Call Me Ang: Dyeing Upholstery

Dyeing Upholstery

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

dying furniture, rit dye, DIY
Chairs Before

We have had two occasional chairs that we purchased from Overstock, nearly 10 years ago. They have served us well, but I had grown tired of them. I have moved these chairs all over the house, and I couldn't get them to work anywhere. 

During the holidays, I rearranged our great room, and decided to try to make the chairs work...again.  If you read previous posts, you'll note that I also changed the colors in our great room as well.  I went back and forth....Do I want navy chairs...or do I want pink chairs....I decided navy was the winner....Being the indecisive person I am...I flopped back to PINK

I really wanted to reupholster our existing occasional chairs in a beautiful new fabric. However, I had set a budget for myself, and it wasn't in the cards. In addition, reupholstering is a daunting task. That's when I had the idea of dyeing the fabric. I know people have posted countless tutorials on painting fabric. After reading up on this option, it wasn't something I was interested in doing. I was worried the fabric would be stiff, and honestly, I didn't think that painted fabric looked all that great.

That led me to researching fabric dye. I have never dyed anything....other than my hair. Not to mention, the fabric that I was dying, wasn't cotton. The chairs are more like microfiber. What kind of dye do I use?  Would Rit dye work? Would the fibers on the chair soak up dye? Would it be consistent and even? Would the dye bleed on clothing after dyeing? So many questions....

I found one tutorial on Pinterest from a designer who painted a client's chair purple. The chair turned out beautiful. I poked around quite a bit and found two more people who attempted this project. Their results, didn't leave me as impressed. Basically, there isn't a lot of information out there on dyeing upholstered furniture. This could be because Rit actually has a disclaimer that discourages you from doing so. I'm not usually a rule breaker.....but............

I headed to my local Michael's on a mission to find dye.  They had a small selection. I picked up a few colors...because who knows...I might change my mind AGAIN...and I didn't want to go back to the store. I'll return whatever I don't use later. 

Ultimately, I decided on Petal Pink!  With snowstorm Jonas hitting our city with 70+ mph winds, sleet and was the perfect time for a DIY project!

Rit Dye, Dying Furniture,

First thing I did was pull the cushions off and vacuum the entire chair. 

Then, I mixed the dye. I used two cups of very hot water with two caps of dye.  Initially, I started out with one cap, but the color was too light. This part will be trial and error. Start out very conservative and add more dye to achieve the color you want. Be sure to use gloves and have a roll of paper towels in arms reach. Also keep in mind, different fabric will produce different results. Find an inconspicuous area to test your mixture. 

Dying furniture, rit dye

I got to work...I used a paint brush to apply the dye solution to the chair. This is not for the faint of heart. The whole time I applied the dye, I was thinking to big dummy....why did you do this...I'm certain I'll end up having to reupholster these chairs....what was I thinking....

rit dye, dying furniture, DIY
(This is after the first application, I went over each chair twice)

But guess what....I just kept going! I did see another tutorial where they sprayed the mixture onto the fabric and saturated it. I tried this method as well, but ultimately, I found that I got the best results by using a paint brush. 

Dying furniture, rit dye, diy
(attempting the spray method on the second chair)

You will need to go up and down, side to side, heavily saturating the fabric.  This will ensure you get a consistent and uniformed appearance. I also took paper towels and blotted some areas that looked darker than others (just as you would when trying to remove a stain from carpet or clothing). Always be sure to have paper towels or a couple of old towels close by. Remember, you are saturating the fabric, the solution will run. It's don't want it running where it is not supposed to! I went through three rolls of paper towels during this process.  

Note: Remember, I was using this dye on a synthetic fabric. Which means, it did not absorb the dye quickly.  I noticed that on a couple of dish towels, the color appeared much darker.  So please please be sure you test prior to going crazy.

diy, dying furniture, rit dye
See how much darker the pink is on the white cotton kitchen towels

I continued to work the dye into the fabric until I achieved the look I desired.  The chairs took overnight to dry.  The cushions were still slightly damp the next morning.  Here is what the chair looked like while drying.

dying furniture, rit dye, diy

Once I got the dyeing out of the way (and the chairs were fully dried), I was ready to tackle the next step: painting the wood trim white! I didn't tape any of the fabric on the chairs, I simply cut-in...carefully.  If you are a messy painter, I suggest you tape any area that you don't want paint!  I used left over Annie Sloan, in Pure White.  Let me tell you, I LOVE chalk paint. It's easy! I painted the trim AFTER dyeing, because I didn't want the dye to soak into my paint...leaving me with pink splotches all over my white wood!

diy, dying furniture, rit dye
Pay no mind to the "assistant" in the background. Our Ollie boy likes to be right by my side at ALL times. He "may" have ended up with a white tail....

Chalk paint dries FAST! The paint doesn't glide on the surface like it does with traditional paint. You can remedy this by keeping a cup of water next to you. I do one dip of paint and then a small dip of water (to the tip of my bush) and the paint has a perfect consistency. 

rit dye, dying furniture, diy
Those are not darker spots in the fabric, if you know how microfiber works, you can brush in one way or the other and it creates a darker shadow, the fabric is perfectly even.

Here are a couple of closeup pictures, so that you can see how evenly the color dried

dying furniture, diy, rit dye

annie sloan paint, diy, rit dye, dying furniture

Once your piece is done, if you have any concerns of the dye bleeding onto clothing, you can scotchguard the fabric.  However, I have tested the dyed fabric by rubbing a scrap piece of light fabric over the surface, and nothing is transferring. After discussing the scotchgard option with my husband, I opted to not scotchgard.  I told you I was highly indecisive...I worry that if I scotchgard, and decide to re-dye the chair a different color in the future, the new color won't penetrate the fabric.  If you know for certain this is the color for you...go for it!

Are you ready to see the finished product.....
dying furniture, diy, annie sloan paint, diy, chalk paint

Rit Dye, DIY, annie sloan, chalk paint, dying furniture

I couldn't be more pleased with the results. I took a chance, and the process exceeded my expectations....but the best part (I was saving this for last)...I was only out the expense of the dye....a whopping $4.50! That's right, this project cost me roughly four hours of work and less than five dollars. 

What do you think, will you try this instead of reupholstering?



  1. That is amazing! Your end result, all of it, is beautiful!

  2. I would never ever try this, but I LOVE it! It looks amazing! I'm just a scaredy cat!

  3. I absolutely love it when someone goes out on a limb and tries something a little "scary"! I don't know if I will ever get the chance to try this, although now I really want to, but thank you so much for the detailed steps and pictures. Your chairs turned out beautiful!

  4. You have guts and it paid off ! The chairs look fantastic - I tried painting upholstery last summer with disastrous results. Your way would have looked better, been softer to touch and saved $$ ... now I know. Great job !

  5. Wow that looks amazing. I would've been so nervous! I've probably told you this a million times, but blush and navy are our wedding colors this coming September, and I am SO into this!

    Alyssa | Glitter and Grey

  6. This turned out sooo beautiful!! I have an old piece from overstock that I would love to transform! I may have to try this.

  7. There are a wide variety of finishes and treatments that effect how the upholstery fabric will perform for you. The type of backing applied to the upholstery fabric also produces the end result for you. Once you see how the different parts of the fabric make-up, you will be better able to make good fabric decisions for your home.

  8. There are a wide variety of finishes and treatments that effect how the upholstery fabric will perform for you. The type of backing applied to the upholstery fabric also produces the end result for you. Once you see how the different parts of the fabric make-up, you will be better able to make good fabric decisions for your home.

  9. These are adorable! I recently painted a wing chair upholstery and the shorter fiber material is still soft, like pleather. However a second chair I purchased for $25 is more like a velour and painting it was NOT working. I had also picked up some RIT die. Still waiting to see how it dries. You are so right, there are so few posts about dying upholstery versus painting. I really appreciate your post!!

  10. Excellent work on color painting on the furniture fabric, inspiring a lot. As a carpenter i think i can try this out on my furniture.

  11. Side chairs are versatile pieces of furniture that you can use in dining rooms, kitchens, and even with home bars. Choosing a dining chair depends on your purpose and requirements.My blog

  12. I have a white couch, lots of pillows, a matching chair and a half with an ottoman. I'm going for it!
    The furniture is in a tv room where my grandsons sleep when visiting. I'm psyched!
    I'm buying the Rit tomorrow, thank you so much for the advice.

  13. Wow ! It is best piece of side chair that you make it so attractive after dyeing it with light pink, I love this color. To get satisfactory products from victoria bc furniture stores, visit on woodfurnitureco.

  14. Nice post. I was looking like this. Really it is very useful and informative post. Thanks for sharing. Thanks again! Get More Info

  15. I just purchased 2 used sofas. They are clean, soft and in good shape, but the green color isn't great. I love how your chairs turned out, so I am going to try to Rit dye the sofas a medium gray. I will try to share before and after photos. Thank you!

  16. I am a furniture manufacturer, so I have to be very conscious while the right fabric for upholstered furniture so that it fits into the budget and helps adding beauty to the furniture sets as well. I felt nice reading the information published at Ideas Unlimited as it helps knowing the significant factors that cannot be ignored while choosing the best fabric for all furniture types.

  17. I'm considering this project with a chaise ... I'm wondering if you have had any problem with the dye running?

  18. This was great! I found many other websites that only gave directions on how to dye slipcovers. Thanks to your courage I'm ready to dye my dining room chairs!