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Sunday, September 13, 2015

It Was Not a Good Day to Dye

Any Star Trek geeks out there? That title was going to be better, but my experiments didn't go well yesterday. I tried to dye the fabric and boots for my Batgirl costume, and it didn't work out as planned. We'll start with the fabric.

As I said after I first bought it, it is a poly/rayon/spandex blend, which I thought required a poly dye, but I had also been told that spandex takes dye for natural fabrics well, and I had received mixed accounts of which kind of dye is appropriate for rayon. I admit my own experience with dying fabrics is limited so far, and my most successful times were with the help of an expert. I really should have talked to him before doing this. I bought only poly dye.

But first, I learned that an 11 gallon pot isn't big enough. How is that possible? Look at this thing!

Okay, this picture doesn't give a full idea of the scale, but it's really big.
But my fabric is really bulky, so I could only fit about 2/3 of the fabric in the pot. I'm not risking dye lots not matching because at least half of the costume is black, so it doesn't all need to be dyed, so the pot works. And now, at least I can dye some things.

I put the fabric I was going to dye into the pot, then filled it with water using a pitcher because it was going to be very heavy once it was full. I then pulled the fabric back out so that I could dissolve the dye in the water. I did it in this order because I didn't want to risk putting in too much water for the amount of fabric and making a terrible mess, and the dye packet said to pre-wet the fabric anyway.

I bought this at JoAnn
This shows the dye packet beginning to dissolve
This dye comes as two parts, a dye packet, and a color enhancer. The dye packet is water soluble, which I think is a wonderful thing because I didn't have to open it, potentially causing a disastrous mess if I was clumsy. The color enhancer doesn't have that same potential, so it comes in a little pouch that you tear open to pour it in.

Once the dye was fully dissolved, I added the fabric, and began to stir. We waited over 45 minutes for it to come to a boil, then Jon shifted it to be on two burners, and it finally got going.

You can't tell, but that's a tent pole I'm using to stir. I didn't have anything else long enough.
Jon did most of the stirring while I worked on my boots. It was a lot of stirring. Because it had taken so long to come to a boil, we only left it boiling just over 30 minutes. It looked very dark, so it seemed like it was ready. Jon used a small pot that we could stand to lose (because you're not supposed to use anything you've used for dying on food ever again) to bail the dye water into the sink without making to much of a mess. Then he carried the fabric to the washing machine in the pot and washed it using Woolite.

And here it is just before going into the dryer...mocking me.

I'm sure you can tell, but just in case anyone was wondering, this is not purple. It's still grey. So the plan is to follow the instructions the dye packet had for blends--poly dye and natural fiber dye in the same dye bath. We'll see how that goes. The jury's out on this brand and type of dye because I know I didn't know what I was doing. I'll give my verdict after I try again.

After the fabric was dry: the top is the fabric I didn't even try to dye, and the bottom I did. They are technically slightly different colors, but it's only noticeable in person with the two side by side.
Now onto the shoe fail. I opened my box of TRG The One Color Dye, and it contained the preparer, dye, and sponge, but no brush. That was its first failing. Jon bought some small paint brushes, and we got to work. I taped off the sole and the padded suede part at the ankle on one shoe while Jon worked on the other one with the preparer and a scrubbing pad, then we traded.

Then I opened the jar of yellow dye. Initially, I just started to paint some on without really stirring because I had shaken it up, and it looked well-mixed. Then I decided to stir it anyway, and that did not feel the way it should have.

Tarrago sent me dye that had been stored improperly or something and had solidified in the bottom of its bottle. I pulled this glob out of my dye. Needless to say, I am not impressed with this brand of leather dye. Even if the end results turn out well (which is still not certain), I am unlikely to buy this brand again.

Following to the Dreamstress's directions, I used one of my paint brushes to dye the edges of my boot, then used the sponge to spread dye over the larger areas. I had to use the brush more than I expected due to the number of seams and little details on these boots. It took a lot of dye to get it to really show, and this is the result:

This is a truly hideous color at the moment, and it's still streaky, but the yellow is showing up. Jon thinks if I give it another coat, the color will look more of a decent yellow and not this putrid color as well as evening out the color. It took me half the bottle to get this result, and I only did one boot so far because it took forever, so I will definitely have to buy more dye to attempt another coat. I'm considering buying a different brand of yellow leather dye for the second coat, but I will use the remainder of the bottle on the other boot because they have a much better chance of matching each other if they receive the same treatment. That means they both have to have this dye for the first coat and then the same dye, whether that is more TRG or a different brand, for the second coat. Even if they are going to turn out poorly, they have to be the same bad because not matching just makes the whole awful mess so much worse.

I have mentioned in the past that I don't react well to failure, so there may have been a bit of a meltdown, but my husband was remarkably understanding about that, and a couple of episodes of anime later, I was doing much better. I even think these projects may still be salvageable, but as the title says, it was really NOT a good day to dye!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

DHgate Review

Sorry I didn't post last week. I have no good excuse for that, and I am trying hard to actually post weekly now, but at least this time I didn't just fall completely off the posting bandwagon again. I have made some progress on my projects this week, including a very successful try-on of the mock-up of the tutu panty and bodice. They fit on the first try, so I don't even have to make any adjustments to the pattern. That's always a win.

But today, I really want to share my experience with the website DHgate. DHgate is a website based out of China that is a little bit similar to Etsy in that it allows consumers to buy from many different merchants from a single website. Unlike Etsy, it doesn't focus on vintage and handmade goods. They sell manufactured items. This is the website where I found these boots that I wanted for my Batgirl costume:

I was a little nervous to buy them when I realized it was a Chinese website because I was afraid they might be poor quality and that the sizing might be wrong, but I decided to go for it anyway. The one problem I ran into was that the yellow boots were out of stock, but that was communicated to me very quickly, and the seller asked if I would like a substitution of another color. I really didn't want another color since this is for a costume, but I didn't notice their email and respond to it quickly enough, so the boots were shipped in tan.

And this leads me to one of the things that impressed me most about the website: DHgate holds onto your payment until you verify that you received your item AND that you're satisfied with it before they release the payment to the seller, and if necessary, they facilitate returns.

When my boots came, I chose to give them a chance rather than immediately send them back for being the wrong color because I could also use a good pair of hiking boots. The fit isn't perfect, but that isn't really the sizing being off--these were men's boots, so I had to estimate my size in the first place. They are slightly big, but not by much, so thick socks should fix the problem.

But fit obviously wasn't the only concern. If these were going to be serious hiking boots and not just a costume piece, they also needed to be good quality. They are made of good leather, probably Veg tanned and oil hardened. I don't know the exact thickness, but it is nice and sturdy. The stitching both on the upper and connecting the upper to the sole is good quality, and the sole is both stitched and glued on--also a good thing. The sole itself is strong and has deep tread. So it passed the quality inspection too.

Now for the color. The boots that came were tan instead of yellow. If I were just getting them as hiking boots, I would probably have ordered that in the first place because it's a more normal shoe color, but as already stated, they're for my Batgirl costume. The specific design of Batgirl that I'm trying to recreate wears yellow boots, not tan, so they seemingly fail that criterion.

That's where the Dreamstress will hopefully save my butt. I found this tutorial on re-dying leather shoes on her site, and I have ordered the dye she recommended. I kind of expect the shoes to end up a darker yellow than I originally wanted, but still acceptable. I'll let you know the verdict on that after I actually use the dye. I'm a little nervous about it, but at least they're hiking boots, so if the color ends up weird, I won't mind as much as I would with something more fashion-oriented.

Summary: I was very pleased with the customer service at DHgate and from the specific seller I used. DHgate offers pretty good protection against getting ripped off by the individual sellers (not that I had that problem, but I have only purchased from one). The quality of the boots is very good. They were not the color I ordered, but that was not a mistake; it was a substitution for an out-of-stock item, and they communicated the situation to me clearly. I am happy with my experience. If they have something I'm looking for at the best price, I would use them again.