Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dyeing Newbie; or, How White Fabric Becomes Green with Only Three Trips Through The Washer

As I said earlier, I decided that, rather than to run all over and stress about finding fabric the right color, we'd just dye some white cotton/lycra jersey for the leggings the kids need to wear in Compleat Works. Plus, I picked up some white corduroy from the dollar-fifty table at Wal-mart to possibly use as pouffy pants with the brilliant idea of throwing it in the dye bath so as to match the tights. Pretty nifty, eh?

Thought I'd start with The Actor's personal hose-and-breeches. They're supposed to be green, but the only shade of Rit dye I could find was a dark forest green...not what I wanted. I decided I'd mix yellow and royal blue...that should make a nice bright green, right?

Today was the day. I got up and read the directions carefully...wash fabric in hot water...mix dye; I began with yellow and added blue until it looked like it would be a reasonable green...add detergent and salt to dye bath...add wet fabric...agitate in washer for half an hour...check check and check.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the washer after dutifully resetting the cycle so as to have a full half hour of agitation to find...white fabric.

What??? It didn't take the dye at all??? I did a quick burn test...yes, it is cotton. Could the Lycra content inhibit dyeing? did I do something wrong? Maybe I'll dye one of the other cast member's fabric...just to see what happened.

So I went out and began to fill the washer to start the process again and looked around for the bucket I'd used to mix the dye from the first batch.

And found it sitting on the laundry shelf with the dye mixture still in it. I'd forgotten to put it in the water.

Head-slapping time.

So, I redid it, making sure to add the dye the second time.

And I got fabric in a very nice shade of Granny Smith Green. Not what I wanted...

Another trip to another Wal-Mart. Still no green other than Dark Forest. So, more royal blue and yellow; this time I began with the blue and added yellow to it.

I still have a pretty bright green, but it's darker than the apple green I had the first time. It *might* be dark enough. We'll see what it looks like when it's dry...

And I tried dipping a bit of scrap fabric into the dye to see what the tint would be; that really didn't work. You folks who use there any way to be sure what color you'll get before you actually do it??


  1. I don't use Rit very often, but use other professional dyes, and there is no way of really knowing exactly how something is going to turn out unless you measure everything exactly and use the same formula for the same amount of fabric. Fabrics are always lighter when they're dry, so even then it is hard to tell what shade you'll get when they first come out of the dye bath.

    It was smart to dye to the two pieces together because they will match perfectly, no matter what shade of green you end up with.

  2. We use Rit pretty often here... and I do get a decent match to the swatches. Usually.
    If trying to get a strong color I add VERY hot water (boil a pot or two on the stove and pour in when filling the tub). I stop the machine before it drains and run the fabric through the same dye over and over. I add more dye (dissolved first of course). I add another color dye (perhaps a quarter of the dark green packet added to the other mix?).
    Most of these are not things the dye company tells you to do. If I recall correctly they state that the fabric ceases to pick up dye after a certain point in time... but I've not found that to be the case.