30 In Tutorials

How To Dye Thrift Store Linens

Back in the 90’s the hot trend was to tea dye every bit of old lace and linens you picked up at a flea market or thrift store. The idea was to try to make the found piece look as if it had been around for ages. I can’t tell you the millions of Lipton tea bags or pots of strong coffee I used to make my own antique dye. The only problem I had with all that tea bagging and coffee dipping was the strong smell the liquids left behind on the fabric. No matter how much cinnamon or vanilla extract I added, it never quite masked the ugly smell.  Then I found I could accomplish the same look without the smell with a bottle of Tan Rit Dye~man I was in tea dye heaven!  A few years ago I started venturing out of my Tan Rit Dye phase and started experimenting with some of the other wide range of colors. l absolutely love to pick up a vintage white piece of linen at a thrift store and change up the color to a faded shade of blue, gray, pink or purple.  I thought I would share with you how I transform thrift store linens with dye:


Thrift store linens~ 100% cotton fabric such as a pillowcase works great.

Rit liquid or powder dye in choice of color. For my example I used a box of Purple powdered dye.

Metal bucket, you can use plastic but it will leave a stain.

Tea kettle or pan to boil water. The key to getting a good dye color is really, really HOT water.

Wood spoon or stick to stir the fabric in the dye bath.

Plastic gloves.


1. Wet the pillowcase with hot water and place flat on a towel making sure there are no visible creases in the fabric.

2. If using powdered dye,  pre-dissolve in 2 cups hot water before adding to bucket.

3. Fill bucket with enough hot water so the pillowcase can move freely.  Then add the dissolved powder or 1/2 bottle of liquid dye to the bucket of water.  Place the wet pillowcase in the bucket and stir the fabric making sure that the dye is evenly distributed. The longer the fabric is in the dye will determine how dark the final color is.

4. Remove and rinse the pillowcase in warm water, then gradually cooler water until the water runs clear. Wash pillowcase in warm water with mild detergent and rinse thoroughly in cool water.

5. Dry pillowcase.

I personally like a more muted look so I don’t usually keep the linen in the dye bath for very long.

This is really easy to do and the color possibilities are endless!

Rit Dye Studios

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  • Reply
    The Pinbuster
    February 19, 2015 at 11:22 am

    Such a great tutorial! We just tested it out on our Pinbuster Blog. It was so fun and easy to do.

    • Reply
      Carol Spinski
      March 4, 2015 at 8:23 am

      So glad you enjoyed the tutorial!

  • Reply
    Kimberly Ryan
    July 26, 2011 at 5:30 am

    You can also add just a tad of the tan rit to purple and get the most beautiful dusty lavender color. I add tan to my Rose Pink liquid dye its so pretty. I love your blog just wonderful, hugs, Kimberly

    Paris Rags

    • Reply
      Carol Spinski
      July 31, 2011 at 1:55 pm

      Ohhh, That sounds lovely~will have to try:) Thank you Kim:)

  • Reply
    Ingrid - Of Spring and Summer
    February 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Hi Carol,
    I have just found your lovely blog and have added your button to my blog.
    Ingrid xx

    • Reply
      Carol Spinski
      March 1, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      Thank You so much Ingrid~ Glad to “meet” you:) Carol

  • Reply
    Dede Warren
    February 28, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    I’m so glad you posted this… just last week I was wondering about those Rit dyes, and wondering if they could be diluted to get softer colors. Now thanks to you simply will remove them from the dye sooner. I’m off to try this now, thanks again!

    • Reply
      Carol Spinski
      March 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm

      Hi Dede:)

      You can also just try a little scrap of fabric first to get the color you want first:) Have fun:) Hugs, Carol

  • Reply
    holly abston
    February 28, 2011 at 5:20 am

    I’ve always wanted to try this, now I think I will!

  • Reply
    nancy clifton
    February 27, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    thanks for sharing your method of dyeing linens. Can you give me any info about the coming art retreat in April.
    Song bird?thanks nancy

    • Reply
      Carol Spinski
      March 1, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      Hey Nancy:))

      Check out Karla’s link on the Bird Song event it explains the classes etc. Should be really fun and I think there is still some spaces left~
      Hope you can come:) Hugs, Carol

  • Reply
    soraya nulliah
    February 26, 2011 at 6:05 am

    Dear Carol-I just found your blog via BYW blogroll and…I just LOVE LOVE LOVE your work!!! This idea is so super amazing…I love the very muted (yet still lush) colors. And you make it look so easy! Is there any way I can follow your blog? I don’t see a button? -Soraya

  • Reply
    February 25, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Carol…LOVE your blogs….can’t wait to come visit your store. Is there a fun place near by to stay?

  • Reply
    Stacey@A Sort Of Fairytale
    February 24, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    haven’t used Rit Dye in forever…i am so inspired by you to do so again!! thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Reply
    February 24, 2011 at 12:15 am

    I love the shade of purple you made! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Reply
    February 23, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    What a pretty purple you got!

    I agree with Linda, I like to mix colors, and that tan just seems to make everything “older”.

  • Reply
    Tweets that mention How To Dye Thrift Store Linens -- Topsy.com
    February 23, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ruby & Co.™ and Raised In Cotton, Raised In Cotton. Raised In Cotton said: How To Dye Vintage Linens~https://www.carolspinski.com/?p=159 […]

  • Reply
    February 23, 2011 at 6:52 am

    I have a stash of old linens with “problems” that I have picked up {cheaply…} over the years with the intention of trying tea or coffee dying—I always figured they would be magically transformed and the “problem” wouldn’t matter any more.

    Nothing I have ever read before about tea and coffee dying has mentioned the lingering aroma…….

    So, good to know!

    Rit Dye it is then!

    When I get around to it…..

    Thanks Carol!

  • Reply
    Wanda @ Just Vintage
    February 23, 2011 at 3:58 am

    That one is going in my file. Thank you for the tutorial!

  • Reply
    Judy Beatty
    February 23, 2011 at 3:31 am

    Just bought a huge container of antique linens, aprons…really hit the jackpot for a whopping $10.00. Will definitely try your dying method – a few pastels, etc.

    Thanks for the tutorial…most helpful.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    should read “you not ONLY make it look easy”.


  • Reply
    February 22, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    I’ve wanted to do this for so long!
    You not make it look easy, you make it look beautiful, too!

    Thanks for your sweet note to me, I heart you. 🙂


  • Reply
    February 22, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Thank you! I bought a box of color remover to tone something down,have you ever tried that?

  • Reply
    Debbie Bartlett
    February 22, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    I never thought about using RIT, what a great idea!

  • Reply
    February 22, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    I like the muted tones also, I’ll have to give this a try. thanks for the how-to.

  • Reply
    February 22, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    First off, I adore your sink, takes me back to my grandmom’s house.

    Thank you so much for showing how to dye, I have never thought to do this but with your easy instructions it does not look so difficult.

    Thanks Loads.

  • Reply
    gabrielle messina
    February 22, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    The is the most beautiful color of purple!! And the detail on the pillow case is heavenly!

  • Reply
    February 22, 2011 at 4:39 pm


    Your new site is gorgeous! I love the clean, fresh, vintage look of it, and of course your photos are lovely.

    Thanks for the tutorial reminder. I used to dye my background fabrics for ribbon embroidery with Rit dye. Taupe was my neutral color of choice, and of course I had to try colors, too! I may just have to try it again sometime soon.

    Have a wonderful day!

  • Reply
    Mz V
    February 22, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Carol, it’s amazing..even your tutorials photos are beautiful! I think you just can’t help it..you have that “eye” I long for. Thanks for sharing this information. I’m digging through my linens this afternoon!

  • Reply
    February 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I love to dye things, and I have seldom been disappointed… a fun thing to do is to mix some of the colors together, to get a more complex color.. like tan with your purple, or pink or blue… what have you got to loose. I keep an old baby diaper to test a small piece with my new brew.. thanks for sharing Carol.. another great idea from the world of COTTON.. Love Linda

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