Friday, July 15, 2011

Giving My Pashima A Dye Job

I’m going to a wedding on Sunday. I’ve had the dress, shoes and handbag for a month and a half. What I didn’t have was something to keep me warm in the air conditioning. A blazer seemed too business-like and a sweater (my sweaters, anyway) seemed too every-day. I thought about using a Pashima shawl--buttery soft and light-weight (but still warm)--that my husband gave me for Mother’s Day many years ago. The trouble: it was citrus green. I know, I know—citrus colors are really hot this year. However, citrus just makes me look jaundice! When I pulled it out to see if I could wear it to the wedding, I cringed. The color wasn’t great for my complexion at 35, but now it makes me look like I need immediate medical attention. So I decided to dye the shawl blue to match my shoes (below). Believe me: It was a gamble. My only previous dying experiences were with T-shirts and weekend cotton sweaters. But I felt sentimental towards the shawl, which my husband had given me when our children were small. I wanted to make it work—make it something I wanted to wear.

If you’re thinking about dying a garment, the first and most important thing you must do is ask yourself: “If I ruin the garment, can I live with that?” If the answer is “no” or “maybe not,” don’t dye! At least, don't dye it yourself. Also, if you’re a perfectionist, don’t dye! Instead, seek a professional dying service. There are so many variables—fabric type, previously applied dye, and current dying conditions, to name but a few—that make home dying really risky. (My shawl, for instance, is 30% silk and 70% Pashima and clearly states: “Dry Clean Only” on its label. Machine washing was, indeed, a risky business.) If, on the other hand, you are truly prepared to live with a bad result, home dying might surprise you with a very happy result.

Step 1: I got a packet of royal blue dye at the drug store. From past experiences, I knew a single packet probably wouldn't give me a royal blue shawl, especially since I was starting out with citrus green, not white. But I wasn't too worried--any blue was better than lime. (And you can always redo the dying process with a second packet, if you want a deeper color.)
Step 2: I set the washing machine on the delicate cycle. The dye directions called for soaking the garment for 30 minutes in hot water. I think the hot water is necessary to 1) dissolve the dye crystals and 2) dye the fabric. I filled the machine’s tub about 30% with the hottest water to dissolve the crystal. It’s a good idea to stir the dye around to make sure the crystals are dissolved. I found using my hands in rubber gloves worked well. Then, I finished filling the machine’s tub with warm water (hoping to prevent shrinkage).
Step 3: When the machine’s tub was full for a medium load, I put the shawl in. Again, I used my hands in rubber gloves to fully soak the shawl. I wanted to make sure shawl was loose and evenly exposed to the dye in the tub.
Step 4: I kept the machine lid up (to prevent the cycle from running) for 20 minutes, so the shawl would soak up the dye. Then, I let the machine complete its gentle cycle.
Step 5: At the end of the cycle, I pulled out a peacock blue shawl (see shawl at top of this post). I put the shawl in the dryer on the gentle drying cycle and dried it for about 15 minutes—just long enough to fluff up the shawl and get rid of the wrinkles.

The whole process took around an hour. As far as I can tell, there was no shrinkage or damage to the weave. I won't lie: A very careful inspection showed signs of very slight variations in color in a few places. I'm not sure why; perhaps, the shawl had suffered some wear and tear over the years. I usually dye garments that are brand new. In any case, since shawls are meant to be wrapped, folded and draped, I'm not worried. Again, that’s me. You might feel differently.

Have you tried dying anything? Has it been successful? Do you have any tips? Please share.