Sunday, July 1, 2012
How to make a rainbow dress (dyeing calico)
I had a vision of a rainbow dress for an upcoming work party. I looked around a bit, but didn't find anything that suited my vision. Then I thought I would go find a beautiful rainbow print from Spotlight and make a simple dress out of it.
A day prior to the function (of course), I went to Spotlight. I searched high and low but there was nothing like I had imagined. I knew that I didn't have the extra money for buying a dress at the shops. After awhile at the store I got the idea of making the dress in plain calico (100% undyed cotton), and then dying it myself. I chose the primary colours (red, yellow, blue) of Dylon dye (the hand-dying variety, there is also one you can do in a washing machine), and envisioned dipping a side of the dress in at a time. The dyes would fade upwards and blend into each other to create other secondary colours, green and orange and purple. I didn't buy a pattern because it was out of my budget (some were $20-30).
The 3 dyes, a dress zipper, and 1.5m of calico fabric came to $31 NZ.
It took me all night to make the dress from a pattern I had that was far too small that I visually sized up looking at a dress I had that fit me - so made my own pattern by following the structure of one, and the look of an actual dress I had. I had to play with it, tailoring it, but eventually made one that was good enough. I was very out of practice! So this was the weak part of my project - and can only improve the next time I do it (I think I will then just use a pattern which fits me).
But the dyeing went great. See the photo below. I dyed in our basement garage, which is perfect for dyeing - just concrete and metal down there. I repurposed a container for the dyeing that I usually used for recycling. Then I had to find a way to the dress dipped for at least 45 min (one side at a time), so I used laundry clips and string, and tied them up to a pole at the right lengths so the dress was suspended evenly in the mixture.
What I did:
First I had washed the dress in the washing machine on hot - so it shrunk as much as possible and wouldn't shrink any more later (my mom's tip). After it was dry, it was wrinkly so I ironed the fabric before (and as a tool during) making the dress.
After the dress was made, I got the dress wet and wrung it out. After dipping the side of the dress in the first colour, I rinsed the dress out in cold water, then warm. Then another side of the damp dress got suspended in the next colour. I was even able to make the fade (which naturally happened anyways) more extended by raising the container up higher for a few moments (so the dress was submerged for a short time deeper in the dye) so the colours blended more.
Important: Dyeing is very fun and easy - IF you are dyeing a natural fabric. It's pure cotton, or wool, or linen etc, it will be great. If it's polyester or viscose or something plastic - the dye won't take.