Wednesday, May 19, 2004

a dyeing lesson

Interesting thing about kid leather. It can't take heat.

If you've ever used RIT dye, you know that the instructions demand a HOT water bath. Ergo, things that can't take heat, can't be dyed. This is nonsense, of course. I once dyed a silk duvet cover in a (new) garbage can in my front yard, using water from the hose.

The kid gloves I bought were both stamped "washable" inside. I washed the gray pair in lukewarm water with a little Neutrogena shampoo. They came out fine.

I tested my dye bath with muslin squares, then with some pieces of scrap leather I had lying around. Color was good. Leather seemed fine. Dye bath was simmering, not boiling, but just hot enough to steam, on the stove.

Dropped the grey kid gloves into the dye bath. It was just like something out of a horror movie. OH MY GOD SHE PLUNGED THOSE GLOVES INTO A VAT OF SHRINKING SOLUTION THEY'RE SHRIVELING UP LIKE THE WICKED WITCH OF THE EAST UNDER DOROTHY'S HOUSE!

Needless to say I was a bit alarmed. I fished them out with the tongs and ran them under cold water, tried to wring them out, but no go. I saturated them with conditioner and tried to stretch them, but they began to split along the seams. They would stretch somewhat in the width, but not in the length.

Now, I have washed, stamped, and sewn leather before. I know that some shrinkage must be expected. But this was unreal. I have a size 7 1/2 to 8 hand, with broad palms for a woman. Those gloves fit me perfectly. They are now the right size for a 4-year-old. That's about 75% shrinkage.

I had to assume that the other pair (I *knew* there was some justification for buying both of them) would do the same thing. I cut about 1 inch off the forearms of the other pair and dipped a sample: It shriveled like an earthworm on the sidewalk. I took the dye bath off the heat and let it cool. Stood there feeling sick to my stomach.

It was only a $10 loss. But still, those gloves were quite nice, fit well, and I hate to see things go to waste.

I let the dye cool to lukewarm, tested the other leather strip. It was fine. Dyed the second pair of gloves in the cooled dye (dying my nails slightly brown in the process). They came out fine, and a nice chestnut color. They're air-drying in my bathroom. I shall rub a little mink oil in them tomorrow and I feel optimistic about the results.

The rest of you, be warned.

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