Friday, November 10, 2006

Would you call any of these "Misty Blue"?

Way last spring when I was preparing an order of dyes and blanks (white ready-to-dye garments) for tie-dyeing, Deb added a pair of crushed-nylon slacks to the list. The challenge, however, was that she wanted them to be dyed a still-to-be-determined solid color.

She finally decided that she wanted "Misty Blue" pants. Whatever that means. I'll tell you what it means--it means that I have to learn to do "vat dyeing" (or "bucket dyeing" for those of us without a vat)...

I carefully weighed the pants, researched colors and formulas and calculated how much dye would be required. Mixing of powdered dyes must be done outdoors as the powder is highly allergenic. With the change of seasons I knew that my procrastination time was rapidly disappearing so on a beautiful fall day earlier this week I mixed up what I hoped would be the perfect amount of dye to turn that garment Misty Blue.

The next day I had time to do the deed. I used a long bamboo stick to stir a couple of cups of non-iodized salt into a bucket of warm water, added the liquid dye and then the pants. The next step is to stir pretty much constantly for 20 minutes (so the color will be evenly distributed).

Only, as I stir, I notice that those pants are turning a much darker blue than what I would call "misty". Oh, dear, I have too much dye! What to do? I dash upstairs to my sewing/project room (one of the advantages of an empty nest is getting to take over those abandoned bedrooms!) and grab a waiting-to-be-dyed tee-shirt.

Dash down stairs. Stir the pants. Man, that 20 minutes is taking a loooong time to pass. Add the tee-shirt to the bucket. Oops, now it's too full to stir properly. Mix up some more warm salt water. Add (slowly!) to the dye bucket. Stir. Stir. Look at the clock. Stir some more. Use the bamboo stick (a tomato stake in its former life) to lift the pants and the shirt out of the dye bath. STILL too dark. The pants are dark, the shirt looks less so. Actually, the shirt looks more like what I'd think Misty Blue should be. Oh, dear. What to do?

Run upstairs again. Grab a pair of white cotton child's shorts. Dash back down. Stir. Take a deep breath. Add the shorts to the bucket. Stir. Stir. Hey, those shorts are starting to look like the light blue color I'd expected for the tee-shirt. Stir. Stir. Ignore the fact that the bucket is now REALLY full, too full to stir properly.

DING. Yah, the 20 minutes are up at last. Spend the next 12 minutes (it's supposed to take 15, but I cheated) slowly adding sodium carbonate solutiion while, you guessed it, stirring and stirring and waiting for another ding.

Take a deep sigh of relief and let the bucket sit blessedly undisturbed for an hour. The bucket sits. I don't. I have too much to do...

Come back an hour later and pour off the dye water and begin the process of hand rinsing and rinsing and rinsing and rinsing, then run them through the washer a couple of times with a set of dark blue sheets to fill out the load. Dry.

Take the pants, shirt and shorts out to find that we have three different shades of blue, depending on how many dye molecules were available to bond with each garment.

So, here's the question: Which (if any) of these blues are closest to what you would call "Misty Blue"?


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