Monday, June 25, 2012

You never know what you'll get...and that's a good thing!

I woke up early Saturday morning with an intense urge to give my bed a whole new look.

Easier said than done, since my gentleman friend was still in the bed, and likely to be there awhile given his intense urge to sleep in on weekends.

I also knew I couldn't spend much money on the endeavor, but I was undeterred. I hopped in the car and headed to a thrift store, where I found an off-white, king-sized duvet cover for $9.99. I grabbed a packet of Rit dye, and headed home to transform my new purchase to a lovely shade of pale dove-gray.

At least, that was my goal. I've done enough dyeing to know the odds are slim I'll ever achieve precisely the shade I want.

To me, half the fun of dyeing is not knowing exactly what I'll get in the end. Whenever I clean out my closet, I set aside a few garments I might consider wearing again if only they were a different color. It's a highly experimental process, since many of the fabrics are on the don't-ever-attempt-to-dye-this-you-idiot list on the back of the packet.

One of my two-tone silk skirts.
But most of my clothing comes from thrift stores anyway, and it's headed back there if not for my dyeing endeavor. It's always worth a shot to see what happens. I once dyed a mint-green cashmere sweater a lovely shade of cocoa brown. Twice I've dyed silk skirts with polyester linings. Since the two fabrics take dye very differently, and since the heat of the dye-bath tends to shrink the silk top-skirt to reveal a few inches of the different-hued lining, I ended up with a pair of fabulously cool two-tone skirts.

I've also produced plenty of less-than-perfect results. Several times, I've melted elastic beyond repair. I once tried to dye a set of sheets a sunny shade of orange, and ended up with something resembling peach tie-dye.

I usually have a specific end result in mind when I set out to dye something, but I'm often most impressed with the projects that turn out much differently than I expected. Sometimes, they're better.

Six months ago, I decided the pale-gold curtains in my kitchen would look great in purple. In their original form, the curtains had a subtle jacquard pattern you could barely see. Since the jacquard took dye much differently than the background, the end result was a pizazzy design that made the pattern really pop.
The curtains, before (left) and after I conquered them with Rit dye.

I think about writing every time I undertake a new dyeing project. How many times have I set out to create something specific, and ended up with a story that bears little resemblance to what I thought I'd be writing? In my early years as a writer, those moments made me panic. Though I still feel twinges of nervousness when a manuscript veers crazily off-course, I've learned to be excited by those deviations. That's often where the best ideas happen.

But back to my bed. The color didn't turn out quite like I expected. Part of it was my fault for using black dye instead of gray, assuming the large amount of fabric in the dye-bath would result in a much paler shade. I was right on that count, but the end result was more of  pale charcoal than a light dove-gray.

But I rolled with it. Once I saw the finished color, I scrambled to Target and bought a set of pillowcases featuring charcoal gray and spring green leaves on a white background. The pattern and colors were a great complement to the aqua-blue sheets I already owned and planned to put on the bed just as soon as it became vacant.

My gentleman friend blinked sleepily when he woke to find me waiting vulture-like to remake the bed. "You've been busy," he said.

Yes indeed.

Oh, and for the record, I tossed a dingy-white bra and a couple pairs of panties in the washer with the duvet cover when I did the final post-dye rinse cycle. The result? A perfect, lovely shade of pale dove-gray.


Malin said...

My previous cat (who is now rehomed) was thrilled when I washed my wool blanket without considering the fact it was a WOOL blanket. She then could keep the blanket all to herself because it ended up tiny. And very solid.

Judy, Judy, Judy said...

I love dying things. You get colors no one else has.
Those curtains are fabulous after you dyed them.

Mary said...

Ooh, go you bold dye adventurer, you! I particularly like the two-toned skirts. That's pretty cool. It's a risk and you have to be prepared to fail but the results can be unusual and fabulous. Just like risk-taking in writing. :)

Bethany Elizabeth said...

You are way more creative than I am - I get terrified by anything that involves any sort of artistic talent. (Or laundry. I'm surprisingly bad at laundry) Writing is my sole outlet, and I think the world's a safer place because of that. :)
But I love the analogy between the dyes and writing. It never comes out quite the way I expect.
Oh, and speaking of rinse cycles, I think I left some clothes in the washer. If you'll excuse me..

Rhonda Hopkins said...

Wow! That is so cool. I've never been brave enough to do that, but I think I just might give it a try. Those curtains and your duvet turned out awesome!

And you're so right about things not turning out exactly like you start out when writing. Most of the time, it's better to just go with it. Or at least it is for me.

Cool post, Tawna!

Kathryn said...

I've done many dying projects but non of them have ever been successful. I always end up with a patchy mess. Love how those curtains came out and I can just picture you waiting impatiently at the end of the bed to get the new bedding on it. :0)

genfri said...

What, no bra or panty photos?

Jessica Lemmon said...

I *love* those curtains! Go you, an inspiring DIY post!