Posted on April 11, 2005 at 4:59 pm

Got_oneA few years ago, our family started accumulating these tie-dye kits, from birthday presents and hand-me-downs and then yard sales (because my husband thinks that three of a good thing is not enough), but we never cashed any of them on actual tie dye sessions because the thought of setting up for an activity all too reminiscent of The Great Fingerpainting Exodus of 1997*
was too painful to consider.

*An early entry in The Book of Step-Mother records a
sunny June afternoon in 1997 when Step-Mother purchased all the necessary
supplies for fingerpainting, something she remembered as one of her favorite
childhood activities, in an attempt to impress her step-kids with her talents as
an organizer of
fun.  There was paint in four
colours, sheets of special coated paper, a bowl of water and foam brushes for
wetting the coated paper, smocks to protect children’s clothing from the (and I
quote) "water-based paint", and
clamps to hold the wetted paper down on the picnic table in the
backyard to defy the gusts of wind that would otherwise turn fingerpainted paper
into a rorschach test on some unprotected surface, but most likely her own
  It took three days of organization and
shopping, twenty minutes of set-up, and three hours of laundry and hysterics to
clean up for what had turned out to be five minutes of said funThe
Book of Step-Mother
makes no addtional mention of

However, the Divine Miss C (now 12) discovered the stash of tie dye kits and announced that she had read the instructions and would conduct a tie-dye session in the backyard on Sunday.  The kit is supposed to have enough dye in it to transform 15 T-shirts; Miss C only wanted to do one.  It seemed a dreadful waste of material, but we have three of these kits after all, and I decided to experiment with what soda-ash activated dye would do to wool.Cone

So I pulled out 6 ounces of corriedale, some silk roving I have, and this:
a cone of mystery wool I scored at last year’s knitsmiths yarn swap. 

We put on some Beach Boys, splattered dye all over the back patio, and it looked something like this:


and like this:


and we ended up today with this:


If you have one of these kits lying around, I’d have you know that the red and the yellow are very assertive, the turquoise isn’t as interested in sticking around, and that all of it rinses off of the tarps and the white enamel laundry sink in our basement in short order.  Still: it’s a lot of work, but much more fun and gratifying than finger-painting.

Later: In case you miss it in the comments section, Emma and June have informed me that soda ash dyeing is ultimately corrosive to wool (even though the kit says all natural fibers) and may also be too harsh for silk.  I have rinsed all the items in a vinegar bath to neutralize the alkalinity of the soda ash and I’ll hope for the best.  It was an experiment, after all, and no great loss.  Thanks for the advice, you guys!