So it took a lot longer than anticipated to strip the colour out of all my nylons. 1) there were a lot of them, and 2) I ran out of the magic powder – fabric colour remover – found at Walmart in the craft section. That stuff rocks! And it’s dirt cheap.
I needed one box each in two to three consecutive pots of water to do one load of nylons. I had three loads of nylons. Each pot took an hour to process from start to finish – that’s nine hours of processing. Most of the nylons are a light cream or white now. There are a few different coloured ones. I’ll have enough nylons for my rug hooking for years!
So I started Thursday and by Friday late afternoon I’d finished stripping the colour out of them. I put them in the washing machine for a final wash. Saturday was dye day.
Steps to stripping nylons:
First, let me say you do NOT have to strip colour out of nylons before using them or dyeing them, especially if you’re using black nylons to outline, or dyeing regular nylons a darker colour. If you know colour theory well enough, you can figure out what colours you can get by overdyeing a particular colour of nylons with another colour. Dark browns and beautiful dark greens can come from overdyeing nylons. Experiment!
For the purposes of explaining the process from start to finish, I’m going to start at the very beginning and go through stripping colour and dyeing the regular beige nylons that are so common.
Step 1: Acquire nylons (a.k.a. pantyhose). Some of mine were given to me, some came from the thrift store for half off of 99 cents on sale day. That’s 50 cents a pair. Don’t buy ones with sequins and sparkles as they don’t form a nice rope to hook. Also avoid netted ones and ones with seams down the back.
Step 2: Bring them home and wash them in your washing machine and dryer…even the new ones from packages. This is to remove any finishes on them.
Step 3: Cut the panty part off and find another use for it or recycle. Soak the legs, or hose part, overnight to wet them.
Step 4: Set a big pot used only for dyeing, and half full of water, on the stove to boil. Once boiling turn to a simmer and add the colour remover. Stir with a utensil dedicated to dyeing. Add nylons. Don’t add too many. I think that was why mine took so long. About five to ten pairs is enough, or ten to twenty legs of hose.
Step 5: Stir continuously for 20-30 minutes. My best advice is to follow the colour remover package instructions. You may need to leave the nylons in the solution a tad longer, depending on how many nylons are in the pot, how dark a colour they were to start with, and your stove.
Step 6: Remove nylons from pot and put in sink to rinse. Empty pot water down sink drain.
Step 7: Fill pot up with fresh water and repeat Steps 4 thru 6. You may have to do these steps a third time if you’re looking for a really white nylon and you started with darker ones.
Step 8: Once you’ve reached your desired colour, rinse the nylons with a mild detergent and water. I use DAWN (the blue one) or Synthrapol. At this point you can wash and dry them in your washing machine and dryer to store for later use.
I use ProChem acid dyes. But any acid dye will work. I’ve also dyed nylons with Majic Carpet dyes. I use citric acid to set the dyes. Check with your nearby pharmacy or rug hooking supplier for citric acid. Dyes are available from rug hooking suppliers and online through ProChem’s website.
Step 1: You will need utensils, pots, and clothing dedicated to dyeing fibre only. I am assuming you have all this, know how to use it, and have dyed fibre before.
Step 2: Soak nylons about an hour before dyeing.
Step 3: If you are wanting to dye multiple colours at one time, get a big enamel roaster big enough to hold enough wide mouthed quart canning jars as you want colours. Or you can dye one colour at a time in one pot. These instructions are for one colour in a pot. Fill the pot halfway with water. Put on stove, but do not turn the stove on yet!
Step 4: Mix your dye solution. That is, measure out the dye powder according to the dye formula (recipe) you’re using, and place it in a one cup glass measuring cup dedicated to dyeing only. Add boiling water to make one cup. Stir until dye powder is dissolved.
Step 5: Place the solution in the pot of water. Stir. Add wet nylons. Stir and dip in and out if you want even colour. Just a note though, part of the beauty of dyeing nylons is the variety of shades of one colour that you achieve. They are not all one colour to start with, and so aren’t all one exact colour in the end. If you stuff the pot full of nylons and don’t dip them, you can achieve a gorgeous spot dye effect.
Turn on the burners and bring the dye bath to a simmer.
If you want an even colour, dip nylons continuously for 5 minutes, then every 5 minutes for the next 15 minutes, then put the lid on and let simmer another 15 minutes.
Step 6: Mix your setting agent. I use 1 tsp. of citric acid to one cup boiling water for about 20 pairs of nylons. Stir till it dissolves. Remove nylons from the pot and add the citric acid solution. DO NOT be alarmed if the nylons aren’t the colour you’d hoped, especially if there is still colour in the dye bath. Once you add the nylons after the citric acid, they will suck up all the colour and change colour themselves.
Step 7: Return the nylons to the pot, dipping continuously and stirring constantly to make sure all surfaces are evenly exposed to the citric acid.
Step 8: Cover and simmer them for 30-45 minutes. Check the dye bath. The water should be clear. If not, turn the stove off and let the nylons cool in the water. As it cools more dye will be soaked up.
Step 9: Remove from pot into a nearby sink and rinse. Once the pot of water has cooled the water can be put down the drain. You can squeeze excess water out of the nylons and either hang dry them or dry them in your dryer, depending how many you have.
Step 10: You can admire and photograph your dye job. If you want, you can cut the nylons into balls of usable yarn right away, or store as is for later use. I tend to do the latter and only cut into yarn as needed.
To use nylons in rug hooking, or to make nylon “yarn”: Cut in a spiral from the top of the leg to the toe, making cuts 1/2”-1” apart, depending on what width strips you normally hook. I hook a #6 and like my nylons cut 3/4” apart on the spiral section. Then, starting at one end of the nylon, grab the first 12 inches or so and give it a sharp lengthwise tug. Voilà! It will form a nice rope for hooking.
I hope this tutorial has been useful to people wanting to turn nylons into “yarn” for rug hooking and other projects.
If you have been, thanks for reading! Have a great week!