Dyeing lingerie fabrics

I am tired of making beige/flesh/taupe/boring underwear and decided to jump right in and make a fully coordinated set in wine-red. I live in a not-very-large city with no shops specialising in bra-making requirements, so to get everything in the same colour I have to buy it mail order - or dye it myself.


I am of a scientific bent, so I took detailed notes during my little experiment for future reference. I started by measuring approximately how much fabric and elastic I would need for 1 bra and 2 panties. Maybe next time I will dye just the fabrics and use elastics in a contrasting colour, because estimating and measuring all the different picots, trims, straps and elastics became a bit tedious. (But if my estimates were right, next time I just need to follow my little list of lengths, so maybe it won’t be so bad.)

For my size (80H) I need the following:
  • 2-way stretch lycra for bra: 72 x 112 cm
  • 4-way stretch lycra for panties: 38 cm across whole width
  • 70 cm band elastic
  • 80 cm shoulder strap
  • 55 cm cup trim
  • 60 cm strap trim (2x this length if wanting to add lace or whatever to both sides of strap) (both optional)
  • one bra closure
  • 66 cm underwire casing
  • 60 cm picot elastic for underarm
  • 140 cm leg elastic
  • 1 m stretch elastic for waist
  • 30 x 40 cm powernet for bra band
  • 26 x 18 cm non-stretch bridge lining
  • piece of cotton knit for gusset lining
I also added some wide stretch elastic I had lying around, a few ribbon bows, some odd pieces of fold-over elastic, and a leftover piece of tulle lace. (Obviously, everybody’s list will be different, depending on your bra size and how you like making your bras and panties.)

This is my pile of supplies before I went to the kitchen.


I used Dylon multipurpose (hot water) dye, colour "Burgundy"; I think in the USA Rit is the same type of dye. Follow the package instructions on mixing.

TIP NO 1. REMEMBER TO WEIGH YOUR PILE BEFORE DUNKING IT IN WATER. (I didn’t, so I had no idea whether I had enough dye for all the fabric. I did do it after dyeing and drying, and the total is 450 g, which is almost double the recommended weight. Mmmm.)

TIP NO 2. HAND WASH AND RINSE ALL THE FABRICS AND TRIMS BEFORE YOU EVEN START MIXING UP THE DYE. Dry fabric dyes unevenly, and finishes on the new fabrics may cause dye not to react properly with fabric. (Hey, I did remember to do this one!)

TIP NO 3. DON’T FOLD THE FABRIC. Water and dye may not penetrate right through the fabric if it folded up neatly, even if you stir. Unfold the fabric BEFORE washing. (Yep, I kept mine neatly folded...)

TIP NO 4. WEAR GLOVES. Even if you think you will be working carefully, you will end up with purple blue or black fingers and nails if you don't! I know!!!

TIP NO 5. PUT WET FABRIC INTO DYE POT. DRY FABRIC DYES UNEVENLY. (Also see Tip No 3 above.)

TIP NO 6. PUT LITTLE BITS LIKE BOWS INTO A MESH OR ORGANZA BAG. Otherwise they get lost when you rinse the fabrics after dyeing (down the drain) OR you forget some in the dye pot and they come out in different shades. (Yes, also learned the hard way...)

TIP NO 7. PUT HARD-TO-DYE THINGS IN FIRST. This is something I want to try out next time. Today, I put in everything at the same time, so I had to fish things out of the boiling liquid as they reached the desired colour. In my batch, the following were hard to dye:
  • shoulder straps
  • stretch laces
  • non-stretch bridge lining
  • bra closure
This depends on the fibre content – nylon dyes well, polyester dyes badly.

TIP NO 8. DON’T PUT COTTON IN UNTIL LAST, AS IT SEEMS TO ACT LIKE A DYE MAGNET.
The first things to reach desired depth of colour were, in the following order:
  • cotton gusset fabric
  • narrow picot elastic
  • band elastic
  • fold-over elastic
  • shiny lycra
These were already dyed well before the water even started to simmer. I will try putting them into the dye last, then things might be ready at the same time.



That’s about it. Most of the fabrics and trims dyed very nicely, although I was a bit disappointed with the stretch lace performance. I hurriedly put in a length of a different trim after seeing that my first choice – narrow stretch lace – came out fuchsia instead of burgundy. The Tactel lining surprised by dyeing well, while a swatch of stretch tricot lining didn’t dye at all (so must be polyester, not nylon).





The piece of tulle lace dyed in the embroidered areas (probably viscose)
while the tulle didn’t change colour much.


I’m looking forward to working with these nice “new” fabrics!

For another description of dyeing lingerie fabrics, see this post on Beverly Johnson’s blog.

6 comments:

  1. Heather said

    Wow! Those fabrics turned out really lovely! I really need to try this sometime. I've dyed a few things using Kool-aid but not my bra supplies. It certainly gives more color choices!


    katielynne said

    Groovy! As these are such AMAZING results that I'm encouraged to venture into the realm of dyeing! Thank you for the lovely inspiration...and fantastic notes!


    Tina said

    Thanks katielynne! I haven't been sewing recently and only saw your comment today. I hope dyeing works well for you. My dyed lingerie is still holding up well.


    LaCinda Russell said

    I wonder if you can dye stretch lace. I have a shirt I want to dye.


    David Anderson said

    Hi, been looking at your blog and you have some great stuff. My mom was an accomplished seamstress and she enjoyed it and made some beautiful things. My wife spent most of her mid life sewing dance costumes and Baton Twiling costumes with beads, stones and appliques.

    I am the laundry guy in this household and am known, even at our church, as the person who can get any stain out! So much for that. The wife and I (mostly me) have been into the dying of lingerie and I happened on ome of your posts. A nice green Bra! We have been attempting to dye a stock bra (Bali 180 or Flower Bali) which is a bit of a retro sort of bra since it has been made since the 50's! Anyhow in order to get colors we have resorted to IDye Poly which dyes polyester and nylon, the two components of the Bali 180. I assume that powernet is the stretch version of a nylon spandex. At any rate Idye Poly requires you to dissolve the packet in boiling water, bring to a low boil or simmer and "literally cook the bra" (any any panites beind died to match" and although wearable we have noticed that the band has shrunk almost 2 inches (5cm) and there is a slight losss in cup volume. I know you dye your materials first so sewing to a pattern creates a piece that FITS everytime (with adjustments I suppose). Do you have any thoughts or ideas concerning dying a finished product? We are getting some nice results but have just ordered some "larger band bras" to try and compensate. We are also trying some larger cup sizes. This can become an expensive experiment. Oh, BTW, I always hand was cold, rinse several times and hang to dry. No dryer. Thanks in advance!


    David Anderson said

    Hi, been looking at your blog and you have some great stuff. My mom was an accomplished seamstress and she enjoyed it and made some beautiful things. My wife spent most of her mid life sewing dance costumes and Baton Twiling costumes with beads, stones and appliques.

    I am the laundry guy in this household and am known, even at our church, as the person who can get any stain out! So much for that. The wife and I (mostly me) have been into the dying of lingerie and I happened on ome of your posts. A nice green Bra! We have been attempting to dye a stock bra (Bali 180 or Flower Bali) which is a bit of a retro sort of bra since it has been made since the 50's! Anyhow in order to get colors we have resorted to IDye Poly which dyes polyester and nylon, the two components of the Bali 180. I assume that powernet is the stretch version of a nylon spandex. At any rate Idye Poly requires you to dissolve the packet in boiling water, bring to a low boil or simmer and "literally cook the bra" (any any panites beind died to match" and although wearable we have noticed that the band has shrunk almost 2 inches (5cm) and there is a slight losss in cup volume. I know you dye your materials first so sewing to a pattern creates a piece that FITS everytime (with adjustments I suppose). Do you have any thoughts or ideas concerning dying a finished product? We are getting some nice results but have just ordered some "larger band bras" to try and compensate. We are also trying some larger cup sizes. This can become an expensive experiment. Oh, BTW, I always hand was cold, rinse several times and hang to dry. No dryer. Thanks in advance!


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