Overdyeing Acid Wash Jeans
It’s been a more than tough week for me. I had a cough that I’m still trying to shake, my hip went out and I had a tonne of tiny annoying things happen that compounded themselves. I needed a win.
And dammit, I got one.
One of my big annoyances that has been going on for a while now is Penney’s (aka, Primark Ireland) has decided they no longer want to carry my size and leg length jean in washes that aren’t… well, in washes that I would consider wearing. Being tall is tough stuff. Add in the fact that I’m on the cusp of plus size and buying clothes becomes a total nightmare.
Remember Men’s Fashion Week? In Paris, CMMN SWDN and Kenzo sent down iterations of this weird treated denim that looked like acid wash overdyed. Liam Hodges and Marni sent down a similar treatment in their shows.
When I saw acid wash jeans on clearance I picked up two pairs. A quick stop to the craft shop for dye and I was ready.
The short description? Buy some jeans, follow the instructions on the dye pack.
Now, the rest of this post will be all about how I kind of veered off the instruction path and was fine. First off, my jeans were about twice the weight that my dye specified. Secondly, my jeans had a bit too much of a polyester content for the dye to work “properly”.
Honestly, before we get into anything, I need to talk about the dye.
I used Dylon because that’s what my craft store had, and it was an all over stressful shopping experience. How on earth is a picture of a feather supposed to accurately show me a colour?! Tell me Dylon. How?! Burlesque red is not a standardized colour. I knew I wanted a wine red to echo the Marni-ness of it so I took a chance. I also got a pack of jeans blue just to see what would happen. The red pants have a bit of the acid wash-ness still to them- they’re surprisingly close to the Marni jacket, but the blue ones are just a straight up indigo jeans colour.
These are the jeans we’re starting with. I got two pairs of skinny, acid wash jeans. Besides being acid wash, the fabric content matters. The dye only picks up on natural fibres, so if yours has a pretty high synthetic content your colour won’t be as vivid.
This is definitely not a material heavy project. All you need are your jeans, dye, anything the dye instructions tell you- for me, that was 250g salt, gloves, and a dye specific utensil.
That last one is important. Anything you use with commercial dye can’t be used for food ever again. This spatula did its duty, but we got a nicer one so now it has a new life.
At this point, you just follow the dye instructions.
I got some warm water in there and dissolved my salt…
Then I dumped in the dye pack and dissolved that too.
I stirred that up and popped my jeans in. The instructions say they should be prewashed and damp, but I skipped that step and threw them in dry. You have to stir the jeans for fifteen minutes, so pop on some good music and go to town.
After that, you leave them for at least forty-five minutes, stirring/poking them every so often.
Like I said, my jeans had a lot of polyester in them, so I wasn’t sure how much more they’d lighten up at this point. Polyester tends to look like it took in dye, but it just rinses out like crazy.
After an hour or so passed I went back to them and drained the sink. I rinsed them with cold water and kind of kneaded them to get out as much dye as possible. Then I added some soap and rinsed them again.
The hardest part is definitely waiting for these to dry. The red ones lightened up a lot, so my curiosity was killing me. No matter how good you are you’re not going to get all the dye out, and you’re not a spin cycle so there’s probably going to be some major drippage. Trust me, those paper towels on the floor are a godsend for picking up drips of dye.
Run these through a wash cycle with all black clothing so that if more dye leaks out it won’t wreak havoc. I’d recommend sticking to dark wash cycles and not wearing them to places with light-coloured fabric seating for the next five-ish washes, just to be sure.
One of the best things about this is it’s a really passive process. While the fifteen minutes of stirring can get a bit tedious, after that you just give it a stir when you’re around it. I vacuumed the house, put bread in the oven, and started writing this post- I’m literally staring at them on the drying rack right now.
The blue ones didn’t turn out as fun, the dye just kind of filled in where the original wash wasn’t.
You can really see the difference in how the dye took on the inside of the back pockets.
The implications of this are amazing. There’s almost always white, acid wash, or some other weird light-wash jean on clearance racks. I paid €5 for each pair of jeans, and €4 for each pack of dye. I dyed the red pair first and a small part of me wanted to pick up a different colour of dye and really go for it with the second pair, but I’m happy I did the jeans blue simply because now I know that this experiment works… But I still wish I had been a bit more ballsy. I’m sure I’ll be able to find acid wash jeans on clearance again and fulfil my mustard-pant dreams. I’m also wondering how other jean washes will take up dye. I’m definitely going to go wild on clearance racks this summer and see what other light coloured pieces that I can get creative with. I’m hoping I can find some acid wash jean jackets and get the full Marni experience.
To see these pants in action follow me on instagram @SandySalierno