Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dyeing 100% Polyester Chiffon Bridesmaid Dress

One of my most recent projects has been learning to dye polyester fabric. "Dye" is probably the wrong word - it's more of a stain, since it's basically soft, woven plastic. 

It all started when I realized after some Google image browsing that the lovely bridesmaid dress I'd ordered for my friend wedding was probably not coming in the burgundy shade I had set out to find. The tiny fabric swatch and color block suggested a dark wine, but I was finding customer reviews with phrases like "oh and by the way, it's more of a true red than a maroon." Not encouraging.  Of course there are no returns on things like this, and while Jenny is ridiculously accommodating, not demanding, and probably the anti-bridezilla, I didn't want to wreck the lovely color scheme with my fire engine red dress. My options, it seemed, were to either buy a new dress ($$$, and probably too late anyway) or to try my hand at dyeing.
You can imagine my chagrin when my initial research turned up the fact that it's almost impossible to achieve a strong dye set on polyester fabric, even with harsh, toxic chemicals and very high heat. Both options would likely to destroy my delicate garment with the bossy Dry Clean Only on the label, but further digging revealed that a tint was possible. This tutorial from College Fashion for using Rit Dye showed that while a vibrant color was out of the question, I might be able to add enough of a tint to change the bright red to something darker.
Eventually, with encouragement from various tutorials, I bought two bottles of black Rit Dye (around $4/bottle, or $2.50 for the smaller boxes of powder) at the grocery store and a yard of similar fabric from Joann's and set to testing. The results were good, if not mind-blowing, so I nervously cut the tags off, grabbed Joel to take some pictures, and got to work.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A testament of efforts

When I was around seven years old, my growing discontent with the state of the salad dressing options in the world reached its breaking point.
I had long ago decided that oil, sugar, mayonnaise, dairy, and other such common dressing components were for sissies and had been using vinegar and vinegar alone on my lettuce. Irritated at the plainness and lack of imagination this afforded me, I decided to take matters into my own hands, and produce a real salad dressing, one for those of mature, discerning taste. So I got out the red wine vinegar, squeezed a lemon, and mixed it with salt and pepper. This, too, fell short; so I dug out an onion, sliced it, put it in a ziplock bag, and juiced it with a rolling pin. This (raw. onion.) juice turned out to be the perfect missing ingredient, so I added it to the other ingredients in the clean canning jar.
I was just about to present this for my parents' appraisal (and, I felt sure, to widespread future acclaim) when I realized that a label would really add that professional, grown-up touch. My first-choice name: "Humongous Explosion." I couldn't spell either of those words, though, and thinking that my credibility would be damaged by such amateurish mistakes - can you tell I may have taken myself too seriously as a kid? - I settled on my second choice.
A few minutes later, I gave my mom a jar of vinegar, lemon juice, onion juice, pepper, and salt, with the title scrawled proudly in the taped-on scrap of paper: "Boom Pow."

Yeah, of course it was terrible and spawned years of references whenever I made up a recipe growing up.  Maybe it's my massive bossy streak, but I've always been entranced by the idea of making things myself - because then I can make them exactly how I want them.  I realized recently that I really should be documenting my various attempts - if nothing else, so I can attempt repeat results in the future if desired. More than that, however, is the fact that countless personal blogs have given me invaluable advice in my adventures. Professionals are great resources, obviously, but their information frequently comes with technical language, and the assumptions of existing specific tools and proficiency with relevant techniques. The beautiful thing about the internet is that you can find tutorials and blog posts from every level of experience and success, and not only learn, but also create evidence-based expectations about what you can realistically achieve with your project.

So! Enough blabbering.  I am the worst photographer you know (yes, including your Instagram-addicted roommate and your 8-year-old nephew who always puts his finger in front of the viewfinder), but I'll attempt to include at least crappy snapshots of various stages with posts...and maybe coerce Joel into taking some decent pictures.

No promises, except this: You'll probably figure out exactly how spot-on this blog title is before very long.

P.S. A list of the origins for some of my more successful projects in the past follows!
P.P.S. One of my biggest blogging pet peeves is when links aren't set to open in separate windows (who wants to navigate away in the middle of a post? Seriously?) mine always will be. Also, I promise to get rid of the stock theme asap...

Homemade Crackers - Smitten Kitchen's Crisp Rosemary Flatbread - Really good. I made these without rosemary for a versatile, plain cracker.

Glue Batik T-Shirt - except all I had was Elmer's Washable so I used that and just dipped it quickly in a concentrated dyebath and let it dry flat.

Salted Caramel Sauce - just so delicious.

Henna For Hair - Boom Pow may have been my childhood crush, but henna was my first true love

Flour tortillas - Took awhile to get the hang of rolling them thin enough, but the efforts along the way were tasty, if misshapen, flatbread pita-y things.