Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tutorial: I'd like some Rainbows on my Refashioned woolens if you please :)

I've been dying things with koolaid, or food coloring for a while now - I did loads of silks, and then last Christmas I dyed some wool leg warmers.    Then one day it hit me - and to be honest I don't know why it took so long ;)  - I could dye the sweaters I've been repurposing!  So of course I got right down to it and grabbed a boring pale pink sweater I'd found (see above) - terrible color, but nice and soft - and it quickly became this:

Not bad for straight red food coloring hey?

Perfect for a girl who believes that the best color ever is pink, who turns her little nose up in the air at the idea of wearing anything else -
(anyone know how I might turn the red snowsuit I've got for her pink ?? )

So this is very simple - all you do is choose your color(s) and add to water with a couple of glugs of vinegar.  There ought to be enough water to fully cover the garment.  So lots of drops will make a brighter more saturated color, less will make a paler color.  If it's not dark enough, pull out the garment, add more color, and then put the garment back in - this will help to make sure the color is even.  

This will work for all animal based fibres - silk, wool etc.  It will just suck the color up like a sponge, until the water is almost clear again.
Note:  This won't work on other fibres - cotton is a no go :(  

When you've got it the way you want it, place it in a steamer and steam it for 35 minutes or so to set the color. 

Rinse well in cold water, and you're done.  The color holds up to washing quite well - I wash on cold, in the machine if it's a fabric that can take it, or by hand.

Now at this point my mind started spinning with all sorts of ideas and next thing I knew I had discovered this:

OMG!  Can you believe that color?  I swear it's food coloring.

And it was *easy*

I had found that with the previous project, the wool- being quite water resistant, didn't want to take the liquid in at first.  So with this project, I got it fully wet, and squeezed the water out first.  Then I laid it out on a towel.  This did stain the towel just a bit, so use either a dark colored one, or one that you don't care about.

So this project is actually a men's wool undershirt.  It's quite thin, which I find works nicely for kids' clothes, and it's not itchy - definitely a big requirement, or it will be all for naught when it doesn't get worn.

I laid it out flat on the towel and smoothed it nice and flat.  Then I got my sewing ruler, and used that to sort of keep the color going where I wanted it.  I found that it's actually quite easy, to keep the color contained - I think perhaps because it sucks the color up soooooo quickly.  I only used red, yellow, and blue for this - overlapping the colors to get a rainbow effect.

I wanted this to soak right through to the second layer - and it did.  I'm not sure how well that would work with a thicker sweater - you'd have to play around with it and just keep checking I think.  You could place a barrier tho and do the front and back separately.

I also did the dying on this before sewing - I wasn't sure if it would work to be honest, and I didn't want to take the time to sew if there was a chance I would wreck it with the dye ;)   I suppose it could have easily gone the other way too lol - I might have wrecked in in the sewing stage!  Lucky for me I didn't tho ;)

I did go back at the end and touch up a few places - just making sure it was all fully saturated.  The back side did end up with a few little white bits, but it still looks fine, as it's minimal.

 I've been waiting and waiting to do this tutorial - I wanted to sew something with the finished piece!

So here's my little sweetie in her rainbow dress :)  And what luck that it matches her rainbow leg warmers perfectly!  Me thinks this little lady might just have to be something rainbowy for Halloween - hmmmm Rainbow Fairy Princess?  Yes my girls are at that age where any costume choice has 
"Fairy Princess" attached ;) Oh and Ballerina too ;)

The leg warmers were *not* dyed by me - it was just a brilliant coincidence that the colors match so darned well.

Is your mind spinning with all the possibilities??????

Mine sure it ;)

I'm thinking a turkey baster would be super helpful for color control.

I''m thinking cookie cutters would make it possible to make simple shapes like hearts.

You can go bright, or you can tone it way down with much less concentrated colors.

You never have to pass up a boring colored, but otherwise awesome sweater to cut up ever again!

Yes I'm giddy :)

My oldest daughter will see this and say something along the lines of
"See mom?  I told you you're a hippy"

Nope, but I do love rainbows.....

If you try out this tutorial, or any others here, I'd really really love to see photos :)


  1. ohhh... this is so fabulous!
    i am excited about the possibilities!

  2. Heather, this is terrific! I love your tutorials. I am definately going to try this, but probably not til the new year as I'm up to my eyelids in Christmas/Solstice craftiness. By the way, I left you a message on Ravelry. Let's chat.
    xo Jules

  3. This is cute...very nice..keep it up your smart blog..well wishes...

  4. I wanted to try and dye a wool rug green--but cannot find LIME kool-aid anymore. Didn't think about trying food coloring...Thanks for the easy instructions and use of ruler tip. NICE!

  5. Thank you :)

    Unfortunately it won't work on cotton - it only works on animal fibres, so silk, and wool. The animal fibres just suck up the color so well - there's often not any color left in the water when you're done. And the best part I think is that it's just so fast to do - really not time consuming - especially if you're just dying something one solid color. I was thinking too that I might try using a spray bottle with a fine mister and a cookies cutter to make shapes. I think that it would work as long as the pice was damp first.

  6. I'm so proud of you, your whole blog is just so down to earth and inspiring at the same time. I just love it!

  7. Thank you :) IT's feeling really good :)

  8. Wow, the COLOR!!! That is one juicy outfit your little one got out of it - LOVE it!