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Staging an Infestation with Spray Dye
by Zabet Stewart and Raellyn Hatter

This is a story in two parts. The first part explains, in small words for the easily confused, how we are rock stars. The second is about how we proceeded to throw all the rules out the window. The third—ha! weren't expecting that, now were you?—tells you how to be your own spray dye guru.

Rock Stars
We got a query from someone over at Simply Spray, alerting us to their existence. We'll be honest, we checked out the website (very 1998) and watched the painfully patriotic "how to make your own tie-dye style USA! USA! USA! shirt" and giggled a little. But then, like good AntiCrafters, we were coming up with ideas on how to use this product without even trying. It's as if the Green Fairy and her naughty fingers were back, supplying us with project ideas that would turn this Blue Bonnet Sue product on its head. What can we say? It's a gift. And a bit itchy.

We sent back an email asking for samples, and just when we were beginning to suspect we had been blown off (who the hell are we anyway, right?) Zabet came home to find a rather large box on her front porch. She opened it to find no less than 37 bottles of Simply Spray and Stencil Spray. Who's a rock star? Oh yeah, we are! Unfortunately, due to scheduling problems, Renée wasn't able to help test the crazy spray dye. Zabet enlisted Raellyn (aka the Mahaguru of Craft) to assist. We say "assist," but we really mean "to tell Zabet what the hell's going on and make suggestions to keep her from doing something particularly asinine," as Ms. Mahaguru has a BFA and spent several semesters dyeing silk and anything else she could get her hands on. (Zabet's hair, for instance.)

Rules, Meet Window. Window, Rules.
So like good little crafters Raellyn and Zabet sat down to read the instructions before beginning. Pretty much, what you would expect: don't eat it, don't use flame, do it outside, hey idiot—it's permanent dye. The Simply Spray ("Soft Fabric Dye" according to the bottle) is not for use with stencils. The appropriately named Stencil Spray is, as it is thicker and is meant to behave more like silkscreen ink. Since we had decided to dye cloth napkins, we largely forewent the Stencil Spray (a layer of silkscreen is not conducive to the absorption of the wine you spilled down your shirt) and proceeded to use the Simply Spray with stencils anyway.

This gave wonderful results. Ok, I think the guys over at Simply Spray would shake their heads and tsk at what we call wonderful, but whatever. The dye bled and pooled beautifully, creating soft, subtle, elegantly degraded, water-damaged type effects. Could we pack a few more adjectives into that sentence? You get the idea. Raellyn and Zabet were quite pleased. You can see (and recreate) the fruits of their labor on the project page for Infestation.

Be the Craft Guru You Want to See in the World
1. Save your back and spray on a table. We learned this one the hard way. Ow.

2. You will not get sharp definition using Simply Spray with stencils. It's not designed for it. Accept the soft focus or give up.

3. Use stencils that will not absorb the dye, as these can pass dye to the fabric. If too much dye is collecting on the top of your stencil, stop to take the time to carefully blot it off with some paper towels to prevent excessive dye bleed and complete obliteration of the design (i.e., you will get a solid-colored piece of fabric).

4. DO NOT OVERSPRAY. You will bleed under the edges of your stencil past the point of "water-damaged" to complete obliteration of the design (i.e., you will get a solid-colored piece of fabric).

5. Did we mention to avoid excessive dye bleed and overspraying? For realz, yo. Solid. Colored. Piece. Of. Fabric.

6. Black was one of the colors of choice for us (you're shocked, we know), and we found it was impossible to get a good, deep black. We got some lovely greys, fairly deep ones, but not a proper black.

7. Black+another color gave nice results, but it's easy to overspray if you're not careful. (See #4.) Doing this when the first color is wet vs. letting it dry gives slightly different effects, but nothing so drastic that you should panic about it.

8. We did 17"x17" white cotton napkins and found that a bottle of dye would get us through two napkins if we were going for pretty solid coverage.

8. The dyed fabric is machine washable, tumble dry low. After washing, the fabric is as soft as it was before spraying with dye.

We did play with the Stencil Spray just once, and noticed immediately there was not a lot of control with the trigger. You need to depress it completely to get a diffuse spray. Otherwise, you get a concentrated stream that is more like Silly String gone bad.

Also, if you're interested in dying but have nothing to dye, check out Dharma Trading Company. They have everything. Search tip: look for bandanas or handkerchiefs if napkins is not getting you any results.

The Exciting Conclusion
Well, everything's better if it's free, innit? At ~$4.99 a bottle, Simply Spray is perfectly affordable for small projects. We don't think we'd use it to, say, change the color of the interior of our car, but otherwise it passed our crafty little test quite well. And conclusions suck, don't they? It makes us want to ask, "Didn't you even read the rest of it? Why do we need to summarize it for you?" So if you're lost, go back and read the parts you skimmed or skipped. Especially the part about how we're rock stars.


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