Wednesday, 20 August 2014

My Ventures into Dying Fabric aka How NOT to Save Money

Do you want to know how to save money when sewing costumes?  Muhaahaaa!  There is no way to save money sewing costumes.  There just isn't.  Sewing costumes in and of itself is spending money needlessly and so you're never saving money doing it.  Here are some things I've learned that might seem like they'll save you money, but they WON'T!  So don't try it.  It's all a big lie.

1.  Dying cloth to the color you want. This might seem like a good idea when you find a fabulous deal on some great fabric, only it's not the color you want.  So you think--hmm, I could DYE it!!!  What excitement and fun!  It's like painting and sewing mixed together!  What could be better?!??!?!  Stop listening to your brain.  It won't work, especially if you're extremely set on the colors you want.  (Which I was of course).

So I was buying the fabric for my kids' 14th century costumes for Halloween and I like to try to be somewhat historically accurate, hence linen was the fabric of choice--wool being much too expensive and all.   (Side note: I'm really not historically accurate, I mean a knight's outfit on a kid?  That's not accurate at all to begin with. But I think using the right fabrics creates so much of the feel of the costume and really is the main difference between store-bought costumes--whether the cheapest to the nicer made ones--and well, my costumes and reenactors, SCA, etc.) Plus, linen is my favorite fabric, I LOVE  the look and feel of linen.  Love, love, love it!  And I found this awesome store online, that specializes only in linen.  And then I found that it has doggie-bags of leftover linen pieces in ½ to 2 yard sizes that it sells for a very reduced price, much better prices than I could get at Joann's even with a coupon (plus, Joanns didn't have the colors I wanted anyway).  However, with the shipping and all, it does raise the price a bit.  And of course, the color selection was not the greatest in the doggie-bag section, since it is just the leftover bits from larger orders.  So I thought, well there's plenty of white pieces and I could just dye them the color I need (RIT dye is only 2.49 a box) and then I'd only be paying the shipping once.  Because paying the shipping would actually be more than the fabric itself for some of it.  So I bought all this fabric, and I was super excited and I bought some boxes of RIT dye and then I bought a 24 qt tamale pan at Walmart to dye stuff in since you're not supposed to dye stuff in pans you eat out of (I needed that specifically to dye a dress I bought, but that's a whole other story), and already the cost was adding up.  At this point I would have still have saved money though.

Then I began dying stuff and it all went downhill.

The first batch turned out lovely by the way.  I just used the RIT Wine color, followed the directions, stirred it on the stove for an hour.  And it worked beautifully.  Ah, too bad the sweet smell of success was only a terrible misdirection.

The second batch was a larger amount of fabric and I should have used two packages of RIT Dark Green instead of one.  And I didn't stir it the whole time.  By the time I should have been rinsing it out, it wasn't nearly as deep as I wanted.  So I left it in the pot (not being stirred) while I went to the store and bought more and then came home and added the extra dye.  And I still didn't stir it the whole time.  Obviously I was overconfident from my previous success.  And it turned out a pale to dark blotchy mess.  It looked more of a olive camouflage color than dark green.  Not good.  So I went to the store and bought more Dark Green Dylon dye this time and a RIT dye color remover.  Dylon dye is much more expensive than the RIT.  And I was planning on using only one package, but I bought two just in case.  I also tried it in the washing machine this time.  It's supposed to soak for 30 minutes while agitating, my longest cycle is 18 minutes, so I needed to restart it three times to get the full 30 minutes of agitating.  Umm, yeah, I went to change a diaper and came back to find the water already drained.  So yes, I ended up using the second pouch of dye.  No money saved there.  It did turn out a lovely shade of dark green though.

Then I dyed some fabric red with the RIT Scarlett dye in the washing machine.  It turned out well.  I also over dyed the burgundy/wine fabric in the same batch, I liked the color even more after that.

Then I dyed some fabric black with the RIT dye in the washing machine.  They went a dingy blackish grey color.  Blah.  I left it that way for one of the items, but I went to the store and bought more black dye and redyed the other piece of fabric and tried dying two sweaters from Goodwill that I bought to be chainmail.   This time the black was lovely on the linen, but the sweaters, being polyester didn't turn colors in the slightest.  I'm still debating on what to do about those sweaters.  But more on that in a minute.
Then I used the RIT Royal blue to dye some more linen and some cotton for lining.  They both turned a periwinkle color (see above).  So I went to the store and bought more Dylon Ocean Blue and tried again.  It turned a truer, deeper shade of periwinkle blue.  So of course, I ended up back at the store. I bought more Dylon Navy blue this time.  I wanted a really rich ultramarine type color.  And it ended up much darker than I planned, but it's definitely better than periwinkle .

Now you should be able to see any savings I initially had draining down the sink, plus a lot of the colors I'm still not happy with, although, I'm not going to dye them anymore.  Not only did I not save any money after all of this, I had a lot more work of dying the fabric, the annoyance of returning to Joanns eight billion times with the cost of gas added in, and the cost of all that water.

So my advice: Dying will only work to save you money if you don't care about what the actual color of the fabric is going to be.  And if you really want vibrant colors, plan on using more than one package of dye.  Also Dylon dye works much better than RIT.

2. Buying items from a thrift store does NOT save you money. Okay, it actually might sometimes. I made Mexican style skirts for my girls out of bedsheets and it cost way less than buying the fabric.  However, I have to constantly mend tears in them because the fabric was so worn already that it doesn't hold up well to active use.

And granted, the girls Cavalier dresses were almost entirely thrift store fabric finds (curtains, duvet cover, etc) but once again, the white tablecloth sections of Isabel's dress is just not holding up, and the bottom is tearing to pieces.  I was inspired to go look around at our local Goodwill after reading this costumer's blog about how she always buys large linen shirts at thrift stores and makes her kids' costumes out of those, but really the cost of a shirt at Goodwill was about the same as an uncut ½ - 1 yd piece at the online store doggie bag section.  No savings except on shipping but then you have the advantage of having an uncut piece where you're going to be able to use more of the fabric.  Also, I looked at some fur lined sweaters there because I was thinking of trimming Elena's dress with fur.  I found one that had beautiful fur (not sure if it was real or not) and the cost of the sweater at Goodwill was $10.99.  Well for $10.99 I bought a whole ½ yd of faux fur online and even with the shipping it cost the same, and again, now I have a whole, uncut piece of fabric instead of a much smaller piece on the sweater that may or may not be enough for what I want to do.  As a side note, I also looked a buying a picture there just for the frame, and the large pictures were $59.99.  What the heck???  Craziness.  I might as well shell out $40 more and get the frame I actually want.  Anyway, I also bought a couple ugly sweaters to use for chainmail as I mentioned before.  Like this guy did that I saw on Pinterest (here's the link:

But ummm, I forgot about looking only for wool sweaters and polyester doesn't dye easily, and I bought a BRIGHT RED one because I was focusing on the weave of the sweater rather than anything else.  Ooops.  So now I have to decide whether to try out a polyDylon dye or just use something else. Ruff.

My advice:  Make sure you know exactly what kind of fabric you're looking for and that it's in good condition.  And if you're sewing for anyone besides a toddler, it's probably not worth it.

And the moral of this whole post is:  I am terrible with money and I shouldn't sew costumes.  
The end

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