Monday, July 30, 2007

Dyeing Day


One of my favorite summer activities is dyeing clothes. Ever since a friend introduced me to Dharma Trading Company's professional dyes (no more bleeding RIT dyes for me!), I've dropped sewing in favor of bringing new life to used garments and "clothing blanks" (also sold by Dharma). Here's a photo of last years' dye lot. As you can see, last year, I did blue and green, my favorite summer colors. The dark blues were the clothes that I put in first to absorb the most dye. After the "important stuff" is done, I toss in stained white t-shirts, faded sundresses, and old dishclothes to use up the remainder. For a long time, my summer wardrobe consisted mainly of cotton sarongs from Dharma (a mere $7.11 apiece) paired with dyed-to-match Softees ($4.67) or layered silk t-shirts (pricier, at $9.76). This year's dye lot was brown and lavender, but I didn't get any photos as nice as this one, with my younger daughter rejoicing in her newly-redyed blue skirt.

9 comments:

Lindsay said...

Again, you've inspired me! I have considered doing this countless times to revive faded things. One of my favorite colors is red, and red things fade so quickly. I am re-adding this one to my "list."

stephanie said...

how cool is this? i love it! thanks for the great info.

Suzanne Temple said...

Beautiful!

janetktc said...

A couple of questions. Which dye do you use and how much of the "recommended" stuff do you use?

Does the dye cover up stains to the point where you can't tell they were there? If you dyed a plaid, would it still be plaid or could you dye it to the point where the pattern wouldn't show.

This entry reminds me "I Capture the Castle." Have you ever read that?

AMDG,
Janet

regina doman said...

Janet,
I use Procion Fiber Reactive Dye from Dharma which dyes most cottons and color-shifts slightly on silk (for example, the blue cotton sarong in the photo would have been far more purplish if it had been a silk sarong). You *can* dye something to the point where the pattern doesn't show, but it takes a lot of dye (probably 2x the amount) and effort, and obviously you'll have something that's very dark. Usually the pattern becomes a very muted pattern.

I've never read Capture the Castle, but I seem to have heard of it somewhere....

BTW a few more things to know if you want to try dyeing for the first time, know that you're going to have to make a one-time investment in some reactive chemicals, which Dharma helpfully sells, such as calosene oil, soda ash (which you can also find at the pool section of the hardware store), and synthropol. You'll also need rock salt (from the hardware store) to give the dye a perfect water environment to work in. Most of the stuff is about $7 or less, and my calosense oil has lasted for years, since you use so little of it. The dye itself is the item you keep buying (though I have now stockpiled the colors I use often), and that only if you do a lot of dark colors (which I do). I keep most of my supplies in a small plastic storage tub on a shelf in the laundry room or garage, since they are poisonous, of course. You can do large batches in the washing machine, or small batches in five-gallon buckets. Wear gloves!! But get Reduran cream for those times when hands contact the dye. Dharma's salespeople are very helpful if you have any questions, and their catalog (warning: does have photos of girls in immodest garments - they sell lots of halter tops, etc.) cracks me up with its ironic asides. I've spoken with the owner, and he's very concerned about free trade and ensuring that the factories that they get their garments from (such as in China) don't use slave labor or unfair wages. I've been ordering from them for the past five years or so, and have always been really happy with their stuff.

All in all, fabric dyeing is a fascinating process, and would proabably make a very interesting homeschool science project, since it involves complex chemical reactions. Dye itself is not "natural" as the company owners admit -- they're chemicals and minerals at the very base level. Different dye colors cost more than others because they're made of different substances. I believe blue eyes are still the most expensive, but black is also pretty pricey. It's really fascinating, since much of the theory has been around since about the Middle Ages.

Mrs. T said...

I was just looking at their pigment dyes. Have you ever used those?

Hi, Janet, want to have a dye-fest sometime?

Sally

Mrs. T said...

PS I haven't read I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith also wrote 101 Dalmations, I believe), but the Deputy Headmistress over at The Common Room (heartkeepercommonroom.blogspot.com) just read and reviewed it, if anyone's interested.

Sally

Emily said...

Hi Regina, I totally enjoyed this post! What a great idea, particularly to someone like me who is not very good at laundry... perhaps this would be a dramatic way to solve my problems with clothes that don't come out looking that clean after a while. Can you tell me more about what you found out about their factories? I have gotten to the point where I just hate to buy stuff that is not made in the USA (or is not second-hand)... I hate the fact that everything that comes from China is so CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP! I mean, how could they possibly pay those workers a decent wage? I'm just curious because I would love to buy their stuff...! Help unguilt me, please!

Lindsay said...

Which color blue is the one in your picture?