Dyeing a White Umbrella or Parasol for a Wedding

Occasionally, we have been asked to about the possibility of ordering an umbrella or parasol in a custom color for a wedding or bridal shower to match the color of the bridesmaid's gowns. We have our white umbrellas manufactured for us in China, and the minimum order is 3200 pieces per style and size, so it is not possible to order a small quantity one or a few umbrellas in a specialty color and/or fabric. We recall one request for 4 umbrellas in a deep pink satin, for instance. Our white parasols were actually created here, and it took a year and a quarter from prototype to actual delivery!


Ok, so before we get to changing the color to match the wedding color, what size should you select?  When the bride and/or bridesmaid carry an umbrella as part of their outfits, it functions as a parasol.  Parasols were never large!  They were used to keep the sun off of a lady's face; if it was too large, it could easily poke the person sitting next to them!  We typically recommend using a 34" umbrella; that is a child-size umbrella that is easily handled by won't get in the way. 


We also sell actual parasols!  These were made up especially for us.  The difference between an umbrella and a parasol is the length of the stem.  An umbrella's stem is only as long as the folded umbrella; a parasol's stem is longer. 


This is the 34" umbrella This is a 34" umbrella

with a self-fabric ruffle

This is a 34" umbrella

with a 4" lace ruffle


This is a 42" parasol with a white lace top   This is a 42" parasol with a standard top


Notice that although the top is larger, it's in a "bell" type shape, so that the spokes won't get in the way.  It makes them much easier to handle when people are around!


Method 1 - Covering the umbrella or parasol with a matching fabric


Is possible to order extra yardage of the material used in the bride's and/or bridesmaid's gowns from the store where the gowns were purchased, and often their seamstresses can also cover the existing umbrella. If that is not a possibility, seamstresses and tailors are available through Craig's List, the Yellow Pages, and in the classified sections of local newspapers. Covering an umbrella is not difficult to do, but once an existing cover is removed, it becomes almost impossible to handle, let alone recover, so we recommend the existing cover be left on the umbrella; it will then functions as a white liner on the underside


If the purchased fabric is wide enough (at least 50 inches), a circle could be cut matching the diameter of the bottom edge, with a very small circle for the top; however, it will not be a snug fit, and the bottom edge would have to be gathered. A better way is to measure the distance between spokes at the top and bottom and sides, then create a paper pattern or template adding a seam allowance--1/2" to 5/8" is recommended, but it can be 1/4", as well as a 3/4" hem, and use the paper pattern to cut individual panels which are then sewn together. Standard sized and the larger golf type umbrellas typically have 8 divisions, so 8 panels would be cut and sewn together. Folding the fabric before cutting reduces the cutting time--a fact well-known to an experienced seamstress!


The completed top can then be attached first to the top--gathered slightly if necessary--and then either by hand or using the button stitch on a sewing machine, to the bottom of each spoke. It is not necessary to attach the entire hem to the edge of the existing top, although, of course, it can be done that way. Only a few stitches are needed to attach the fabric to the end of the spoke, and the attachment points of the original cover can be used as a guideline.


Another advantage to leaving the original cover intact is the umbrella will remain waterproof. While the goal in covering an umbrella is to match the brides and/or bridesmaid's dresses, retaining the original purpose can be a plus should it rain!


Method 2 - Dyeing the Top

Another possibility is to have the parasol or umbrella custom dyed, and that is typically done at the same place that  satin shoes are dyed -- typically, a dry cleaning store, or possibly a high-end shoe store. Those businesses might be reluctant to attempt to dye an umbrella and may have to check with the company they use, but because the tops are white, they are usually willing to try one, if you will consent to free them from liability if the umbrella does not turn out well. It has been our experience that the fabric--which is a type of nylon called "pongee"--dyes beautifully! However, the nylon used has been treated to make it waterproof, and may not retain its waterproof properties once dyed.

A third possibility-if an absolute exact match is not necessary-for instance, if the purpose is to actually contrast rather than match--is to use fabric dye, fabric paint, or floral spray dye. At, we have had art museums purchase our smaller umbrellas, which they then distribute to various artists for painting, and then auction the completed umbrellas off at a fundraiser! They have reported back to us that painting them with fabric dye has not been a problem, and the material absorbs color well, is even, and does not run once dry.

We have used Ritz dye as an experiment and found that the color adsorbs evenly and well, and does not run after dying, even when wet. However, we did not test to see if the umbrella was still waterproof. The instructions for such dyes typically ask for either boiling water or the hot cycle on a washing machine (of course, we didn't put it in a washing machine), but we found that reasonably warm water from a tap into a bathtub did the trick nicely. When using something like a liquid dye, it is possible to mix dyes it to obtain different colors, and it's certainly the most economical method.

Floral spray is used on flowers to make them different colors.  It's the material used to make carnations green for St. Patrick's day. It can be purchased at most large craft stores, such as Michael's and A C Moore. If you do use floral spray, do so out of doors, and two light coats are recommended, rather that one heavy coat. Use an even hand to avoid streaking.

We hope that these suggestions will be of assistance, should you want to add custom parasols or umbrellas to your wedding. It certainly creates an impressive effect!


Now, here's the disclaimer.  We are simply sharing our experiences--your experience may be different.  If it is, we apologize to you in advance, but we cannot be held liable.  If you are going to use this information and experiment, we recommend that you do so on only one!



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