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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

We Who Are About to Dye Salute You!

A Blog by Shira



How It Started

It all started when I bought two beautiful costumes and decided I wanted to wear a matching power net midriff cover with them. One costume was teal and aqua, and the other was dusty rose and burgundy. I wasn't able to find any vendors on the Internet who sold mesh midriff covers in these colors. But one of them said, "Oh, just buy white and dye them to match!"

She made it sound so easy.

I knew it wouldn't be so easy for me, though. I had never before dyed anything, unless you count my friend Imzahdi's tie-dye parties. Imzahdi had made it easy, providing all the dyes, pots, etc. But buying my own supplies? Knowing which brand of dye to use with the body stocking fabric? Achieving an even color all over the garment? I knew it was going to be a challenge.



Preparing to Dye!

I went to the fabric/craft store and purchased boxes of powdered dye in "teal" and "wine". It seemed like a good sign that they had the colors I wanted. Maybe this really was meant to happen.

I sat down and read the instructions on the box of dye. They were short. It didn't look too difficult. But looks can be deceiving!

Although I've heard that other people have used their kitchen pots and pans for dyeing, I wasn't sure that was something I wanted to do. I didn't want to risk ruining my nice cookware. More importantly, I don't know much about the chemicals used in dye, and I didn't want to risk having toxic chemicals cling to the sides of my cookware and possibly make it into my food. So I went to the grocery store and purchased a couple of cheap large aluminum roasting pans. I figured I could discard them after the project was done.

I bought my white body stockings from Sugar Petals. I specifically chose Sugar Petals because Nateela, the owner, offers a one page sheet of dyeing tips when people buy body stockings from her. I had a feeling I would need all the tips I could find. And I was right!

Nateela's advice saved me from some problems that I know for a fact I would have otherwise encountered. For starters, she talked about needing rubber gloves and a large wooden spoon. I didn't own any rubber gloves, and I'd had no idea a spoon would be required. I didn't want to use my cooking spoons, so off I went, back to the grocery store!

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision Productions, Glendale, California.


Little did I know that rubber gloves come in different sizes. I just grabbed the first pair I saw at the grocery store. I didn't realize until I tried to put them on that the gloves I'd purchased were a size "Small", and I needed a "Large". Nothing about me is small. I'm almost six feet tall, and I have long, slender fingers. I tried the gloves on, and ended up concluding that I probably could survive wearing the smalls, and then throw them away when I was done dyeing.

I read some more on Nateela's instruction sheet, and encountered my next problem - she recommended using liquid dye instead of the powdered dye I had already purchased. Uh oh. She warned that powdered dye can get into the air and settle all over counters, the floor, etc. Nor did I like the idea of breathing it. That didn't sound good. Not good at all. That was a risk I didn't want to take. So off I went to the fabric store to look for the colors I wanted in liquid form. I was in luck - they had what I wanted.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.


At last it seemed I had all the supplies I needed. It was time to take the plunge!

The time had come to follow yet another piece of incredibly valuable advice from Nateela's dyeing tips: change my clothes. When I read that it not a good idea to dye while wearing light-colored clothing, I had an "Oh, I should have thought of that!" moment. I really should have been able to figure that one out on my own - but I hadn't! So I ran upstairs to replace my white shorts and black T-shirt with black yoga pants and a black T-shirt that I was willing to risk accidentally staining with the dye.

This also made me realize that my white kitchen floor was probably in peril. I brought in one of my outdoor rugs to protect the floor under the stove and sink.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision Productions, Glendale, California.




A Time To Dye

The dye package instructions said it would be necessary to bring the water to boiling and stir constantly for 30-60 minutes. Since I wanted the colors to be as dark as possible, I knew it would be necessary to go for the full hour. Oh, yeah, and we were having a heat wave. Outdoors, the heat index was 115 degrees Fahrenheit. That means that the combination of heat and humidity made the temperature feel like 46 degrees Celsius. I must have been out of my mind, thinking that would be a good day to stand around a hot stove with large quantities of boiling water releasing steam into my kitchen for an hour! I obviously didn't plan carefully enough.

I put hot water from the faucet into both roasting pans and arranged them on the stove. Each was large enough to cover two burners. I turned on these burners, and heated the water until it began to boil. Then I added dye to both pans, teal in one and wine in the other. I turned down the heat to keep the gentle boil going.

The time had come to add the garments. I put two white body stockings into each, and one white iris body stocking into each. This was when I had my first "uh oh" moment. The water level didn't fully cover the body stockings. I tried to push them down. I really did. But as soon as I released the wooden spoon, they sprung back into their original shape and stuck out of the water. Grrr. I couldn't really add more water to the tubs, because they weren't deep enough. I found myself hoping that I'd be able to poke and prod the body stockings enough to ensure even color all around.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Kaylyn Hoskins, Solon, Iowa.


For the next hour, I almost constantly poked and prodded the body stockings with my wooden spoon, sloshing them around in the boiling water, mashing them down, and turning them over, to ensure the color would come out even. This was harder than it sounds. The roasting pans were just shallow enough to make me worry that I'd slosh water over the sides, or splash / drip on the white counter. It wasn't easy to lift a garment out of a tub of water with the wooden spoon and then lower a different side of it back into the water. I was afraid it would slide off my spoon and go "plop". And that indeed happened a few times.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Randolph Lynch Photography, Redwood City, California.


I learned that it's not good to temporarily leave a wooden spoon propped against the side of the pan. Wood floats. If you try to prop it against the pan, the bottom will float as soon as you let go, and soon the entire spoon is floating in the dye, handle and all. It's not fun to reach into a vat of boiling water, even with my too-small rubber gloves, fish out the spoon handle, and wipe it off with a paper towel. No, not fun at all. For the rest of the hour, I carefully placed my wooden spoon on the navy blue spoon rest whenever I stepped away.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by William M. Smith, Iowa City, Iowa.




Done Dyeing

At last my timer signaled that the garments had been in the dye a full hour! It was time for my next "uh oh" moment - disposing of the unused dye. How was I supposed to get rid of the stuff? Was it okay to pour down the drain? Could I pour it over the grass in my yard? I really didn't know. why didn't I anticipate this question and research the answer before starting? This wasn't discussed on Nateela's tips sheet, nor did the instructions on the bottle of dye offer any enlightenment.

I finally decided to pick up the roaster pans, carry them outdoors, and pour them on the grass in the lawn. And that's when my next challenge arose - those aluminum broiler pans were flimsy, and when filled with water they bent and buckled when I tried to pick them up. Also, the water sloshed dangerously back and forth.

Clearly, the first thing I needed to do was lower the water level and reduce the weight a bit. So I found some old aluminum pie plates, the kind I use when baking a pie to give to someone else as a gift, and carefully transferred the body stockings to those. Removing the fabric from the roasting pans allowed the water level to drop to a less perilous level. I slowly carried the sloshing pans of dye out through the garage and into the lawn and dumped it, careful not to spill any. Next I took the body stockings outdoors and used the garden hose to rinse them thoroughly, with 3 rinses for each. Finally, I laid all 6 of them out to dry in the summer Iowa heat on the cement of my driveway.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision Productions, Glendale, California.




And the Results?

Unfortunately, none of the body stockings are usable in their current color with the costumes I intended to use them with. The "teal" body stockings look more like a bright turquoise, and clash with the teal color in the teal-and-aqua costume. The "wine" body stockings came out more of a brick red color, and clash with the soft mauve in the other costume.

The white iris body stocking that I dyed "teal" came out much lighter in color than the other two teal ones. The white iris body stocking that I dyed "wine" is very close in color to the other two.

The photo to the right shows the finished body stockings laid out on my sidewalk to dry.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Shira.

Nateela's document says that colors can be mixed. So I'm thinking about seeing what happens if I put the turquoise body stockings into a bowl of forest green dye, and if I put the red stockings into a bowl of blue. It seems worth the risk of experimenting further, though I hope to find an easier way to do it than what I did this time. Standing at the stove for an hour stirring fabric isn't much fun.

I still have questions about this whole process:

  • I haven't yet laundered these items. Should I do it before the first time I wear them?
  • I'll certainly wash them separately when the time comes to launder them for the first time, but will the normal rinse cycle suffice to clean the machine, or do I need to run an "empty" load of water?
  • Was it okay to dispose of the unused dye on the grass outdoors?
  • Would I have gotten different color results if I had used a ceramic bowl instead of an aluminum roaster?
  • Is there an easier way to do this?

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Dyed Items



What I Learned

  • I have absolutely no interest in becoming a person who dyes veils - or anthing else - on a regular basis!
  • My respect has gone up for people who do a lot of dye work. I respected them before, now I respect them even more!
  • The next time I try to dye something, I'm going to reread all available information.
  • Dyeing should be done only in the summer on a sunny day when warm weather will permit me to lay the finished items out on the sidewalk to dry. I have no idea how I would dry dyed items in rainy or wintry weather.
  • Dye packages don't come anywhere close to providing all the information a first-time dyer should have before starting.
  • I should have remembered to read the "Tips & Tricks for Dyeing Costume Items" elsewhere on my web site before trying this. I'd forgotten that article existed, and when I finally remembered I realized it contained a great deal of wisdom.
  • Allow no less than 2 hours for this process from beginning to end.
  • I'm still intimidated by dyeing.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision Productions, Glendale, California.




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