DIYdiy projects

diy project: dip-dye lamp & pillow

by Kate Pruitt

when summer rolls around, i try as hard as possible to freshen up the cave that is my apartment. while the darkness does help to keep rooms cool, the mood can get a little depressing if i don’t inject a jolt of summer here and there. if you have a plain fabric lampshade, pillow, or any scrap fabric lying around, then you can easily create a completely new set of home textiles that have a lovely airiness and fresh color. dip dye is a very easy process; you can adjust the color saturation in a snap by adding water or dye, and you just keep dipping until you like the results! it’s good to have a few scrap pieces of fabric around for color tests, and a nice outdoor spot or some tarp to work on (as you can probably guess, it can get a bit drippy). you can also mix dyes to make an amazing range of hues, so feel free to experiment. have fun! –kate

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!


1. buckets of various sizes (a small trash can also came in handy)
2. any liquid or powder dye suitable for textiles (i used RIT dye but have also seen these dyes at craft stores. i find liquid easier to work with, but it’s also more expensive)
3. fabric or a pillowcase (pre-washed)
4. fabric lampshade (light colored ones work best)
5. rubber gloves (helpful for keeping hands clean)
6. spray bottle with water

dye: $5-10

1-2 hours (including drying time)

1. mix your dyes in the buckets according to the instructions on the dye packets. most dyes recommend adding warm water. if you have enough buckets, its good to have two buckets with the same color but at different saturation. if you need to use the same bucket for the whole project, and you want an ombre effect, simply start with your dye at its least concentrated, then add dye as you go, continuing to dip the item deeper into the bucket.

2. dampen your fabric or lampshade by spritzing it with water all over. you want it to be damp but not dripping. this helps it take in the dye evenly.

3. slowly dip your fabric or lampshade into the dye. for the pillowcase, you can fold the fabric to a smaller width before dipping; the dye will still create an even horizontal line across the fabric.

4. dip several times at different depths. to create the ombre effect, add dye to your dye bucket after dipping several times,  you will see a darker line of color, blending nicely into the previously dyed area. adjust your dye or water ratio to accordingly to achieve the desired ombre fade. you can always be working with a test strip as you go to test results.

5. once you’ve finished dipping a piece, you can hang it from a clothesline outside (or inside over a scrap towel) to dry. once it is dry beyond dripping, you can place it on  a scrap towel or paper towels to let it dry completely.

6. once the lampshade is completely dry, you can place it back on your lamp! once the fabric is dry, you can sew it into a pillow case. you can also dip-dye napkins, table linens, sheets, etc…just pre-wash them and dampen them before you begin the dye process.


Suggested For You


  • I think we’re on the cusp of a new trend. I’ve been seeing a lot of dip dyed, gradient, and ombré fabrics popping up all over the place lately. I’m a big fan, so I hope it matures into something permanent.

  • I definitely want to do this. I was actually looking for some kind of how-to like this two days ago. I have one of those old fashioned, cream, pleated lampshades (i don’t know what kind of fabric it is). Do you think this technique will work on that?

  • The liquid dyes cost a bit more, but the bottles last a long time. If you live near a chain craft store, you can use their coupon to get the dye at a discount too.

    I love these projects, but would you recommend rinsing or washing the pillowcase after dying to remove any excess that might transfer to other surfaces? Not an issue with the shade, of course.

  • oh this is great! I have some old napkins that I’ve been pondering a new use for. Now I’m going to going to give them a blue makeover!

  • Agreed, Jennifer! I was wondering this myself.

    Also, how does the dipping work with larger pieces of fabric, such as a sheet/tablecloth/shower curtain?

    Seems it would be hard to get a nice even gradient (like the beautiful one achieved on that pillowcase!) if you’ve got a lot of fabric bunched up in a small bucket. Would love any tips as I have a boring white shower curtain that’s making the rest of my bathroom look downright dirty.

  • Thanks for this.. I have two nice linen lamp shades that were once white, but are starting to look a bit dingy. Have been thinking of dying them and this is just the push I needed!

  • laura,

    you can definitely dip dye a larger piece of fabric like this. i recommend buying a large bucket or a cheap trashcan you can put a good amount of dye bath into. if you fold your sheet/shower curtain from left to right, until it is narrow enough to fit in the bucket, but still full length (don’t fold from top to bottom), you should be able to dip the sheet down and the dye will reach all of the fabric evenly. make sure your folds are clean and even, with no wrinkles, and you dip the sheet level to the dye bath, not at an angle- this will keep the gradient even. and yes, you should follow the setting instructions of the dye you purchased before using the fabric on your bed or shower. good luck!

  • What a fun idea and so practical, because just about everyone has an old lampshade they don’t know what to do with. Thanks for helping to keep them out of the landfills.

  • Laura,
    I’ve actually used large, shallow containers (like the ones that are for under-the-bed storage) to dye larger sheets and things too.

  • I love this idea! I live in a Brooklyn cave of my own, can’t wait to try it. Might be fun to get some batik supplies as well and try that on a lampshade. Fun!

  • I just dip dyed a purse this past weekend. I wish I would have had these instructions when I did mine. Love it!

  • Suggestion for the leftover dye: If it’s a dark color, you can use it to overdye any stained/bleach spattered kitchen towels. It’s an experiment if you’re dyeing colored towels, but it’ll blend in any stains, maybe make them look better.

  • I’m a thirteen year old girl looking for DIYs to do without any big power tools (which I don’t have), and this seems pretty cool for a lamp I have in my room… It would look really nice, and I think I’ll definitely try it if I can convince my parents… :)

  • I love the lamp shade! The colors are perfect for what I need. Did you use just orange dye in assorted strengths or add another color to get the darkest shade near the bottom?

  • Really, the fantastic examples! This blog sets a good trend of DIY dyeing projects. The results seen are just amazing. Seems less costlier too. Cheers!