Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dyeing Fabrics

I've had a lot of ladies asking me about dyeing fabrics and linen, and what I use to do that. It sounds kind of dumb, but I use liquid Rit dye. I know, its not the fancy dyes that the companies use, but I find it's easy, works well, and the color doesn't wash out. And its inexpensive to play around with.

There are several different ways to work it, but this is the way I do mine. I use a large bowl, glass is good because the dye doesn't stick to it, and dissolve salt in very hot tap water. Be generous with the salt, it helps the dye set. The bowl I use is about a 4 quart size, and I use approximately 1/4 cup of table salt. (Yes, I do have a container of salt set aside just for dyeing.) Using an old wooden spoon I stir the salt until it dissolves totally, then add the dye. It doesn't take much--just depends on the depth of color you want. For more control, make sure your linen is wet before putting it into the dye bath. Now, I don't like wrinkled linen and I don't like ironing my linen before stitching. I fold my fabric loosely before holding it under the tap to wet it, then slide it into the dye. Since I'm usually going for a lighter color, or less intense color, I just use my wooden spoon to keep pushing it under the water, or flipping the fabric so all sides get the same amount of dye. One thing to remember is to let the fabric get a bit darker than you want it, because it will lighten up when it dries.

Okay, so now your fabric is the color you want it to be and you have a bowl of dye left--do you throw it away? I don't. Set your fabric aside, on a papertowel. I usually either dye more than one piece of linen, or find something else that I want to dye. Like a nightgown, or a bra--go ahead and laugh but ladies, I find it very hard to get my bras in any other color but white and black. Boo, hiss, how boring. After dyeing everything I want that particular color, then I throw it away--right down the sink. (at last count, I had a lavender, purple, aqua, blue, denim blue, pink, rose, and green colors of bras.)

After you have dyed everything you want to dye, leave the odd things in the sink, and fill your bowl with clear water, cold is fine. I keep the water running in the bowl and rinse the folded fabric the same way I dyed it. Continue until the water in the bowl is clear, and then rinse again. Blot extra water from linen with a papertowel. Does any dye come off on the towel? Rinse again. If not, hang your fabric to dry. Takes a few hours but doing it that way, you don't have to iron before stitching. (Now, rinse well the other things you've dyed, and when the water runs clear, put them in the washer, run a quick cycle and you're done. No, washing won't wash out the dye. After a few years, your nightie might fade a bit, but so will any other nightie.)

There is another way to dye your fabric other than a bowl wash. A friend of mine dampens her fabric and then makes up her dye and "paints" her fabric with a soft paint brush. Gives her fabric a more mottled appearance. The wetter your fabric is, the more it will spread. If you plan to do it that way, I'd make sure the dye is fairly weak looking.

Okay, so now you know how I dye my own fabric but you are probably wondering why I don't like to wrinkle or iron my linen before stitching. Good question. Susan Greening Davis taught me to stitch on linen. She said that if you lightly dampen and then iron your stitched piece, the linen will actually "shrink" a tiny bit and make the stitches set up on the fabric. Gives it a more dimensional look. Of course, you have to be a bit careful when stitching with silks or overdyes, but I still iron my stitched pieces. I dampen the piece slightly, lay it on a towel, and let it sit until nearly dry before ironing. I've only had one piece bleed--SB's Thoughtful Heart.

So, now are you ready to try it for yourself? Go for it. You might surprise yourself. And be sure to post pictures on your blog. Any other questions, just email me.


Cindy said...

Great post! Thank you for all of the tips...I think that I may be brave enough to try this now :)

Nicole said...

Debs, thank you so much for letting us know how you dye your linen! My mom uses rit dye a lot. One time she dyed all her clothes pink. It was pretty funny. I took a class with Susan Greening Davis last year, I'm taking another one with her in November. She's such a nice lady!

Chelle said...

Great info! Thanks a bunch.