First, the finished project. These shoes are closely based on the above 18th century shoes. The big difference is that the original has the design integrated in the fabric (either embroidered or woven), and mine are painted. The shoe is the "Georgiana" from American Duchess. The buckle is an actual 18th century antique. When I put the buckles on at the end, I was like jumping around! Over 200 years ago, a lady was putting them on her shoes, too! Ah, how cool...
Ok, so the dyeing. What an odyssey. Read, please, before you go off and dye anything. There was a lot I learned not to do. This goes for the scotch guard-ing and the painting, too.
I started with the shoes, some black Rit dye, a brush, gloves, cardboard and a cup. I used cardboard instead of newspaper or tarp etc. I mixed the dye as instructed on the Rit bottle. I used the hot water method. You will NEED gloves!!! No matter how neat you are, why risk it?
When I started to paint it on, this is what I got. This black dye has that sort of black sharpie effect, where it has a purple base. A lovely color, but it would take soooo many applications to reach a deep black. This picture actually makes it look much darker. It was really a watery, light lavender.
So I started dipping the brush right into the bottle. Don't do this. It looks great, but as I learned later, the dye has no adhering power this way. You need heat. And you need lots of it. More about this to come.
I did a couple applications this way and left it to dry overnight, thinking the dye would be powerful enough to just stick to the fabric, and well, dye it. The next day the shoes looked really matte and chalky black, with stripes from the brush.
I rubbed one with a paper towel. A ton of the dye came off, and the silk where I rubbed looked that sad lavender color again. I started googling "dyeing silk," "dyeing shoes," "Rit silk," the list went on. Basically, what I learned is you need heat, best in the form of steam. I've read other tutorials about dying shoes and they never seem to think this is important. So here's what I did, and it seems to have worked really well.
I experimented with running the shoe under water to get the excess dye off. Sooo much came off. And don't panic; the shoe is fine. Water didn't kill it. I didn't drown it either however. You can see how much came off: (again the photo looks especially dark)
To solve the heat issue, I got out the hair dryer. Mine is exceptionally hot. It's blown out many a hotel bathroom socket... I also heated a mixture of like 90% black dye and 10% water in the microwave. Ten seconds at a time, tops. Open the window or turn on a fan. This smells seriously chemical noxious - but that means something is happening to it. This is a good thing. Also, use a cup you will throw out. Don't even think about eating out of it ever again.
I started to paint on the hot dye, layer by layer, and in between each layer I would hit it with the blow dryer on it's hottest setting. You want to really heat up the fabric, but keep the dryer moving so you don't burn the shoe. It took me about 4 coats. After it was dry, when I rubbed again with the paper towel, only a teeny bit came off. No where near as much as before. I was reading on one of the websites about dye that the heat helps the fibers in the fabric open up to accept the dye, then when it cools, the fibers contract, sealing in the color. I also suspect that the heat activates something in the dye chemicals, but I'm not a scientist... Below are the dyed shoes. The color is much more uniform and the luster of the silk shows now, unlike the matte effect from before. I left them overnight again before I touched them again.
On to the painting! Here too are some do's and dont's...
I used acrylic paints for this, copying the design from the original shoe. For the brush I used a very small, short tip. I chalked the design on first and then painted away! But wait... I should have scotch guarded pre paint - keep going...
They were so lovely! I was so excited, so I ran to Target and picked up some scotch guard (because this is what all the shoe dying tutorials tell you to do), and after they were well dry, I sprayed them with two light coats. The weirdest thing happened...
It's like the paint disappeared!! What was once opaque, bright paint totally changed. I have no idea how scotch guard affected this, but it most definitely did. So if you decide to scotch guard, do it first. The paint will be a little harder to apply, because it will bead a little, but if you use little to no water you should be fine.
I had to repaint the whole thing... Seriously frustrating. Oh well... Not the end of the world.
Some final reminders:
- HEAT!!! And gloves!
- Many thin layers, not one or two thick ones.
- Scotch guard is a magician! Use it before painting, but before using, do be sure you have the shoes dyed the color you want, because after you spray, there will be no re-dyeing.
- Don't even think of wearing these in the rain, in grass, etc. Basically only indoors.
- If you must wear white stockings, and you're dying your shoes a dark (or bright) color, wear them around the house with socks until the color stops rubbing off at the edges.
- For any part of this process you can stuff the shoes with tissue (gift wrap or toilet) to protect the inside. I didn't, but if you feel the need, take care not to use newsprint or colored varieties, as they may bleed when wet and stain your shoe.
So now that you know what not to do, get out there and make something beautiful! Cheers!