Dyeing my Supplex nylon Macabi skirts with acid dye

Several years ago I fell in love with these travel skirts, called Macabi Skirts. They’re made of Supplex nylon, weigh practically nothing, and dry very quickly. I wear them spring/summer/fall with t-shirts or tank tops, and in the winter with leggings underneath. I wore my black one to the Seattle opera once, with plan black mary janes and a rayon top and a fancy scarf (I looked great). The pockets are so voluminous and yet slim-profile that I often don’t even need a purse (there’s even a secure zipper pocket for your wallet). They also have a nifty way of clipping up until pants or shorts, via a strap. It looks weird, but I don’t care, and honestly, after the first year I stopped noticing the staring. It’s so handy to walk beaches or be on the boat with the skirt hitched up. It’s also great walking trails, although I haven’t done that in awhile.

Basically, they go anywhere and do anything, and I’m a devoted fan.

So devoted, that I’ve collected almost one of every color. But over the years I haven’t felt too fond of the new purple, the green and the light blue.

Here’s the green (that isn’t me, it’s a product photo from the Macabi Skirt website):

Unfortunately, this photo of the green skirt looks darker and richer than in real life. It’s actually a pretty light color, and not as saturated as I’d like.

Similar problem with the purple:

It’s so lovely! But in real life, lighter and less saturated.

The old blue color doesn’t seem to be on their website anymore, but I’d describe it as a dusty blue. It’s a nice color on its own and I’ve worn it a lot, but I’ve often found myself wishing the color were more indigo and (you’ll notice a trend here) deeper and more saturated.

I was looking through Dharma Trading’s website, you know, as you do, and came across “acid dyes”. I don’t know much about dyeing except for doing tye-dye jobs to t-shirts and socks and that sort of thing, so I was interested to learn that acid dyes worked on “protein” fabrics: wool, silk, some leather, and….nylon.

It never occurred to me that you could dye nylon. Since it’s a man-made fabric, I figured the color was just intrinsic to the material somehow. I suppose this line of reasoning breaks down when you consider how they must come up with all those colors of nylon (dye must be added at some point in the process), but I figured it was largely a technical process done in manufacturing, not something you could tweak later in a finished garment.

Well, turns out some nylons you can dye. I emailed Dharma to ask about dyeing Supplex, and they weren’t sure what my results would be. But I’ve had these skirts long enough that I felt okay with screwing one up. If I needed to replace it, I could. And the truth was, I rarely wore the green or purple because I just wasn’t into them anyway. Might as well take the risk and try the dyes. 

I started with the green. It came out beautifully! Since I had no idea what would happen, I decided to just make it easy and simply dye each skirt to be a darker, more saturated version of itself. 

Forgive the mess that is my sewing/watercolor/aromatherapy room. LOOK AT THAT SKIRT. It’s a luscious forest green, just perfect, exactly what I wanted. I was thrilled.

And then I saw the purple and it was just…..looooove. I loooove the purple sooooo muuuuch.

It’s just a PLUM BEAUTY, I can’t wear it enough. I’m wearing it as a type this. I’m visiting family in California and I was supposed to wear pants today because I traveled in the purple skirt yesterday, but I had a really bad panic attack this afternoon, and I literally put on the purple skirt because that color comforts me so much. Color is therapy.

The one thing to be aware of with dyeing things (these skirts or anything else) is that the thread used to hold garments together is often polyester, and won’t dye with the garment. The thread remains its original color. So in the now-forest green skirt, the thread is a pale lime green. In the purple skirt, it’s a pale lavendar. I don’t mind, and even like the look, but others may not. YMMV.

The blue turned out similarly, deep blue indigo, and I LOVE IT, but I wasn’t able to get a picture of that one, I’d packed it already. I’ll try to add a photo of that one later.

In preparation for this trip, where I knew I’d be at the pool in the sun a lot, I bought a rash guard from Lands End to protect my tattooed arms and keep my back from burning to a crisp. I bought a white one:

Material: 91% nylon/9% Lycra® spandex.

It isn’t that I love white, it’s that I wasn’t a fan of the other colors. White was the least bad.

Well, it’s now purple. But it didn’t turn the same shade as the skirt, it had a little more pink to it. It looks great!

Again, note the white thread – most threads won’t dye. You really have to dig that look if you want to do this.

I hope this helps other intrepid dyers and Macabi skirt owners! I’m so inpsired by this, it took hardly any time on the stove to do the actual dye jobs. I did have to pull up a stool to stir the pot, with the CFS I can’t stand and stir for hald an hour. But after it comes out of the dye bath you just wash and dry, and that’s it!

 

 

 

2 comments

  1. Susan Shaver says:

    Wow, thank you! I was just thinking of dying a Makabi that I didn’t like the color of! it is called ‘stone’ – sort of a khaki color with too much yellow in it for me. I don’t really like yellows (make me look ill) or light browns. Do you have any Ideas of what color dye would work? I do like greens and teals but I have no idea what would happen over the original color.

    Also, would you be willing to name the colors that you used for your purple and green dyes?

    • Sewbiwan says:

      Hi Susan!

      I have a skirt in the “stone” color as well, although it works for me! 🙂 So I haven’t tried dying that one yet. However, I DID have a pair of Columbia hiking pants in a shade of khaki that I didn’t care for. I dyed those green and they came out great. For khaki I would try almost anything. I don’t think yellow would work well, and I’m not sure what grey would do. Green, red, blue, purple would all probably work well. Orange would likely be great, too. You’d just have to keep in mind the original color, and try to imagine what that original color would do when added to your new color, and then try to tweak accordingly. That’s what I did, anyway!

      The colors I used were Dharma Acid Dyes, and they are:

      452 Forest Green
      405 Deep Purple
      487 Indigo Blue

      Good luck! Let me know what happens!

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