Blue Regency Day Dress, Part II: Dyeing the Fabric

regency-dress-fabric

When I originally started the dressmaking process I purchased a 4.5-yard length of pale blue striped chambray on eBay– the photo was a little dark, but I figured it looked all right and the price was good at just over $16 for the whole thing. Sadly, unlike the silver embroidered fabric I lucked out on for my Grey Lady gown, this was not one of my lucky eBay moments. When the fabric arrived it was definitely much too light in color– barely blue at all– and I knew I had to do something.

Well, first I tried searching online for new, cheap fabric, but once that failed I knew I had to do something. So I decided to dye it.

I’ve used iDye Poly in the past to dye a nylon petticoat pink– it worked perfectly in my washing machine and I was very pleased with it. As this fabric was supposedly a “cotton blend” I knew I could at least try to use the regular iDye (for natural fibers only), rather than the Poly version. Since I only wanted to add a little bit of color to the fabric, the washing machine method would work fine– ordinarily to get the most vibrant color you should boil the fabric on the stovetop, but that would have required me to sacrifice one of my big pots (not supposed to use pots for cooking once they’ve had dye in them), which I was not prepared to do anyway.

I decided to use Turquoise as my dye color, since I was worried that using Brilliant Blue would result in a too-purple overall shade. Because I only wanted a slightly more vibrant color, I didn’t use all of the dye either. Instead, I snipped off about 1/8 of the dye pack and tossed it in my washing machine, following the instructions on the packet and dumping in a bunch of salt as instructed. I saved the remaining powdered dye, just in case the color wasn’t vibrant enough and I needed to re-dye the fabric (didn’t end up needing to).

I had a few moments of panic during the dyeing process– first the color looked way too dark, and then the fabric got really twisted during the spin cycle and the color looked blotchy (almost tie-dyed)– but once it was dry it evened out and looked lighter overall. I was a little concerned that the color was more of a blue-green than the sky blue I’d hoped for, but what did I expect from a color labelled Turquoise? Plus, the stripes in the fabric (I’d originally titled this series “Striped Regency Day Dress” but obviously this ended up being a misnomer) were barely visible anymore. Anyway, after much vacillating I decided to just go with it– I didn’t want to deal with re-dyeing and risking what was a perfectly nice color.

Sorry I don’t have any process pictures, but it was too stressful while it was going on and I forgot. Also sorry for no before and after shots– the original color never showed up properly on my camera and just looked white.

Onwards!

Notes:

  1. The first thing to remember if you’re going to cut open the dye pack is to do it over a large paper towel (like a double-sheet… really large) or something else you can throw away. I thought I was being careful enough by holding it inside of a paper cup while I snipped it with scissors, but tiny grains of the dye powder must have gotten onto the counter because the next time it got a few drops of water on it– presto! Blue-dyed counter! Be careful, is all I’m saying. And don’t forget to wash your scissors thoroughly as well.
  2. While the dye instructions say to let the fabric sit in the dye bath for an hour, that’s only if you want really vibrant color. To get this shade (and remember, the original fabric was barely colored at all) I only ran the fabric through my machine’s 12-minute (standard length) washing cycle, and despite there being only 4.5 yards of fabric I set the machine on “medium load” so there’d be a lot of water in it to dilute the color. I wanted to make sure the fabric wouldn’t get too dark, because it’s easier to add more dye than to selectively remove just enough.
  3. The fabric will look significantly darker when wet than when dry, so keep that in mind when you’re judging whether it’s finished soaking and ready for drying.
  4. After the initial dyeing, I ran the fabric through two more wash cycles (one warm and one cold) with plain water before drying, just to make sure the color wouldn’t bleed later on. Also it worked to rinse the machine out so future loads wouldn’t come out turquoise. I’ll still run a load of towels through it before anything else, since our towels are dark blue already.
  5. Finally, if you’re unsure that the dye is going to be the shade you want, try mixing it with a little water before chucking it into your machine– you’ll at least get an idea of what color the dye is, so if it’s too green or whatever you’ll know upfront. I think if I’d done this I would’ve gone with Royal Blue instead, as it’s slightly bluer than Turquoise but not as purple as Brilliant Blue.
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One thought on “Blue Regency Day Dress, Part II: Dyeing the Fabric

  1. Ugh, you’re so brave! I would be so nervous with the dye. But I guess if you’re not happy with the fabric as is, you’ve got to do something with it. Looking forward to seeing your progress. It looks like a lovely shade now.

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