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

December 17, 2015

Wintry Tablescape + DIY Dyed Doily

Wintry teal and white tablescape
Table setting with vintage doilies and Iittala

Although I love my framed Hungarian embroidery, I can't say I'm a huge doily fan.  I never thought they'd pique my interest until one day my Mom mused, "I wonder how easily we could dye doilies..."  Excuse me, did someone say teal?  I'd never thought about dyeing doilies!!  Lucky for me, my Mummu had a stash of about 100 - every size and shade you could imagine - so I tried a little doily dyeing experiment.

Projects with vintage doilies

I earmarked five doilies for dyeing and dyed them along with some napkins in my washing machine.  It was so easy!

How to dye doilies


Choosing Doilies to Dye in the Machine:

If you're machine dyeing, as opposed to hand dyeing, there's a risk that the doilies could become a bit stretched or mangled in the machine.  My machine is fairly gentle, but I've used washers that really whip the clothes around - even on a gentle cycle.  Choose doilies with a more dense, less frilly pattern, because they will hold up to washing better.  If you have a sentimental doily, use a hand dyeing method, just in case.  Cotton will take the dye better than synthetic doilies.

How to Machine Wash Doilies:
Set the machine to a small load and fill with hot water.  Add the cup of salt and dissolve.  While the machine is filling, soak the doilies in hot water and set aside.  When the washing machine is full, add 1 bottle of Rit Dye, close the lid, and let it agitate for a minute.  Then toss in the wet doilies, making sure they aren't folded or bunched - I also added some napkins.  In total, the weight of my fabric was a pound, so a half bottle of dye would be sufficient, but for bright/dark colours, doubling the dye is recommended.

I let the machine agitate for seven minutes, then removed a doily, rinsed it with cold water until the water ran clear, and then hung it up to dry.  I re-set the machine and again, after seven minutes, removed another doily and repeated the rinsing process.  I wanted subtle colour differences, but you could leave them all in there for the duration of the dye bath.  I kept re-setting the machine so the dye bath was always agitating and in total, it took about  30-45 minutes.  I then let the machine finish the cycle and hung up the doilies and napkins to dry.  Then I ran an empty load through the machine with bleach to clean it out.

Can you dye a vintage doily in the machine? Yes!

After dyeing, the doilies felt a bitter stiffer but I was surprised how well they held up in the machine!  Either the agitation or the very hot water caused some to pucker ever so slightly, but that was easily remedied by misting the doilies with water and then steaming them flat with my iron.  No dye was released during this process and by coaxing them back into shape, they once again returned to their normal, flat selves - and they softened too.  Here's a look at the same doily pictured on the left, above, once it was ironed:

Teal and white modern vintage tablescape
How to decorate with vintage doilies
DIY Teal Doily

I layered the teal doilies on my teak dining table, along with a collection of white ones - I chose patterns that reminded me of snowflakes.  If you're really committed to a doily runner, you could easily stitch them together, or sew them on to a contrasting table cloth.  I just laid them down on top of each other - so simple!

I added some vintage plates, my matching napkins, a part of my Iittala Festivo candle holder collection, Iittala Kastehelmi mulled wine cups, my glittering Christmas balls, and - to warm up this wintry palette - my vintage bronze flatware.  Now I'm totally smitten with doilies and want to try dyeing a batch a brighter aqua or maybe mint or coral...

Iittala festivo collection
Teal and white holiday table
How to style a dining table for Christmas
Decorating the table for the holidays
Teal and white table setting for the holidays
DIY Doily table runner


  1. Wow! I'm like you, not a big doily fan, but yours are gorgeous. I'd have to do it by hand, once my machine gets going the door is locked and it's a pain to get into.

    1. Thank you!!

      Your machine sounds fancy! I think dyeing things enthralls me in part because it's one of the perks of having a lousy old washing machine, lol.

      Hand dyeing is just as straight forward, but a little more labor intensive. The dye bottle will have a formula for dye to water ration, and you can do it in an old pot on the stove, or just use really hot tap water in a sink/bucket. The dye bath needs to be agitated the whole time, so it's just a matter of stirring it continuously for half an hour.

  2. Tanya, the doilies came out beautiful. Between the doilies and candles the centerpiece is stunning. After seeing your collection of Iittala candle holders I bought several (17)...I made the mistake of getting the round candles; think I like your teardrop ones, so much better. I have the candle holders in all sizes now except the 5 ringed one...and am working on getting that one!

    1. 17? Wow!! Congratulations on finding so many - they can be tough to track down, and I'm so happy you've found so many. I know they look so beautiful in a large grouping - you must be thrilled. I hope you find the 5-ringed one soon! I like the round candles myself but these were the only ones I could find here. The round is what my Mummu had in hers, so maybe I'm sentimental about them?

  3. Looks cool, Tanya. I, too, did a dye job a few months ago for the first time using my machine. I threw in napkins and a blanket, and now they're all fuchsia. So easy!

    1. It's scary dyeing something in the machine for the first time, isn't is? When I dyed a dress a few years ago, I had no idea what to expect because I'd only hand dyed before that. Would my machine stain? Dye all my clothes? I had nightmares, lol. But once I realized the machine was safe, it's addictive!
      So excited to hear you tried the fuschia! I want to try some brighter hues next!

  4. Lovely! The doilies really take to dyeing, beautifully.

    1. Thank you! I didn't know what to expect, and I wondered if the hot water and agitation would ruin them but these doilies were so durable! And they took the colour so well. I might be dyeing another batch...

  5. I am drowning in doilies! It seems like every PA German woman of a certain age churned them out by the hundreds. You just gave me inspiration for next years table, I'm thinking dark purple and dark green.

    I love that flatware! Where did you get it? I bought something similar for the new cabin kitchen but in polished stainless.

    1. Ooo, I love the idea of dark purple and dark green! Rit Dye has formulas on their website and for a really dark shade, you might need to add some black and make a custom formula - otherwise it might end up a tad pale. This was certainly lighter than I expected.

      The flatware was thrifted. It's solid bronze, made in Thailand in the 1970s (maybe 60s?). It came in a teak case, which was neat. There were many different styles produced and if you search eBay for "bronze flatware (or cutlery) thailand, you'll see similar styles pop up. Unfortunately, there was no name for this design/pattern in the box and I haven't yet had the chance to identify it.

  6. I have quite a few doilies which are aged and a bit stained, but I've never thought of diying them, these look amazing!

    1. The largest one had a few stains from age that the dye covered completely.

  7. I never thought there could be anything decorative with doilies until you posted this. My grandma used to bring a couple of those whenever she visits us. I will definitely get them dyed in purple and probably put them in our living room. These look really awesome!

    1. Thanks! Purple sounds lovely - hopefully your grandma won't mind :)

  8. This is super cute. I love the dyed doilies! I saw something similar a couple of years ago, but they were starched and glittered. I didn't starch and glitter mine because I'm afraid of glitter, but I did stitch them together for my annual Christmas runner. I love your bronze flatware, too, and especially that it's vintage. You see so much now, but it's mostly new. I found some Dirilyte at a flea market that set me on a mission to complete my set and now w use it full time! I love the old semi-tarnished look to it and haven't bothered to shine it up to its slogan "Sunshine on your table." I love your vintage dishes, too. I wish I had a color I loved, then it would be easier to commit.

    1. I have a similar fear of glitter! I am still finding glitter in the seams of my kitchen counter from using it as a backdrop for holiday projects and photos last year!

      I haven't shined my flatware either. I bought some brasso, but I am scared of ruining it, but a few pieces did end up in the dishwasher by mistake and they really tarnished. Oops. That's so awesome that could complete your set!

      I do find myself loving other color palettes and colours but I stay committed to my blues and greens. Like you say, it makes it easy to commit and because everything "goes," I find I use all of my stuff.


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