Dye Drama

September 22, 2011   //  Posted in: Bedrooms, DIY, Windows   //  By: Emily   //  8 responses

Back when I had begun to envision how my room would look with its new full-blown wooden headboard, I had also considered anchoring the bed beneath the window with simple curtains that would disguise how much narrower the window is than the queen-sized bed. The sketch-y looked something like this:

Headboard sketchiness. So far, so good. I’ve stayed pretty true to plan (plus two lobster-red bedside tables).

For the curtains, I planned to make something myself. After all, with the cost of finished curtain panel set pushing $75-100 and beyond, I knew I could do it less expensively, if I found the right material. Searching high and low for raw yardage, I spent most of my time on etsy looking through indy shops and their vast array of fabric. I loved the breadth of the options: wool, sheer, printed, imported, designer, and handmade, but I couldn’t land on anything within my budget; I knew I needed at least 6-12 yards of fabric depending on width, which narrowed my options down immediately. And when it came down to patterns, textures, weights of the material, and the actual colors, I got myself stuck in the mud. It’s hard to not need to see and feel the fabric you’re going to be using, and I just felt like I could blast through ordering dozens of sample swatches and still not find what I (didn’t know I was) looking for.

My goal was to spend less than what I would have if I bought new panels straight from the store, and the fabric pricing (not including shipping) varied with availability, and especially, quality.

So, I decided to make it easy for myself and buy heavy painters canvas (a weight and texture that I was sure to be pleased with because I do love the feel of a more natural, authentic fiber). I also considered muslin, but this product from Lowe’s is just the run-of-the-mill painters drop cloth, of which I bought two 9’x12′ pieces in the 8 oz. variety as opposed to the heavier option of 10 oz.

Future canvas curtains. A.K.A Painters Dropcloth. On the cheap from Lowe's. I intended to hang curtains on either side of both windows in the room, not just behind the bed, which is why I splurged on the second canvas – just to make sure I had enough to do the job, yo. I wasn’t sure one pack would cut it but at $21/each, it wasn’t breaking the bank and it was also returnable.

The next thing I picked up was a packet of iDye, a fabric dye that I was pleased with once before (when I made this Orla Kiely wall art). The color I was hoping to emulate was the wall color in my bedroom, which is a rich, dark gray with oh-so-subtle purple undertones. The Gun Metal Gray option sold at JoAnn’s (only $2.47 post-40%-off coupon) appeared to be the perfect color. After all, I didn’t want the curtains to compete with the carpet (my favorite Pebble Rug from West Elm which totally shined in last weekend’s Secrets From A Stylist, eek, so pretty in the 9’x12′ size. I’m totally driftin’ off topic now.), and moreover, I didn’t want it to detract from the shiplap paneled wall that I finished 1.5 weeks ago (was it only that recently?)

Gun Metal iDye. Fun fact: These will be the first curtains hung in my house. I generally like the clean look of the bright blinds and window trim, but I’m exploring my options these days, starting with the bedroom.

I followed iDye’s directions with my top-loading washer; water, 1 c. of salt, wash cycle twice, rinse, gentle detergent cycle, complete. But what came out of the dryer was not gun metal. Not as I know gun metal. It was surprising close to the blue/gray Pebble Rug, actually.

Chambray denim? Or Gun Metal Gray? Which means… it was not even close to an exact match to the wall paint.

Pressed to describe the color and resulting texture, I suggested “grandma’s chambray denim” to Pete on the phone. No, he didn’t know what that meant but hopefully my lady-readers will get the idea.

More blue than gray, and kind of a washed-out denim texture, it would have been a real pop-of-color against the stained brown wall. It might have made a better bedspread. And I do like the modern chambray look if we’re gettin’ all Lucky magazine up in here, but this didn’t have that same structure or smooth finish as the newer designs in stores. Drifting off topic again.

Chambray denim? Or Gun Metal Gray? Never fear, this dye drama can be corrected, right? If it was anything like Sherry’s seat covers, the full 9’x12′ sheet of canvas should easily absorb a different dye and transition to a shade (hopefully) closer to the wall paint. Fingers crossed.

Back to JoAnn’s, and home with two additional dyes, Silver Gray and straight-up Black. After all, the shade I was wanting was just a light black… as-in, gray, right? Yes, I had more coupons, so the total dye haul only cost $7.50. I was still hoping to return the black. Ooh, can you smell that foreshadowing? But really, now do you see why I was so optimistic in the Gun Metal Gray pick all the way on the left? That’s my wall color exactly!

Dye arsenal; Gun Metal Gray, Silver Gray, and Black. As I began to re-dye the canvas Silver Gray, I was once again optimistic; the dissolvable dye packet showed signs of having red undertones, although lots of blue too. Maybe I’d end up with a more purple-gray tone like I needed?

Silver Gray Dye Packet, up-close. No. Not so much. I did snap a photo of dye-job #2, although it seems to have vanished off the face of my camera or iPhone and computer, so maybe I dreamt the whole night long dye job. I do recall that I photographed the fabric in a wound up lump on the staircase, hoping to compare the blue to the gray stripes the in painted stairs, but alas, who knows what happened.

In any case, the Silver Gray wasn’t potent enough to lighten the slightly darker blue color of the Gun Metal Gray. And that is today’s life lesson. Onward with the black.

Because I was horrified about the potential of dying the fabric as black as the night, I only allowed the dye to soak in for the duration of one wash cycle. (I also used less salt, probably only a half-cup… but that was because I completely depleted my at-home supply.)

It came out, it dried, and I was skeptical. You would be skeptical too if it were your third go-around with the dye and an enormous piece of fabric. It was definitely still a wee-bit blueish, even purple-ish in the right lights, but not in a bad way. Gun Metal Gray dye is apparently the almighty strength, but it was subdued finally.

Subdued dye job, post-black dye. Content as I was with the color, I was more worried about how it would look against the shiplap headboard, so I laid it out flat (on the deck yesterday when it was dry, my only available large surface) and used a simple yard stick (that my grandpa always likes to make sure I have on hand, thanks much) to measure out a 3′ strip on the 9′ length; do some math, and realize that if I cut the full sheet into quarters, I’ll have four 3’x9′ pieces of curtain.I didn’t even feel the need to mark on the fabric, I just kept lining up the yardstick with the edge of the fabric and trimmed away slowly.

Slowly cuttin' away at the bedroom canvas (on the deck, where there was room to spread out a 9x12 panel). Next, I brought it upstairs and literally blue-painters-taped the single-cut panel to the wall to see how it would look.

The result?

Oh phew, the curtain doesn't look totally bazurk. Oh, Hurray. I’m liking this. Being against the brown backdrop definitely breaks up the gray curtain from the rest of the gray walls, so much so that it looks like a color match. I did pull the panel over to the gray wall to see how close it really was, in similar light. Not quite close, but definitely passable. If you’re not picky.

See, there’s way more blue in my fabric, and more red in the wall gray. And such is life.

Comparing the curtain color to the wall color. Because of this, I’m probably not going to hang the curtain on the window on the opposite wall, because the gray-on-gray is just not close enough to work as fluidly as I hoped. Even though you can’t see that full window in this picture, can you see what I mean? Conflict. Boo hiss.

Putting the curtains along the gray wall window would really be hard. But the curtains I did end up with. Ooh lala. OK, they’re not actually quite done, and I haven’t gotten beyond just taping them up to scope out the situation, but they will be properly hung (and ironed) soon.

Check back for more curtain fun… and less dye drama.



  • Cait @ Hernando House
    6 years ago - Reply

    I like the curtains so far! Looking forward to reading more about curtain fun :)

  • Ashley@DesignBuildLove.co
    6 years ago - Reply

    just worked on some dying of my own! Dye just might be one of my new favorite things! Curtains look great!

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Thanks Ashley! I take it your colors have been coming out as expected? What product are you using?

  • ciji
    5 years ago - Reply

    Hey there! I saw your blog post on dying drop cloths. I tried it myself and it came out super blotchy! Im not sure what I did wrong… Help! I followed the directions in a top loading washer and it came out stained on most of the cloth.. Tips??

    • Emily
      5 years ago -

      Oh no! So sorry to hear that. I didn’t encounter that issue but have an idea: when the washer was filled and the dye was evenly mixed in, I put the fabric in and really mashed it around to get it saturated. I noticed initially when I put the dropcloth in that there were some air pockets keeping parts of the fabric afloat, so pushing it in and making sure that everything had equally been soaked completely before the wash cycle began might have aided against blotchyness. Hope this helps- I think if you try the same fabric again and leave it in the water to soak for 10 minutes or so before you start the wash cycle, it might even things back out…. An hopefully not make it darker. Good luck!

  • Maryanne Schauman
    5 years ago - Reply

    I read on another blog that you should use color remover first and then dye the canvas. Thus they won’t be blotchy.

    • Emily
      5 years ago -

      Good tip! Thank you Maryanne!

  • bex McCartney
    4 years ago - Reply

    I could not resist a post about drama regarding dyeing. You helped me because I was looking for an example of how the gunmetal color actually turns out. I want lighter, I’m just fiddling around with thrift store shirts; this color will work for me. As for the blotchiness that the person above described, I’m wondering if pre-wetting the fabric will help. Since I’m dyeing small things I use the stove top method. You wet the fabric, then make sure to stir it (in case of the washing machine, it does it for you!)

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