This all began when the bush in front of my daughter Lily’s bedroom window died. Early morning light began to filter into her window and wake her before either my husband or I were ready. At first, we tried regular blinds. Still, she woke as the sun rose over the houses and shone into her room. So, I thought curtains would work. As Lily has been taking sewing and enjoying them, she could make her own curtains. I’d pick up some material down at Fabric Planet in Venice on Lincoln. Together, we could make these wonderful curtains. What a wonderful mother and daughter bonding opportunity.
That lasted, oh, about a half hour. Of the couple hundred plus designs on this curtain, about ten to twenty of them were drawn by Lily and her friends. The rest are yours truly. Unless you have a couple of thousand to pay me, this large of a Sharpie tie-dye project is never happening again.
That being said, the end product is pretty cool and something I hope my daughter will like for at least another five years.
- Sharpies (I purchased this 80s Glam kit at Office Depot)
- Rubbing alcohol 70% (from my own stash)
- Rubber bands (also from Office Depot)
- Plastic cups (from my cupboard, but I used a variety of sizes)
- Eye dropper
- Ventilated room—even with ventilation, I wouldn’t recommend spending hours sitting at the table doing this. You will end up with a headache. (Voice of experience here.)
Despite all of the sites out there with instructions on how to do this, before I started on the curtains, I had to test it on something first. We used a pillowcase dress made from an old poly cotton blend. Not the best test, but I wanted to see what would happen. This is the first test run.
As you can see, it did not spread quite as much, but from what I’ve read, it’s not unexpected. However, I personally liked the effect. Also, you’ll notice that some colors spread better than others, even on poly cotton blend.
Other directions tell you that, with the eye dropper, you use no more than 20 drops of alcohol in the center of your “drawing” and let it spread. I did not do this. I used whatever amount was needed for the spread of color I wanted. Perhaps I did it wrong, but I’m happy with the outcome.
Be sure to let your shirt, dress, whatever you are working on, dry before you throw it in the dryer. Alcohol is highly flammable. Unless you want to burn your house down, this is a very important step.
This is the final pillowcase dress product prior to washing:
You will notice how vibrant the dress is before washing and how faded it is after. Although none of the instructions say how high to set the heat in the dryer, I’d suggest the cotton setting. How much that will help prevent fading, I don’t know, but it’s worth a shot.
The curtains are made of 100% cotton twill, a heavier fabric than recommended for the ink to spread. However, it still spread quite nicely, if not the true “tie-dye” effect I had hoped for. What I did discover is that if you use 90 percent rubbing alcohol (available at Walmart and possibly other stores), the ink actually spreads farther. Even the colors that don’t spread as much will spread more.
Here are some notes about colors:
- Dark green does not spread that much, if at all. If you want dark green, it’s better to combine the royal blue and yellow. Both royal blue and yellow spread beautifully and blend together to make a rich green. You’ll also still have some streaks of yellow and blue, which is quite lovely. If you look at the pictures above, find the spiral of large dark green dots with yellow. Notice how little the green spread out. Had that been the royal blue, the dots would’ve been nearly indistinguishable. For a lighter green use aqua and yellow.
- Orange and light green will spread better with 90 percent alcohol.
- Red is more of a pink, but if you combine it with yellow, you, of course, get orange, and it appears more red than pink. See the photo to the side with the “sun” in it.
- Royal blue, purple, magenta, and the hot pink will dominate and spread more than any of the other colors.
- All colors will fade quite a bit after wash, but lighter colors will fade to almost invisibility. ☹
I bought five and a half yards of fabric. This took me approximately 40-60 hours to complete. (So, not for the faint of heart, someone in a hurry, or someone who has a hard time finishing long projects—which would’ve been me except I had to finish them so my daughter would sleep past dawn, or 5 am in summer.) If you decide to do this project, I highly recommend not washing the curtains before you hang them. Since you aren’t wearing them, it doesn’t matter.
Notice the different size cups. One was even a small plastic pot used for plants. Oh, and because the curtain fabric was thicker, unless I dumped alcohol on it, I did not have any alcohol dripping through the fabric into the cups.
As disappointed as I was at the fading, with the light shining through them, they are still beautiful. Not as vibrant as I had expected, but lovely nonetheless.