Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pillows Dyed Perfectly

Slowly, but surely, I have been making small attempts at adding color to our home, and this time it was the living rooms turn.  Adding pillows to the decor seemed like an easy and noncommittal place to begin so I started shopping online.  Before I could get very far, I quickly became surprised shocked by some of the price tags.  To say the least, I found myself squinting at the screen and shaking my head in disgust.  I could not believe my eyes!  Not to mention that my couch is extremely long, so not only did I need pillows, but I needed lots of them - OUCH!  After days of online perusing, I finally came to the conclusion that there was no way in the world I was going to pay full price for all these pillows, and I had to come up with a better way.  Of course there are lots of ways to DIY pillows (sewing, painting, dying), but I chose the route of dying since I was looking for a particular spectrum of solid colors, and I wanted the pillows to match in terms of texture.  Yes, I am particular!  Anyway, I found some awesome white pillows at IKEA ($6 a piece) and the rest is history. 

Time:  This project is a quickie - the dying process takes about 40 minutes per dye bath (rinsing time included).
Cost:  Each pillowcase was $6.00, and a box of dye was $2.80.  From one box of dye, I dyed 2 pillow cases and 1 curtain panel (1 box of dye goes a long way)

Here is what you need:

- Rit dye 1.8 oz box (your color of choice) - I bought mine at the Pratt Art Store in Brooklyn*FYI - the color shown on the box is the color the fabric will be once it is dyed.  You can choose one of the colors available or you can mix dyes to achieve a new color.  There are directions on how to mix dyes here: Rit dye color formula dye
- White pillow cases - I bought 6 of the AINA pillow from Ikea (They are 20"x 20")
- Bucket - I used a cheap mop bucket from the dollar store that looks like the one shown.  I just took out the mop part.
- Gloves 
1.  Make your dye bath

Fill your bucket with really REALLY hot water.  The hotter the better!  The water from my kitchen sink came out really hot, so that is what I used, but I'm sure water from the bathtub faucet could get even hotter. Add your dye and stir it up! 

*Since I did this in my small Brooklyn apartment - my dining room to be exact, I put a towel (that I didn't care about) under the bucket in case I made any spills - which of course I did! 

2.  Test your dye

Before submerging your newly purchased pillowcases into the dye bath, make sure you test out the dye to see if you like the color (especially if you are mixing dyes).  Use a white piece of fabric (similar in material to the fabric you will be dying), and soak it in hot water, and let it sit in the dye for 5 minutes while stirring frequently.  Based on the results, you will be able to tell if you like the color.

*To achieve a dark purple, I mixed a whole packet of purple dye with some black dye, and without fail, I had to go back to the art store and buy another box of dye because I didn't like how one color came out.

2.  Ready, set, dye!

Now that you like the color, you are ready to dye your pillowcases.  Before you drop the pillowcase into the dye, you MUST soak it in HOT water.  This helps the fabric pick up the dye, and the color comes out much deeper.  After it is soaked in hot water, you can submerge it into the dye bath.  If you are dying more than 1 pillow the same color, I recommend dying them in the same bucket at the same exact time.  That way they will match perfectly, and one will not be darker than the other.  Make sure you stir the dye frequently (I used the end of a broom) until you get the color you like.  This part can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.  When you are satisfied with the shade of the dyed pillowcase, take it out of the dye bath and transfer it to a sink that is NOT fiberglass or plastic (it will stain) - I used my kitchen sink.

3.  Rinse

Rinse the pillowcase under warm water, and then gradually shift the water to cold.  You should rinse the pillowcase until the water runs clear (or so that is what the Rit website says).  This is the hardest part because it takes a long time, and with darker dyes, I find that the water never really runs COMPLETELY clear.  So, I would rinse it for as long as you can stand it.  While rinsing, it is important that you are constantly moving the fabric around under the water so the hard pressure of the water does not rinse out too much of the dye in one spot.  After the pillowcases are rinsed, I hung them to dry using my shower rod.  I hung them from hangers on safety pins, and I put a drop cloth under them to catch any drips.  

4.  Wash 

I don't know if this step is actually necessary, but I did it as a precaution because I did not want the dye to run on my couch.  After the pillowcases were dry, I washed them in warm water with a mild detergent, and then rinsed them with cool water.  During the first wash, some dye ran a little, which is totally normal.  After the pillowcases were hung to dry again, they were finally ready to be stuffed and put to use!
This is how I hung them to dry.
One safety pin through the zipper,
and one through the fabric on the opposite corner.

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