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How to Dip Dye a Sweater (or any Fabric!)

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Dip dyed clothing, hair, wall art, napkins…heck…everything is super on-trend right now.

While temps are warming, we still have a few lightly chilly days ahead of us. What better time to make my own DIY Dip Dyed Sweater?

I scoured the interwebs looking for inspiration and settled on this piece by Madewell that retails for $88 (at the time of this post).

Madewell Dip Dyed Sweater
That’ll be $88.

I chose this $1 thrifted sweater for this refashion:

white sweater before dip dye refashion
Just a boring white sweater.

I’m about to show you how to dip dye a sweater. But first, I’m going to show you what went wrong in my first attempt.

That’s right. My first go at this was a Nailed It-esque fail. But I learned from my mistakes, and I think you could too!

The Botched Attempt (Don’t do these things!)

I thought it would be a super smart idea to execute this dye job outside to avoid making a mess inside. I filled the stock pot I use for dyeing with a saturated mix of these dyes:

rit dyes
I thought these would give me a nice clay hue. I was wrong.
filling pot with dye
You fool! This doesn’t end well!

Then, I hung my sweater on a shepherd’s hook in a planter and sat in its dye bath like so:

How to Dip Dye a Sweater (or any Fabric!) 2
Wait…that’s not the color I wanted…huh…

I left it in its way too saturated dye bath for about an hour.

Then, I had the bright idea of using my garden hose to rinse it. *facepalm*

How to Dip Dye a Sweater (or any Fabric!) 3
Note: This is where this DIY really starts to plummet downhill.

Of course, rinsing my sweater that had way too much dye in it with a freaking garden hose meant dye splattered all over the sweater in ugly splotches. 🙁

I don’t have pics of this, so just imagine me panicking and running this dripping wet sweater through my house to my washing machine.

My thought was, maybe the dye that splattered wouldn’t be as “set” as the dye on the bottom of the sweater. Ergo, maybe washing it would fix the splatters while still keeping the bottom dye.

Of course I was wrong.

After washing and drying my sweater, I ended up with a result that looked nothing like my inspiration piece.

The color was all wrong, and I didn’t even have that nice sharp contrast of stark white/dramatic ombre at the bottom.

dip dye fail

But I didn’t give up!

Alright. This time’s for realsies. Here’s how to (correctly) dip dye a sweater!

Step 1: grab a white sweater and stick it in a plastic bag, rubber-banding it a little above where you want the dye to end.

sweater in plastic bag with rubber band
It kind of looks like a squid, doesn’t it?

This will help to avoid my previous problem of dye splattering over the pristine whiteness of the top!

Step 2: Pick your dye combo.

rit dyes
No pink’s gonna happen here! Not this time!

You can see how this time, I’m omitting that wine dye, as it seemed to dominate my last dye combination.

dye in dye bath
Don’t overdo it with the dye!

Last time I used at least TEN times as much dye. This time, I went with a much smaller amount (and a smaller bath).

dye bath ready for sweater
Much better!

Step 3: Carefully lower your sweater into its dye bath.

lowering sweater into dye bath
In ya go!

If you’re wanting an ombre effect, once you’ve dipped it in, lift it back out a little bit.

Step 4: Let it sit for 30-40 minutes.

lifting sweater out of dye for ombre effect

You can see why I liked using my sink for this. It was easy to just tuck my sweater around the faucet.

To make the ombre effect more gradual-looking, just lift the sweater in and out of the dye bath a couple of times during its bath and then return it to its original position.

Step 5: Rinse the bejeezus out of it.

rinsing dip dyed sweater
Keep rinsing!

Rinse the bottom of your sweater (with the bag still on) until the water runs completely clear.

Step 6: Bag it & Hang to dry!

Grab a plastic shopping bag and put the wet part of your sweater inside (to avoid drippage, then hang it to dry outside!

putting dip dyed sweater in bag to take it outside
Bag it!
dip dyed sweater drying outside
Enjoy the sunshine!

After your sweater is fully-dried, it’s ready to wear!

how to dip dye sweater after
And wear it I did!

I’m soooo much happier with how the second the version turned out! It’s certainly not identical to my inspiration piece, but it definitely contains all the elements I liked about it…and for a fraction of the cost!

dip dyed sweater after
Sitting stylishly in my swell sweater.

Let’s look at the $88 version again, shall we?

madewell dip dyed sweater inspiration
Why is she smiling? She just spent $88 on a shirt. ONE shirt.
dip dyed sweater
Pretty close to the inspiration piece, methinks!

I love my new sweater! Am I terrified to wash it for fear of color bleed? Of course I am (I’m sure it will bleed at least a little). But I did my best to rinse out the excess dye, so hopefully if I wash it in cold water by hand, it’ll be okay!

AND I saved $86 by not buying the Madewell version ($88 minus $1 thrifted sweater and $1 worth of dye)! 😉

Looking for even more dip dye inspiration? Check out my previous dip dye tutorials!


How to Dip Dye a Sweater
Sweater Dip Dye Tutorial
How to Refinish Outdoor Wood Furniture in 2 Easy Steps [2021 Update!]
Easy Sew Face Mask (& Optional Matching Dress)