Stacy here! When it comes to gift-giving, I have two go-to solutions: books and handcrafted. My brother and sister-in-law had their second baby last month. They waited until birth to know if it would be a brother or sister to my niece, Maddy. Every time I’ve thought about something to make it either gets really girly or far too boyish.
However, I had some long-sleeved onesies and bottles of dye for another project that never transpired. I’ve dyed onesies before for another friend. At the time, it was a trial project to see what colors I could get. I used the powder dye to make a monochromatic collection of orange shirts.
When I had some experience and knew shades and strengths of Tangerine and Sunshine Orange, I dyed my son a dress shirt for Easter. The shirt had some polyester content and stitching that was likely polyester, which I knew wouldn’t take the color. I was able to adjust that dye bath to be a little darker and leave the shirt in longer to get the intensity of color I wanted. It turned out really professional looking, for only a few bucks. (A $4 thrifted shirt and the cost of the dye!)
For my current project, I had three bottles of dye with which to work: Teal, Kelly Green, and Lemon Yellow. (I must have planned to REALLY go crazy with the blending and batches with this much dye.) Rit Dye has a handy tool for blending colors on their web site. It would be really useful if I could enter the colors I have and it would show me what’s possible. But I was able to poke around and find shades that used the colors I had.
To get started, I put a pot of water on to boil while I gathered supplies: Some tubs for the dye baths, the shirts to dye, and the dye. Well, maybe I didn’t gather everything in advance. As I went along, I realized I needed some other things that I could grab nearby, like old towels for wiping drips and a spoon to dunk the fabric.
When I read the directions on the Rit Dye site, I decided I’d use salt this time around, too. Salt will create greater intensity of color for certain fabrics, like the cotton I was using. So added salt, a dry measuring cup, and measuring spoons to my arsenal. Then I grabbed a liquid measuring cup to measure the boiling hot water that went into my dye bath.
I figured out some things, too. Metal tongs worked better for moving and dunking the fabric. The onesies were completely submerged in the dye bath. Moving the fabric around and getting it out of the bath was much easier with tongs. The metal tongs also didn’t hold the color like the wooden spoon I started using.
Later, a rubber band was helpful to gather up the parts of the fabric that I didn’t want hanging in the dye bath. Oh, and you might want some gloves. For the most part, I kept my hands out of the water. I only ended up a little bit blue.
When each item came out of the dye bath, I plopped it in the sink while running cold water over it. I soaked and squeezed until the water ran as clear as possible. For anything that had two colors on it, I tried not to let the colors run together in the rinse water.
From there, I hung everything up to dry on a makeshift clothesline in my garage. I wanted them to dry before I put them into the washing machine. Since I had some very different colors between the teal and orange/yellow, I rinsed them in two loads. I didn’t add anything else in these loads except the dyed items. I did open the lid during the cycle to see that they were indeed losing some color. After that round, I hung them up to dry in the laundry room. The next day, I washed them again with detergent in a load with similar colored items. The colors were a bit more faded than when they came out of the dye bath, but I’m confident that the colors aren’t going to fade out onto other clothes any more.
Inspiration and Finished Products
A few weeks ago I saw a shirt at J Crew that was so clever for little boys. Striped AND dip-dyed! But $34.50? Ouch.
I used an orange and blue striped shirt that we already had in the closet. It was kind of bland and predictable. But with a little orange dip-dye on the bottom and sleeves, it’s now completely unique!
The shirt for me turned out more pastel than I would have liked, but it should be great for the beach. It looks a bit like sea glass or a watercolor wash. Next time, I won’t be afraid to add more dye to the mix. The green used on this shirt was mixed after I dyed the yellow shirt. I added 1/4 teaspoon of Kelly Green to the Lemon Yellow to make Green 3 #259.
And the sweet baby onesies are all tied up with a bow ready for my niece, Emma.