DIY Denim Ombre Napkins

May, 2015 · By Coryanne Ettiene

I’ve got a drawer of vintage napkins that I picked up at a small sale in London years ago, as much as I love them, I rarely use them because their character building age spots make them look tired and worn.  I’ve known for years that I wanted to do something with them, but not sure what…until I was hit by the ombre bug.  On a rainy afternoon a few weeks ago, I turn my kitchen into a color factory, dipping everything that stood still into one color or another.  In the end, I fell madly in love with these denim ombre vintage napkins and I can’t wait to use them at our next summer party.

Denim Ombre Vintage Napkins by Coryanne Ettiene
There are so many conflicting tutorials on dying fabric.  One will tell you to dip it wet, to dip it with vinegar, to dip it dry, to dip in hot water, and so on until you are spinning around with anxiety on which method to choose.  I took all of there advice and blended it because I was not only impatient for a quick result, but because I frankly could not be bothered with all the fuss of too many steps.  That and I did this with my children tie dying shirts at the same time and was like a helicopter flying around mopping up fabric dye at ever turn.

Denim Ombre Vintage Napkins by Coryanne Ettiene


The denim worked well at covering up the age spots of these vintage napkins.  I still remember buying them on that cold December day, I bought the entire collection of napkins from Emma, a 70 year old woman who was selling her wedding linens at the church holiday sale.  Before meeting Emma, I had nothing as fabulous in our tiny London kitchen.  I really had no use for vintage napkins; we never used our kitchen, and our version of entertaining was getting the best table at our favorite night spot and drinking the night away with our friends.  But still, seeing her there, touching her history and knowing that it could be part of mine tugged at my heart and I had no choice but to walk away with everything she had.  Flash forward 20 years, I’m planning our 4th of July table around these denim ombre beauties.

Directions:  I used the liquid denim bottle from Rit, poured half into a large glass mixing bowl with 2 cups of boiling water and a cap full of white vinegar  (I said that I tossed all directions out the window).  With the napkin dry and folded half lengthwise, I dipped an inch into the denim solution, then allowed the fabric to soak upwards. Then dipped it in 2 inches and repeated the process until the color was half way up the napkin.  Once the die was in place, I clipped the dry end of the napkin onto a hanger and allowed it to drip dry for 20 minutes over the sink, and then rinsed the fabric so that the top of the napkin was always at the top, allowing the die to wash downwards towards the colored portion of the napkin.  Before washing the fabric in the washing machine, I allowed it to air dry completely.

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