It took us a while to figure out what our process was going to be. Because I wanted to use the fabric for skirts, it had to be oriented in a particular way. My mum also cleverly pointed out that all the fabric for one skirt should be dyed at once, since it would be hard to replicate the intensity of color or the exact fading pattern in two subsequent batches. The plan was to dip the fabric in the dye, leave it in there briefly, then raise the fabric up a few inches (so that the bottom of the fabric was still sitting in the dye) and let it soak for a few more minutes. We settled on a characteristically elaborate/MacGyverish set-up involving safety pins, dowels and bricks.
|Eye of newt, toe of frog|
|Joint compound buckets have like a thousand uses|
Not bad, right? It's not exactly ombre, but I thought it was a pretty good approximation of my original vision. If I was willing to put in a little more work and raise the fabric out of the dye more incrementally, I think I could have gotten a smoother fade and more color variation. But I'm kind of lazy, so I was OK with this. Once the fabric was dry, there was one final step: washing the fabric. I was fairly concerned that the dye would run - but if I was turning the fabric into clothing, it would have to be washed eventually. So we put the dyed fabric in the washing machine, in the delicate cycle with cold water. And trepidation.
So what went wrong? I thought I had rinsed the dye out really well. My sister, who is a recreational tie-dyer, says that she usually waits overnight before rinsing the dye of of the fabric the first time. The directions also recommend using a fixative (although, side note, the directions on the box of dye are written in like 4 pt font in light gray on a white background, so it could have said a lot of things. Seriously, maybe the Rit Dye people can get on that.) - but I went to a couple different stores and couldn't find any. Maybe the pure white fabric is no match for even the tiniest residual bit of dye and my original vision was a pipe dream.
In any case, it was pretty fun nonetheless and I'll probably try it again, either waiting overnight to rinse the dye or trying to find some of that mythical fixative. If anyone wants to try it, I will say it was much easier as a two-person operation, especially if one person keeps their hands really clean and dye-free to handle the fabric. The results of this method came out so-so for use in apparel, but I suppose it would be great for something like curtains which you could dry clean, since the fabric looked great before it went into the wash. If anyone has any dyeing tips, I would love to hear them!!
Extra thanks to my mum for help with the dyeing, and to my parents generally for not minding that their house looked like a fabric store exploded in it for the weekend.