5 ways to salvage your Holi clothes
Updated: Apr 29
When the fun of smearing each other with gulaal has died down, the festival of colours can leave you, well, a bit colourless at the plight of your clothes. If you’ve been playing with natural, organic colours, which we hope you have, getting the colour out shouldn’t be too big of an ask. But a lot also depends on how the colour’s been applied, how long it’s been on, and what else it’s come in contact with. So, how can we save that T-shirt or that pair of jeans with stubborn colour stains that refuse to leave? Well, if you’ve been struggling ‘for the last couple of days, fight no more. We’ve got you covered with some ‘Make it Pretty’ tips to help you restore these clothes, in a befitting end to the merriment of the festival, while keeping your style—and sustainability—game up.
1. TIE-AND-DYE IT
Use stains that are not too strong and can easily be disguised to your advantage, by playing around with natural dyes. First, think about the pattern you want. For a rainbow swirl on a T-shirt, in tie-and-dye, follow these steps:
- Place the shirt on a flat surface, right side facing down, for a sharper pattern on the front.
- Use your finger or a wooden rod to twist the fabric clockwise or anti-clockwise, depending on the direction you want the swirl to go in, until the shirt looks like a flat pie.
- Carefully remove your finger or the rod, tying three rubber bands across the diameter of the pie-shaped flat roll. Here's a quick look at what it should look like.
- For the colour of the dye, take your pick of natural dyeing sources—flowers, vegetable leftovers, minerals or other botanicals. Onion skins, tea leaves, coffee powder, pomegranate skin, avocado pits, rose petals, hibiscus, marigold are all excellent choices. For a bright purple hue, pick this tutorial with onion skins. Check out Trash is for Tossers for other inspiration.
2. GET DOWN TO PRINTING
Adding graphic prints can be a great way to restore your stained clothes. Not only does it cover up those unsightly spots, it also ups the design ante of your old clothes. Use stencils to get the result you want:
- Print a dark sample of a sketch or a design that you want, tape it over a flat surface and then place your contact paper on it and start tracing.
- Once its done, cut out the shape with a blade from the contact paper, peel the backing off and carefully stick the contact paper on to the surface of the garment.
- Before getting down to painting it, place a piece of cardboard or plastic on the inside of your piece of clothing, to avoid the paint leaking on to the other side.
- You can use a brush or a piece of sponge to pick the fabric paint and place it inside the stencil. Remember not to drag past the edges, rather just pat it.
- Wait until the paint dries before removing the contact paper, and make sure you follow the after-care instructions on the paint bottle.
If you’re more adventurous or have a way with paints, you could even go freehand with florals or abstract strokes.
3. PATCH IT UP
You can use embroidery patches, laces or even cut-outs from other forsaken garments to add that extra oomph to your clothes. These can either be sewn in, stuck or ironed on (the store-bought ones, that is), though sewn-in patches provide more flexibility for movement. Patches work out best on heavier clothing such as jackets and denims, though lighter patches work on shirts, too. Just place the patch strategically across the coloured part, and sew it in.
4. USE FLORAL WASTE
We love this technique—it’s literally like hitting two birds with one stone!
The flowers and leaves used during Holi—or any other festival really—usually end up in the waste.
Repurpose them to convert them into prints. Pick out the flowers, leaves or other botanicals you love and think of how you’d like them to appear on your garment.
Follow this easy step-by-step guide to get a fabulous new garment with beautiful botanical prints.
If all hope is lost, and nothing you may try looks like it will work, use your once-favourite piece of clothing for something new altogether. Here are a few ideas:
Make patches for clothes you can still salvage or those you wish to upcycle: Cut out patches in different designs, and sew or stick them on to your denim jackets, pants, shirts, dresses, whatever you may. See above for more details.
Make scrunchies: These look super trendy and because they’re made from fabric, they’re gentle on your hair, too. You will need a needle and thread along with an elastic band. Just sew the fabric by gathering the elastic band in it. For a detailed guide, go check out this blog post by Treasurie.
Make a tote bag: A super-stylish albeit common way to repurpose your denim or any other strong fabric. It’s a bit elaborate but the results are stunning. You’ll find easy instructions here, for one of my favourite upcycled bags.