Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Magic of Dye Applied to Shoes

I've been a touch obsessed with dyeing things lately (ooh, imagine how weird that typo would make me sound--obsessed with dying things...anywho).

Next up on the docket of Things to Dye, after getting some fabric taken care of, were my wedding shoes. I loved my wedding shoes. One problem--when, other than a wedding in which one is the bride, can one really wear white shoes?

So I decided to dye them.

I used the ineffable Dreamstress's tutorial on shoe-dyeing, which I recommend reading in lieu of or in addition to my thoughts if you plan to dye shoes.

You need:

Your shoes
A dye pot (I recommend having a cheap stock pot--enamel or stainless--that you use ONLY for dyeing, never cooking. The chemicals in dye are nasty.)
Newspaper or other scrap paper to cover a work surface
Paintbrush (I would buy a cheap one, new, knowing that you might permanently scar it with dye. I bought the second-cheapest thing at the hardware store and it worked fine.)
Plain white tissue paper

Step one is selecting your dye, and vital step one of step one is knowing your shoes' fabric content. Many commercially-produced shoes are polyester, so don't assume that natural-fabric dyes will work--and remember that satin is a type of fabric weave, not a fabric content. Hint: You can usually find the manufacturer online and look up the content from there.

Get your dye a'simmering per the dye manufacturer's instructions for tub dyeing. You are not tub dyeing your shoes, but you are creating a vat of dye to use like thin paint, so this step will be the same as tub dyeing. Except the "add fabric" part. Don't dump your shoes in the dye pot.

Cover your work surface with scrap paper and stuff the shoes with plain white tissue paper (or other plain, undyed paper). You don't want to use any paper with ink to stuff the shoes--it might bleed.

When the dye is ready, you're ready to paint!

I'd think of painting the shoes with a very thin, watery paint more than anything. I pulled the pot from the stove to have it close to me while I dyed, then popped it back on to stay simmering between coats.

Apply the dye using your painbrush as evenly as possible. It will bleed out, so "chase" the dye with your painbrush and blend it as you go. Sounds tricky, but it's not too complicated.

Applying the dye:

I painted two coats of dye, then let the shoes dry completely. The color will dry lighter than it looks when wet, so judge how many coats you want to do off of dry shoes, not wet ones.

I noticed that the color also looked splotchier when the shoes were not dry, probably because the dye was actually in varying stages of drying.

Now you get to enter the "lather, rinse, repeat" section of the shoe dyeing process. The shoe on your left has gotten an extra coat of dye. The shoe on the right just has the initial two (notice how much lighter it dried?). Keep painting, drying, repeating, until you are happy with the color. Or really, really bored.

Another round of dyeing later, the shoe on the left is ready to go, and the shoe on the right needs another coat. You can really see the change in intensity--but remember, this is both from another coat and wet vs dry dye.

Let them dry completely, then put them away or wear them!

Words to the wise: I was not planning on EVER wearing these white shoes again, so was willing to risk a dodgy dye job. If you're not willing to risk it, I wouldn't recommend home dyeing. If, however, you're flexible, you can end up with a revamped pair of shoes for barely any cost.

I was very careful in my application, but there was still a tiny bit of unevenness, mostly around places that the dye pooled, like at the very tips of the toes and in the seams of the bow-fluff decoration. Careful application can cut down on this, but may not eliminate it completely. If perfection is important to you, this may not be the way to go. Also, these shoes were a little complicated with all the extra stuff on the front--totally doable, but it did cause the unevenness to be more pronounced than, say, plain pumps would have been.

The color selection may not be great, and even with testing swatches, you may not get the color you intend. This is especially true of synthetic fabrics, where you simply do not have the range of dye choices you have for natural fabrics. If color matching is very important to you (for instance, matching a bridesmaid's gown) you may want to go with a professional.

Finally, those coats take time to dry. Have another project going in tandem--preferably not in the same room if the dye smell bothers you. (Note: dyes for natural fabrics don't bug me, but this dye for synthetics did.)

Overall, a fun and easy weekend afternoon project!


Connie Keller said...

How fun! I wonder where my bridal shoes are...

Jemi Fraser said...

Very cool! I'd probably end up with drip all over the shoes! :)

Heather R said...

How very cool. And if you weren't planning on wearing them again, why not give it a try? All that can happen is that you get great new shoes! I love the color!

The Dreamstress said...

Oooooh....I love the colour you dyed those shoes!

I've been looking for more shoes to dye, since I'm addicted too, but I just haven't had any luck. None of American Duchesses white satin shoes have fit me right, and I can't find anything else.

Rowenna said...

Connie--hope you find them and have a fun project!

Jemi--I wonder--that might actually look kind of cool!

Heather--my thoughts exactly!

Dreamstress--I cop to trolling ebay for used wedding shoes...does this count as gross?