Denim jeans are more than a wardrobe staple, they have been a distinctive part of American culture since their invention in the late nineteenth century. Although blue jeans are the most common, the look of denim changes regularly. Any time is the perfect time to invent your own unique, denim, color palette with DIY fabric dye. Use white jeans that are both comfortable and stylishly cut to get the best possible result, or artistically mix indigo-dyed blue jeans with dye to create new colors.
Wash white jeans in the washing machine with mild detergent and set them aside at the end of the cycle. Add fabric color remover to the wash if the jeans are colored. Note that color remover will not work on most blue jeans, which use permanent indigo dye.
Cover your workspace with newspapers or plastic trash bags. A well-ventilated workspace is best, preferably outside.
Protect your hands with rubber gloves.
Heat 1 gallon of water on the stove to a simmer.
Combine the heated water with enough hot tap water in a large bucket or pot that large portions of the jeans can be easily submerged.
In a medium bowl, combine hot water with your chosen dye, following the dye-manufacturer's recommendations for dye and water measurements. Stir until the water and dye are combined well.
Pour the dye solution into the large bucket of hot water and stir with a long spoon, mixing the water and pigment to make the dye bath.
Soak the jeans in fresh, warm tap water and wring them out so they are only slightly damp, but still warm.
Carefully dip the jean legs into the bucket -- up to about 2 inches below where you want the dye to stop -- and clip them to the side of the bucket to prevent sliding.
Soak the jeans in the dye bath for five to 10 minutes.
Raise the jeans 1 to 2 inches at 15 to 20 minute intervals over a 45-minute period. Remember to clip the jeans to the rim of the bucket each time you raise them.
Remove the pants from the bucket then rub the dyed portions with your gloved hands to blend the color gradient.
Hang the jeans outdoors for 30 minutes.
Transfer the jeans to a clean, empty sink and rinse them thoroughly with cold water for five to 10 minutes, or until they stop bleeding pigment and the water runs clear.
Follow the dye-manufacturer's instructions for laundering the jeans. If no instructions are provided, wash the jeans alone, using a warm-water setting and a mild detergent.
Hang the jeans to dry.
Things You Will Need
- White jeans (optional)
- Mild laundry detergent
- Fabric color remover (optional)
- Rubber gloves
- Large bucket or pot
- Medium bowl
- Stirring utensil
- Liquid dye
- Dyed blue jeans will still show a blueish tint through the pigment.
- Clean your workspace and tools with chlorine bleach to prevent stains.
- Add salt to the dye bath if recommended by the manufacturer.
- Exercise caution when using hot water.
- Work in a well-ventilated area.
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images