Well not THAT kind of dying, the fabric dye kind of dying although at times it's been a bit fraught!
Hazel's school is celebrating May the Fourth next week and of course all the girls want to go as Rey (she's so cool, I wish they'd had her back when I was nine and the first movie came out, Princess Leia was great but not particularly kick ass).
I had one look at the commercial costumes on offer and just couldn't go there (and don't even get me started on the whole #wheresrey issue) and of course given the inevitable competition, she wants to have the best costume out of all the dozens of Reys and that means handmade! Fun challenge and it's actually a pretty simple costume in terms of all the elements, a henley tshirt with the sleeves cut short, loose pants gathered in just below the knees and a drapey scarf thing with a belt and a staff. But the colours! Not your typical little girl colours so I had to dye fabric. There's lots of good stuff online (here for photos, and here for a great analysis of the costume and fabric suggestions) and it's not hard to figure out what is going to suit - a knit for the top, raw silk for the pants and muslin for the drapes. As it turns out I had the perfect fabric in my stash for the pants, not raw silk but a linen in almost the right colour (a bit browner) that behaves not unlike a silk - good enough for a school costume anyways! I bought some Dylon dye (desert sand or something like that) and some white knit and baby muslin and all full of enthusiasm I put them into the dye bath and yeah, too dark. D'oh! Why oh why didn't I test swatches? The muslin in particular soaked up the colour like a giant sponge. They're meant to be a greenish-grey linen sort of colour (although the photos online vary a bit in the colour rendition).
I had enough muslin to try again so I went back to Spotlight to get some more dye and white knit. I came across Rit dye remover and it occurred to me that I might be able to salvage the knit and muslin so got that instead of knit and also got silver grey and olive dyes by iDye. The dye remover didn't work - from a dark coffee brown they've both gone a lovely yellow. Pretty, but as Hazel says "not really what we want". So back to Spotlight for white knit :P
In the meantime I'd come across this fabulous series of tutorials on making a Rey costume that included how she'd dyed the fabrics and it was extremely helpful. I'd experimented with tea and instant coffee with the muslin after my first round of dying but they hadn't come out dark enough. When I saw the top done with plunger coffee I gave it another go and it worked well. The slight uneveness and a few patches of darker colour just add to the look. To look more realistic all the fabric should be pretty dirty, but I don't think that's going to fly with a 10 year old!
For the muslin I started off with the grey dye with the intention of adding in a little green if needed. I did lots of swatches and got it about right when diluted 40-50% and dipped in and out immediately (it really is that absorbant!). But of course getting 4m in and out of a pot and rinsed isn't quite the same as a tiny little bit of fabric and again it was way too dark. I rinsed and rinsed and then ended up putting it through the washing machine which took out some more and it's pretty good now. Luckily doing it that fast means it's not properly dyed and the colour will come out fairly easily. There is no way I'm fiddling with adding in any green though! I suspect that for muslin you'd have to have the dye extremely diluted, maybe 20% or even 10%? If I had more time I'd experiment because it's more of a purpley grey than a green grey which hurts my perfectionist soul just a little :)
Next is making the pants and the top. I've taken a pattern off a pair of pants and a tshirt of hers and it shouldn't be hard. The hard part is going to be the staff!