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.
First off, what you need:
-Big plastic container you don't mind possibly staining
-Rubber gloves - the longer the better. Mine are elbow-length and I still ended up with some weird bruise-like purple stains.
-Plastic cooking spoon. I used an old one that had melted on the end, but you can get a sacrificial spoon at the dollar or thrift store if need be.
-Old clothes...even if you're more coordinated than I am, some splashing is inevitable.
-Bowl to transport fabric from dye bath to sink
Since high heat helps set the tint, I started with boiling several stock pots full of water - how's that for exact measurements? - and poured them into an old purple Rubbermaid. The last pot got the contents of both bottles of dye. I mixed it up and hauled it out into the back yard so I wouldn't have to worry about splashing.
Next, I stared at the dress for a few seconds and tried to convince myself that it was already a perfectly good color. When that failed, I saturated the dress in warm water and dumped it into the dye bath.
|"Are you dissolving a body?" - Joel|
I stirred it constantly for about 5 minutes, and then at intervals for the next 45. About ten or fifteen minutes after it seemed to have taken on a good amount of color, I lifted it out...
|Looking way darker than it will after rinsing...|
|Yeah, I know. I keep it fashionable. (Actually, that sweatshirt was the result of a project for re-purposing those hoodies that swept my dorm in college. Upcoming issue, maybe?)|
|Also good for contrast, since the bowl is pretty close to the original color of the dress.|
...And to the sink....
|Bad lighting, sorry.|
Coloring chiffon is kind of the opposite of getting stains out of your laundry - you want it to stay, but you're never really sure how well it will. Since the color doesn't set all that well, I knew it had the potential to run and dry unevenly if I didn't soak up as much extra water as possible. Rolling it in an old towel did the trick.
|Joel had to keep telling me to slow down so he could take pictures, or at least stop at interesting moments...yeah, I'm bad at this.|
Rolling got it to the point of being more damp to the touch than actually wet. We were still worried about it dripping on the floor, though, so here it is, hanging off of the tree in our yard:
|Yeah, our neighbors hate us.|
An hour or so in the strong wind dried out the skirt almost completely. The color had lightened a bit and wasn't as dark as I'd like, but it was much improved. None of the pictures we took really captured it, but it's very similar to how this burgundy chiffon 'Windy City' dress from Modcloth looks on my monitor. If it's burgundy to the hipsters at Modcloth, it's burgundy to me.
Overall I was really happy with how it turned out. Being able to pull it off was a huge victory...and a huge relief. I can't wait to pair it with my spray-painted silver wedding shoes (another post, maybe) in June!
Thanks to my wonderfully patient husband Joel for his photography skills!
Next up: Spray-painted shoes? Tea for an upset stomach? Henna for hair? Indian food? Who knows!
-The Rit Dye website has a lot of information on different techniques and a fantastic guide for mixing colors. The t-shirts I threw in the dye bath for a previous project worked beautifully...anything 100% cotton took on a wonderfully saturated tone, and blends ended up as a subtly-textured heather. They do bleed a little in the wash, but have kept a really good level of color so far anyway and don't transfer when dry. The dye is pretty reasonable, and it made a few cheap, yellowed, somewhat transparent white t-shirts brightly colored and suddenly wearable again. I can imagine discolored white cotton sheets, pillowcases, etc being equally successful.
-The aforementioned College Fashion tutorial is really informative, and renders my post pretty superfluous.
-I experimented with using acrylic paint & textile medium, too. The color was lovely, but the texture was still too stiff. Might be okay for some things, and it would be great for actually painting on fabric, but it wasn't acceptable for this. Apple Barrel seems to be the mostly commonly mentioned brand, and it's around $1 for a little 2 oz bottle at a craft or fabric store.