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It has been brought to my attention that I haven’t posted to the blog in a while and that observation would be correct. I live in the desert. It’s summer. The only place I have to build the furniture is on the large, west facing patio (aka the oven) that collects heat from noon onward. When it’s 110 degrees, that patio hits 130, bacon, eggs and pancakes can be made on the cement slab. Not even constant dunks in the pool and 80 spf sunscreen can prevent heat exhaustion and burns. So, yeah, not much to blog about here, but we did suffer through two projects, three if you count one monumental fail.

John and I began dabbling with tie-dye to make ourselves some shirts. While I was Googling tie-dye patterns, I came across a multitude of other tie-dye, dip dye, sponge dye and every other kind of dye method you can imagine. They all made the process sound so easy and the results were wonderful. One project for dip dying curtains really attracted my attention.

Because that gigantic patio faces west and collects enough heat to bake pottery, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to add shade. With my need for cheap project materials I’d decided to use the large cotton drop cloths that can be found in the painting supply sections everywhere. I’d had this idea many years ago and should have acted on it then. Several years ago there was such a thing as a cheap WHITE cotton drop cloth. By white, I mean WHITE. I should have stocked up. I should have filled closet shelves with them. The lesson learned here is that if you find well made materials (or anything else) that you have a use for or may have a use for in the next few years, get them. The one thing that we can apparently count on is that what is well made and inexpensive today, will not be as soon as someone figures out how to make it cheaper and charge more for it. There are no more plain white cotton drop cloths any more, anywhere. They’re all a drab oatmeal color. I can only assume that manufacturers have stopped bleaching the fibers to save time and cost. At the same time, however, these drop cloths have doubled in price. Gee thanks.

I bought enough oatmeal colored drop cloths to cover each of the 12 foot spaces between the columns on my patio. I then proceeded to bleach the heck out of two of them. They require fairly large buckets of which I only had two to spare. I let them both soak in a half gallon of bleach mixed with 10 gallons of water, for two days, in the sun. Are they white now? Heck no. The best of the two turned a very pale oatmeal. The worst, a light shade of gray, even after washing and rinsing several times to remove the bleach before dying.

Using the very pale oatmeal cloth, and following the instructions for Rit dyes, I set up buckets with my dye colors and dunked a section of the cloth in each color. Stretching the cloth out like a scrunchy cloth snake, over a line of buckets, and pushing each section down into the dyes allowed for several inches of space between colors so the dyes could spread up a bit between colors but not mix together.  I let the cloth soak in the dyes for an hour or so while I tie-dyed some kiddie clothes and some little white 5.00 sneakers I’d found. I then squeezed out each section of the cloth and left it over night. The colors were vivid, a bit too vivid. I made the mistake of hoping it would fade a bit in the wash. I hosed off the extra dye and then put the cloth through the washer and dryer. Boy did it fade. What were once true colors when they came out of the dye, faded and muted to the point that they were unrecognizable as the original dye colors. Completely unsatisfactory for cheerful breezy patio curtains.

As I was screeching about the monumental waste of time and money with Rit dyes, a couple of friends suggested using Procion mx dye with soda ash. Guaranteed to give vibrant color that stays that way. I ordered some. Not only is it more expensive than Rit, it also comes in tiny jars with no more than a few teaspoons of dye powder in them. I used several jars of each color just for one curtain. The amounts were so small, that there was no way to dip dye. We soaked a cloth in the soda ash water, hauled it to the barn, spread it on the rubber mat aisle between stalls and painted each color on with paint brushes. Carefully folding the cloth in 4ths so that only like colors touched, and then placing garbage bags between folds to prevent different colors from bleeding onto each other, we folded it up and shoved it into a garbage bag to let it sit for a day and a half.  We then hung it over a stall fence and proceeded to rinse it with hoses until the water ran clear, before we washed and dried it. It was bright after we dyed it, bright after we rinsed it and holy merde is it bright now.

I can only count the second curtain as a semi-success. I’d been going for a water color sunset effect, but got something that looks more like a vibrant, rainbow beach towel. I will not be making one to match. The others will be dyed a solid color as soon as I can pick a color and get enough of it to dye 3 more curtains.

patiocurtainpaintingI’d managed to wallow around on the ground for two stripes before I got too coated with dye, too hot and was in too much pain to continue. John finished up my stripes and his. I’d not suggest you try this if you have bad hips, bad knees, bad shoulders and a bad back.

patiocurtainrinseAfter letting it sit for a day and a half, we hung it over the pony wash rack fence to rinse it. This is AFTER the rinse.

patiocurtainup3This is how it looks from the covered patio side with the sun shining through it. Definitely cheerful and it does indeed provide shade.

patiocurtainup2But from the outside, we have the world’s largest beach towel. I suppose it’s sort of appropriate since this is the pool side view, but not what I was looking for.

patiocurtanfrominsideThis is my view from inside the house. Umm, yeah, the others will be solids. This may one day become a colorful shade for horse stalls.

The end results of these two efforts in outdoor curtain dying are:

One giant beach towel which may end up as a barn shade, one very muted curtain that will definitely hang as a barn shade, and a large blue splotch on the parking pad that looks as if a Smurf met it’s doom (the tarp we were using apparently had a hole. This is why the operation was moved to the barn aisle).