Purple Hands, My Latest Dye Effort

I like putting my personal stamp on items – doesn’t have to be “totally out there” to be different, perhaps just a nuance of, yes something similar might exist, but it’s not this exactly. So, I’ve just finished up a dying project.  Got a few more percolating in the background to give a go.

Not sure how the rest of you work, but I tend to go in binges.  Might get my new catalog from Dharma Trading (oooohhhhhh) or start chatting with another craft artist and think “hmmn, been awhile since I’ve seen what’s over at Thai Silks”.  Then, as long as you’re going to place an order anyway, you ponder each item as to what you might do with it and who might like that kind of gift.  Add them all to your cart, gasp, start reducing the vision of what you might do for whom and still place a rather monstrous order.  My excuse is I live in the mountains and don’t have good craft supply nearby – wouldn’t want to get into a project without everything on hand. I’m sure with a little thought you can come up with a good excuse of your own for stockpiling new craft projects as well.

Before we get too deep into dying, remember that safety is important (follow the safety precautions on the instructions I link) and we’re choosing to use permanent dyes (great for your project- not so much for your counter, floor, tabletop, clothes currently adorning your body and any other cloth you might be silly enough to leave close by that you really didn’t want dyed).

When you dye – different fibers take the dye differently.  Depending on the project – you might care if your item is sewn with all cotton thread, which will dye the same as your cotton shirt, or polyester thread, which generally stays pretty white.  In the picture above you can see this tee was sewn with polyester thread on the hem.  Not such a big deal for three reasons.  I did leave some white in the shirt, the collar has no top stitching so the white thread isn’t “in your face” and this was a shirt I already owned and hadn’t worn much.  As you can see below – so we’re just talking sleeve hems and the bottom.  You may or may not care about this – but if you dye dark colors on nice items, I suggest getting things with cotton thread.

The other tee shirts shown are Gildan from Dharma, sewn with cotton thread.  They’re a nice weight tee and I’m pretty happy with them.  Dharma notes if items are sewn with polyester or cotton thread as they carry both.

For this batch, I wanted tones of blue with very little white.  I went with Dharma’s Fiber Reactive Procion MX type dyes, mixing up #130 Strong Navy, #21 Teal Blue and #85 Seafoam Green.  There is so much good material out there that I’m going to indulge myself in not keying in every detail –  I mixed per instructions and generally followed Dharma’s outline, doing the soda soak first. I’d put the items on newspaper to drain for about 10 minutes then placed them in bags overnight.  It was a warm day (90’s).

I knew I didn’t want this batch too bright (some of it was for me, the rest gifts).  If I’d wanted bright – a simple substitution of #25 Turquoise for the teal blue would’ve done the trick. The top shirt is the simple swirl starting by the shoulder (my favorite “go to” pattern).  The next few shirts are folded in the middle, then swirled from the shoulder area. I deliberately didn’t want a “spider” so I did my swirl/spin away from the center fold line.  Swirling on the center fold line would’ve given me the traditional spider. Watch WolfEchoes The Spider Tie Dye Pattern for easy basics and understanding.  I like his box with grate – could line the box with a plastic garbage bag to catch the drips.  Might have to see if I can make one next time with screen. Many of us also use an old fork to grab the fabric and swirl – saves cramped fingers.  If I’d not watched the video, I’d have forgotten to let my items drain a few moments on newspaper which prevents puddles in the bags (that can mean mucky brown results depending on the colors you’re mixing). I applied my navy first, then the teal, and finally where I could see white, bits of the seafoam. May not matter much – but fabric absorbs dye until it’s saturated and I wanted the darkest colors to have the best saturation, so I dye them first.  I also didn’t want sharp lines on my items, so when the last color was added I squeezed them (press a bit, no twisting) making the edges blur more where the colors overlap.

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I also played a bit with just drops, dripping.  On an outdoor table covered with a painter’s plastic drop cloth, I lay down my item and scrunched it together. Just rest your hand on a flat surface and pull your thumb and fingers together and do that all over the piece. Then for the pieces above and below, I just dropped and drizzled the dye from a plastic teaspoon or the jar with the dye itself.

The photos above and below shows how the cotton thread dyed – navy above, a bit darker than the fabric below on the hem though obviously still a match.  This shirt is a light cotton sheeting, the Berkeley Shirt.

The next shirt I tacked was a bit of a rescue. I wasn’t paying enough attention walking with a full cup of coffee.  Got a rather large splot.  Didn’t worry about it as there are enough stain removers on the market that I figured no biggie.  I was wrong. I think I forgot about it the first wash and dry, which essentially set it.  Tried regular spot removers, a specialty enzyme one just for coffee, even though I was pretty sure it was coffee I went on to an enzyme for tomato and finally soaking it in Biz. The last effort lightened the osnaburg shirt but the stain was still visible.  However, after splatting, sploshing and dripping dye on it – that light stain cannot be found and it’ s now my fav comfy cotton shirt.  Picked it up a street fair in Arnold, CA.  Would get a few more of these shirts but the printing on label washed right out and I don’t know who made them (something for all you Etsy folks to keep in mind).

Photo below is just osnaburg fabric (cotton, called poor man’s linen as it looks similar to linen) next to the shirt.  The shirt dyed very well although I was starting with a natural beige.  Color results are similar to the white RTD (ready to dye) Berkeley shirt from Dharma.  Not sure if the Biz soak made much of a difference, but I’ll be trying dye + osnaburg more soon as I like the weight and drape of the fabric.

If I am going to go to the bother to make a mess, I make it worth my while.  So, I also scrunch dyed a rayon scarf. I’m going to sound like a walking ad for Dharma – but I LOVE this scarf.  The knotted fringe is a nice weight and isn’t going to get all weird like a lot of fringe does.

It’s also a nice size (20 by 70) – I spread it out below so you can see – and more like a light cotton weight.  Just for balance, I’ll add a few items to the bottom of the post I’d dyed from Thai Silks.

Finally, I dyed Dharma’s cotton jersey shorts. Comfy and perfect during our hot summers. They fit and hang well – look a tad odd below because of how I draped them over the dressform.

For balance, here is a cut velvet scarf from Thai Silks that I dyed for my handmade Christmas giving last year.

Why the purple fingers post title?  Well, I diligently wore my nice heavy non latex rubber gloves during the process.  However, took them off for clean up/collection of tools and ended up with purplish fingers and nails – looked like I’d shut a car door on my hand! Was another reminder for me that I need to never ever dye things in my house (garage and outside ok) and I have to be very very careful if I mix in an area with a sink and carry my mixed dyes somewhere else to splat, splosh and pour. Remember, dry dye particles will float in air, land, get moist and stain. I’d seen a helpful hint somewhere that recommended putting a damp rag cloth under your mixing area so any floating dye would be drawn to that.

3 comments on “Purple Hands, My Latest Dye Effort

  1. Chris Duncan says:

    Loved the projects and info Maggie! I haven’t looked at a Dharma Trading catalog in a long time – now I’ll have to go and check them out again!

  2. mrs4444 says:

    I hadn’t realized that dry bits of dye could go anywhere. It’s a good thing I don’t dye anything :)

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