Friday, May 18, 2018

Tencel RIT dying experiment

Did you catch my Mito Cami review the other day? Today's post is a follow up—when I made my #2018makenine sewing plans, I dreamt up "a siren red cami for when I'm feeling fiery and the world needs to know it" but the fabric I fell in love with was a white tencel twill, so I set about making it red hot with a bottle of RIT.

Part 2: Tencel RIT dying experiment

I did a LOT of reading before endeavoring to dye my white labor of love. Tencel is a cellulose fiber (similar to rayon) made from wood pulp. I read over and over and over again that tencel can be dyed just like other plant-based fibers like cotton or rayon. I am here to tell you that this is a LIE!

Round 1: I wanted a bold, siren red color so I used RIT all purpose liquid dye in "Scarlet." I left it in the dye bath for ~30 minutes until it was saturated a deep red, knowing that it would be a couple shades lighter once dry. The directions say to rinse the fabric until the water runs clear... My fabric barely held the dye and it ran dark pink for 10 minutes and light pink for another 5. By the time the water ran clear, my dark red was a watermelon. Very disappointed, I returned to the interwebs to figure out what went wrong, but found no answers!

Why iron when it's going back into the dye bath, amirite?!

Round 2: Luckily since I'm only dying one relatively lightweight garment, I only used half of my bottle of RIT dye in Round 1. Per RIT customer service suggestion, I picked up a bottle of their color stay fixative and tried again. I kept it in the dye bath for nearly an hour,  and the fixative for 30 minutes (rather than the recommended 20). This time, I didn't have to rinse for a thousand years for the water to run clear after dying, so I was feeling hopeful, but after going through a proper wash it wasn't much darker than after the first round.

Forgive my blogging inconsistencies... Between Round 1 & Round 2 I moved house and my mom's beautiful furniture & hangers did not!

After lamenting about the process to a gal at my local craft store, she was horrified that I used RIT and cautioned that she used acid dyes as often as possible (and she swore up and down that "acid dyes" won't make everything look like acid wash jeans...). The result is less Scarlet than Rouge, but I have decided to love the one I'm with and not torture my lovely tencel fabric any more. For those of you also experimenting with dying, I would love to hear about your experience with acid dyes!

Overall, this project was a fantastic learning experience but I just can't really say I love the end product—it's okay, but not the show-stopping siren look I was going for. Even sadder than my color failure, the dye altered the texture of my fabric from puppy ears to something similar to soft-ish quilting cotton. I'm hoping that after all the dying, a hot date with some fabric softener will return it to its former glory. tbd...


  1. Oh wow, I had the same exact experience with the scarlet dye I used on a shirt. Came out the same color as your first go! Even had the rinsing for a thousand years issue. Good to know I can likely fix it with another round of dye and the fixative. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Wow, thank you for posting! I have a much loved 65% tencel/30% nylon/5% spandex skirt that I am considering dying black with a bottle of Rit. :)

    Best wishes with your future projects!

  3. Acid dyed are specifically for protein fibers, such as wool or silk, not plant based ones like tencel, rayon, cotton, line, etc. For those you need a fiber reactive dye, such as Procion, or you can use RIT. your issue is probably that you didn't seem to use a mordant to help the dye bind to the fibers. For protein fibers that would be an acid. Most people use white vinegar for that. For plant fibers it would be salt, if I recall RIT's recommendation.
    You also need to wash the fabric or garment first, before soaking in the mordant solution, to remove any sizing, spinning oils, or plastics coating the fibers.

    1. do you know if it takes botanical dyes?


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