How to Dye New and Vintage Buttons- Tutorial

When I saw that you could dye buttons on the Rit Website I knew I just had to try it. I've been going through my vintage stash of old buttons. I know that I have so many I just couldn't justify buying more. Especially when I found this lovely Kerr jar filled with lots of vintage beauties! Alas, big jars come with lots of buttons. I like the cool ones, so the rest, well, they just get sorted and moved and never used. I also tend to use bright colors so a whole bunch of other colors just sit. I also mainly use big buttons, so all the little buttons get left behind. Its sad. I think you get the gist. So I gathered all the buttons I don't intend on using and put the best in my Etsy shop. Take a look at them here. I did all the work for you.

Rit Dye will color buttons made from nylon and plastic. Some of the buttons I tried did not dye well. I had a lot of transluscent buttons that were very shiny. Those did not take dye as a rule. Many of the vintage buttons that were semi opaque dyed in a wide range from very deep to very pale. My favorite white molded, vintage buttons came out very good or very bad. I threw a few new buttons in the mix. They as a rule took the dye beautifully. The colors were intense and bright. The top photo shows all of the buttons I dyed. You can see how glass and other plastic type buttons did not take any color on.

Here is a good image showing the new buttons in the foreground. The older buttons are behind them.

Here are the tools you will need.
Plastic table cover
Disposable gloves
Measuring cup and spoons
Eye Dropper or Paint Dropper
Disposable cups, bowl, spoons
Rit Dye
Paper Towels
Very Hot Water

Gather all your tools together.

I used 3 colors
Lemon Yellow

They are close to primary colors. I was able to get a nice purple, orange and green by mixing these 3 colors.
They are less than 4 dollars each. I recommend using the liquid dyes. First of all, you wont need to wear a dust mask. You never want to mix powered dyes without respiratory protection.
The liquid dyes are concentrated and you don't need to use as much.

Rit Dye has the formulas for dyeing over 500 colors! To get those recipes click Here.

The Rit Dye website on how to dye buttons is here.
They recommend that you add 1 teaspoon of dye to 1 cup of very hot water. I used a tea kettle to heat the water. I want the dye bath to stay hot for a longer time so I used Styrofoam cups. This dye is heat sensitive. Once it cools it is not as affective. To prolong a dye bath once it has cooled, add very hot or boiling water and add more dye.

I used less than a cup of water. You only need as much water as it takes to submerge your buttons. I also used more than a teaspoon of liquid dye. I wanted the dye bath to have a better concentration of dye to water.

Add your buttons to the dye bath. I recommend dropping them in with a spoon to avoid splashing dye onto your clothing or kitchen floor.

Let the buttons sit in the dye for at least 2-5 minutes. Here is a picture of what they look like after 5 minutes.

I left some of my batches in for 20 minutes. Once the solution cools, the dying process is ineffective, so why leave them in longer? The buttons were a bit darker with the longer dye time, but not by much.
If you want your colors to be more intense, just add more dye.

I decided to try dyeing some secondary colors, green, purple and orange. I just mixed some of the dye colors I had mixed on a disposable plate. Just be sure to cover your buttons completely.

Then rinse and wash in soapy water. I used dish soap and did not see any of the dye come out. Then rinse again and let dry.

I totally recommend putting the drain cover over your sink opening with holes small enough to stop any buttons from going into your garbage disposal. Believe me. Digging them out after you hear that awful clattering is something you or your hubby do not want to hear!

Have fun with your new buttons!

Here are some beautiful examples of fiber art using buttons. I found these on Pinterest. I've added the artist's website when available. I hope you find them very inspirational.
Some of them have tutorials and one site has an Etsy shop which contains lots of amazing vintage buttons. I'll be ordering more soon. Doh! I'm supposed to be destashing! Well, buy some of my vintage buttons here so I can go buy more from someone else.

click here to find Simply Stephy's blog. It will take you to her Etsy shop where you will find more goodies.

Find a cute blog and a tutorial for these cute hair pins at A Home Makers Journal

These are so cute and there is a link to a tutorial on Red Brolley's blog.

I love this mixed media piece. I found this one at Life is A Beautiful Place to Be, which is also a lovely blog to visit.

Here is a simple button bracelet and a tutorial. I found it at Hope Studios

Here are a few more jewelry pieces from the following sites in order of the images shown: Sew Many Ways and An Era's Ambiance Jewelry

Of course you can use buttons on your crazy quilt blocks, glue magnets or thumb tacks on the back to use on your fridge or bulletin board. You can use them as is or stack them for more texture and interest. You can sew them on your favorite blouse or sweater to update it and make it more "you".
Give this craft a try. Its fun and easy!

Here are a few of the buttons I have in my Etsy shop now. You can purchase the buttons I dyed for this tutorial in lots of 100 for only $7.00. You can purchase Lot 1, Lot 2 or Lot 3.

A few more tips when using Rit to dye cloth-
Add salt when dyeing cotton, rayon, linen and ramie.
Add vinegar when dyeing nylon, silk and wool.
To determine how much salt or vinegar to use, go to the Rit Dye website

I hope you give this a try. It was a lot of fun and not too messy. Just don't forget to use your gloves!
Check out my home page by clicking on my logo at the top of the page to see more tutorials and musings on my blog- fiberluscious!


Debbie S. said...

I simply love your dyed buttons. I too have many vintage small buttons. I use some on my crazy quilts but by adding color I will have so much fun using the smaller ones. Thanks so much such an easy to follow tutorial!

Unknown said...

Sweet colors and I have dyed buttons in a microwave with Rit and gloves also for Costuming purposes. thanks for the pincushion tutorial I am going to make some for Gifts!

jen duncan said...

What a great tutorial! Thanks so much :-)

jen duncan said...

What a great tutorial! Thanks so much :-)

Anne said...

This is a great way to add color to a button stash! Most of my stash buttons are white, but the colored buttons are usually more fun to use... I've got a Craft Gossip post scheduled for tomorrow afternoon that features your tutorial: --Anne

Katwatts said...

All I can say is WOW! My mom is an avid button collector. Jars and jars and jars of them, just sitting on the shelf in her quilting room. She just loves buttons. Hmmm. I wonder if I can get my hands on some of those buttons.... Thanks for post this tutorial. It is something I'm just going to have to try. Does this also work on newer buttons or just on the older, vintage buttons?

Heidi V said...

Thank you for this tutorial I have so many white buttons and had no idea I could do this !

Designsbyellen said...

I used to use Rit dye on synthetic plastic pearls and then make jewelry- the colors came out muted, and dusty and were beautiful!

Madame Rosa Fortune Teller said...

I never knew buttons would dye!! Yours look sew kewl!

PTLinda said...

Oh Thank You, Thank You, Thank You! I literally had just logged on to BUY tons of buttons from Soooo many sellers to get the wide range of colors and sizes I need. Yet, even with all those I was still compromising on what I had truly envisioned regarding button shapes, sizes, & of course colors.
But NOW WOW! for the mass quantity of unique colored buttons & also sythetic pearls,etc..(thanks! Designsbyellen!!) that I'll need, I'm going to go this route first. I have hopes for saving much more $$$ AND for increased consistency with ongoing quality control over the sizes vs unique colors I'll be able to have in the long run. Again thanks! Yay!

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

Köszönöm szépen nagyon hasznos ötletekkel lettem gazdagabb.
Márton Mária vagyok.

lizinmt said...

This gave me another dye some costume jewelry (plastic beads) that I love, except for the color! Thanks for the great tutorial!

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