I'm dyeing a silk dress--help me avoid ruining it!
August 8, 2011 9:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to dye a silk dress. It's currently green. Please direct me towards not screwing this up!

Ordered a custom made silk dress off Etsy and when it showed up, it was not the color I asked for (the swatch in the picture was sort of a rich olive green and what I got was closer to what I'd call sour apple--there was no guarantee so I was half-expecting to be disappointed). So I definitely want to dye it...

Somehow I can't find ANY professional dyers in my area, so I've decided to give this a shot (I've read silk is supposed to be one of the easier materials to dye). I figure since it's already a bright green, I have to either do a darker green or some sort of blue.

My question is this: If I buy, for example, a dark blue dye, will the dress end up dark blue, or whatever color dark blue + bright green is? If that was the case, if i wanted to achieve an olive color, would I need to get a brown dye (because green + brown = olive)? Obviously I don't quite know how dye works....

One more thing: I also need to get several inches taken off this thing (definitely my least successful online purchase) and plan to take it to a tailor. Should I dye it BEFORE or AFTER I have it altered? I believe that if I have it altered first, I'd have to tell them to use a thread that would dye, correct? Has anyone had any experience with this? Let me know if you need any more info...
posted by lovableiago to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I know nothing about dyeing, but it occurs to me that if you have the alterations done first it will provide you with some extra material that you can use to experiment on to get a color you like.
posted by procrastination at 9:14 AM on August 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

You would want them to use silk thread, yes.

Also, unless stated otherwise in the etsy store, the dress might not have been made with silk thread. So, you might end up with a darker dress and bright green threading. Just FYI.

Silk is easy to dye (I dye playsilk scarfs with koolaid). There is some good information about dying silk here.

I agree with procrastination, have the alterations made first and ask for the scraps. If that doesn't work, contact the etsy seller and see if they have scraps you can have.
posted by royalsong at 9:26 AM on August 8, 2011

Yes, the green will affect the final color. and the advice above sounds good to me.
posted by theora55 at 9:32 AM on August 8, 2011

Be aware that the stitching that's in it already is likely synthetic and won't take the dye dolour at all.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:00 AM on August 8, 2011

Best answer: This place (Dharma Trading) has LOTS of info, and you can probably call or email them for more.

I don't know about silk specifically, but I've had a lot of instance of the thread refusing to dye when the rest of the garment did.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:24 AM on August 8, 2011

Best answer: Seconding Dharma. They are the best online resource for dyeing. They have color wheels for sale that are specific to dyes. As others have said, the thread will likely not dye, or turn out the same color.

The original color will affect the final color. If you dye gray over the green, you will tone down the color and get more of a sage-ey color. If you use red, which is opposite on the color wheel, you are likely to get an odd brown, but that will be a more unpredictable result. Some of the dyes in the red spectrum are more pink, some more orange, and some have more of a blue color. If you use a dye that is a darker color than the original, the dark color will mostly cover the original color. You could try over-dyeing with olive green, which will get you to a more olive color.

The suggestion of testing colors on the extra fabric is good, but the hemming thread may not match the other thread, especially after the dye bath. Silk frays horribly, so perhaps you could have someone serge the bottom of the dress, to prevent that fraying, and then hem it after dyeing? It sounds like extra work, however.
posted by annsunny at 10:52 AM on August 8, 2011

Response by poster: I did end up buying from Dharma after I called customer service to make sure I was buying the right stuff. The guy I talked to was friendly, helpful, and honest about what would work and what wouldn't. The stuff I ordered also came pretty fast too. Would definitely recommend them to anyone attempting a dye project.
posted by lovableiago at 8:24 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

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