Monday, April 25, 2011

DIY Tie-Dye Napkins

Yesterday, while everyone was dying their Easter eggs, I decided to finally tackle a project I planned to do this time last year. I had this vision of tie-dyed dinner napkins in shades of blue. I wanted them to look sophisticated, but lighthearted -- perfect for summer barbecues. But like many of my projects, they ended up on the back burner last year.

As I so often find out, the idea was not that revolutionary. A quick Google search led me to several versions of exactly what I had in mind, like this set from Good Housekeeping.

The project itself took about 4 hours, but that included an hourlong discussion with my mom and at least 30 minutes of watching TV. It's a little work-intensive, but totally fun to see the results. You will need:

  • Plain white dinner napkins (I bought two sets of 8 from World Market, for $16)
  • RIT dye (costs about $2)
  • Rubber gloves
  • Rubber bands
  • Buckets
  • A couple mixing bowls
Step 1: Wash napkins to remove any treatments.

Step 2: Tie napkins with string or rubber bands. I used this AWESOME guide to figure out how to make different patterns in the napkins.

Step 3: Prepare the dye. Fill a mixing bowl with about 2 cups of hot water and add your dye powder, then stir to mix it well. Add the dye mixture to a bucket filled with 3 gallons of hot water. I put both of my buckets (one for each color of dye) in the tub for easy cleaning. If you have a laundry room sink or basement sink, that would be even more ideal.

Step 4: Wet the Napkins. I put the tied-up napkins in another mixing bowl of hot water.

Step 5: Soak in the dye. Drop the napkins into the dye and leave in for at least 7 minutes. The hotter the water, the better the dye will set, and the longer you leave it in, the deeper the color will be. If I could do anything differently, I would have let them soak an eensy bit longer.

Step 6: Set the Dye. Once you remove the napkins from the dye, immediately squeeze out any loose dye, then rinse under water, gradually turning from hot to cold, until the water runs clear. Set aside. Some sites recommend leaving the fabric alone to dry, letting the dye really set. I was a bit too impatient, and if I did it again, I'd leave them alone overnight.

When you are done rinsing all the napkins, pour out the dye (slowly so it doesn't stain the tub or sink!!) and immediately clean the tub with some cleaner containing bleach.

Step 7: Cut the rubber bands off. This is the most fun part! You simply use scissors to cut off the rubber bands, then unfold to see your design! Super fun.

Step 8: Wash and Dry. Wash the napkins with a mild detergent in warm water. You can do this in the machine, but fair warning: the dye will fade in the first washing. I was a little disappointed at how much it faded, but I still think it worked for my vision. Tumble dry low.

And voila! Completed napkins ready for summer!

I think they would make excellent gifts, especially tied up around a nice set of salad servers or with a set of napkin rings (I still don't have any!). 

All told, the project cost me $20; I already had the buckets, gloves, rubber bands and mixing bowls. Compare that to $6 each for these tie-dye napkins from Uncommon Goods. 

Now I'm thinking of all the other things I could elegantly tie-dye ... tableclothes, plain white IKEA curtains, duvets, etc. I'm also hoping to try the ombre effect at some point.


Sara said...

I love them! I have two sets of plain white sheets that have been on my "to dye" list for over a year.

My only suggestion, especially if you are dying something that will get a fair amount of wash, is to splurge on high quality dye. I've never had great results with RIT dyes. is where we got the dye for my crafts class at CNU. It is high quality and can make amazing colors. They come with instructions for doing tub dying, like what you did, or you can make your own kit. I would definitely suggest these dyes if you are going to try ombre.

Amber said...

Thank you for the tip! My mom used to use RIT back in the day, but as I was doing internet research, I realized you were right about the better-quality dyes. I will have to try that.

Tallulah Bankrobber said...

I love the way these turned out, and I hope you won't mind if I steal your idea! Do you know of any stores that sell better dye than Rit? I'd like to cut down on shipping costs.

Amber said...

Of course I don't mind! I don't personally know of a spot other than Dharma Trading online (as suggested by Sara), but Harrisonburg seems like the kind of place you could buy this sort of thing! I would try any of the downtown stores that sell incense.

Yossy said...

awesome! you totally inspired me to get my tie dye on! t-shirts are currently soaking in the sink...

Amber said...

That's awesome Yossy! I hadn't tie-dyed since elementary school, so it definitely gave me flashbacks.