Upcycling: Transform Your Wardrobe with Library Resources and Dye

By Trudi, Reference Assistant

My daughter is working on an Embellish project for 4H, so we have been researching various ways to embellish fabric, including dyeing. I found a tutorial on Creativebug called Upcycling: Transform Your Wardrobe with Dye taught by Marisa Lynch.  In this tutorial, Marisa has purchased a bunch of clothing from a thrift store and she tested how the dye adheres to the different types of fabric. The dye reacts differently depending on whether the fabric is natural, like cotton and silk, or Synthetic, like polyester and rayon. 

We visited a local thrift store and purchased a variety of clothing made from different fabrics so we could experiment also. 

Supplies needed:  

  • A variety of clothing in light colors and various fabrics (cotton, silk, polyester, rayon) 
  • Dye (we used Rit All Purpose) 
  • Rubber gloves 
  • Old stockpot 
  • Old spoon 
  • Dish soap 
  • Salt for natural fabric and Vinegar for synthetic fabric.
  • Rubber bands for making cool designs.

We chose to dye the fabric in a stockpot on the stove, but you can also dye by using your washing machine.  Instructions are included in the tutorial and in the Rit dye box. 

For our first experiment, we used aquamarine dye on a shirt that is 100% cotton and a shirt that is 60% cotton and 40% polyester.  The results are attached: 

As you can see with the 100% cotton shirt, the aquamarine dye showed in all the places except where we placed the rubber bands. With the 60% cotton and 40% polyester blend, the dye did not adhere to the polyester thread running throughout the shirt. 

For our second experiment, we used wine color dye on a pair of white jeans that are 96% cotton and 4% spandex and a shirt that is 100% polyester body and 100% nylon lace.  The results are attached: 


As you can see, the jeans, dyed wine except where we placed the rubber bands and with the polyester/nylon mix, the polyester outer layer is a lighter shade of pink and the nylon lace is the dark wine color. 

This experiment was a lot of fun and we now have new clothes to wear and new-found knowledge of how fabric type affects the dyeing process. 

We are still planning on experimenting with different types of folding, natural dyeing, and ice dyeing. 

For more information:


Natural Color: Vibrant Plant Dye Projects for Your Home and Wardrobe by Sasha Duerr 

Tie-Dye: Dye It, Wear It, Share It by Shabd Simon-Alexander 

Hand Dyed by Anna Joyce 

New Dress a Day by Marisa Lynch 






If you experiment with your own tie dye techniques, tag us at #PPLathome. 


Upcycling: Transform Your Wardrobe with Library Resources and Dye

  COVID-19 UPDATE:  All Pickerington Public Library locations are following the color levels approved by the Library Board of Trustees. Orange level: Library is open to browse and borrow all materials. Curbside service available. By appointment or reservation: Computers, study tables and business center. Conference rooms. In-person notary and proctoring. Virtual technology trainer appointments. Virtual events and classes. What to know when you arrive: Limited restroom access. *Safety protocols in place; masks required, no food or drink allowed.