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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Dying a Silk Shirt with Food Coloring

One of the first chapters in my challenge book New from Old shows the happy accident the author had with a bottle of dye and a plain camisole. About a year ago, I picked up this plain, boxy silk shirt in a mother–of–the–bride ivory color with the intention of dying it. I've been dying my silk embroidery ribbon with Easter egg dye tablets and some ancient jars of Wilton food coloring that I inherited from my husband's mother. Silk is silk, right? I thought food coloring ought to work on revving up my shirt just as well as it works on the silk ribbon. If I made a big old mess, I wouldn't be out more than an afternoon.


My paste food coloring is so old that I've relegated it to the Craft Only pile. I wanted my shirt to be a pretty turquoise/aqua color. I chose to mix sky blue and moss green in about a 3–1 ratio. I had to muscle my way into the green because it would not open.

Color mixing with food coloring can be iffy. The "fixer" for food coloring is vinegar, which can change some colors, especially purple. You need about a cup of vinegar in the dye bath. I checked my color before I put it in the pot; however, you never know how much dye your fiber will take up. Heat is the final component needed to fix the color to the silk.


 The result after about an hour simmering in the blue/green/vinegar mix? Well, cruise–wear comes to mind. The silk loved the dye. Back to the dye pot!


I decided to try overdying with straight moss green and vinegar to tone it down. I also threw in about 20 3–yard cards of soft aqua silk ribbon that I have in my stash. Most garments are sewn with cotton/polyester thread, which does not take the food coloring dye. Only protein fibers can be dyed using this technique. I may use the ribbon to cover the white stitching.


After another hour soak and copious rinsing, my shirt became the soothing silvery aqua I was hoping for. The color in the pictures is close to reality even though I had to tweak the images in Picassa.


The overdyed silk ribbon is not an exact match, but it tones really well with the shirt. Once I change the buttons and take a few tucks in the shirt, I think I'll have a blouse I can wear out of the house.



I feel good that I got use out a book that I've had for awhile. I'm excited to get into my next book. I've chosen one that I got for Christmas. Can't wait!

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