Thursday, January 26, 2012

No One Died. I Just Dyed.

I dye the fabric for my dolls' "skin" in my basement.  I started doing it because I couldn't find many solid browns that weren't too gray, or too yellow, or too purple.  I had been hesitant about dyeing my own fabric, but once I got the hang of it, it was easy.  It has even become a joke with my children.  I will say to them, mournfully, "I'm going to the basement to dye."  They put on their sad faces.

Once, my mother-in-law called while I was working and my daughter ran to answer the phone. "Can I tell her you're dyeing?" she asked excitedly, relishing the prospect of a good joke.  My mother-in-law is 82.  No.  Another time I told a friend, without thinking, "I'm down in the basement dyeing.  Can I call you back?"  The absolute silence on the other end of the line gave me enough time to correct myself.  "Dyeing fabric! Not dying!"

Recently I went to the basement to dye, thinking I could do a couple of yards between dinner and falling asleep in front of the TV.  The area I work in has a utility sink, our washer and dryer, a chest freezer, assorted laundry baskets, a rolled-up old cream-colored rug, and -- on this occasion -- my husband's clean dress shirts hanging up over the freezer.  (Do you hear the foreboding music yet?)

Utility sink

I use these small plastic containers to mix my dye slurry with a tiny whisk, but I usually end up giving them a quick, vigorous shake just to make sure the dye is completely dissolved. I measured out varying amounts of rust brown, chocolate brown, golden brown, ecru, and water in several of these containers and mixed.  Let's note that both rust brown and chocolate brown contain a lot of red pigment.

Containers for dye slurry

Tight grip?
And then I gave them all a good shake, checking to make sure the lids were secure.  Plus, I hold them like this to make sure the lids don't fly off.

What happened next was...unexpected.  Mid-shake, I felt liquid on my face.  Running down to my mouth.  I saw liquid the color of dried blood running down the freezer, on the laundry baskets, on my shirt, on the old rug, and on the cuffs of two of my husband's dress shirts. For the record, dye slurry is salty in that split second before you start furiously spitting it out.

And that's when my husband came home -- in the middle of the frantic clean-up -- walking in on what looked like a grisly crime scene.

Not blood on the rug!

I did the best I could with the shirts, but it is fiber-reactive dye.  As long as he keeps his jacket on, you don't see the stains.  That and my shirt are all that still bear the marks of the Massive Dye Accident.  Wearing my not-bloodstained t-shirt is now truly appropriate when I go down to dye.


  1. So what happened? Did the lid have a hole in it or did it come loose?

    1. Best I can figure is that the lid wasn't sealed all the way around, even with me holding it down. I sure triple-check that now!

  2. 8-) you are a good story teller too.
    many talents.

    Ziplock makes a small pot with a screw top.
    Just FYI
    D. Feit

  3. Love it! Thank you for sharing! - Lynda

  4. Depending on how old your kids are, I mix dye stock in a screw-cap bottle. I mix a lot at a time, so I have many juice containers - original labels removed, new ID's taped on. This would work with recycled water containers with squirt tops on them - the kind that have flip caps to cover. Or shampoo bottles, tho' they aren't clear. Both are useful for dispensing.
    I think we've met - will you be at Hampton?

    1. I had flip-top bottles but they kept disappearing, never to be seen again. We may have met -- I'm trying so hard to get better about remembering names and faces -- but I won't be going to Hampton. Are you?

  5. Yep - I've been there as a vendor (DippyDyes) - this will be my third year. And I was at Chantilly in early October in 2010, I think, but the years keep running together! And I've had three years in Lancaster - we get a good number of folks there from DC. Whether we've met or not, happy dyeing! And keep enjoying all the dye puns!!