Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

March 24, 2015

DIY Dip Dyed Napkins Tutorial + Video

Yesterday I shared photos of the backyard oasis I created, plus the beautiful pictures from my Greek honeymoon that served as my inspiration.

DIY dip dyed napkin and DIY beaded napkin ring

Today I'm sharing the tutorial - with video! - for my DIY dip dyed napkins.  Read on for my "how to dip dye" tutorial - plus tips, tricks and troubleshooting advice.

Mediterranean inspired tablescape

Dip dyeing is really easy - the hardest part was finding a basic white linen napkin!  Most white napkins were "stain resistant," which I figured would resist the dye.  In a pinch, you could whip up some inexpensive ones using this cloth napkin tutorial, but I chose to drive around, wild-eyed, to every store in town instead.  Success!

White linen napkins
White linen napkin eyelet detail

Because I was dyeing six napkins, I tried a shortcut that I don't recommend!  I created a dye bath in a huge plastic tub and then hung each napkin on a pant hanger.  I placed all of the hangers on a long rod and my Mom helped my dip them all at once.  I thought this would create an even look, but dye rubbed off some onto others and there was unfortunate splattering - I definitely recommend just doing one at a time!  It really doesn't take long to dip dye a napkin.

Dip dye tutorial
Dip dye troubleshooting and tips

To learn how to do it the right way, you can read the dip dyeing tutorial below, or check out my dip dyeing video!

  • 2 Bottles of Rit Dye (I chose Royal Blue and Navy)
  • Large plastic tub
  • Hot, hot, hot water - I mixed a kettle of boiling water with super hot tap water
  • Stir stick
  • 1 cup of salt
  • Rubber gloves 
  • An apron to protect clothing
  • White linen or cotton napkins (this set seems nice, as does this one)

How to dip dye

  • Wash the napkins and set aside (do not dry)
  • Cover your work surface with drop cloths and put on rubber gloves
  • Create the dye bath, following the manufacturer's instructions (using only the Royal Blue)
  • Add a cup of salt to the dye bath and stir
  • Dip in the still-wet napkin to the highest point you'd like the dye
  • Lift the napkin and dip again, to the same point
  • Keep the napkin moving in and out of the dye bath, until the first "level" is as dark as you'd like it
  • Keep dipping, but this time don't dip it so deep in the dye bath - dip, dip, dip
  • Dip each "level" for about 3-5 minutes - remember, it will fade after the first rinse & wash
  • Keep repeating this process, gradually raising the height of the napkin
  • When you have only the very bottom left to dye, add the Navy
  • Hold the bottom of the napkin in the darkened dye bath for 3-5 minutes
  • When the dyeing is done, rinse the napkins in cold water - running the water away from the white
  • Launder as usual, but beware the dye may tint the white a pale blue

DIY dip dye how-to

The Best Tip for a Beautiful Dip Dyed Project:

Continually moving the napkin up and down helps the gradient to be more subtle - and also keeps the Rit dye from being splotchy (it likes to be agitated during the dyeing process).  Continually moving the fabric creates a softer look than just holding the napkin in the dye bath at various heights, but if you'd prefer harder lines (like Anu's gorgeous dip dyed curtains, below), you can just dip and hold:

Dip dye curtains

I also have a tutorial for these beachy DIY beaded napkin rings

How to dip dye fabric: tips, tricks, and troubleshooting
Beachy napkin rings and dip dyed napkins


  1. You've inspired me to try something like this!

    1. It's as easy and as fun as I imagined it to be! I can't wait to see what you do :)

  2. so amazing! i am hoping to do some curtains when it is warmer!

  3. Looks great! I love shibori too, in fact I'm a wee bit obsessed :)

    1. Have you tried shibori yet? I want to find a couple cheap gauzy white summer shirts and experiment a little...

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks! I'm so thrilled that I finally tried dip dyeing! A small project like this was such a great way to start and get the hang of it.

  5. These are really cute, can't wait to see the other projects. The table scape does really say "Greece"

    I have also been meaning to dye a pair of jeans that have that ugly faded look on the thighs but scared to do so. I bought a pack of navy blue and black dye a while back but haven't taken the plunge, so to speak. Do the lighter areas dye to the same color as the rest or will they still be slightly lighter? I want them that dark inky blue of "dressier" jeans, if there is such a thing. Any tips would be great.

    1. Yay! Happy I succeeded relaying my theme, without being too themey. I just wanted to capture a feeling of being somewhere seaside.

      Good question!! I really should have done a tutorial on the jeans but it was evening when I started and couldn't get a good photo of the "before". I just wanted them done. Mine were faded in the thigh also! Made my legs look nice and HUGE. In my experience, using a navy and black pack of dye (great minds...), they dyed evenly. I think as the dye fades through washings, it will lighten in the thigh first, but it didn't take the dye that way. It ended up really even - my Mom was surprised (she was convinced it wouldn't work). I kept it in the dye bath, agitating, longer than usual (using my washing machine)

    2. Awesome, thanks! Maybe I will get enough courage to do it soon now that someone else has done it.

    3. I took a good look at mine the other day. I think the only drawback is they do fade faster than factory dyed jeans. Mine are still dark, but not AS dark. But then, I've been wearing them non-stop for months because they are crazy-comfortable. Worse comes to worse, you re-dye them at some point. Rit Dye does tend to fade - I'm sure there are better dyes out there. Anyway, good luck! You should IG a before and after :)

    4. I will if I remember when I get around to it. Working on a couple other small things right now that I am procraftinating about

  6. I love this gorgeous idea. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  7. Wow love these napkins, love the effect and love the colour. The blue looks awesome !

  8. They turned out beautifully! How did they wash? Did they fade/spread much?


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