As a very little girl, my mother could always rely on at least one super simple method of keeping me entertained. If you gave me a basin of water and a cup, I would be happy as a clam for hours on end. I am ostensibly a grown up now and should, perhaps, be less entertained by splashing around in water. However, I feel sheer glee at the prospect of splashing around in a basin of water under the pretext of dyeing things.
Anyone who loves a good bargain, especially when it comes to clothing, knows that while you can get good and useful pieces on crazy sales, most of the time clothing is cheap because no one actually wants it. When this is because of a fabric issue, I have no interest in the garment whatsoever. When it is because of a fit issue, sometimes I might purchase something if it can be easily altered. But when it is because of a color issue, I am all over that. I have a good idea of what colors look nice on me, but I’ll give even weird ones a bit of a try. It is worth being open minded because sometimes you discover that you actually can wear that weird green. However, after being given a fair chance, you inevitably have a blouse or two that fits well but never gets worn. I love those odd-ball garments because they give me an excuse for dye experiments.
I have conducted quite a few dye experiments in recent years, and they always are experiments. While you can develop a good idea of how a particular dye tends to work or have a general sense of the color over-dyed cloth will end up, there are always surprises. The surprise factor is half of the fun. I will say that if you are going to bother dyeing, it is worth using a good quality dye. In my experience, the nicer dyes aren’t necessarily any more expensive, and you more reliably end up near your goal. RIT dye, especially on wool, has only ever ended in tears. (Well, there were no actual tears, but you get my drift)
This most recent dye experiment involved a cotton blouse and a cotton blend t-shirt. The blouse started out with a very pale peach paisley pattern. The pattern is pretty, the blouse fits great, but the peach was so light and yellowish that I always felt pale and corpse-like in it. I liked the idea of a peach blouse and hoped to keep the pattern visible, but wanted the whole blouse to be a darker, more intense color. The tshirt started out as a very pale green, sort of like an iceberg lettuce. It had been regularly worn with similarly corpse-ish results.
I used DYLON cold water dye in A16 Camellia. I have never used this dye before and was not aware cold water dye even existed until I picked it up on clearance at an art supply store. I will confess – I did not follow the directions. I know, I know, the dye companies always give very careful directions and swear that if you follow them perfectly you will get perfectly predictable results. Lies.It turns out that the cold water dye also calls for a “cold water fixer” which I obviously did not have. I won’t get into the chemistry of dyeing too much, but in order to get your dye to permanently stick to your fabric, you need a mordant (usually an acid) that will bite into the fibers of the fabric so the dye has somewhere to stick. Since I have white vinegar sitting around, I threw some in the dyebath and hoped for the best.
Also, I have to say, that while neat and adorable, this is the most obnoxious dye packaging I have ever encountered. You want me to stab a tin with a knife?? And then expect it to dissolve easily? Fail.
I had high hopes when I took the two shirts out of the dye. The trick is that 1) some of that dye rinses out and 2)the shirts look darker because they are wet. The blouse ended up perfect, the tshirt, kind of hilariously terrible.
The blouse is a bit pinker and a bit darker while retaining the delicate pattern. Success! The t-shirt is now mostly the unfortunate color of that “flesh” Crayola crayon with bright magenta trim. Awkward.
Experiment: 50% successful
For a quick and messy/fun project, I am rather pleased. The tshirt will get over-dyed again to something a bit more wearable, but the blouse will be back in rotation as soon as I do my ironing. Dyeing cotton is much less stressful than dyeing wool – you aren’t constantly worrying about shrinking what you are trying to dye!