May 9, 2011

#59- Curl Up and Dye

Before Santa came this past year and left this little beauty of a bedspread from West Elm under the tree: (As seen in The Bungalow)

This is what our bedding looked like: 

This Thomas O'Brian duvet from Target is actually more gray/taupe than tan/khaki, but to match our wall color I cheated the color of the duvet with brown shams and throw pillows to make it work.  It turned it much more "country home" than I would like to admit... oh the shame. 

That's ok, it's time to redeem myself, and give this baby the life Thomas O'Brian intended in my new gray, white and yellow guest bedroom.  Which means those khaki pillow shams and bed skirt are toast.  Or are they?

For the record, I'm not usually "pro-bed-skirt," but the combination of a very old bed frame and an intense desire for under-the-bed storage is making it a necessity at this point.  Don't judge me.  Since I was going to throw/donate these bad boys anyway, I thought I'd first take a chance dying them gray to match the new look.  There is no earthly reason I should have thought that this was a good idea.  I've had many very unsuccessful attempts with dying fabric in the past.  But I theorized that this was likely because I never followed the directions completely.  (What working mom has time for multiple steps?)  So I decided to take one more chance with fabric dying, and vowed to follow each and every step to the T so that I would get a perfect product.  I'll warn you now, this goes very badly.

Here are the tools I was working with, found in the laundry detergent isle in any grocery store.  

Rit dye doesn't come in gray, you are just supposed to use a smaller amount of black dye to achieve it.  (I know this to be true by the way, as I have attempted on a couple of occasions to dye something black, but have never succeeded with anything darker than charcoal gray.)  The instructions suggest to use Rit Color Remover before dying your fabric, so I threw some of that in the cart too.  And since I'm a super-instruction-follower this time around, I read on the box of Color Remover that 2 boxes are actually necessary for the amount of fabric I was using, so I tossed another in the cart.  

Erin- 1  Rit Dye- 0

Once home, I insisted on following the instructions to the letter, so used a food scale to weight my dry fabric so I knew exactly what I was dealing with here.  Both shams and the skirt came out to 2lbs 9oz.  My package of black dye was for a maximum of 2 lbs of fabric, so I decided that this amount was perfect to achieve the gray I was looking for.  I've never successfully been able to dye to a dark black before, so with about 25% more fabric, I guessed that I'd achieve a medium to light gray.   I also checked the material my fabric was made out of- both 100% cotton.  This would be perfect, as poly blends don't dye nearly as well.

Per the instructions, I first put all the fabric through a regular, warm wash cycle, and then ran a second cycle with the color remover. In the end I was left with this yellowy mess.  So far so good.

Erin- 2  Rit Dye- 0

Then it was time for the dye, and again I followed the instructions perfectly, (i.e. added a cup of salt, restarted the agitator on the machine so that it agitated for 30 minutes, etc..) When the cycle was finally done I rushed to the machine to see my beautiful gray creation, and found this:

It was black.  Blackity-black-black.  Bad bachelor pad decor black.  It's one of those cruel tricks of the universe, in 3 previous attempts to dye fabric black I get gray, and when I actually attempt for gray I get black.  Maybe it was all that instruction following...

Rit Dye- 10  Erin-2

Never being one to give up without a fight, I figured that if color remover worked for me the first time, taking just a little color out, it would work again.  This time I only used 1 package though, hoping that it would remove just a little of the black and leave me with gray.  Fail.

It was red.  Come on!  Are you kidding me? Red?  We started with khaki, went to yellow, then to black, now red?

Rit Dye- 20  Erin- 2

By this point I was getting desperate, so I went to the Rit website.  They had all these crazy equations for figuring out the right color, but they also had a link to their color Pearl Grey.  Yep, that's right, little did I know but Rit actually makes a color called Pearl Gray.  The perfect color, no guessing required.  It's just in their extended line, not their basic line sold at grocery stores.  So I headed to my fabric store to pick up a package, as well as 2 more packages of Color Remover to start from scratch.  And in the end, I ended up with this:

Erin 21- Rit Dye 20

It was a close one, but I just barely pulled out a win at the end.  Not to shabby, eh?  And even though it took me a ton a tries and packages of Rit, the total project only cost me just under $15, which is far less than I would have spent purchasing 2 new shams and a bed skirt.  Look at how great it works with the new shaggy throw pillow I found for $8 in the clearance section of West Elm.  All-in-all I'm happy, and I might even attempt to dye another big project down the road now that I have conquered fabric dying and mastered Rit's secrets.  I'm not sure if I have the guts to though, to be continued...

Has anyone else ever successfully dyed anything besides the tie-dye shirts we all did in elementary school?  Even then I remember being so bummed that my shirt was always more of a brown mess then a true tie-dye.  Maybe it just wasn't meant to be for me.

UPDATE: Here's a look at how everything looks put together.  Still in progress- we have a lot to do alright? :) 


  1. We always have success dying our dogs collars. I'm not sure if we really saved money passing down a 20-year-old dog collar through hunting dogs but you can't have a hunting dog wear a pink one.

    This post makes me want to go dye something though!

  2. P.S. - When do we get to see the guest room finished?

  3. I'm working on a few more projects for the Guest Room, and hope to have it all put together for a big reveal next week!

  4. I have to say it was a surprise ending. I can't believe it worked out after all of that. Way to go!

  5. Last summer after my dad's wedding I washed my hubby's nice new shirt, since the wedding day was super hot and muggy and I'm kinda dumb with bleach. I have 'accidents' every time I have something precious in the laundry. Well, what do you know, I got bleach stains on his brand new shirt!! I was so mad and disappointed! I decided to try dying it, since it was ruined if I didn't mange to fix it. So no loss there. It turned out perfect! With a nicer color than it had before! It was a light greyish blue and now it's a darker greyish blue. He likes it more now. Whew! I used blue with a tiny bit of black in in to get the greyishness back. I love dyeing stuff!

  6. I have a pair of originally sage, later burgundy, now faded burgundy towels,,, I bought brown dye but what I would really love is somekind of greyish taupe. What do you suggest? color remover first and then gray? If I can´t find gray in my area should I try with less amount black dye? please helppp!

    1. I would order gray online- there's no way to be positive that less black won't become too much. I'd use color remover first too, that always helps to clear the pallet! Good luck!