Sunday, November 09, 2008


The autoflash setting on my point and shoot did a crappy job of documenting the full blackness of these garments at high noon.

Have you ever read novels where the characters dye their old dresses (or hand-me-downs), and then jazz them up with haberdashery? Ever go, huh?

As part of my wardrobe refashion makeover, I pulled out all my faded and worn black items. Some of them looked a little bit "frosted" at the seams and edges. Others had pale fuzz growing on them. Those are worn fibers that worked their way loose. You can minimize the effect by laundering your clothes inside out. The average age of these clothes is about 8 years and they were looking tired and I was tired of looking like a slob in them.

I tried to vat-dye them in the washing machine today with Procion Jet Black dye* using the instructions on Dharma Trading Company's website. I did great through step 4, and then got sidetracked by organizing and consolidating my stash of Procion fiber reactive dyes. I completely forgot to keep resetting the agitation cycle of my washer and let the dye & soda ash mixture drain out after 15 minutes instead of the 60 I had intended to achieve a dark color.

Then I got so flustered, I forgot to do the cold rinse and went straight to the hot water and synthrapol wash. After one cycle, black dye rubbed off the clothes onto my fingers so I repeated the hot water and synthrapol wash. After that, the clothes lost their inky blackness. They are still a few shades darker than when they went into the washer, so it was not a total failure. They are darker than the photo would suggest. (I do not know why, with the sun directly overhead and glaringly white, my camera's flash went off.)

Anyway, if you try this, follow their instructions exactly. It should work. It should be easy. ;-)

* Because my clothes were already blackish, I only used 1 oz of dye for a load of clothing. Renewing color on clothes should take far less dye than starting with white clothing blanks. They recommend 4% of dry weight of goods (clothes) to achieve a deep black color with this dye, starting with white fabric. I used ~1% to renew the blackness. This would probably have worked if I had left the clothes in the soda ash and dye mixture longer.

The reason I had all my dyes out was because I helped a Brownie troop of 18 girls tie-dye t-shirts yesterday. I also helped them (and their moms) dye other assorted items--probably over 100 items in all. We set up at 8:00 AM, had the girls in and out of the workshop between 9:00 and 10:30, cleaned up the joint and packed all the stuff out by 10:50. Whew!

We spent ~$700 with Dharma Trading Company, but we got lots of great, fun stuff. I will probably be showing more of those goodies as I experiment with them. During a recession, I am not going to spend more money just to keep the economy afloat. But I make a more conscientious effort to spend my dollars with businesses that I really want to stay open. So, if you are thinking of trying tie-dye and live in the western US, I urge your to support Dharma. Their service is great (look at all the useful information they put on their website!), their prices are very reasonable, and they treat people--customers and suppliers alike, with respect.

During the Brownie dye workshop, several mothers asked me how much I charge for the dye workshops in my home. I charge nothing, but expect people to share in the cost of supplies and cleanup. However, one mother said she paid $$$ for a dye workshop at nearby twist: yarns of intrigue. I really shouldn't be undercutting such an unique local business. I heard she has wonderful yarns. She even carries my favorite fair-trade Frog Tree yarns.

Why all this black?
The stuff of life
Stuff Accumulates


  1. It's always fun to breathe new life into clothing.

  2. I love Dharma Trading and want to do some dyeing, so would support them. It will probably be a while though before I get to it. So far all I have really done is re-blacken blacks but I am dreaming of playing with color.

    Ah, frog tree yarn!


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