DIY: Dyeing Buttons experiment…

OK, so I’ll start with a little disclaimer. This was me having a play about because I had a stockpot of dye on the stove whilst working on a larger scale project and I thought…what the heck…I wonder what will happen if I chuck some buttons in a bowl, add some of the dye liquid, and leave it for a while. Well…this happens…

As you can see. Mixed results. Those two dark ones soaked up the dye like thirsty camels! The majority took on a pastel/subtle version of the dye, and a few had no reaction to it at all. Presumably this had a lot to do with the material composition of each button. Some synthetics will take dye…some absolutely won’t. But if you’re not hung up on the results, then this is a kinda fun “see how it turns out” rainy day thing….if you’ve got another dyeing project on the go…why not just syphon off a ladle of the dye liquid and revamp some old buttons at the same time!

OK, so to clarify this is very much a “this is what I did” post as opposed to “this is the right way to do it” post. So this is what I did…

Firstly, the dye bath that I was using (for this “other large scale project” details to follow) was very concentrated. I bottle of liquid Rit and 2 packets of powdered Rit to 10 pints of water, and was being kept at a constant temperature on the hob. I ladled some off and added it to the buttons in a lidded glass bowl with a tbsp of vinegar (recommended when dyeing synthetics). I then covered and left it overnight. About 18 hours in total. During this time I whacked it into the microwave every couple of hours for about 45secs to keep the liquid warm….but overnight I just left it to cool down….

In the morning I simply emptied into a colander and rinsed thoroughly and left to air dry on kitchen towel.

This was just an experiment. The results were much subtler than I expected, but still pleasing. Perhaps having the buttons simmering on the hob (as opposed to simply soaking in the luke warm dye liquid) would have resulted in a stronger colour. Wooden, horn or shell buttons would perhaps dye well being natural fibres? Still…a good way of getting a little extra value for money out of your dye bath and something I thought you may find interesting and a it of fun 🙂

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  1. Bobbi November 30, 2014

    I love buttons and I love dyeing things…this looks like fun! I love how the finished buttons all look different. I read somewhere that wood can be dyed with rit, so wooden buttons could be dyed to match any project.

  2. MrsC (Maryanne) November 30, 2014

    I used to dye pearl buttons pastel colours in the 80s when pastel coloured wedding dresses were in vogue. You get better results simmering the buttons on the hob, but the pearly ones don’t take strong colour. If you want a fab result, try iDye’s Poly dye, it is amazeballs. It’s obnoxious stuff but very effective – I have used it to dye crystal beaded trims and turned pale pink in to purple and red. I think your grey to black buttons are SO much prettier than the white ones were, like black pearls!

  3. Anonymous December 1, 2014

    Portia, I like your new picture (not noticed it before) & the buttons look fab! AFFF

    • Portia Lawrie December 1, 2014

      Why thanks AFFF 😉 Been tinkering with the blog and thought it was time I updated my pic 🙂

  4. EmSewCrazy December 1, 2014

    Ooh fun idea! Love buttons!

  5. Gisella December 2, 2014

    I once managed to dye some plastic buttons a bright pink using some hair dye (it came in a pot, already in cream form so you could just paint it onto hair. Not sure what it was nor what it’s called. On hair it was semi-permanent). I never did anything with them though so I don’t know how well it would have done.
    I love all your buttons, so lovely! Very inspiring too. I must have a look what kinds of dyes I’ve got!


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