Ombre sweater dyeing tutorial with photos

Happy New Years everyone! Every new year I feel the desire to kind of reinvent myself—new routine, new hair, and new wardrobe (there are lots of other exciting creative things on my list this year as well :) I’ll be sharing those soon). Every year, I also declare that I will be better at saving money. Thats why this year I’m trying a little “new you on a budget”.


With this in mind, I headed off the the thrift store to pick out some sweaters, then to the craft store for some Rit® dye, and here’s what I ended up with…



I usually don’t gravitate towards purple, but being that Radiant Orchid is Pantone’s color of the year for 2014 I thought I’d give it a shot. I started with one cream sweater that I dyed purple ombre, and one green sweater that I dyed the bottom with black to create an ombre. The process was slightly different between these two sweaters since I was trying to achieve different colors. The tutorial below is for the purple sweater, but I included notes about where the process differed for the green sweater.


rubber or latex gloves
1 cup salt for cotton (vinegar for nylon, silk, wool)
**2 boxes purple Rit® dye (only needed 1 box black dye for the green sweater)
mason jar
plastic drop cloth to protect working surface (a trash bag will work)
paper towels

**I tried purple dye to just get my feet wet with this whole Radiant Orchid thing, but if you want to be exact, Rit® does provide recipes to mix Pantone’s seasonal colors. To get Radiant Orchid they suggest 4 tsp Petal Pink and 1/2 tsp Purple liquid dyes mixed with 1 quart water.

1. If you got your sweater at a thrift store, there’s a 98% chance it has terrible shoulder pads. Cut those out!

2. Wearing your gloves, mix the dye in a mason jar. I used two boxes of dye to achieve darker, brighter colors, plus 1 cup salt and warm water. Combine these ingredients in a mason jar and shake it up—this will help you really dissolve all of the dye. If little specks of dye don’t mix in you’ll end up with weird spots of color on your finished garment.

3. Pour your mixed dye into a bucket filled with warm water. You want enough water where your sweater can soak completely covered.

TIP: From here on, anytime you get dye on your hands/gloves wipe it off with paper towels before touching your sweater. You’re trying to keep the top part of your sweater light so you don’t want to touch it with dark purple hands.

4. Wet your sweater in clear warm water.

5. Dip about the bottom 3/4 of your sweater into the dye and pull it right back out, then let the about the bottom 1/4 soak in the dye. (for the green sweater, I wanted less dyed, so I only dipped the bottom half in)


6. This next part is a bit of a guessing game. Every minute or two just lift your sweater out of the dye and see how the color is coming along, every couple of times you do this let more of your sweater soak in the dye so you are creating the gradient/ombre effect of going from dark to light. Do this until your soaking just over half the sweater in dye.

7. Dilute the dye by adding another mason jar or two full of warm water. This is to make the color on the top of the sweater lighter. (for the green sweater I diluted the dye half way through step 6, after soaking just 1/4 of my sweater in the dye since I wanted the black dye to just darken the sweater, not dye it completely black).

8. Saturate the full sweater into the diluted dye and lift back out immediately. For the light color I wanted, I didn’t need to let it soak any longer. If you want the top to be a bit darker, just let the full sweater soak for a couple minutes.

9. Ring out your sweater over the dye bucket, then hang on a drying rack.

10. After your sweater has dried a little bit (does not need to be completely dry) rinse it in warm to gradually cool water. For me with these big heavy sweaters, it was easiest to just do this in the shower and not worry about splattering paint all over the sink and counter.

11. Wash in the washing machine with mild detergent. And done!


For both of these sweaters, I changed out the buttons (see my vintage button cleaning tip from earlier this week) and added elbow pads. Check back next week for the elbow pad tutorial! I’m really happy with how these turned out, I’ve got two new sweaters, on a budget, and I think I finally started to appreciate the possibilities of Radiant Orchid!


03. January 2014 by Jessie
Categories: Art, Craft Tutorial, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 comments

Comments (2)

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