the pink sweater

How to Dye a Cashmere Sweater

I am so grateful to all the people out there who buy cashmere new and the minute it gets a little stain, or a seam starts to come apart, or it starts to pill, they donate it to a thrift store! I might judge them a little in my heart of hearts, but that is quickly outweighed by the fact that, thanks to them, I have FOUR new cashmere sweaters in my life!

the pink sweater

So when I came across this deep v-neck cashmere sweater with three-quarters length sleeves in a petite cut–it was like it had been made JUST FOR ME….except for the really unfortunate shade of Pepto-Bismol pink. Seriously, that color was almost a deal breaker! If only it were a barest blush pink, or a deep rose, or berry….which got me thinking about what colors of dye I had in my supplies…

Could I have gone and bought another color, or a darker pink/berry? Sure, but one of my big goals with my craftwork is to buy less, and just use what I have. I found a box of purple powdered RIT dye in my supplies, and since purple ostensibly has a little pink (red) already in it, I realized it would be the perfect shade for this project.

purple dye bath

In my dye experience, RIT tends to come out a little muted, unlike procion dyes, but again, my goal was to work with as many supplies as I already had as possible. And where RIT is lacking in intensity of color, it makes up for it in ease of use! However, that ease of use was dependent upon a HOT dye bath. I’d used RIT with lots of silks and cottons–Could I dye a cashmere sweater without ruining it by felting it? I jumped online and found this article by Lucy Dale, who describes in thorough detail, except…. she didn’t exactly address my concern that my hot dye bath would completely felt my perfectly-fitting sweater! So I dug a little deeper and found this write-up by “Dizzy Lettuce,” who notes that “THE MOST IMPORTANT THING WITH DYEING WOOL OR CASHMERE IS TO KEEP THE GARMENT AT THE SAME TEMPERATURE. It’s the ‘shock’ of moving from hot to warm or cold that will cause shrinking and felting.”


With this advice, I proceeded to follow Lucy Dale’s instructions, and voilà! My newly-purpled sweater, in a lovely periwinkle.  It didn’t absorb as much of the dye as I had hoped, but I chalked that up to the nature of the experiment, and the color still goes lovely with plenty of the rest of my clothes.  Besides, I could always dye it again (darker) at some point in the future!

Times like these, I feel like a magician: transforming something I would never wear into one of my favorite sweaters!

I am also grateful to my friend sniqurz, who found my latest cashmere addition, a lacy forest green number that filled a long-standing hole in my wardrobe! ❤

And while we’re on the subject of cashmere…check out this interesting article about the sustainability of cashmere (it’s not), and a possible alternative. Maybe this is the preview to my next knit project?

And to tie this entry up, I feel like it is only appropriate to share the amazing collaboration that is the album Cashmere, by the Swet Shop Boys. You can listen to it on Spotify.



    1. Hi! Sorry for the late reply! Thanks to you, I’m getting my notifications looked at by support!
      I might be wrong, but I think what shocks the cashmere is changing different water temperatures, once it is already wet. When I went from dry room-temperature to hot water, the fiber didn’t react (thank goodness). Then again, maybe that is due to a treatment on the fibers, to make them more resilient? It seems to me that your solution of heating it up slowly on the stove would achieve the same effect! I will have to experiment with that technique next time.


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