An Easy Way to Dye Embellishments

beryl taylor embellishment quiltThe Monday after Easter this year, I noticed Cloth Paper Scissors Today Editor Cate Prato brought dark red hard-boiled eggs in for lunch. Cate is Greek, and their tradition is to dye their Easter eggs a deep red.

I asked Cate how she gets them such a dark red and she said she uses dye imported from Greece. Then she added, somewhat conspiratorially, "But my grandmother used Rit."

Well, that was a surprise. I've never heard of anyone using Rit to dye eggs. On the other hand, Rit is non-toxic. And while I'm not suggesting you use it on foodstuffs, Rit is a safe, all-purpose, and easy alternative for dyeing in the quilt studio.

In fact, designer Dianne Giancola and I had a blast dyeing embellishments on an episode of "Quilting Arts TV" Series 700. It was so easy, I thought I'd share the basic button dyeing process with you.

Dyeing Multi-Color Buttons

Note: Rit dye is available both as a powder and a liquid. The liquid dye is already mixed and it’s more concentrated than the powder. So you only use half as much dye when working with the liquid dyes.

 You will need:

  • White buttons
  • A painter’s palette
  • Small stones
  • Two dye colors of your choice
  • Containers for mixing
  • Teaspoon
  • Latex gloves
  • Paper towels


1.  Wearing latex gloves, measure and mix two dye colors in separate containers. For example:

  • 1 teaspoon Violet with 1 Cup Hot Water; stir
  • 1 teaspoon Evening Blue with 1 Cup Hot Water; stir

dyed embellishments2.  To help prop up buttons, place small stones in cups on painter's palette. Pour small amount of each dye solution into painter's palette cups with small stones.

3.  Immerse half of buttons in dye solution, propped up with stones for a few minutes. Then remove and stand buttons in other dye solution for a few minutes or until desired color is achieved.

dyed embellishments4.  Remove buttons from dye and rinse with water. Then wash buttons with soap and water, rinse and dry on paper towels.

That's it! This process is easy and addictive.

To illustrate how these embellishments would look in a piece of art, we asked Beryl Taylor to use dyed bamboo sticks, buttons, lace, and other embellishments in a small quilt. You could also dye bits and pieces to embellish a handmade bag, a pair of flip-flops, and other spring and summer accessories.

You can see the entire process on Dianne's segment in "QATV" Series 700, as well as segments on metal embellishments, colorful fabric houses, surface design and stitch techniques, and much more.

P.S. What the craziest thing you've ever dyed? Tell me in the comments section below. I can't wait to see your responses.

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Embellishing, Quilting Daily Blog

15 thoughts on “An Easy Way to Dye Embellishments

  1. Our cat! But not on purpose! Actually trying to dye a very faded and very heavy pair of velvet curtains. Dumped them on the floor whilst I ran the bath and prepared the dye, returned with the curtains, dumped them in the bath, kneading away when I felt something move! We had a green cat for some time, although strangely the cat loved water after that (and despite the major distraction, the curtains turned out fine).

  2. rubber duckies! they dye really well, actually, though you usually have to repaint the features. i was doing a “goth” themed baby shower for a friend, and couldn’t find black rubber duckies anywhere!

  3. rubber duckies! they dye really well, actually, though you usually have to repaint the features. i was doing a “goth” themed baby shower for a friend, and couldn’t find black rubber duckies anywhere!

  4. Had too many pairs of white pantyhose, only wear dark colors now. Had a small bottle of Color Hue silk paint in black (at the time thought it was dye)………..put the paint and pantyhose in a plastic bag. They came out looking like Halloween stockings………..all mottled!!!! Fun experiment!!!

    not admitting who I am!!!!

  5. Sawdust. I was teaching a class at a folk school and had to get holes drilled in scrabble chips. Well, the wood shop was doing lathe work and had beautiful curly ques and such on the floor so I ask could I have some. Of course they said yes and when I got back to class I just wrapped them in tulle and dropped them in the dye pot. They turned out great!. I did use some fo the curly ques on my journal. The rest I still have

  6. My son’s cotton diapers. I was bored with white…. poor little guy, his -um- diaper area turned bright orange (color of the diapers) and lucky for him the dye didn’t irritate his skin. After several washes they they faded to a beautiful peach color and within 3 months they were pure white again. But I didn’t re-dye them!

    What unexperienced first time mothers will do…

  7. Probably the oddest things I used to dye were animals. I used to work in the fiom industry, and animal doubles had to match the animal “stars” so dye was used to color spots (doggies) and color them all over (completely black tigers!).

    I’ll dye nearly anything if the mood strikes me. When my union was negotiating a difficult contract, we (the contract negotiating committee) were given T-shirts that were red, white, or blue. I came back to the negotiations table four hours later with a pink shirt. After being soundly teased by my brother/sister committee members about having a “non-regulation color shirt,” they asked how I had done it (and so quickly) and immediately assigned colors to the critical people on the potential picket lines….light blue for first aid, green for strike leaders, yellow for information, etc. It worked out beautifully and made the people that needed to be found in a crowd more visible.

    And mixing colors is the most fun of all!

  8. Hi Pokey
    Looks like you had lots of fun with Rit. I used to use Rit but didn’t find enough colors.
    Craziest thing I’ve dyed: Swarovski crystals to match a lady’s cat.
    I used a very easy way to dye buttons and lots of other things as well. I use ColorHue Instant Set Silk Dye from Arthreads in Houston. It is water-based with fiber reactive dye particles and a bit of acetic acid (a type of vinegar). It is environmentally safe, you don’t have to wear gloves or worry about breathing it. With the ColorHue 10 colors I can make any color/shade/tint that I want. I dye buttons, laces, beads, crystals, animal furs, hair, feathers, paper, flip-flops, wood, fabrics (silk, rayon, linen, wool, bamboo, pineapple, & more). It won’t work on cotton because cotton isn’t porous like the other fibers. Little kids love to dye all sorts of things in the classes I teach too. Isn’t it fun to be a kid at heart? After all, “You haven’t lived til you’ve dyed!”
    C J Peery in Seattle

  9. /when I was a teen and doing a project for 4H I used Rit dye in our fly sprayer to spray over stencils on corn seed sacks which were like heavy linen fabric. It worked, but would be so much easier today with the spray paints that we have now.

  10. Dear Pokey,

    The most unusual thing that I can remember dying was Broad Beans. I liked their shape and thought they would make a great necklace, which they did.
    I used green beans, and soaked them in Rit Dye, then strung them with fishing line and dried them on an old towel in the summer sun. They turned out really good, lots of people liked them and wanted to know where I had ‘bought’ them. I was in my mid teens, [long time ago] just learning to sew and very game to try anything, the necklace lasted for many years….If I was doing this today, I would make sure that I sealed them after they had dried, as you had to be careful not to get in the rain with them, as the dye would ‘run’ onto your clothes.

  11. The truth? My legs. When I was on the high school drill team we had a fundraiser to do in early spring…well before anyone of Scandanavian descent had time to develop a tan. The local store only carried one brand of instant tan and I had already had a bad orange day with that before, so I used RIT liquid dye – color: Tan, of course. It actually worked! I did it a few more times, but like so many other vain, silly teens…I stopped and decided to stick with products that were meant to be put on skin.

    Second craziest: Pine cone shavings for Pot Pourri

  12. I dyed my white satin and lace wedding dress in the bathtub. I used several packets of rit dye in a lovely shade of red (what I was hoping for). What actually turned out was a very nice shade of coral. Perhaps the water was not hot enough, but even though it was not the color I was expecting, the final result was just as good.

  13. Maybe not the craziest but the chanciest thing I ever dyed was quilt batting. After quilting two huge coats for the Fairfield Fashion Show I knew I didn’t want to channel quilt a queen size batting every 3/8’s of an inch for the third time. The Fairfield Corporation required that a noticeable amount of quilting with thier batting be used in each garment. What to do, what to do ? I dyed a btting, with the help of Sue Benner, a pale lavendar to match the color of the evening dress I made. The matching batting was cut into four petal flowers and stacked in twos and sewed onto the bodice of the gown and the three yard net stole with huge irredesant sequins. It really was lovely and I followed the rules, too.
    JoAnn Musso

  14. In my younger years I was a costume designer and used to do a lot of dying to coordinate costumes or match trim to dresses or ladies gloves to add to the character’s style. The craziest thing I ever dyed were 1950 styled white tuxedoes into lovely pastel colors for the dance at the gym for West Side story. At that time, the only dye available in our town was Rit Dye. In order to keep the dye from washing out after repeated washings, you had to add a dollap of vinegar to the hot water, to act as a mordant – to set the colors.