Sunday, January 27, 2013

Double Dyeing

It's true, I carry a backpack. I'm one of those people. I do not wear sneakers to work, so I still have some dignity. But at the end of the day (and in the morning, too), I must admit that I am an adult who slips one arm through a strap, and then the other. There is a reason, of course.  

The primary reason is that I am a big bag lady. Meaning, I have a compulsive need to take a lot of crap with me. I always have a journal, I am always reading a book. The change in my wallet weighs five pounds. I typically have a smaller bag inside of my bag, just in case I decide to go shopping. I have hats and gloves, keys and at least five lip glosses. I have a Tide Stick that I superstitiously carry with me everywhere, knowing that the day I don't carry it with me, I will inevitable spill coffee on myself. Several days a week I have yoga clothes with me, and a big bottle of water. Oh, and I walk a mile to get to the subway station. So when you carry all that crap with you on one shoulder over a lifetime, what you wind up with is a very lopsided body. In my case, it was a wonky hip, one that burned like fire if I tried to run. (A physical therapist once marveled at the lack of muscles in my left glute. " weak!")

And so, last spring, I not only started doing a lot of yoga to balance things out. I also put away my pretty shoulder bags and made the switch to a backpack. I did a lot of shopping in order to find the least embarrassing backpack option. I settled on the simple canvas backpack by Baggu. And out of all the amazing colors and patterns that they have on offer, guess which one I picked? That cream colored one on the bottom row. And yes, when it arrived in the mail it was just as boring as you might imagine. 

Oh, and it got filthy. That kind of deep down dirty that a hot wash won't ever be able to fix. Even my Tide Stick was useless. So, last week, I got in my head that I would dye the bag. But I couldn't just leave it at that...I had to get "creative." And so, inspired by a batik-dyeing project in a book I'm editing, I melted a white votive candle in a piece of foil and painted stripes on the bag. Then I dunked it into a bucket of RIT dye, and out it came, the unwaxed areas a nice grayish purple. However, it became immediately clear to me that my wax job was a little clunky, the lines thick in places, wavering in others. And guess what else? That dirty cream color still looked dirty.
And so, with the mad obsession only known to a woman with easy access to a dye bucket, I decided to dye it again. First I removed the wax. (To do that, you just lay some kraft paper over the waxed areas and press an iron over it...the wax melts and transfers onto the paper. Cool, right?)

Then I dunked the whole thing in a turquoise dye. Here is what I was thinking: the gray and turquoise would make a deep, dark teal color, and the stripes would be a pretty little pop of color. Um...that wasn't exactly what happened. The thing came out looking like it had been styled by Miami Vice. The whole thing turned turquoise, and the stripes turned light turquoise. It was A LOT of color.

I washed the bag on hot, thinking some of the color would fade out. It somehow came out looking brighter! I then put the whole thing in a boiling pot of water with ten tea bags. It came out looking...sort of like a dirty turquoise.
Something like 15 hours later, I gave up. My husband can't believe I'm actually using this thing. I keep telling him it will look better in the summer, when bright, cheerful colors are a little more acceptable to the eye. For now, until I find a replacement, I will continue to wear my backpack in winter, bundled up, the bag reflecting off of my black peacoat like a neon sign advertising a tropical drink.
In better news, I DID succeed in dyeing this dress, which I had, if you recall, failed to dye once before. (Clearly I can never just dye something needs to be a long, painful process each time.) In order to dye synthetic fabrics, you have to use a special kind of dye that makes your house smell like a tire fire, but boy howdy, did that color set up nicely. A rosy, coral-red, no waxed stripes, no ombre or dip-dye or tie-dye effects. Just a pretty color, and hopefully, some day soon, a pretty occasion to wear it. 


  1. I'm still stuck on the fact that you ever thought it was a good idea to buy an off-white backpack for daily use in NYC. ON THE SUBWAY, Liana.

    But I'm not complaining, because I think this is my new favorite blog post. That dirty turquoise is amaaaaaaaaaaazing.

    1. I know! And with all of those other pretty color options! I clearly panicked. I think it was called something awful like putty. Total snoozefest.

  2. I'd like to see that dress hanging right-side up. Or ON you, even.

    1. Merle, maybe I'll wear the dress on Thursday to the gala! Is tulle too much? I promise it will look great with my turquoise backpack. :)