Because They Have Gooey Fingers, I Have Fabric Dye (How to Mix Custom Colors)

Ok, that title is somewhat misleading.  It puts the blame for my not being able to have “nice things” far too much on my children, when in reality, my husband and I are nearly as bad as they are.  …in this instance, the boys are only half to blame.

The Mr. and I have a beautiful duvet cover that we were given for our wedding.  It was pale blue, high thread count cotton and I loved putting it on the bed every fall (we change our comforter in the spring to a lighter-weight one, so this one is only used half the year).  Unfortunately, some time last year, G wound up in our bedroom with chocolate all over his face, and decided to face plant into our bed.  …that’s the part of the blame I can place on “children”.  The rest of the issue came from me.  Thinking I was being clever, I immediately stain treated the cover, washed it and then, here’s the awful part, lay it out to air dry.  …that doesn’t seem so bad, until I tell you that I lay it out using my husbands weights to support portions of it.  …they left giant, dark orange rust stains all over the cover.  I cried.

I tried and tried to remove the rust stains to no avail.  Nothing was getting them out.  I gave up and tried to just ignore them.  A year later, with the stains still upsetting me, I turned to dye.

The picture above is what the comforter looked like before I started.  It’s also the background for these pictures.  Very, very pale blue.

And this is what it looks like now:

The photo doesn’t capture the color exactly…it’s more purple than this shows…sort of a grey lavender.  The little scrap of fabric is part of the process I used to mix the dye (which I’ll explain in a second).

I’m still trying to decide how I feel about the color.  It changes enormously depending on the lighting.  I love it when it’s more grey…not sure how I feel about it when it’s uber purple, especially with my not-intended-to-match-lavender linens…

Anyhow, if you hadn’t already guessed, this is a custom dye color.  Every once in a great while, RIT will have a dye in just the right color for what I want…but it’s not often.  I’m a color snob, what can I say.  Luckily, back in college, I took a costume design class that included a section on dyeing.

To make this particular color I used RIT’s Royal Blue and Black dye in my washing machine.  I wish I’d have had the foresight to have bought a little bit of green to add in, but, *sigh* such is life.  I filled my machine with the hottest water it could muster, dumped in my cup of salt (since I was working with cotton) and started putting in the dye.  The blue I bought was powder, while the black was liquid.  …I would suggest going the liquid route if you want to do this, as I found I had FAR more control with the black than I did the blue.  Basically, I added a small amount, allowed the machine to agitate for a second and then swished a scrap of cotton material around for a bit.  Once it was good and saturated, I rinsed it and dried it with a hair dryer.  Obviously, since my cover was light blue, it was going to turn out a touch differently than true white fabric, but, as you can see from the picture above, the difference was pretty negligible.  Make sure that if you don’t love the results from your first dye bath, you don’t just re-swish the same scrap fabric.  Start with another white piece.

The dried scrap fabric will show you what color you’ve created in your dye bath.  If you have a bedroom with lots of natural light (like mine), make sure you don’t just look at the fabric in your dark, poorly lit basement and be like “YUP, that’s good” like I did, or you may wind up with a bright purple surprise.  Also, obviously make sure that when you’re adding dye to your water, you use a light hand.  You can ALWAYS add more dye, but once it’s too dark, you’re pretty much screwed unless you want to empty the machine and start completely over (hoping you have enough dye left to get where you need to).

This was actually my first time using the washing machine method to dye something…and I’m pretty dang happy with it.  I did wind up with a few little dark splashes of dye on it (because apparently I’m not allowed to have a spot free comforter) but I fear that’s because I was in a rush, and being careless and got dye on the sides of my machine…that then got on the cover when I went to move it to the dryer.  THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!!!  As a result I’m considering running it through another bath with just black dye to darken it up some.  We’ll see.

If you have any questions about mixing your own, custom dye colors, let me know!!


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