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At the moment I'm really enjoying tie-dye prints; there's quite a lot of it around on the high street, but I don't like wearing clothes that everyone has so I decided to make my own version.
I bought a cheap £3.99 white spaghetti string vest top from H&M and also a £4.99 beige coloured slouchy vest top. At home I cut out all the tags and labels and began my tie-dying process!
I bought two packets of dylon hand dye from my local fabric shop - one in burlesque red and the other velvet black. They cost me £2.79 each, but a quick look online shows that they actually seem to be more expensive online which is very unusual. There's not a huge amount of places that stock this, but John Lewis should have some.
To use the dye you dissolve the powder in the packed into 500ml of warm water - this will take quite a bit of stirring and I found it to be really clumpy so maybe a little more water is needed. You then fill a container with 6 litres of warm water and dissolve 250g salt into it. I used an old mop bucket which worked perfectly and I didn't quite have 250g of salt, but I used what I had (maybe 100 - 150g) and it seemed to work fine. You then add your dissolved dye powder to this container and stir it all in before submerging your fabric. The fabric should stay in the dye for an hour - stirring for the first 15 and then stirring occasionally for the last 45 minutes. Once the hour is up you rinse the fabric in cold water and then wash in warm water (I used my washing machine to wash with warm water).
To achieve my tie-dye effect I used two methods. For one top I simply used a hair tie to just make horizontal ties all the way down the top which has given white hoops around the top, but the lines aren't crisp - more blurred and it looks really great. For the other top I picked up the centre of the top and tied it there and then the same but further out from the centre to create rings on the front and back. Sorry if that's hard to understand; it's more difficult to describe the technique than I thought!
So it's really quite simple to use. The rinsing with cold water took a long time for the water to run clear which got a bit annoying, but it wasn't too bad. I rinsed it in the bath tub and the dye left no stains at all and my bathtub is sparkling white again after a quick rinse. I also dripped some on my wooden floor and wiped clean off. Obviously if you get it on any fabrics you're going to have a problem, but for ceramics it seems to come off quite easily - but still be careful!
The results are fantastic. The colour of the burlesque red is what I would describe as burgundy. Despite the packet saying 'red' I can't decide if it is red or pink. Either way it's a really beautiful colour. My results were slightly lighter than the colour on the pack and not quite as rich, but that may be due to not leaving it for quite long enough. I have worn my new tie-dye tops quite a few times and washed them and the dye is still crisp and clear with no signs of fading. I'm really impressed with these hand dyes and will definitely use them again.
Dylon's Burlesque Red is a sort of dark red / burgundy / purplish colour by any other name. These dyes are intended for 'natural' type fabrics, such as cotton and linen, and to some extent wool and silk. Dylon produce a number of different types of dye; an easy-use washing machine type that dyes clothes during the wash cycle, and cold-water and warm water 'hand wash' dyes that you use in the sink. Home dyes don't generally work on man-made fibres such as acrylic, nylon and polyester; I understand that with synthetic fibres like these the colour is an intrinsic property of the fabric, and can't be adjusted after it's been made.
A sachet of warm water Dylon dye costs about £3, and the blurb on the packet says this quantity is sufficient to dye 'a large (ie a man's) cotton shirt'. The dye gets pre-dissolved in warm water, then the mix is added to a (metal) sinkful (or metal basin) containing six litres of warm water. You also need to add 250g salt. Then the fabric goes in and needs to be 'stirred' for 15 minutes constantly; this stirring is the most onerous part of the dyeing process, I find. After that the fabric is left to steep for another 45 minutes, needing only the occasional / regular stir. You wash the excess dye out of the clothes using cold water, then run the piece through a warm wash in the machine - and that's it.
I used Dylon on occasion in the 1980s, when the hand-dye was sold in tiny little round metallic drums that were a disaster to try to get into. The dye comes as a salt-like coloured powder that's marked 'irritant' on the packet - so you really don't want to come into contact with it, and it was always a pain trying to get it out of the little tin. Perhaps because now the product comes in a plasticized paper sachet that is so much easier to open, the whole dyeing process now seems a lot more straightforward to me than it did many years ago.
Ease of use aside, I was a bit disappointed with the burlesque red colour, because the results I obtained were quite different to the colour on the packet. I started with a pair of cargo-type cotton trousers of the pale brown colour usually associated with German army uniforms circa WWII (so you can see why I wanted to dye them); while the blurb on the dye makes you aware that 'the usual rules of colour mixing apply' - so that if you add say, red to blue you'll get purple - there was no way that the intense, chocolate brown colour that resulted was in any way 'red'. I have dyed a second pair of these trousers using a different colour of dye, and they turned out pretty much as I was expecting (lighter, if anything, considering that they started off light brown,) so I believe it's a problem with the burlesque red shade itself.