How to refresh a vintage silk blouse using dye?

 

Dye can work any amount of magic on worn items needing a little love. Use fabric dye to refresh the colour on old jeans or go with a complete colour change to update a well loved item of clothing.

There is nothing worse than having a beautiful silk blouse, the epitome of luxury, and it have stains down the front or even in the armpit area. In that state who would want to wear it? Even worse, it is vintage, yes, OLD, in this case it was a 1940’s silk blouse that had clearly been abused some years ago. After trying all the conventional vintage washing methods, the soak in gentle detergent, leaving it in the sun, cream of tartar and aspirin, and even dabbled with the idea of peroxide. This stain was here to stay and the fabric was looking less than fresh. Maybe dye would help?

Stains to silk blouse

Stains to silk blouse

While normally we would say, keep a lovely vintage silk blouse in its original condition. But if no-one wants it in that condition and won’t wear it what is the point. Vintage clothing is something very special, it is unique! After long hard deliberation, it was decided that dying this silk blouse to get rid of the un-slightly stains, and spruce up the colour was the only option.

We were aware that the stain may still show through the dye and that it may not be a perfect solution, but we just had to try. Be very wary about dying to cover up marks, as often the mark may absorb the colour in a different way to the rest of the fabric, but it will refresh the remaining fabric.

Now it the time of decisions, pick your colour. In this case we dyed a cream silk blouse to a blue. It is worth noting that for silks, wools and polyester/cotton mixes the colour will be lighter than the colour on the box. It is also not an exact science refreshing a stained item of clothing with dye. For example, if you were to try and dye a blue top red you would end up with a purple, but the hue of this purple could vary wildly. So dying this cream silk blouse blue, supposedly Navy, could come up a few shades lighter.

The directions on a Dylon hand wash fabric dye packaging:
• Weigh fabric dry, wash thoroughly, leave damp,
• Using rubber gloves dissolve dye in 500ml of warm water
• Fill stain resistant bowl with 6L of warm water
• Stir in Salt 250g
• Add dye and stir well
• Add fabric
• Stir for 15 mins
• Let to sit for 45 mins stirring regularly
• Rinse fabric in cool water then wash and dry in warm water as normal.
• Dry away from heat or sunlight.

After reading the contents of the Dylon hand wash dye that was used carefully set to work.

15 minutes into dying process

15 minutes into dying process

45 minutes into dying process

45 minutes into dying process

After dying things a few times, there are a few little tips:

1) Make sure you wear the gloves, or you will walk about with unusual coloured hands. Blue hands for three days was worth it.
2) When you mix the dye, add the powder to the water, not the water to the powder, as it congeals
3) Work in an area that is colour safe, if you spill any mop it up
4) Wear old clothes
5) Keep the fabric moving to get an even distribution of dye

Don’t worry if the fabric doesn’t seem to take the dye instantly, it does need the soaking period for the fabric to absorb the colour, the images below are within the first 15 minutes and at the end of 45 minutes. It is the salt that ensures the colour fastness, by opening the pores of the fabric.

Blouse dyed blue

Blouse dyed blue

When rinsing, ensure the water is clear before gently hand washing the garment, as you would normally. Allow to dry, away from heat and direct sun light. Immediately there is a great deal of improvement and the garment is given a new lease of life.

Again, this really is a last resort for vintage clothing. It always seems such a shame to change an item that has so much historical context, but if there is no other option, and it is that or cut it up/re-fashion it. Dying is the less drastic option, as the cut and detail don’t change, even if the colour does.