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Monday, September 30, 2013

How to Dye Fabric (Gradient Color Scarf)

I love to dye things.  Rit and me are likethis.  My very first dye job was around 8 years ago.  There was a dress, a light cottony summer dress, at Gap that I fell in love with.  But I was far too cheap to buy it.  But when it went on clearance, I snatched it up.  Only problem: they were out of the gorgeous blue I wanted.  All that was left was white.  That's when I first thought..."Hey, I could dye it!"  So I bought it and I did just that.  I decided on purple.  And it came out a dusky rose color.  Not what I had envisioned, but stunning.  And I've been addicted ever since.

One of my most favorite things about Rit is their Color Formula Guide.  Rit manufactures 26 colors of dye.  So what if none of those dyes are quite...right?  Enter that Color Formula Guide.  Rit has provided what are, in essence, recipes for 500 different colors.  Most recently (before this project), I mixed up a grey (#287, a mixture of Golden Yellow and Black), a navy (#215, a mixture of Teal and Black) and a coral (#78, a mixture of Golden Yellow and Scarlet) for the overhead buntings I made for my brother in-law's wedding open house.  And that brings me to today's project!

I wanted a scarf for our family photos.  A scarf that would (not unlike me, the Mom!) tie it all together.  We are wearing denim and some ivory with red, orange and yellow.  My favorite mix of colors.  They make me happy.  So it stands to reason that we should wear those colors since there will be a 2X3 foot canvas of this family photo hanging on our wall for a good two years!  (Plus it coordinates with the color scheme in my house...)  But I digress.
So I couldn't find what I wanted.  HOWever, I had this ivory faux pashima type scarf hanging around in my closet.  That I've never worn, not even once.
Can I dye it, I wondered?  Um, yes.  Let's do that.  I decided to create a gradient color effect...but let's call this a truncated rainbow instead, shall we?

Let's get to it!

You will need:
Dye (in this case, three colors)
Rubber gloves
Something to stir with (paint stick, old long handled spoon, etc.)
Small containers to mix dye (I like the plastic containers from my beloved Clorox wipes)
Laundry detergent
Salt (for cotton, rayon, linen and ramie fabrics) or vinegar ( for nylon, silk or wool)
A bucket
A sink (i.e., kitchen sink.  You can also use a washer or the stovetop, but this is my preferred method.)
Washer and dryer

First, select your dyes.  As mentioned, in my case, I wanted red, orange and yellow.

Next, I measured my scarf, figured out thirds and twisted elastics around those marks.
I don't recommend elastics.  They were a little rough on the scarf.  Since these were just to mark the distance for dyeing purposes, a twist tie would do just fine.

Wet your fabric thoroughly, then set it aside.

Put on your gloves.  Trust me on this one.  :)  Now make your dye bath.  First I put a big pot on water on the stove to add to the dye bath once it is boiling.  Then I put a few cups of piping hot water in the bottom of my sink, added one cup salt and one Tbsp detergent.  Stir until the salt is dissolved, then add the boiling water.  Time to mix the dye.

Rit dye comes in liquid and powder.  The Color Formula guide is based on liquid; however liquid can be hard to find in all the colors.  One bottle of dye has the equivalent dyeing power of two packages of powder.  So here's what you do.  Take your container for mixing, and put in 4 ounces of hot water.  Add your powder dye, and stir it around and around until it has dissolved.  Now you have the right concentration of dye to be measured.  Also, keep in mind that the dye recipes are based on ONE cup of mixed dye, enough to dye a 1 ounce fabric swatch.  Just to give you an idea, a men's large tee shirt is about 8 ounces.  So if you are dyeing 8 ounces of fabric, you'd multiple the recipe by 8.  (More details on using dye recipes can be found here.)

Okay, so  I started with the Scarlet.  Mixed it all up and immersed one third of my scarf in, up to the elastic, then clipped it out and spread the fabric along the edge of my sink.
I've been dyeing long enough that I don't always use the recipes.  I just add what I think I need.  In this case, the dye was looking a little pink, so I sprinkled some Golden Yellow dye into it all and stirred thoroughly.  Worked like a charm.
When you are dyeing, the more water you use (up to 3 gallons per powder package), the more even the dye job will be.  Also, the more you stir, the more even it will be.  There have been times in the past that I just stood at the sink and held a book in one hand and continually stirred the fabric and dye with the other hand!
I did NOT want to risk my red looking at all pink once washed, so I left it in the dye bath for 30 minutes (10 to 30 is the recommendation, the longer you leave it in, the brighter and darker your color will be).

Then time to rinse.
BE CAREFUL to keep the dye from being rinsed over the fabric you haven't dyed yet.  Rinsing takes time.  When you are dyeing an item all one color, you can be a little less thorough, but in this case, you need to make sure it's fully rinsed.  Start with warm water and work your way to cold until the water runs clear.  And you also need to clean out your sink for the next dye bath.
I just clean it thoroughly with dish soap and a Scotch Brite sponge.  When all is said and done, I use a bleach product, but you're not done dyeing, so don't mess up your next dye bath with bleach.

Next up: Sunshine Orange!  Again, make the dye bath and the dye, then combine in the sink.  I found this orange to be a little too bright for what I had in mind, so I added a little Black dye I had on hand.  Which made it a little dark, so I added some Golden Yellow I also had on hand!  That resulted in the perfect color for my scarf.  Again, immersed one third of the scarf (this was the center third, so a little trickier), making sure to overlap the edge of the red.
Removed the elastic.  When you are stirring, try to get rid of any air pockets (these can make the color uneven) by kind of lifting the fabric to release the air and then folding it over.  I only left this in for around 8 minutes, then pulled it out.

Again, rinse.

And onto my last color: Golden Yellow.  Make the dye bath and dye.  I knew this was far too brilliant a yellow for me, so I added some Sunshine Orange to the dye to make it a bit warmer and more golden.  I submerged the last third of my scarf into the dye,
and here is where I made a mistake.  I didn't submerge the edge of the orange far enough into the dye.  You'll see the results of that later.  Don't forget to stir!  I left this section in the dye bath for about 15 minutes.

And rinsing for the final time.  Be thorough!
All rinsed out

Once it is all rinsed out, throw it in the bucket so keep it from dripping and take it to your washing machine (mine is downstairs, which is why I started using a bucket to begin with!).  Wash with warm water and detergent, then dry.

In the meantime, clean up.  I recommend Soft Scrub with Bleach.  It will even remove dye from laminate countertops like mine.

Then you have your work of art!  I always feel so proud to see a dye job complete.

Now, to point out the mistake I mentioned:
I should have submerged the orange edge in further.  Then it wouldn't have come out quite so brown.  But the way I loop my scarf, it doesn't even show, so no biggie.

Overall, I'm thrilled.  It is perfect for our family pictures.
And that's that!  As always, feel free to email me with any questions you have.  diykindagirl@hotmail.com
And, no, I'm not receiving any compensation for this post.  Sure wish I was.  Maybe a lifetime supply of Rit....?  :)

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