Rit Dye Failure - Watercolor Technique

12:13 PM

Rit Dye Failure
I spend a lot of time on this blog posting about the projects that turn out as expected.  The truth is that there are plenty of project that never see the light of day because they don't come out just right.  This is a Rit Dye idea that turned out - in an unexpected way.

Water Color Technique
I wanted to create a dyed dress using the Water Color Technique I'd seen on Pinterest.  According to Rit Studios if I put concentrated dye on fabric I could achieve the desired result.

I started with a circle skirt
I started with a wet plain white cotton sheet that was cut into a circle skirt and halter top.  Click HERE for more on Circle Skirts/Dresses.

Gather the Dye
I gathered my dye.  I used 1 cup of hot water and 1 pkg of powdered dye for green, yellow and blue.  I used liquid dye straight from the bottle for the 2 shades of purple.

Dying the Top
I dipped half of the halter top in the yellow dye.  Using a sponge I painted on 2 different shades of purple.

Adding Purple
I continued to add layers of color until the top was as dark as I liked.

Layers of Color
Working on the skirt, I added layers of dye directly to the fabric.

Layering Color
I used a sponge to dye the center of the circle yellow and the outter edge of the skirt green.

Sponge to add dye
Layer after layer I added dye.  First purple.

Adding layers of color
Then blue and lavender.

Layers of color
The skirt was laid out on a picnic table.  I worked round and round the skirt adding layers of color.

More color layers
Finally when I felt that the dress had enough color, I left it to dry overnight.

Done layering
I was THRILLED with the pattern and color of the skirt.  I not so secretly hoped that the colors would stay this bold.

After the wash
The next morning I rinsed and then washed out the dye.  I was disappointed.  The colors seemed faded and boring to me.  Gone was yesterday's bold color splashes.  I was left with what felt like a muddled mess.

Dye Puddles
In addition to faded color, the skirt also retained marks where the dye had pooled into the crevices on the picnic table.

Fabric Paint

Because I wanted darker colors, I decided to buy fabric paint to fix the problem.

Fabric Painted
I sponge painted a relatively small portion of the dress top and decided that I HATED the look!

Crafting for me is about having fun and saving money.  Between dye, paint, sponges and a white sheet from the thrift store I'd spent $30 and still didn't have anything I liked.  That's when I came up with another idea.

Alcohol + Paint
Using an empty spray bottle I mixed rubbing alcohol (we only had wintergreen) and fabric paint.

1 part paint and 1 part alcohol
Using 1 part paint and 1 part alcohol I began to spray the dress with a fine mist of paint.

1 layer of blue spray paint
Working slowly, adding 1 color at a time, I sprayed on paint until the fabric was as dark as I liked.

I used indigo and purple paint mixed with alcohol in 2 separate spray bottles.

When the skirt was dark enough I let it dry overnight.

Drying in the sun
For the record, I'm still not happy with the results.

Dyed and Spray Painted
Because I'd sunk a lot of time and money into this project, I decided to go ahead and finish the dress.  (A shining example of Sunk Cost Fallacy).  Nevertheless, I persist!

I turned the sponge painted fabric into pockets.

That way they're not wasted -- they're also not visible.

Dress Pockets
The rest of the fabric was sewn into a dress.

Attic dress

This dress now sits on a dress form in the corner of the attic.  I hope that one day soon I'll look at this dress and be excited about it.  For now it's just a messy, expensive, splotchy dress sitting in a corner.

 With tea party season approaching there's an excellent chance that I'll have a change of heart and she'll get her day in the sun.

You never know!

In the end I decided to wear this dress and it was a huge hit!!  Here are pix.

For more Rit Dye Adventures, click HERE!

For SUCCESSFUL ReFashion projects, click HERE!

You Might Also Like


  1. Hi, when I make alcohol ink using Rit, I usually use the 91% isopropyl alcohol; I don't know if that makes a difference or not. I also heat set my fabric by ironing before washing it. While the color doesn't stay as vibrant as I would like, I was still pleased with the results on cotton fabric; poly cotton - not so much.

    1. Thanks so much for the tip! I need all the help I can get on this one!

  2. I love that you tried such a cool, ambitious look! ...and that dress might make a good structure layer for a floaty, transparent fabric, or an eyelet...

    I have given up on Rit and use Procion dyes. They're popular with tie-dye artists because you get a vivid, wash-fast color without having to set it. Each tub of color is more expensive than a package of Rit, but it goes a long way. I ordered from Dharma Trading, but some craft stores have it.

    1. Thanks so much for this tip. I have been obsessively reading Dharma Tradings site and instructions all morning!

  3. Rit offers a product called Color Stat Dye Fixative. They recommend using it immediately after dyeing to enhance the color and reduce color bleeding. Maybe try that next time?

  4. Your experiment with RIT dyes made me sad: your first shot at this was really nice- I loved the colors. The post-wash was what made me sad: I hate it when I flub. The secret is to fix the RIT dye: after you paint the dye on (and while it is still wet), put it in a microwave-safe casserole dish (with lid) and cook/steam it for 4 minutes. Let it cool for several minutes, then wash. The heat will make the dye fast and it will look like your original design (a little lighter when it dries).