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!!


A failed experiment in kool aid dyeing

  Hi Everybody.  I’m Erin, and I have a problem.  (Hi Erin!)  That problem is called “Pinterest“…and if you’ve discovered it, you know what I mean.

  I’ve tried very, very hard to not let my boards turn into the stereotypical collection of crafts I’m never going to do.  Problem is, that means I’ve got to find the time in the day to do the 3,000 things that I think I can get done!
  A little over a week ago I found this:
Gaaaah…must have preeeeetty
  It was connected to this tutorial for kool aid dyeing, something I’ve been meaning to try out for a while.  I was headed to the grocery store anyhow, so I decided to add yarn and kool aid to my list.
  Now…the first mistake I made in this process was to read “wool yarn (or a blend with other animal fibers like alpaca, angora, cashmere – a small percentage, like 15% or less, of something man made, like nylon or rayon, would be ok) in hank form” and get overly smart.  “Oh, any natural fiber should be fine” I thought to myself…and grabbed cotton.  …if you go back later and read the comments (because you’re confused as to why it didn’t work) you will find that she specifically says it doesn’t work on plant fibers.  …that’s okay.  I’m going to show you what happened anyhow.
  This is what I started with:
I used grape, berry blue, lemon lime and lemonade
  First, I wound my balls of yarn into a hank.  I used the back of a chair and then just slid it off when I had finished.  I decided that two of the balls of yarn were going to be plenty for the first experiment.  I tied strands of a polyester yarn around the hank in 4 places to avoid the nightmare tangling I got when I did my tarn dyeing project.
  Next, I dunked the yarn in the water (make sure you don’t have it heated up for this, you’re going to have to push your hand into the water to get the air bubbles out of the yarn so it’ll sink) and let it simmer for a while.  I’m not sure exactly how long I let it sit…certainly longer than 15 minutes…I ran outside to get the last few bulbs planted in my garden…so probably more like 45 minutes.  I also added 1/3 c. vinegar to help the color set.
  Once the yarn was good and soaked, I started adding kool aid.
  I added the green and blue first and let it soak for an hour.  The water never got entirely clear (probably because I was using the wrong type of yarn) but I lost patience and turned it over.  I added the purple and yellow and let that soak for an hour too.
  After two hours soaking in the crock pot, it looked like this:
Not exactly the vivid colors I was looking for
  I threw it in the sink, wondering what had gone wrong and rinsed it out.
  After it was rinsed, I hung it up to dry in my shower.  It looked like this:
  I was disappointed.  The very subtle, greyed out blues and purples were very pretty, but it wasn’t at all what I had been trying for, and I was afraid that as it dried, it would lighten even more.
  You can imagine my surprise when I checked on it two days later and it looked like this:
  By the time it was completely dry, the blues had come back in full force.
  Only problem now is that there’s still a lot of not very colorful yarn in there.  And though it’s hard to see in the picture, the parts that aren’t blue have a funky pink tint.
  Not to worry.  I got more kool aid and will be putting it back in the pot soon!  I’ll let you guys know how it goes…and when I actually do it correctly (using wool yarn and all), I promise, I’ll show you that too!

Beautiful, Ratty T-shirts

  My bathroom needed a new rug.  Our old one had traveled with us through 2 houses and an apartment and was in such bad shape that the last time we put it through the wash and then back on the floor, the rubber melted to the tile.

  I’ve been trying really hard lately to make more things and buy less.  It takes a lot of time, but it means I truly appreciate what I have, instead of just loading up on “deals” that wind up needing to be stored or thrown away in a year when I get tired of them, so I decided to try my hand at making my own rug.  The sizing didn’t quite work out for the space in the bathroom, but it’s PERFECT for a bathmat (which was also on its last legs).
  Pretty fancy huh?  So would you believe me when I tell you that my bathmat started out as this?
  The Mr. hadn’t cleaned out his dresser in a while and so he had a dozen or so white undershirts that were ready to be tossed.  Rather than condemn them to a landfill somewhere (after paying our garbage collection fee on them of course), I decided to put them to use.
  Using this tutorial, I cut the t shirts up, and then linked the pieces together, like this.  Heads up, this does get messy.  You’re going to lose lots of little “pills” of fabric when you stretch it.  I cut apart the remaining (above the armpits) portion of the shirts for rags.
  Once it was all hooked together I headed to the store to grab some dye.  I wanted something that would work with the coral theme I have in the bathroom, so I bought 2 boxes of RIT dye, one in scarlet and another in tangerine.
  I wound the tarn around two chairs in an attempt to get a somewhat serviceable hank.  Next time I’ll either put something between the chairs or start with them back to back…they slid closer and closer with every pass I made.  If I ever dye tarn again, I will also put some ties around the hank to keep it from getting all knotted.  Untangling my tarn after dyeing was by far the most arduous part of this process.
  I wanted to make sure I had some variation in color throughout the yarn, so I wrapped rubber bands around random portions of the tarn and used two different dye baths.  First I made a bath that was about 75% scarlet and 25% tangerine and then after dyeing and removing the rubber bands (and replacing them on other parts of the hank) I put it in a second bath with the opposite proportions.
  Once the tarn was dyed, I stuck it outside in the sun to dry.
My neighbors are very understanding of the fact it looks like I’m putting guts out to dry.
That or they’re afraid to ask too many questions.
  3 days later, when I’d finished untangling it all and had it wound into a ball, it looked like this:
Next to a ball rolled from a full hank of yarn
  Now it was time to knit!  I already knew the pattern I wanted to use.  I’ve been working on making this Ariel scarf  for…well, lets just say it was started before I was pregnant with G and leave it at that…but on size 5 needles, I can work for an hour and only add an inch.  Not very satisfying.
  Obviously, making a bath mat, and with big thick yarn to work with, it was going to go faster.  I broke out the size 15 needles and while I’m not going to say knitting this was quick, it was always really satisfying to see how much length I could add to it with just a row or two.
  I think I did 4 or so repeats of the pattern and then bound it off when I ran out of tarn.  A brand new, all cotton, specifically-designed-for-my-decor bath mat…and all it cost me was a couple bucks for dye.  Not bad huh?
  A note for those who are interested in trying this:
     Don’t be intimidated by the cable pattern!  Believe it or not, this is my first completed cable knit project.  Cable knitting takes a little bit to figure out, but this one has every step written out exactly, so it’s actually a great learning pattern.
  If you have any questions about how I did anything, please feel free to leave me a comment!