Just dye it.

I know what I said about getting back to art and all that, but not sewing furiously for the farmer’s market has left me free to work on a couple of around-the-house projects that have been patiently waiting their turn for a while. One of these projects is a sheet set that I bought for $3.50 at the thrift store a while ago. The sheets are practically new, very nice quality, and fit our bed (it’s not easy to find cal king stuff), but had the misfortune of passing through someone’s laundry with a spot of bleach. This left some orange blotches in prominent places – hence, their trip to the thrift store.

My nifty idea, ever since I bought the set, has been to try dyeing them a nice warm brown that will complement our bedroom furniture and not clash with the blue-grey-green walls. So, last weekend I walked into JoAnn’s armed with coupons, found the RIT dyes*, and picked out a couple of boxes of cocoa brown**.

*I know that there are better dyes out there, but if I was going to do this it needed to be right then and this was the only local option.
**Mistake no. 1: Why would a girl who doesn’t really like milk chocolate pick out “cocoa brown” instead of “espresso”?


My first crisis occurred when I discovered that my mother has a front loading washer, and you can only use the washing machine method with a top loader. So, I ended up cleaning out the big laundry room sink and appropriating it for the project. Unfortunately, this meant that I had to pour the diluted dye on top of the sheets instead of adding the wet fabric to the sink, since I didn’t have any place to store it in the mean time. This probably accounts for most/any of the dye inconsistencies in the final product.

After combining wet sheets + hot water + dye, I proceeded to squish the whole thing around in the sink for about half an hour***. After about 10 minutes, however, it became obvious to me that “cocoa brown” was a misnomer. “Dusty cocoa pink,” maybe? Or maybe just “dusty pink”?

***Mistake no. 2: Forgot gloves. My hands were a very interesting shade of pinky brown after this.


The rather badly lit photo above shows the results of round 1. The big purple-eggplant thing is a duvet cover (originally a blue that clashed with our walls) that I dyed separately using the same brown. The other items are an originally-white dust ruffle, the tan sheet set, and a plain cotton tablecloth with wine stains.

Now, even if you’ve never been in our apartment, you have probably seen enough pics to guess that purple and pink aren’t really part of my color scheme. Other than an on-sale sheet set from the mid-80s, I have never decorated with purple. Pink isn’t out of the question, but it clashes amazingly with the yellow/ochre accents that I have going in other parts of the house. Yech. Round 1 = failure.

Since I still didn’t want to give up on my bargain sheets, however, I went back for round 2 last night with hopes of showing you the marvelous finished product today. Unfortunately, if the photo below looks a lot like the photo above, well, that’s because it is.


The thought was to shove the pink in an ochre/orange direction with the addition of some yellow, but it turns out that yellow is not a particularly strong dye color. Certainly not strong enough to cover the almighty pinky-cocoa-brown. The color is a little better, but as long as I’ve put the effort in so far I think I’m going to go back to JoAnn’s and get something a little stronger for round 3. I saw a box of tangerine; maybe one of those and a box of espresso…? The duvet cover is also waiting, and I’m not entirely sure how to tone down its immense purpleness. I’m thinking about adding some green to see if I can get grey, since the yellow that could turn it into brown is pretty ineffectual.

So, that’s what I’ll be doing this weekend. More squishing fabric around in the sink, although this time with gloves. It sounds unpleasant and it certainly is a bit warm to hover over a steaming vat when it’s 100 degrees outside, but it’s actually kind of nice to do something that in no way involves computers. Or phone calls. And hopefully I’ll have some nicer photos for you on Monday. I hope you have fun with your weekend projects. :)

P.S. Other name contenders for this post included “As I Lay Dye-ing” and “Dye-it-ing.” What can I say? It’s Friday.


2 thoughts on “Just dye it.

  1. Hi,
    They also have RIT dye at both Walmart and Winco and probably cheaper. My experience with dye is always to go with a dark color (expecially if trying to cover stains) and usually to use the strongest recommended concentration. Boiling the fabric also helps. We actually dyed a formal brocade dress that was pink this way (became maroon) and everything dyed great except for the thread that must have been some kind of nylon(?) and undyeable. Over all, it was worth it as she wore it at least once and the dress was originally only $3. I hope your sheets come out. (not that it helps, but you can get that light brown color with just coffee)

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