Last weekend I eventually got around to tackling a project I’ve had on my ‘to do’ list for ages. Now that makes it sound like it was a tricky or unpleasant task but it was far from that. I had bought a linen dress in a sale, well over a year ago, quite lovely but crisp white and so not practical on messy me. When I had bought it I had planned to dye it a colour, something that might last a day without too many smudge marks showing. Of course, like a lot of my creative plans it got put on the long finger while I tackled other daily tasks.
Then last week I decided to quit procrastinating and tackle the dress. I had decided to try tie-dye. A rummage on the internet led me to directions on tie-dye techniques and patterns, then out on my daily walk I came across a craft superstore in Balham which carried a good range of dyes and within 24hrs I was kitted and ready to go. Here’s what I did.
First of all I made a sketch of how I wanted the dress to end up like.
I initially bought two hand dyes, Dylon French Lavender and Dylon Ocean Blue. Each packet contained 50g of dye and would dye items of less than 250 g in weight – the dress was 204 g – and I would also need 250g salt per packet to fix the dye. But for heaven’s sake, don’t go using your delicious Halen Môn or Maldon salt, a cheap table salt is all you need!
You’ll also need rubber gloves to protect your hands (typically mine leaked), a couple of plastic buckets or basins (stainless steel would also work), a measuring jug, bleach, BBQ tongs, thread, sissors, buttons, rubber bands (go search the roads around you, our postmen often drop the rubber bands on postal deliveries!), plenty of plastic covering for any splashes onto floors and damp cloths to quickly wipe any stray drops.
Before you dye any material it must be clean, so wash it well and leave it damp (not dripping).
Stage 1: the scrunch.
The French Connection dress I was dying was a scrunchy, non irony dress so I wanted to keep a ‘scrunched look’ design. I gathered the end of dress, scrunching it into a ball and used rubber bands to hold the ball in place.
Then I used the French Lavender dye and, following the instructions on the packet, mixed it in a plastic bucket. When both salt and dye were dissolved I placed the dress in and (with BBQ tongs) regularly stirred the dress around. After an hour in total I removed the dress from the dye bucket and rinsed it in cold water until the colour stopped running out. After a short spin in the washing machine I removed the rubber bands to judge the effect.
Verdict: good but I realised I scrunched the ball too tightly and was amazed how much material had been unaffected by the dye in all that time. So next time I use the ‘scrunch’ I’ll make a slightly looser ball. I certainly wanted white areas but not as clearly defined. It was at this stage I decided to add a third colour and I bought Dylon Bahama Blue for the last defining colour to the pattern effect I wanted.
Stage 2: buttons
This is where my sewing box collection of ‘extra’ buttons, found buttons, dropped buttons etc came into its own. By placing a button on an area of material and tightly wrapping thread to hold it in place then gathering the material into peak (with the covered button at the centre) and wrapping thread and rubber bands around it I made little button ‘mushrooms’. When I had enough of these ‘mushrooms’ I wrapped them together with rubber bands.
Once again I made sure the dress was damp and this time I dipped the end only into the bright blue dye and again left for the prescribed time (45 – 60 mins). I wanted the bright blue dye to soak upwards a bit and overlap the lavender to create a blended effect much like when blending watercolour paints. This would result in a new shade of blue/purple. Be aware of the effects of colours on each other. Some work well, some don’t!
I should add that 15 minutes before removing the end of the dress completely I removed a few rubber bands and adjusted others so that I would get different intensities of the dye colour. I also added some of the last colour dye (Dylon Bahama Blue) to the bucket to deepen the dye colour. I knew I could do that as I didn’t need the whole packet for the last dye dip according to the weight:dye ratio given.
Again I rinsed in cold water and spun to a damp stage. Removing the buttons revealed the patterns below. Getting there!
Stage 3: final colour
Working on the patterns created in stage 2 by tying the buttons, I used buttons that were different in size to the stage 2 buttons. I wanted to achieve a variation of blues/purples and white. As in previous stage I removed or adjusted the rubber bands 20-15 mins before the end of the dye time, rinsed and spun to damp.
I then decided that I would like to experiment with spraying with diluted bleach; 1 part bleach to 3 parts water. This was the most nerve racking stage as you need to watch the colour change and be ready to plunge the garment into water to immediately rinse away the bleach. This technique gives a great ‘splash’ effect and by flicking as you spray you get subtle lines of fine splashes.
All dyed out, I hand washed the dress a final time and allowed it to dry before twisting it again to restore its original scrunch look.
Verdict: well, I’m very happy with the end result. I love the final colours, the blends and the patterns. It’ll be a great travel dress especially as it rolls up to a ball (like many of my summer clothing) and will be perfect for my trip to Oz in December. I loved the tie-dying even though I had to do it indoors (Gail on twitter suggested – sensibly – I place the dye bucket outside) but it had started to rain and I worried about my white units and cream carpets all the time I was dying. Luckily, I’ve not seen a purple/blue splodge where it shouldn’t be. Phew!
Now I wonder if I could tie-dye pillowcases and duvet? Hmm.