Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Curtain Makeover

Curtain Makeover with Rit Dye

Last year, the hubby and I bought a 100+ year old house.  The previous owners took very good care of it, and I loved the color scheme they picked for the house, from the wall paint to the curtain colors. I knew it would cost a bundle to get new curtains to fit all the different sizes of windows, so we asked them if they would include the curtains with the house.  Luckily for us, they did.

The curtains in the dining room were a nice color but a little faded.  The color was perfect, until we loaded the room with lots of honey oak colored furniture.  Between the color of the wood floor, the wood furniture, the wall paint hue, and the curtains, there seemed to be too uniform of a color palette. Kind of a beigy, yellowy, greenish, goldish hue.  Can't quite put my finger on the color, but there seemed to be a lot of it!
Curtains Before Rit Dye
Curtains- Before (Don't mind the mess--that's a project for another day!)
Curtains Before Rit Dye
Curtain- Before (Not a great representation of the color, but you can see the style of the curtain.)
I once used Rit Dye years ago to dye a black cotton vest back to a darker, richer black, but besides that, I haven't had any experience with Rit Dye.  The Rit Dye website has a Color Formula Guide to help you pick the right combo of dyes to mix to achieve your desired color.  I chose a bluish gray color that would (in theory) match some of the colors in the rug under the dining room table. The color is called Blue-Green #193.

Now, some things to keep in mind at this point.  The results of Rit Dye depend largely on the type of fabric used and the original color of the fabric.  My curtains were 72% silk and 28% polyester, while the lining was 96% polyester and 4% cotton.  Polyester doesn't dye well, but silk does, so I was banking on the larger quantity of silk to hold the color.

The formula needed for my desired color was:
1 Tsp Royal Blue
1/8 Tsp Sunshine Orange
1 Cup Water

The recipe is for 1 ounce of fabric.  I estimated I had about 3 pounds of fabric for all 3 curtains (and this was just a wild guess, really), so I worked out the math as follows:

3 lbs of fabric = 48 ounces of fabric, so take each measurement times 48 and convert to a more usable measurement.

1 Tsp Royal Blue x 48 = 48 tsp or 1 cup (which is one bottle of Rit Dye Liquid Fabric Dye, 8-Ounce, Royal Blue )
1/8 Tsp Sunshine Orange x 48 = 6 tsp or 2 Tb Sunshine Orange  (Rit Dye Liquid Fabric Dye, 8-Ounce, Sunshine Orange)
1 Cup water x 48 = 48 cups or 12 quarts or 3 gallons water

Step-by-step directions I followed for dyeing my curtains:

1. Take down curtains, remove hardware, and wash per Rit instructions. Know your fabric type.

I had to pull out the strings and unscrew the hardware.  Be careful to keep the strings organized; if your curtains are like mine, they aren't all the same length and are dependent on which side of the curtain they pull from.  I also removed the wood slats.

Prepping before Rit Dye

2. Gather your supplies.

I did my dyeing project in a 5 gallon bucket set inside our basement washroom sink.  That way if I sloshed, it didn't get on the floor.  I wore old clothes and gloves.  Don't forget the gloves!  You also need something to stir the fabric with, a way to heat the water, a thermometer if you have one, an old towel to wipe spills, and of course, the Rit Dye and Rit Color Remover.  (Did I mention, remember to wear gloves?!?)

Supplies to Dye Curtains with Rit Dye
I used a hot pot to heat the water for the Color Remover, but for the actual dye, I boiled water in two pots on the stove. I also only used one bucket but had an extra one to transport the wet curtains up and down the stairs, as our washer and dryer are on the main floor.

3. Use Rit Color Remover per instructions on the box.

Before dyeing the fabric, I attempted to use Rit Dye Powdered Fabric Dye, Color Remover, 2-Ounce to remove the original gold-yellow color.  Needless to say, it didn't work very well.  I used one box Color Remover in about 3 gallons of 140 degree F water. The color looked a little lighter but not much.  I probably should have used 2 boxes of color remover for the amount of fabric I had, and I think the water should have been hotter.

Rit Color Remover
Doesn't look like the color is being removed.  Rats.
Rit Color Remover
Looks about the same as when I started, just a little lighter.

4. Wash your fabric again, heat up the water according to your fabric type, measure dye, stir, and add wet curtains.  (Follow directions on the Rit website and/or bottle!)

At this point, I was a little worried that my color wasn't going to take.  Everything on the Rit website suggests that the hotter the water the better, but you also have to careful not to go so hot as to shrink your fabric.  Silk should be dyed at 140 degrees F, but since the color remover didn't work at that temp, I wanted to crank up the temperature and hope for the best.

I added 1 cup vinegar to my 5 gallon bucket (per the Rit website recommendations for silk), then I boiled 3 gallons of water on the stove.  I let the water cool slightly (since boiling point is 212 F) and then poured it into the bucket.  The water was probably about 180 F by this point. I added the bottle of Royal Blue.  I decided at this point NOT to add the Sunshine Orange, because, well, my curtains were still yellowish, and I didn't want them TOO orange.  I added the curtains--which were wet from washing, per the Rit directions--and stirred, stirred, stirred.  The color started taking fairly quickly, and it was looking very, very blue!  So I added the 2 Tb of Sunshine Orange (confession--I eyeballed it!) and kept stirring for 30 minutes.  Sometime around 20 minutes, I rinsed one corner of the curtain to see how the color was taking.  It was indeed very dark blue, so I knew an hour would be too long.

Royal Blue Rit Dye
Holy dark blue, batman.

5. Rinse until water runs clear, wash curtains a final time, dry, iron (if needed), replace hardware, and rehang.

This is where things got a little interesting.  My curtains were very wrinkly after I dried them, so I lightly pressed them.  (Which is very monumental, since I never/rarely iron!).  But I was noticing that the liner of the curtains seemed kind of bunchy compared to the front.  It wasn't until I went to replace the wood slats that I realized my curtains had SHRUNK!  The hot water was just too much for the silk.  Thankfully, the slats still fit, albeit tightly.  I just had to use a seam ripper to make the openings a bit wider and stretch those suckers in there.

6.  Enjoy your curtains... and if you are like me, revamp your decorating plan as needed.

The curtains have a beautiful dark blue color, which is much, much darker than I wanted or anticipated.  I was rather disappointed at first.  But as I've looked at them for awhile, I realized they can still work with a little revamping of the decorating in the dining room.  I'm still brainstorming how to do this, but all is not lost. 

If the color was too light, I would call a mulligan and just dye them over again.  Yay for do-overs! But with the color being so dark, I'm not sure it would work.  Besides, they add a nice contrast to the golden hue of the room, so I'll run with it.
Curtains After Being Dyed with Royal Blue Rit Dye
Curtains- After (And I cleaned up the mess, too! That little table is a future project.)
Curtains After Being Dyed with Royal Blue Rit Dye
Curtains- After (With sun shining through them.)

Total cost for project- about $8.50
Total time for project- about 4-5 hours
(Cost includes two bottles of dye and one box of color remover. Project time includes time to wash curtains 3 times, half hour for Color Remover, half hour for Rit Dye, half hour or so for set up/clean up/curtain disassembly and assembly.  It took me much longer to put the curtains back together than I anticipated because I had shrunk them. I also didn't include the hour or so I spent researching the Rit website before I purchased anything!)

Things I learned:
  • Wear gloves when dyeing.  I'm usually one to just dive right in, but I'm glad I wore gloves.  Those things were bluuuuue when I was finished, and that could have been my hands.
  • Test a bit of fabric ahead of time.  Even though I didn't have a test swatch of my curtain fabric, I think had I tested out my color on a scrap piece of cotton or something, I would have had a better idea of how dark the color would be.  I could have added more water or cooled the temperature a bit.
  • Use hot water, but not too hot.  Especially if you are using silk.  Live and learn!
  • Be prepared for trial and error.  It's one thing to start with a blank canvas of white fabric; it's quite another to start with a color already in place.  
  • Spend some time on the Rit website before you attempt your project.  There is a LOT of good information on there to make your dyeing experience successful, from adding vinegar or salt (depending on the fabric), to formulating colors, to different dyeing techniques.
  • It's spelled "dyeing" not "dying."  And spell check doesn't know the difference.  I didn't catch that until I was just about to hit Publish on this post!
I will definitely attempt some more Rit projects in the future.  It's a relatively quick, easy, and inexpensive way to change up the look of a room.

Have fun dyeing!
Mulligan Mama

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