At various times of your life, your time gets consumed by certain types of parties. Graduation parties, college parties, then all of a sudden every summer weekend is consumed by weddings, and then later on you have an "OMG I'm old!" moment when you realize you have 8(!!!!!) friends having babies in the next 4 months. So, for me, it's baby shower season.
I happen to love babies, and love my friends, so this is actually pretty fun for me. I also happen to be a big proponent of getting your friends practical stuff off their registry that they actually want and will need, because obviously babies need a whole lot of stuff. BUT, I also think that including something a little more personal and handmade is sweet and makes the gift giving and receiving more fun.
So, with the baby showers nearing on the calendar, I decided I would use the popular Shibori technique on some plain white swaddling blankets. They turned out SO sweet and soft that I thought it was worth sharing the tutorial.
If you're wondering what the heck Shibori is, Andy says it is "fancy, non-hippie, tie dye - more folding, less swirling," and he happens to be exactly right. The technique is being used all over interiors, clothes, and although it's traditionally done using indigo dye, I love how it looks in any color. For example, here is Martha Stewart trying to sell you a $300 shibori shower curtain, naturally.
That dang Martha... she's good, but I promise you this shibori thing is really not hard. To start, pick up some Rit Dye and make sure whatever you want to dye is 100% cotton. I've done shibori on materials that are up to 40% polyester, and they've come out ok, but the cotton definitely handles the dye better.
Personally, I think the liquid Rit Dye is way easier to work with, and it's easy to mix a little at a time to get exactly the colors you want. The bottles say to boil water, but I just let my faucet run as hot as it would go for a little while, and that worked just fine.
A lot of people think of dye projects as messy, but this is about as easy as they get. (Don't ask Andy about that time I made him help me dye a whole rug. We were still dating then - I'm lucky we ended up married.) I just used a glass bowl in my kitchen sink and wore a glove so my nails didn't end up funny colors.
A couple of pro tips: I dip the corner of a paper towel into my dye bath to make sure the color and saturation are what I'm looking for. The colors often look totally different in the water versus on the fabric, and the colors always fade a little after a wash. Also, a lot of other online tutorials will tell you to use wood or foam board to sandwich your fabric after it's folded. I didn't want to spend the money on that stuff, and didn't have a lot lying around. What I did have around? Amazon boxes. So I cut cardboard to the shape I wanted and used that.
But let me back up a little: the graphic shibori patterns are created by using various types of accordion folds and sandwiching the fabric between materials that will cause the center of the folded design to resist the dye. You can find lots of instructions for various types of folds on pinterest, but my favorites are the geometric squares, rectangles, and triangles.
When you have everything folded and bound up, and your color just perfect, it's time to dip! Because you want the fabric in the middle of the design to resist the dye, it really doesn't matter if you can't fit your whole sandwich in the dye bath. In fact, I only dipped each edge in for about 30-45 seconds because I wanted the colors to be soft and muted and perfect for nurseries.
Once all your sides have been dipped to your desired saturation, rinse the fabric with really cold water to set the dye. I did this until the water ran pretty clear, and then cut the twine off the sandwich and peeled away the cardboard. The cardboard was usually starting to fall apart by now, but because I wasn't looking for super exact designs I was fine with it. Unfolding the fabric for the first time is like opening up a present! You're never quite sure what you're going to get, but it's usually pretty fab. Once the fabric is rinsing clear, I threw the blankets in the washer and washed with regular detergent on a cold delicate cycle and dried on delicate as well.
How cute did these turn out?! I don't know the genders of many of the soon-to-be-born kiddos yet, so I did a lot of blankets in gray and yellow and a few in blues, greens, and pinks. Hopefully there aren't 8 girls born, or I'll be dying more blankets! Or - there will be a bunch of tiny girl boss babies rocking their beautiful handmade blue blankets. Party on, little ones.