Some time ago I gave up dyeing my own fabric. The hard honest truth is that all the chemicals involved with using MX dyes were really not agreeing with me, specifically the soda ash. And as much as I love making my own fabric, I’m not willing to make myself ill for it.
I have several friends that offered to dye fabric for me whenever I want it and I certainly am grateful (and will take them up on it) but it never really stopped needling me – that gap in my skill set. I am by no means short on fabric to print on and I love many commercial solids as much as hand dyes but I don’t really need to explain to you that, well…I wanted the option to dye my own cloth.
I did a lot of poking around the internet last year looking for alternatives. Considered eco dyeing, spice dyeing, tea dyeing…but really craved a wider range, more vibrant color selection. Then one day I was trolling around the craft store and there it was, staring me in the face all this time: RIT dye.
They’ve been around for a century. Literally. And I thought, “Well, got nothing to loose.” I bought two bottles of liquid RIT (no more powders for me) and shuffled on home with it. I prowled around on their website for a while reading and became friends with their Color Formula Guide. Over my break I dyed this:
And then I did this:
Which resulted in this:
To say I’m pleased with the results is an understatement. Several people have asked me for my method so I’m going to share it here. I will be the first to admit that I use a lot of dye to get the color I want. But it works for me and you can decide for yourself if you want to give it a go or make tweaks to something that makes more sense in your mind.
Here’s what I use:
* Robert Kaufman Kona PFD in half yard pieces
* ziploc baggies (gallon size)
* liquid RIT in the colors of your choice
* plastic measuring spoons and 8 cup plastic measuring cup
* kitty litter trays to leave the baggies in while batching
After reading their website, it became obvious that temperature is really important. They recommend 140 degrees F and I decided to get an electric tea kettle to make sure I hit the mark. I really believe it made a big difference in the depth of color I got.
Here are the steps I used:
1. Put 1/2 yard fabric in a baggie.
2. Mix 4 cups of dye mixture based on their color guide with 140 degree F water and 2 TBSP salt. (Why 4 cups? Because when I measured just plain water into the bag over a half yard piece of fabric, that’s how much it took to submerge it most of the way. This method of dyeing results in mottled coloring, not smooth solid color.)
3. Dump into baggie with fabric, give it a good squish around and then plop it in a second baggie just to be sure there is no freaky leakage anywhere.
4. Leave for at least 12 hours and then wash it out.
The wash out – that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Let me qualify this post by saying that I never wash my finished work. I am strictly a wall art chick so I do very minimal washing of my hand dyes. But I was curious to know how RIT would do if you kept washing the snot out of it so I did a little test for you all to decide if it will suit your needs.
I have mini washers that I use for my surface design fabric:
Now before you tell me that the mini washer doesn’t compare to a regular washer, let me say that I totally agree with you. These little buggers mean business and they’re pretty tough on fabric. (And also sound like an airplane is taking off when they run.) But I use them to wash out my messier surface design fabric to keep from getting anything I don’t want in the big washer.
I also bought some Shout Color Catchers to help better gauge how much dye was released from the fabric after each wash:
I should note that I did a pretty good rinse in the sink. The water was still kind of orangey but mostly clear.
I washed a fat quarter five times in a row. After each wash I tore off a strip and set it aside with it’s color catcher. Here are the results:
Let’s look at each one closer.
1. After the rinse out in the sink.
2. First spin through the mini washer. Lots of dye on the color catcher but I think that’s true of any dye process. The fabric itself is pretty much unchanged in terms of depth of color from the sink wash out. (It may not look like it from the photo but because I scrunched it and shoved it in the gallon size bag, there was mottled dyeing.)
3. Second spin through the mini washer. Less dye released.
4. Third spin through the mini washer.
5 & 6. You can see that it’s giving off less and less dye with each wash.
7. Comparing wash 1 with the fabric just rinsed out in the sink.
8. Comparing wash 5 with the fabric just rinsed out in the sink.
So the verdict? It does bleed but it also does stop. Is this something that deters me? Not at all. Like I said, I don’t wash my work once it’s done so I’m quite content with the way it works out after a single wash. They do sell a Dye Fixative that is supposed to help hold the color but I didn’t try that. I might give it a whirl in the future just to see how it helps.
I’m happy with the results I got and will continue to use it.
Now is RIT chemical free? Of course not. It’s dye. I take the same precautions with RIT as I did with MX dyes – face mask and gloves. But even with those, the MX dyes made me feel unwell. And the soda ash used with them? Ugh. Can’t go near the stuff.
I was so pleased with the way the fabrics came out from the dye recipes on their site (I will say that I found the color swatches weren’t exact matches, they were pretty darn close), I decided to draw from my obsessive compulsive color theory geekiness and mix up my own orange:
Came out very lively:
As someone pointed out when I posted this on Facebook, can you ever really have enough oranges? I’m thinking no. I’ll use the same base recipe again but mix in some other colors to make an earthy version.
So that’s what I know about RIT! 🙂 Dyeing fabric is much like everything else in the surface design world – you have to find what works for you. And I’m glad to have found my way. Woo!