Nothing can replicate the effect created when a piece of fabric is hand-dyed. This process has an artisan quality to it from the little irregularities and slight imperfections of the process; these kinds of details can’t be found in mass produced items. But this is one medium not restricted to professionals only – you can follow these easy steps to create a gorgeous shower curtain yourself! After you see how easy it is to get such great results, nothing in your house will be safe from a dip-dye!
- 2 boxes of RIT Fabric Dye (we used Navy + Teal)
- 1 cotton shower curtain
- 1 bucket
- liquid laundry detergent
- 3 cups salt
- large spoon
- plastic gloves
- measuring cup
Start by removing your curtain from the packaging and double check the label to ensure it really is 100 percent cotton. The dye won’t adhere to synthetic materials like polyester or nylon. If there are any finishes on the curtain that will keep it from absorbing the dye, wash it on gentle in warm water. It doesn’t need to be dried.
Once you make sure you have a curtain that will work, find a safe area that you don’t care if a few drops of dye spill. You can lay down a drop cloth, but I found working outside to be easiest. Put on your plastic gloves and pour one packet of teal RIT Fabric Dye into your bucket. Add approximately 4 cups of almost boiling water (I just prepared a full tea kettle and poured it in).
Stir until the powder dissolves. Next add 1 1/2 gallons hot tap water.
Now add 1 1/2 cups salt and a cap of liquid laundry detergent.
Stir again until everything is dissolved and well blended. Wipe clean any dye that may have collected on the sides of the bucket so it doesn’t dye the wrong parts of your curtain.
If your curtain is dry or has dried since washing it, wet it completely and gently wring out so its no longer dripping. We are going to dip the curtain upside down so the top gets dyed teal first in 10 minute increments. Decide how far you want the teal to go and mark it equally on both sides with clothes pins.
I found it easiest to fold the curtain in half so I could make sure I was pinning at the same height on both sides. You don’t need to be precise; just eye-ball about 3/4 of the way down the curtain and put a clothespin there. Then divide the remaining area into 4 equal parts by placing 3 more clothespins on each side. Dip your curtain in the dye up to the first clothespin and time it for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, lower the curtain down to the next clothespin.
After this 3rd 10 minutes has passed, lower again to the next pin. After 10 minutes, lower it to the last pin but only let this level soak 5 minutes. Now pull it out slowly and you should have 4 shades of teal. Be careful not to touch dye with your hands and then touch the curtain and spread the dye to unwanted parts.
Now hose down the curtain making sure the water runs from lightest to darkest so the dye doesn’t spread to the lightest parts. Wring it out and repeat this rinsing and wringing process until the water runs clear.
At this point you should have a curtain that looks something like this. You can see I draped my curtain on the back of a lawn chair to hold it up while I hosed it down. No two hand dyed fabrics will ever be exactly alike, so don’t stress if your’s looks different than mine. That’s the beauty of this project!
Next up lets prepare the navy dye by repeating the same steps we used to make the teal. Empty the navy powder packet and add 4 cups near boiling water and stir until the powder dissolves. Then pour in 1 1/2 gallons hot tap water and a 1/2 cup of salt.
Finish the dye-making process by adding a cap of detergent and stir until the solution is well mixed. Again wipe down the sides to remove any navy dye that has splashed onto the bucket sides. Now, place clothespins on what will be the bottom of the curtain at the level you wish the navy to dye. I decided to dye just the bottom 1/3 of the curtain navy, so you can see I just placed 3 clothespins on each side to mark off my dipping levels. I also folded the curtain in half again so I could make sure the clothespins were at the same levels on each side.
We are going to dip for 5 minute increments this time. So lower in your curtain to the first pins and time it for 5 minutes, occasionally poke the fabric down with the spoon so it all gets soaked. After 5 minutes, lower it again. Then lower it one last time at 5 minutes (this should be up to your last clothespin). When the time is up, dip it further for 30 seconds and then slowly lift the whole curtain out.
Now hose it down again (you could also use a bathtub or sink), remembering the water should run from the lightest shade of navy to the darkest. Wring it out and repeat the rinsing and wringing until the water runs clear.
Hang it in a sunny spot and it should be dry in just a few hours.
Place it in your bathroom and enjoy!
The options for dip dying are endless; you can always change up the colors, the soaking time, or how many colors you use. You could also use this technique on a regular curtain, tea towels, shirts, or pretty much anything made of cotton.
Have you ever dip-dyed anything before? Talk to us in the comments below and send us pics of your dip-dyed project!