A First Birthday :: Hand Dyed Silk Scarves

A few years ago I used a tutorial I found on the web to dye a bunch of silk scarves for the kids using packets of kool-aid. They were very well loved. Blankets, bustles, head scarves, dresses, napkins (not my favorite), juggling tools, baskets, diapers, slings… those scarves were used and abused in ways I never could have imagined. Sadly, quite a few moves later, not all of the scarves are still with us.

The Old Scarves

So for this first birthday, it seemed appropriate that our little one would get her own set of scarves, that she would, of course, share with her brother and sisters. This time instead of using kool-aid, I used a set of dyes called Culinary Colors Dye Kit, which I bought at one of my old yarn shops in Pittsburgh. I had used it to dye a few of skeins of yarn two years back and was pretty excited about it, but with the moves and that new baby, hadn’t really given it much thought since. Perfect opportunity, this little birthday, for some fun mess making in the kitchen!

I ordered a few square habatoi silk scarves from the Dharma Trading Company, a fantastic site related to all things fiber and dye. Their customer service is superior—friendly and honest—their products are high quality and reasonably priced, and they ship fast! What’s not to love? After the scarves arrived, I soaked them for a few hours to prepare them for the dye.

Soaking Scarves

A note of caution :: Dyeing is a messy business. Wear clothes that you don’t care about getting permanently splotchy; protect ALL work surfaces; cover your hands. These are called Culinary Colors and are food-safe, but I find it best to approach all dyeing with the same amount of suspicion and not mix dyeing equipment with your everyday kitchen wares.

Here is a bunch of jars being prepared with the dye. My highly scientific method :: pour some water into a recycle glass jar – 1/8 to 1/4 cup, squeeze a few drops of dye into it, mix it, then drop the tip of a tissue in the dye to see its strength and test the color shade, then adjust as desired. Once I’m happy with the color, I add the white vinegar, mix, then push in the wrung out, wet scarves, and close the lid.

Testing the Dye

I wanted a tie-dyed effect, so I kept the water amount low and the space to fit the scarf relatively tight. Another note :: Hand dying doesn’t often give you the flat, even tone you may be used to seeing with commercially dyed scarves, but I find the variations and mottling part of the inherent charm. Once the dye seems to have soaked through the scarf—I turn the jars upside down on a paper towel then back a few times and open the lid and poke it a few times with a Chinese take-out disposable chopstick—it’s time to “cook” them and set your dye in the microwave.

Nuke 'Em All

Once they had cooked and cooled, I took them up to rinse in my utility sink—remember :: It’s dye and will stain whatever it can—and rinsed until the water ran clear. I had trouble getting the red to set, so I soaked it in water with some more vinegar over night, with another few minutes in the microwave before another rinse.

Pre Rinse

Then it’s time to unfold them and see what you got, you know, the most exciting part!

Blue Tie Dyed Scarf

I ironed them all dry, folded them up, and offered them to the birthday girl wrapped in tissue paper… but not before I snuck in a few beauty shots!

Beauty Shot

Another Beauty Shot

The birthday shirt might be the cutest, and the mama-knit sweater an item steeped in meaning, but the scarves, well, the scarves are the favorite. And not just by the little one, but by them all.

Dress Up

I think I can live with that.


10 thoughts on “A First Birthday :: Hand Dyed Silk Scarves

  1. After you crumple up the fabric, try binding it with rubber bands or string for interesting effects. We took a class in Japanese “shibori” dying which uses a variety of simple tecchniques to produce amazing patterns.

    • I think so too Mom, although I’m not so convinced by the “red” one… is now more raspberry pink than the scarlet I was going for. Sometimes you just never know what you’re going to get!

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