DYE PARTY: How We Made Surplus Fabric Beautiful

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One year ago, I came across some ugly surplus fabric.  

It was knitted in the USA, and the end customer didn’t want it… likely because it was a really offensive pastel pink.

At first, I thought, “Maybe this could be cute!” So I bought it all. Three rolls arrived at my apartment and my heart sank. The possibly-cute pink swatch looked like a pink nightmare on the big bolts. #facepalm

Last fall, I enlisted Annie and Tessa in Colorado to help me turn this fabric into something totally unique and beautiful. Since we already had the patterns made for the Basic Maxi Dress, it felt natural to just create a dyed version of the maxi, too. 

I took the fabric to Westminster, where one of our sew shops is located out of husband-and-wife duo Hong & Hung’s home. They cut and sewed the fabric, using a dark thread to match our dye. Finally, we were ready to create.

With the guidance of Tessa, a local textile artist, and about 10 friends, we hand-dyed these maxi dresses on an October weekend.

Tessa taught us how to create this gorgeous pattern. Many hands, burritos, and coffees later, we had set 50 dresses into our dye bath. I have to give HUGE thanks to Annie, Susan, Sarita, Melissa, Heather, Betsy, Kristie, and Allie for their camaraderie.

I probably won’t be doing this again (it was insane work!) but I’m really thrilled that we were able to use that fabric, and dig into a project like this for a weekend. They turned out better than I could have dreamt.

Here’s our process (and a little video, too!). SHOP THE HAND-DYED MAXI DRESS.

(First, above, heating water on the stove to add with cool water from the hoses. The dye bath needed to be lukewarm at least, so I prepped big trash cans full of warm water in the morning.)



About ten friends joined us to fold and wrap rubber bands around each dress, about 1″ apart. We folded the dresses into thirds, and then used different sized rubber bands all along the length of the dresses.

Watch the video to get a better feel for the process! (Turn on HD settings in the video viewer below for best quality.)


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Once the dresses were folded and bound, we let them soak in water for a bit before dyeing.

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Tessa is prepping the dye, above. We used fiber-reactive dye, mixed with soda ash and salt. Below, adding salt to the mixture.




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Mixing up the dye bath and dropping in the first dresses! Below, rinsing some un-bound dresses that we dyed plain indigo.



After letting the dresses sit in the dye bath overnight, I woke up to THIS COLOR. In love.


Perhaps the most tedious part — cutting the rubber bands, slowly and carefully, off of each dress. Where the bands are tight around the dress creates the lighter variation in color.




And, that’s it! We had taped up the care labels, so after the dye process, we took the tape off, rinsed them out, and washed them all with a special dye-setting soap. All in all, the dye process took about 3-4 days.







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