Do you have a pile of clothes in your closet that you’re not wearing because they’re stained? Sometimes, despite your best efforts to remove stains, they just don’t want to say goodbye. One of my favorite sweatshirts fell victim to a stain recently. I’m not sure when, I’m not sure how, but I know that it was pretty obvious when I wore it, and I was devastated to send it to my mending/stained pile. Fortunately, that sweatshirt’s day of reckoning never arrived, because I decided to renew it with a little indigo dye — and let me tell you, I couldn’t have been happier with the results.

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Sam modeling her indigo dye sweatshirt.

I LOVE tie-dye. I learned to tie-dye in summer camp many moons ago, and in my opinion, tie-dye never goes out of style. There are so many colors and patterns you can use to make your unique vision come to life. And there’s a practical benefit to tie-dye: creating a busy canvas to hides stains! Did you know that Lilly Pulitzer’s iconic colorful shift dresses were born as a way to hide stains from her juice stand in Palm Beach? Gotta love when function and fashion work together.

So today, I’m going to walk you through how you can use shibori and tie-dye techniques to renew your clothes and hide stains. Though I’ve done indigo dyeing in the past, I’m not yet comfortable doing it all from scratch, so lucky for me, there are awesome kits out there that make it easy! I used this one, but you can shop around if you want to check out some other kits. (Just note, you’ll want to prepare your dye according to the instructions that come with it.)

How big is your stain? Where is it located? You’ll have to be aware of this as you embark on finding and folding your desired design. Tie-dye or shibori is a resist dyeing technique, meaning that dye goes places that don’t have a resist. In this case, string or rubber bands or even popsicle sticks or paint stirrers can serve as your “resist.” You’ll want to make sure your stain is not covered by one of these so that it can actually be covered with the dye.

PRO TIP: Make sure what you’re dyeing is made from natural fibers. Cotton, linen, hemp, modal, lyocell, and rayon should all dye fine. If you are trying to dye something made of a synthetic material (like polyester or nylon), you may want to try using RIT dyes that are specially formulated for synthetic fibers.

Stained garments hanging on a clothesline.

For this project, I chose to dye a couple of hand towels plagued by makeup stains and the aforementioned sweatshirt that had a random stain near the bottom hem. My indigo dyeing kit came with a little booklet with design ideas, but I also suggest watching some YouTube videos to check out the different kinds of folding techniques. I chose to do a pretty simple line design that I had learned back in camp for one towel, a slightly more complicated resist using blocks that came with the kit for the second towel, and a scrunching technique with the sweatshirt. (Shibori patterns are also awesome to learn and work with, but scrunching can come out really cool too!)

Scrunching and folding techniques used on sweatshirt and two dish towels.

It’s best to wet your fabric before dipping it in the dye so it can absorb the indigo easier. Or, you can wet it before you fold it. Remember, when you put it in the the dye, you’re dipping it, not soaking it. It will appear green at first, but as the indigo oxidizes in the air, it turns the lovely blue color it’s known for.

Pro Tip: You can build up the intensity of the indigo on your fabric by dipping it multiple times.

Prepared indigo dye.

I typically dip my fabric around three to five times. Squeeze out any remaining dye that you can once you are satisfied with your dips.

Hand towels after being dipped in indigo dye.

At this point, I usually leave my fabric to sit for a few, then I rinse out any extra dye before removing the resists. Hang it to dry!

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Hanging dish towels post-dye.
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Hanging sweatshirt post-dye.

Once dry, you can run through the washing machines. There will likely be some dye transfer still, so wash by itself or with other indigo-dyed items.

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Sam wearing her newly dyed sweatshirt.

I adore the way the sweatshirt I scrunched came out. I’ve already been wearing it nearly daily for walks with my dog in the morning and on errands on chilly days. The stain’s not visible anymore! The towels also came out pretty awesome. The windowpane design one I may overdye in the future by dipping it in the indigo without a resist, to give two shades of blue and hide more marks, but for now, I’m really happy with how this all came together.

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