or it may be lighter or darker.

The only danger is that the thread will dye and the bag won't or vice versa, but then you're still basically at square one, right? (I am assuming there is some pink thread.)
posted by artychoke at 1:51 PM on December 4, 2010

You will need a really big pot, though, to do the stove top directions. Try the washing machine directions if you don't have a big pot, just don't forget to bleach the machine after. Or you could try the swishing it in a big bucket technique, but I've never managed to do that without dying my hands black. The container needs to be big enough to fit the bag completely in with a lot of water and room the stir everything.
posted by artychoke at 2:00 PM on December 4, 2010

Best answer: I just closed the tab, but one link indicated that your bag is a "600 denier polyester," which appears to be coated with PVC. If that's the case, I'm skeptical that dyeing will give you what you want.

However, a *cursory* (sorry, dinner cooking) look around at Yahoo answers (please don't beat me) suggests specialty dyes for polyester. Worth further investigation!
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:03 PM on December 4, 2010

I knew somebody in High School with a similar problem. His solution was permanent marker during class. It took him awhile, but it worked pretty well.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:15 PM on December 4, 2010

I don't think that fabric will take dye permanently; I think it will tint a slightly darker colour and then rub off all over your clothing and skin.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:16 PM on December 4, 2010

Honestly, if it were me, I'd cover the whole thing in Duct Tape.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:24 PM on December 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think I'd sell it on ebay and pick up a black one there. Either that or the sharpie method.
posted by lemniskate at 2:33 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used Jacquard fabric paint on the canvas section of a pair of pale-pink Converse and it worked out very well. I used a stiff short-bristled brush to apply the paint.

These Jacquard textile paints are advertised as colorfast on synthetic fabrics. It would take longer than dyeing, though.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:33 PM on December 4, 2010

Based on squinting at the pic, and my vague memories of looking at a Dickies bag in a store, I'm guessing it's probably a synthetic fabric. Does the fabric look sort of shiny and plasticy? Or soft like cotton?
Jacquard has a new (I think) product called iDye. Jacquard products are, in general, miles and miles better than Rit. There's a version of iDye for synthetics, which can be used on the stovetop.
I've never used this product, but I've done some dyeing, and this is what I'd do.
If you only want to dye the pink parts, you could just use a permanent marker, but color will rub off it for a while, and it will smell terrible. I did this to a pair of shoes, and had to leave them outside for a week. After which they still stunk up my apartment for a month.
posted by Adridne at 4:11 PM on December 4, 2010

Can you spray paint it?
posted by lobstah at 4:21 PM on December 4, 2010

I don't think Rit would work all that well, because it needs heat to penetrate the fiber. And if the fabric's a blend, Rit will make it splotchy.

Check out Dharma Trading for dyes that don't require hot water as well as dyes suitable for synthetics. They also carry all kinds of textile paints, including the Jacquard line recommended earlier.
posted by dogrose at 7:37 PM on December 4, 2010

i have the small version of this bag in pink (hey! i like it!) - rit dye will not be your pony. it has some sort of coating or something to make it more durable that simple dyes aren't going to penetrate.
posted by nadawi at 7:45 PM on December 4, 2010

Best answer: The easiest way to identify fabric is to tease some material out of an internal seam and do a burn test.

I think MonkeyToes and dogrose are on the right track with the specialty recommendation. What you're looking for (and RIT emphatically does not have) is to use a dye carrier to open the synthetic fibres up so the dye can actually penetrate. From reading around, it seems like the iDye products include some form of carrier, but I've heard good things about PRO Chemicals products, which have a carrier seperate from the dyes itself. If you buy the dye and the carrier separately, you can use a higher dye concentration to get richer colors without all the extra carrier possibly damaging the fabric.

Remember that dying is a subtractive coloring process. You might want to try using an application like this to determine where the fabric is now, and what using various dyes might do to change it.
posted by Orb2069 at 8:26 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the leads, folks. I may try one of the specialty dyes later this week and see what happens.

This is a sample bag (from YakPak's grab bag - God, I loved that deal) and I'm not entirely sure it has the coating some folks are referring to. While it's obviously not cotton, it's pretty rough-textured inside and out.

If the dye doesn't work, I may just try spray paint. Or duct tape.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:24 AM on December 5, 2010

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