Late summer jacket – getting to the right shade of pink

I am looking for a medium weight pure linen, in pink that is both very light in shade, and cool (blue undertones). For a summer jacket.

I have found lots of nice smokey pinks, shell pinks and bright pinks. And even a few good (for me) pinks in blouse weights. McCullough and Wallis has a heavy “jacket” linen in pink, and I dropped into examine it. It has a nice weight and I liked the colour, but it was too grey in reality. And, as Jenny suggested there is nice one at Merchant and Mills – third picture. I think this one might be a bit peachy – it’s always hard to tell on a screen, but my experience of linen tells me that the underlying yellowness will come through if the fabric is not first bleached. As ever, even when you make your own clothes it is a compromise – I found nice light greys and other neutrals, and a light jacket in taupe or stone would be very useful, but I still had a desire for pink.

So I considered getting the right weight in white and dying it.

Simply Fabrics of Brixton had some pure white heavy linen that I planned to buy. But when I got there I realised it was probably more suitable as a furnishing fabric. Luckily Leo located  some lighter weight white linen, and a couple of metres of white viscose lining. As you probably know, because viscose is made from cotton it dyes in a similar way. I wanted to be able to dye the lining and fashion fabric together.

The next thing was to take advice from my friend and dye expert Marijana of Sew2Pro. Marijana often makes wonderful clothes in inexpensive plain cotton and then dyes the garment. Although I love the dying process I have only ever done it in a bucket or a sink – by hand. I have got fairly even, but not perfect, results. When hand dying I put the garment in the machine at the end and it does get rid of the remaining dye, and often evens it out. Marijana swears by the washing machine method. Have you ever tried it? I had of course wanted to, but my husband was against it, believing that some residue would remain and would ruin his shirts or whatever. And as dye stains permanently, and in its powdered state it is very concentrated, you can probably understand Nick’s anxieties.

In our conversation Marijana was very reassuring. She said that if it dyes your next load they give you your money back (£3.89??), “or a new washing machine or something”. And that she hadn’t believed it either, but that she had done it many times. So I ordered the dye, and the salt (which is just salt really), and washed my 4 metres of fabric to remove any finishes. I didn’t consult my husband I just did it!

You put the powder in the bottom of the washing machine drum, and cover it with the salt, then you put in the clean damp fabric. With the 4 metres I had more than the package suggested could be successfully dyed (one pair of trousers). It suggests if you are dying a duvet cover two packs are needed. I figured my two fabrics were about equal to one duvet cover but decided to risk it. I was after a light pink so I hoped this would work for me.

I glanced inside the machine while it was dying. (Observant readers will know what I was wearing that day!) It looked fairly pink. A fact that was confirmed when the fabric came out. I laid it, damp, on the floor and while the process was very successful – strong, non-streaky look – I think the colour is a bit deep. Even after drying off in the sunshine it is a shade or two deeper than I had planned. All the pinks in these photos are different, as is the light, and none of them is “true”. The viscose is a little deeper than the linen. Even though I wanted very light pink, I much prefer these to the yellowy Merchant and Mills, and the muted MacCulloch and Wallis.

I now have two options. Procure or produce some lighter pink linen (I am sure the lining would be OK) or use this medium pink – which is a colour I like very much. But it may be a bit too pink and girly for a work jacket. Although men do still wear pink shirts sometimes they seem to be out of fashion at the moment.  If I used half a packet on the same amount of fabric I might get the colour I want. But it takes all day and four cycles on your machine – washing the fabric, dying the fabric, washing out the dye and washing out the washing machine. Then drying and pressing the fabric. As I haven’t toiled the jacket I might just go for it and see what happens. Sometimes I spend so much time trying for just the exact right shape, colour, design etc and then end up disappointed in some way.

Have you ever tried to get a colour you want by dyeing?

29 Responses

  1. Kerry

    I think the photo of you on the right with the fabric draped over your shoulders (if true to colour) is very pleasant against your skin tones. Although you didn’t get the shade you were after I still think the colour is pleasing. I have successfully dyed garments in my front loader but it is a bit hit and miss to get an exact shade of colour, depending on the textiles used, I suspect. Do you think that if you had used a half of the quantity it would have produced a lighter colour?

    • fabrickated

      Thanks Kerry. Actually I really like the colour it came out – its a true pink, not too yellowy/peachy. I think I will proceed with this fabric. However I now know how to get a lighter shade which I may use on a further occasion. Although with different fabric the effect may be quite different!

  2. Giorgia

    It’s hard to advise as, just like you say, every picture shows a different pink. But with regards to wearing pink at work, I wouldn’t worry. Especially with the new “androgynous” style you have adopted, with its clear cut lines and zero frills, it would be perfectly fine to spice up an outfit with a girly colour.

    I’ve used dye a lot to revamp old favourites that have lost their shine (jeans, mostly), but never for dressmaking. I guess I wouldn’t trust myself with getting the right shade out of the process!


    • fabrickated

      I am going to make up the pink Giorgia. It is a bit girly, but I think with dark grey or navy trousers or a dark brown skirt it won’t look so feminine. I am also looking for some dark buttons – ideally from the period (1937).

      • Giorgia

        great! looking forward to see the progress 🙂

        Let me know where you end up getting the buttons from. I would like to find some original leather covered buttons (the classic cardigan ones), but so far I have only found plastic imitations!

  3. Esme

    The children’s dad used to put his and Ted’s navy chinos in for a dye wash every few months as the colour faded on the twill (?) so quickly. I’ve never had a problem with dye in the machine – as long as you wash it afterwards as per instructions.

    • fabrickated

      I wasn’t aware of people doing this but as you say with a twill weave (typical in jeans as well) the warp and weft can fade at different rates, so a dye top up is a great idea. Thank you Esme.

  4. Helen

    I have done this a few times. I was a bit nervous but have never had any problems. The first time I used the jeans dye as my Levis has faded. I found that the rubber seal on the machine took up some colour and in places where the seal seemed to be ‘pitted’ it was stained quite a bit. But my machine is quite old and I wasn’t too bothered about that. I think I may hesitate if I had a new machine.

    I made a twill khaki skirt a few years ago and was finding it hard to get the right colour fabric so I bought white twill and a Dylon dye. The dyeing was fine, no streaks but it wasn’t quite the colour I was looking for but it was the closest colour green available. Even though the colour range looks big it is still quite limited. I don’t know of any other brands that do home dye kits?

    • fabrickated

      I remember that khaki skirt Helen, and I thought you got a great result. But with home dying I think you do need to compromise. I am sure you can mix the colours but with pink you have already got a mix – red, yellow, white, black and possibly blue will generally go into a pink. When I mix my silk paint or other textile dyes I try to start with the primary colours plus black and white and I find it fairly easy to get the shades I want. I have also used Rit for hand dying which is a liquid dye, and you can mix fairly small amounts. Also they have a wider range of colours. But for sticking in the machine the Dylon certainly worked well for me.

  5. Sue

    I am a major fan of dyeing and have dyed blues and blacks in my washing machine. It does freak me out a little when the rubber round the drum goes blue (or black), but I am careful with the first load of clothes that go through post-dyeing episode and I’ve never had a disaster – yet! Your pink looks really good and I am very much looking forward to seeing the finished jacket.

    • fabrickated

      I feel OK about it now I have done it Sue, which I was worried about it. Actually the machine is fairly new and the rubber didn’t show any effects at all at any stage. Dying is exciting isn’t it? And I am loving the whole process of making this jacket, slow though it is.

  6. ceci

    The final product pink is certainly a flattering color for you, but I totally understand wanting to match the color in YOUR head instead of settling for not quite right. On the (third?) hand, one could end up with lots and lots of pink linen on the way to an exact match!

    I’ve not dyed anything since Easter eggs years ago – I tend to fall for a fabric and then search for the right pattern instead of starting conceptually as you seem to.


    • fabrickated

      Thanks Ceci! I am generally in the same boat as you – buying fabric I like and then coming to a decision on what it is good for (which is why I have a cupboard full of inspiring fabrics!!). This time it was the other way around – wanting a pink jacket and not having or being able to find what I wanted. Following my experiments and the enormous help via the blog and IG I now know it is possible to use 25% of what the package advises to get a much lighter but unstreaky effect. So I have the knowledge. I may not use it currently but I may come back to it at another point.

  7. Lynn Mally

    I think you should use what you have. Or perhaps you should experiment with bleaching out some of the color. But as Ceci says, just how much pink linen do you want? I used to dye quite a bit, but like you have found the process to give mixed results–never quite ending up the way I wanted. Accurate dying is a science, not an art.

    • fabrickated

      Thank you for your advice and support Lynn – this is in some way your jacket too! I hadn’t thought of taking some of the colour out – to be honest I have already spent enough time and money on this. You are right about dying being a science not an art and I will cut out the fabric now as I do actually like it. I am just not sure it is quite the right colour for work, but I am coming round to it. I think I will make the pink one as a toile, and if the pattern and shape work well I may move on to a second one in white, or light grey or just a natural linen shade. That would make it more work friendly I think. Pink feels a bit wedding guest-occasion wear to me.

  8. Ellen

    Cool project! I’ve had this discussion countless times but in our house my husband is the laundry czar–so my question really is all about subsequent loads and visible staining in the machine. Any issues??

    • fabrickated

      OK! My husband thinks he owns the laundry area, but he has shrunk too many of my nice woolen items to call himself Czar. I snuck the fabric in, and by the time it was successfully achieved I had, through practice rather than theory, allayed his fears. I can categorically state, on the internet, that there were no ill effects whatsoever on the washing machine. I didn’t even do a final (fifth) wash with no dying, or with bleach or anything. The fourth stage was a hot wash of the newly pink linen and viscose lining and that was that. Afterwards we washed white towels and no ill effects of any sort were detected. In terms of the fabric I dyed the effect was overall good but not perfect. There were a few tiny specs of colour that didn’t disperse, creating a very slight spatter effect. And there are one or two almost undetectable lighter patches. None of this is really detectable, but it is not exactly the same standard as a commercial product. This may have been because my linen and viscose cloths were from a cheap shop and may have included flaws that caused the uneven effects. I hope this helps Ellen.

  9. jay

    I used to do a fair bit of dyeing, but not so much now. For one thing, we are on a septic tank. For another, piece dyeing only gives really reliable results if you do the whole hog of sampling, weighing dye powder and fabric, and though the washing machine dyes are usually pretty good, you can get streaking. I like the pink you ended up with on you. Couldn’t you use it for work with appropriate accessories? I would be tempted to make it up if the ideal colour doesn’t turn up. I’ve never had an issue with subsequent loads, but if I used a dark dye I usually made sure to follow it with something that wouldn’t ruin if there were dye transfer. The rubber seals sometimes shade, and it’s a good idea to check under the door seal for any thread nests in the new colour in case they were to transfer colour to your washing.

    • fabrickated

      Great advice as even Jay. I have decided to make up the pink. I think it will be a nice project in order to test the pattern which I may do a second time with a different colour. Thank you for further tips.

  10. Jenny Lark

    I have dyed in my machine and never had any problems with colour transference. The modern dyes are pretty foolproof. I enjoy changing the colour of items, usually linens such as tablecloths and towels for a new look. And doesn’t your balcony make a wonderful drying rack?

    • fabrickated

      We have had a bit of sunshine recently which always seems to impart a wonderful, special smell to laundry. I feel I captured the sunshine in the fabric which makes it more enjoyable to work with. Cutting out the jacket today….

  11. Sew Ruthie

    The latest Dylon dyes come in a plastic pod with the salt included, and the slightly older ones also include salt. Its only the very old ones where you need to add salt.
    You can weigh your fabric when it is dry and compare the weight to the information on the box to get an idea.
    I found the dark grey and dark green were darker than expected.
    I’ve mostly had good experiences and I’ve dyed a lot however I would suggest wiping the rubber seal of the machine even after the final wash as sometimes dye gets stuck in the folds of the rubber usually on fine fluff. I also like to run a little bit of bleach cleaner through on the machine clean cycle rather than just water.

    I think the pink is a gorgeous colour for you and you should use it for your jacket.

    • fabrickated

      The instructions on the powdered Dylon I bought specified salt Ruth, but I did see the pods in a shop recently. Good to know. I may have had old stock – I just searched for the cheapest on line (as ever…). Thank you for the vote of confidence in the pink and I will now crack on with it.

  12. Mary Funt

    What an enterprising project! I’ve only dyed small items and found the exact color can be a long trial and error process. You’ve gotten a lovely color and I hope use it for something even though it’s not exactly what you hoped to produce. It would be interesting to see if your idea of less dye gives you the color you are after.

  13. Dr Gritty

    I am a dye addict, as I can rarely find colours I love in the shops. So … yes, as Marijana says, buy plain cottons etc. and dye. I also find it particularly useful for items that I may have bought in Thrift Stores, or any clothes where I love the design and fabric, but not the colours – it also disguises the items!! . For example, anything in boring black and white: stripes, ikat patterns, checks etc. can come out so well. I have wonderful black and teal slim cotton trousers, that look stylish and designer-ish, but were from the ‘Sainsbury’ sale rail.

    As to the number of washes and making sure that the washing machine is clean, after … I try to wash the items beforehand, in a with a normal wash of similar colour and fabric clothes (I rarely wear manmade, so it’s easier for me). Then after the dyeing and the post-dye wash, I often just run a blacks wash. I’ve never had an accident yet, although I agree with ‘Sew Ruthie’ above, about wiping the rubber etc.

    Also, I have not tried the new pods, and I’m rather annoyed that Dylon have changed their product, yet again. I have been much happier with the recent form of the dye plus added salt: the colours seemed so much stronger than with the old no-salt dyes. I hope the new pods don’t mess up my lovely experimenting.

    Finally: I don’t really ‘do’ pink, but the colour in the picture on the right looks lovely

    • fabrickated

      Hello Dr Gritty – thanks for your lovely comment. I can see this is a whole new area of interest and excitement for me. I am not sure I can do a pink jacket for work, but I am going to give it a try.

  14. Rachel goodyer

    I love dyeing things. I often bulk dye black clothes that have faded, navy clothes too. I recently dyed a navy cotton trench coat that looked a bit shabby. I also dye white duvet covers that are looking past their best.

  15. Joyce Stewart

    I don’t think I have commented before although I’ve been reading your blog for some time and enjoy it very much.
    I have a pair of Basler navy cotton trousers which were past their best so to speak and rejuvenated them by using a navy die in the washing machine and they now have a new lease of life. I am loath to part with these trousers as they are a great cut and suit my short legs! I can sew but good trouser fit is hard to achieve.
    I have also dyed a RTW Country Casuals cotton lime green sweater with an olive green dye…hmmmm, still not a good green for me… I then decided to dye it navy as I wear quite a bit of navy….lo and behold it then turned out the shade of dark green I had wished for in the first place!
    My machine is old and the rubber seal did show some dye issues but it in no way affected the next wash. The first time you do it is scary.

    • fabrickated

      Hello Joyce and thank you for taking the time to leave an interesting comment. It means a great deal to me when I get feedback. I like to think the blog is a way of having a conversation rather than me just speaking into a void. I haven’t thought of dying for revival reasons, but since looking at the Dylon display in my local haberdashery shop I have realised the product is aimed very much at this market. Thank you for sharing your experiences and I look forward to hearing from you again.

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