Friday, September 13, 2013

How to dye silk flowers

This post has moved to my new blog at Head over there :)

All my hand-dyed silk gladiolus (with one bunch of white, undyed
flowers for contrast)
This post goes along with my post on my wedding flowers. Since two of the colors in my rainbow color scheme don't exist in nature, and the purple was hard to match perfectly, I dyed silk gladiolus in three colors: teal, blue, and purple. 

I didn't like any of the online tutorials I found, so I came up with my own method based on several tutorials I found for faux-dyeing fabric with acrylic paint, shown in the pictures below.

**Not all acrylic paints are created equal! I had lots of success with Apple Barrel brand, but the Folk Art brand was horrible for me. The purple turned out much lighter than I wanted, despite multiple rounds of dipping.**

My method involved using acrylic paint and fabric
medium (I used Martha Stewart because it was the only
kind I could find). Mix the paint and fabric medium as
instructed by the fabric medium (mine recommended
a 2:1 ratio, I think). Add water. The more water you
add, the lighter the color will be. I'd recommend about
a 1:1 ratio of water to the rest of the mix. 

I mixed a blue and green color together
to get the perfect shade of teal.
The husband helped a bit!
I covered the flower stamen with a little "condom" made
from duct tape to prevent the dye from getting on the
yellow part. 
I covered the flower stamen with a little "condom" made
from duct tape to prevent the dye from getting on the
yellow part. 
Then I dipped the flower in the dye, petals facing down.
I dabbed off any excess dye with a paper towel and q-tip.
Then, I wiped off the stamen (The yellow part)
immediately if they did get any dye on them.
To dye the buds, I pulled off the plastic bottoms and
flipped the leaves away so they didn't get dye on them.
I didn't figure this out right away, so some of the teal
and blue flowers aren't as perfect.
It was very important to have a paper towel ready to draw
all the excess dye away from the yellow stamen.
Drying blue flowers.
Drying blue flowers, off the stem.
After drying (this is very important), you need to heat set the dye so it doesn't bleed if the flowers get wet. I did this with a hair dryer. I don't have a picture of the process, but it's pretty self explanatory. Just blow dry the flowers for a few minutes.

I think the colors match well! The teal
flowers are shown with the waistband
of the teal dress.
Really, if you didn't know which flowers
were dyed by me, would you be able to tell? 
If you haven't already, check out the final products in this post. The florist incorporated silk flowers in with real flowers for the bouquets and church arrangements, and we mixed these hand-dyed flowers with other silk flowers for the table centerpieces. The best part is that these flowers never die, and I have flowers in every color of the rainbow for my decorating purposes. Our guests were allowed to take their centerpieces home, but we still were left with a lot of them. It's ok, though, because they're fake :)


  1. hi, thanks for much for this post. i want to dye some of my flowers with acrylics too and you have inspired me!

    i was wondering, how long did you keep the flower in the dye mix (seconds, minutes, longer?)

    and then how long did you air dry them for before blow-drying them with a hair dryer?

    I am quite paranoid about the dye running and destorying my dress, did you have any problem with that?

    thanks a lot again! your flowers looked amazing!

  2. Thank you! Here are the answers to your questions:
    1) I held them in for seconds and adjusted the color by adjusting how concentrated the paint was. For the purple ones, which were the lightest, I think I just double dipped them rather than holding them in longer because eventually more dye just led to pooling of the dye and not darker colors. So, I would hold them in for about 10-15 seconds, let them dry, and then redip those flowers.

    2) I let them dry until they felt dry to touch. Since I was doing so many, this basically amounted until I finished another color (like if I did the blue first, I set them aside while I did the teal, and then I came back and used the hair dryer on the teal). Then, I think to play it safe, I let them all sit overnight and went over them again with the hair dryer to make sure the colors were set in.

    3) I didn't have any problem with the colors running. You could do a few things to lower your risk: 1) make sure you follow the instructions on the fabric medium regarding the ratio of fabric medium to everything else - fabric medium is designed to be used on clothing that can be machine washable, so the colors shouldn't bleed if it's used properly, 2) use my hair dryer tip from above - let them dry, use the hair dryer to heat set, and then the next day use the hair dryer again just to be safe, and 3) test your dye in a dish of warm water once you think everything is set to make sure it doesn't run. I didn't have any problems, so hopefully you won't either!

    1. Noticed two typos in my response and can't figure out how to edit - in #2, I meant that "this basically amounted to finishing another color" and I meant that I did the blue first, set them aside while I did the teal, and then I came back and used the hair dryer on the BLUE.

  3. Hi, thanks a lot for that, that is very helpful! i will be testing it at xmas along with other diy wedding projects, so will follow your tips.

  4. Good technique. Nowadays, the craze of artificial flowers is higher when compared to the natural flowers.