My fellow dyers understand: nothing white is safe in my house. I've dyed all of my kids' old diapers that I now use as washcloths and dish towels. And since discovering the world of DIY baby carriers, I have wanted to try a mei tai. I meant to make one with some of the osnaburg I bought online through fabric.com, but then I found buried in my linen closet the white tablecloth my mom gave me ages ago. Perfect! It was just begging me to do something to cover the stains it had acquired over the years.
I am a huge fan of rainbows (specifically, rainbows and unicorns and neon colors - what can I say? I'm an 80s/90s Lisa Frank kid). I have seen people dye rainbows and they always seemed to use separate dyes for the secondary colors: orange, green and violet. I wanted to try it with only the 3 primaries: red, yellow and blue.
First, I prepped the tablecloth, which measures about 67" x 80" by washing it on a normal cycle on hot. I scoured it in my large canning pot, adding 1 cup washing soda and 1 tablespoon blue Dawn dish soap to the water, which was just enough to cover the fabric. I let it boil for at least 30 minutes.
After rinsing, I filled my pot back up with water and another cup of washing soda. I set the fabric inside and left it. This step is very important if you want vibrant colors. You can let it soak for days, if you like, but the minimum should be about an hour. I work outside the home and have a busy schedule, so it ended up soaking for almost a week before I got to dye it!
When I was ready, I wrung the fabric out and placed it in my washing machine. I set it to spin cycle, and when it was done it was damp and not dripp ing. From here, I folded it in half and then did an accordion fold (below). Since I will be making a mei tai from this fabric, I am not terribly particular about the direction of the stripes, but I knew I wanted to repeat the spectrum a few times down the length of the tablecloth.
After folding, I tied it loosely in increments to separate the colors. I used yarn because I didn't want the lines to be distinct. f you want white lines in your design, you would tighten the strings and/or use rubber bands and tie them tightly. (My lovely rainbow yarn is one of the best purchases ever; I've used it for several projects and hellooooo, it's RAINBOW!)
After prepping my fabric, I premixed my dyes. For this project, I used two packets of Tulip brand fiber reactive dyes: Red and Yellow. For the blue, I used two teaspoons of Dharma's Procion dye, Turquoise #25 (available only online at Dharma Trading Company). I followed the directions on the packets for the red and yellow, but I accidentally diluted the yellow dye too much (insert sad face). For future projects, I will most likely be using the Procion dyes again; I really love how vibrant the colors stay after rinsing, and it is a better value for the same amount of money I pay for the cheaper store brands.
I have a roll of brown paper that I use for just about everything from tie dyeing to drafting sewing patterns to DIY floors (yes, you can "tile' your floor wth brown paper and polyurethane and I've done it!). If you don't have any, newspaper or brown paper bags from the grocery store will work. You won't want to use plastic; I know that it *sounds* like a good idea, but any dye runoff will have nowhere to go except back into the fabric and can trickle down to unwanted areas. For maximum control over your dye, use an absorbent, disposable dropcloth.
Now comes the fun part! To start, if you think it will help, you could notate on your brown paper which section is assigned to each color. I didn't need to, but in order to avoid getting confused at which color I was on, I skipped the secondary colors. To do it like this, here are your directions:
7. Go back to section 2 and add a few squirts of red, immediately followed by several squirts of yellow. Allow the colors to mix.
8. Go back to section 4 and add a few squirts of blue, followed by several squirts of green. Allow to blend through and underneath the ties if you are wanting to avoid white lines.
9. Go back to section 6 and add a few squirts of blue, followed by several squirts of red. Allow the red to bleed into a red-violet color so that the top of section 6 is indigo that fades into violet (a true spectrum).
I find it a LOT easier to skip the secondary colors. It prevents unwanted bleeding, as well as keeps you from forgetting what color you are supposed to be on. It's easy to get carried away!
For the first set of stripes, you will have something that looks like this:
Continue the process all the way down, skipping the secondary colors for each spectrum:
Once you get to the end, get a new piece of brown paper or newspaper and flip the whole thing over. Repeat for the other side. Be sure to get in between the folds as much as possible; I missed a few folds and the dye did not penetrate, giving me more white than I wanted (sad face!).
After it is finished, place the fabric into a large garbage bag and set it in the sun. I set mine in my backyard, in direct sun, for 24 hours.
To rinse, I threw the whole thing, ties and all, into my washer. Rinsing is my least favorite part about dyeing; this step is one I learned from the pros, and I had my doubts, but it turned out to be WAY easier than crouching over my bathtub or standing in my front yard with the hose, waving at the neighbors as they raise their eyebrows at the crazy hippie lady soaking herself with water and dye.
After a cold wash and rinse, I was just too impatient to do another wash, so I pulled it out and took a peek at it. And....voila!
After ooohing and aahhhing, I put it into the dryer to let some heat set the dyes some more, then did another cold wash before I did a hot wash and dry. The colors faded a bit, but not enough to make me disappointed. I did notice that the yellow did not penetrate as well as I had hoped, but overall, I am satisfied with it and I think it will make a good mei tai.
Stay tuned for my tutorial on converting this into a mei tai baby carrier!
In this tutorial, I am dyeing fabric that I finished to create a size 3 wrap. Along the way, I will be going over what types of fabrics you can choose from to safely make your own DIY wrap. Woven wraps are great for carrying babes and toddlers of all sizes and ages, but they can get pretty pricey. My size 7 Ellvill Zara tri-green costs over $200 retail (best baby shower present EVER!). You can, however find plenty of other woven wraps for around $100 or less, and you can check my Resources page for some tips on getting wraps and carriers. For my DIYers, there are lots of options; the possibilities are endless!
Linen and cotton are breathable fabrics that are lightweight but still strong enough to hold 45+ lbs of weight, easily. I can back carry my 4 (almost 5) year-old in this wrap. A size 3 wrap is a good length for me; if you are a plus sized mama, you might want to try a size up, maybe a size 4 or 5.
If you are browsing a fabric store, you will want to head to the utility fabrics section. You should be looking at a wall of plain and/or natural colored fabrics such as muslin, linen, etc.
When it comes to choosing your fabric for something you will be entrusting your child's safety with, you want to make sure you choose the right kind. Here are some tried and true options:
Fabrics that are safe for wrapping are between 5.3 - 7oz and are:
Fabrics that are not safe for wrapping:
Once you have picked out your fabric, you will need to know how much to buy. Here is the handy dandy wrap size chart:
size 2 - 2.7 meters = 8.86 feet = 102.36 inches (2.84 yards)
size 3 - 3.1 meters = 10.17 feet = 122.05 inches (3.39 yards)
size 4 - 3.6 meters = 11.81 feet = 141.73 inches (3.93 yards)
size 5 - 4.2 meters = 13.78 feet = 165 inches (4.58 yards)
size 6 - 4.6 meters = 15.09 feet = 181.10 inches (5.03 yards)
size 7 - 5.2 meters = 17.06 feet = 204.72 inches (5.68 yards)
size 8 – 5.60 meters = 18.37 feet = 220.47 inches (6.12 yards)
Your wrap can be anywhere between 28" - 32" wide, depending on preference. I cut mine at 30" and hem both side about 1/2" each, which gives me a 29" width.
Click on "Read More" for some scouring, hemming and ice dyeing instructions:
Grad dye, ombre - whatever you want to call it - it's all the rage nowadays. Search for "ombre" on Pinterest and you will find everything from hair to nails, home decor and fashion. In the world of dyeing, it's usually referred to as "dip-dyeing" or as a grad (graduated) dye. The idea is that you have a darker color that fades into white, or into another color.
Last weekend, I had the privilege of converting another innocent person to the dark side. By dark side, I mean Addictive World of Fabric Dyeing. I was visiting a friend and she was looking for a good carrier for a toddler. It was my first time doing a grad dye, and my first time seeing a glue resist that actually worked!
The finished product was great, and I would post a photo but the "after" pictures include my friend and her kids and I respect their right to privacy. So for this tutorial, I will show you the grad dye that I did this week, for a long piece of fabric that I was given. It is some type of linen/cotton blend and had a 60" width, which means that it was wide enough to cut into TWO wraps! I am saving that one for my friend.
For starters, here is a list of what you will need for your DIY grad dye wrap:
I had some black and dome pink dye leftover from my galaxy wrap, so I decided to try a grad dye using both. I did have to pick up an extra packet of each color, so I had two 1.75 oz Dylon Velvet Black, 1 Tulip fuchsia and 1 Dylon Flamingo Pink.
It's totally OK to mix brands, as long as they are fiber reactive dyes, which these are. You can find these dyes locally, at Joann Fabrics, Hobby Lobby or Walmart, but steer clear of Rit brand dyes for baby/kid items. Rit dye is not fiber reactive, which means that it does not bond with the fibers completely. Because of this, if your baby sucks on the fabric, the dyes could bleed and be ingested. This also means that your colors will fade a lot quicker over time. I've seen a friend dye osnaburg with Rit and I was shocked at how faded it looked after the inital dye bath. :(
Anyway, my wrap ended up 138 inches long, 28" wide after washing, scouring and hemming. This is a few inches longer than a standard size 3 wrap. I did not taper this wrap and so far, I love it. Tapers are pretty on certain carries, but most often I just find them more annoying than helpful.
To start, make sure to wash and dry your fabric at least once or twice to allow it to shrink. Shrinking is a good thing, as it will tighten the weave. Next, you will want to scour your fabric. To do this, select a large pot (I use a canning pot that I found at a thrift store) and fill it with enough water to submerge your fabric. For my 3.5 yards of fabric, I added a cup of washing soda (in the laundry detergent aisle of Walmart and most grocery stores; it looks like this) and about a tablespoon of blue Dawn dish detergent. I added the fabric and turned on the heat. I let it boil for about 30 minutes, checking on it often to poke at it and stir it a little. When it was finished, I drained the water, which was a nasty brown-yellow color, and rinsed.
After it has been thoroughly rinsed, fill your pot back up with water and another cup of washing soda. Soak your fabric in this for at least 30 minutes. This will give you brighter, more vibrant colors and is especially important when doing a grad dye where you are diluting the dye.
Wring it out when it is done but do not rinse. It is now ready to dye, but in my case, I hung it out to dry (it is generally advised not to put fabric soaked in soda ash in an electric dryer, as it could be combustible), and then hemmed it when it was dry. I did this because I knew that I was not going to be able to dye it that day. I didn't end up getting back to this project for almost a week. When I was ready to dye, I was planning to just re-dampen it with water, but decided to just make a smaller batch of washing soda and water solution and wrung it out so that it was wet but not dripping.
You could, instead, hem it last. It's entirely up to you what order you want to do it in. The only advice I can give is that if you do it as I did, avoid spritzing it with water to dampen it, as it could make some spots that show up afterward.
Now for the fun part! Mix your dye and prepare the dye bath. To do this, I had a separate container and added one packet of dye and 4 cups warm water, as directed on the package. I mixed it until it was dissolved. I had filled my gallon water jug with water and added it to the rubbermaid tote that I was using, and added 1/4 cup salt and 1 cup washing soda. I mixed those together before adding the dye. I then mixed the second packet of fuchsia in the same way, and added it to the dye bath.
I folded my fabric in half lengthwise, then did an accordion fold and attached the top of the fabric to the hanger clips. To do an accordion fold, grab the ends that are folded in half and gently fold the fabric back and forth, making pleats in the fabric that are the width of your hanger clips. It should look something like this illustration:
Place your rod high enough so that only the very bottom of your fabric will be resting in the dye at the level it is right now. I did not have anywhere to rest my rod where it would be high enough, so I just draped the hangers over a broomstick resting on top of the rubbermaid bucket itself, and made sure to watch it the entire time so that I could be sure that it didn't drop into the bucket.
I set the timer for 5 minutes and let it sit. Meanwhile, I filled up my water jug with another gallon of water. When the 5 minutes were up, I SLOWLY added the gallon to the dye bath. Don't let the water splash, or it could make droplets on your fabric.
Now I set the timer for 4 minutes, and it was 4 minutes for every level thereafter. Anything more than 3-4 minutes could cause distinct lines instead of the gradual fade that you want. Every time you add a gallon of water, you can add more soda ash and salt. I forgot this step (oops) and it turned out great, so this step is optional.
After the fourth time adding water, I decided not to dilute the dye anymore, but instead, lower the fabric into the dye. At this point, the bottom rail of my wrap has been soaking in the dye for 28 minutes and had a stronger concentration of dye for the first 5. Now I was at the middle and lowered the fabric on the rod. If you are using a tension rod in the shower, you could just lower the rod against the wall. Or, if you have a pulley system set up, you would loosen the rope.
I did this step twice, and then transferred the fabric to my bathtub. While it is still on the hangers, I like to hang it up in my shower for a few hours to allow it to batch. I don't worry about staining my tub; it all comes out with bleach and a sponge. When that is done, I rinsed in cold water until the water is clear. Be careful not to rinse the untouched side of the fabric, so as not to rinse out the soda ash soak. After doing this, I then folded the fabric again in the same accordion fold, only now the pink end was clipped to the hangers. Time to dye the other side!
I repeat the exact steps with the other rail, hang it up to batch, then rinse with cold water until the water is clear (either by hand or in the washing machine). Next, I rinse my wrap on hot. You should be able to do just a couple of hot water wash cycles in your washing machine, just to get rid of any more excess dye, but if you have blue Dawn dish soap or Synthropol, you will want to add a small amount to the first hot rinse to help remove excess dye. If you have not already hemmed it, that will be your final step before you can start wrapping!
I was very happy with how mine turned out, and it was surprisingly easy. The hardest and more laborious step is the rinsing if you don't choose to use your washing machine, but if you have a hose and maybe a drying rack, you could try rinsing it out that way!
As usual, I welcome any comments, questions or suggestions. If you find this tutorial useful and make your own creation, feel free to post it below as well!
First, I will preface this tutorial by saying that I own THE most beautiful wrap ever made: the Ellvill Zara Tri-Green, which is a cotton/linen woven wrap. I love this wrap, it is gorgeous and is a size 7, which is long enough to do every single type of carry, and is long enough for even my 6'2", 275lb+ husband to babywear either one of our kids. However, this also means that it is monstrously long for me, at 5'7" 115 lbs. I have a slight frame and very petite build, and wrapping in public is no easy feat when you are dealing with almost 6 yards of fabric.
I wanted a faster, more convenient way to back carry my daughter, so I borrowed an Ergo from a friend. I love the ease and convenience of the Ergo, but was presented with two problems (aka: First World Problems):
The solution was clear: I needed a shorter wrap. I did some research and found that a lot of DIY babywearers were using a fabric called osnaburg to make their own wraps. I learned that osnaburg has a strong, tight weave after it shrinks, softens and breaks in easily, and is perfect for dyeing.
I wanted a size 3 wrap, and I followed this guide for selecting how many yards I would need to buy:
size 2 - 2.7 meters = 8.86 feet = 102.36 inches
size 3 - 3.1 meters = 10.17 feet = 122.05 inches
size 4 - 3.6 meters = 11.81 feet = 141.73 inches
size 5 - 4.2 meters = 13.78 feet = 165 inches
size 6 - 4.6 meters = 15.09 feet = 181.10 inches
size 7 - 5.2 meters = 17.06 feet = 204.72 inches
size 8 – 5.60 meters = 18.37 feet = 220.47 inches
Osnaburg will shrink quite a bit when washed. This is a good thing, because it tightens the weave of the threads, but it means that you will need to buy an extra 1-2 yards of fabric. Fortunately, osnaburg is very inexpensive. I got mine for $2.99/yard at Walmart, and it costs about the same at Hobby Lobby or Joann Fabrics if you use their usual 40% coupon.
I bought a little over 4 yards and immediately threw it in the wash when I got home. After prewashing and drying it, I scoured it, which is recommended by many dyeing pros. Many people will use a large stainless steel pot, but I only had my washing machine. I filled the machine with hot water and added a cup of washing soda. I left it to soak for about 15 minutes, though some recommend boiling in a pot for an hour. I drained the water and did it again, but then went ahead and dried it.
The most fun I have ever had cutting fabric was with this next step. My fabric was 54" wide, way too wide for a wrap. The average width of a woven wrap is anywhere between 28-32". With osnaburg, all you need to do is mark your 30" (or whatever width you desire), make a small cut with a pair of scissors and....RIP! Trust me! Don't be scared. RIP that baby. The secret is in how the fabric is woven; it will tear in a straighter line than you will ever be able to cut, even with a rotary cutter. So don't worry, let it go...just pull on it and rip it all the way off until you have two pieces. It feels very liberating, doesn't it?
I had decided to do a galaxy dye, dark with black and blue and bursts of violet and pink. I was hoping that it would look something like this:
I wanted some stars, so I used some white Elmer's glue to dot some small stars, and then made a star-shaped stencil and a foam brush to make larger stars at random spots throughout the fabric. I let it dry overnight, but it didn't need that long. It was dry long before then, but I was not able to get to it before then.
I hemmed it with my serger, serging all the way around the fabric. Then I tapered the edges. A good set of instructions for tapering can be found here.
Up next was the exciting part. I bought a $1 plastic basket and a foil roasting pan
at Dollar Tree, and scrunched up my fabric until it fit inside of the basket. It was a tight fit, and I worried that the dye wouldn't reach all the way through the folds, but it turned out just fine.
Next, I poured ice on top. Crushed ice is nice because you don't have to worry about bigger pieces falling off and taking some of the dye with them, plus the smaller pieces melt faster and it is much more satisfying to watch.
After applying the ice, I opened my bags of dye. I used:
I sprinkled the black on first, around the edges, then the rest of the colors in a totally random manner. Then, I waited.
20 lonnnnnnng hours. I added more ice about halfway through, but it was very difficult to wait that long!
Towards the end, I was getting impatient. I took out my hair dryer and let it run on high while the bathroom door was closed. The room got very warm and the ice was melting a lot better. I alternated that with blowing directly on it with a hair dryer.