Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Alchemical Scarf

This post contains an account of my first foray into a craft I haven't previously tried: dyeing.

In August 2017, I received the gold scarf you see photographed above for my birthday. I was dubious about that greenish dull gold shade from the moment I saw it, and a look through my closet and in the mirror confirmed what I'd feared: that it didn't go with anything I had, and that the colour looked awful on me. However, the scarf was pure silk, which made it both possible and worthwhile to dye it a different, more flattering and wearable colour.

I have almost no experience dyeing textiles, so I posted to AskMetafilter that day asking for advice on how to proceed. Some months later I bought a tin of Dylon dye in Tangerine (39). But that was as far as the project got for about a year. The tin of dye sat in my kitchen junk drawer. I tend to put things off when I'm afraid I won't be able to do them right, and as a crafter I know how beginner projects are all too prone to turn out, especially when the beginner crafter doesn't do sufficient prep to be reasonably sure of what the process entails. That tin of dye hadn't even come with instructions, and there was no way for even an experienced dyer to know what kind of colour might result from using it in combination with the existing gold.

In mid-October 2018, I visited G&S Dye and Accessories Ltd., on Dundas Street West in Toronto, for some knowledgeable and in-person advice. I showed the sales associate the scarf, explained that I didn't like the colour and that it didn't suit me, and asked for help in selecting a dye. The store associate, who made a distressed face at the sight of the scarf against my face, was very helpful. She suggested different colours, gave me a copy of a sheet of instructions for various dyeing methods, and pointed out that it couldn't hurt to try dyeing the scarf given that I couldn't possibly make the scarf's colour worse than it already was. I decided I'd use the tin of dye I had on hand first and see how that went.

A few days ago, armed with my instruction sheet and the tin of Dylon dye, I applied the dye using the stove top method that's supposed to be the best method. I dumped in the tin's contents (there was approximately one tablespoon of powdered dye in it) and then, when I saw how dark the water and the scarf looked, spent the entire dyeing time kicking myself for having used what I thought was too much dye. Of course I reminded myself that I wouldn't know what the actual colour was until the scarf was rinsed and dried, but that didn't help all that much. The scarf appeared to be a dark rust while simmering in the dye pot.

Here's the final result. The silk took the dye beautifully, the former dull, greenish gold turned a beautiful, rich copper colour that's extremely becoming to me, and I could hardly be more pleased with such an alchemical coup. One of my fears was that I'd wind up with a mess in my kitchen, but I didn't spill a drop of dye and never even got any on my hands. When I hung the rinsed, washed, and squeezed scarf to dry over the shower curtain bar in the bathroom, I carefully shifted the shower curtain and bathmat out of dripping range, but if that scarf dripped at all it was only clear water. The process couldn't have gone more smoothly and the results were awesome. I was left with the urge to dye everything in the house.

Here's the now copper silk scarf styled with one of my dresses, and with a skirt and top outfit. This scarf goes with two of my dresses, two of my skirts, and one pair of my trousers, besides some plain basic pieces. I'm sure I'll have plenty of chances to wear it. And now I'm looking into making and dyeing/painting a silk scarf in the coming year, since I want one in a very specific colourway and can't seem to find one that's commercially made.

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