A friend of mine, about to be married, asked me to dye some shoes for her. Luckily these were not the dyeable-satin type (an experience I would have passed on!) but cotton eyelet ballet flats with rubber soles. She wanted them a pale turquoise with purple and deeper blue accents, and gave me a scarf as a guide.

My first worry was that the shoes might have a stain-resistant coating, but water dripped on them soaked right in rather than beading up. I mixed up some thickened urea water, used 25% as much dye as usual, and gingerly approached a dampened shoe with a sponge paint brush. I figured I’d have to work the dye into the shoe and that a lot of it would rinse out.

What a surprise! Those shoes were thirsty for dye! They sucked it up madly. And the color was turning out very bright, not at all as I expected. After coating them with dye, I painted over the shoes with soda ash solution, trying to give them a more “watercolor” appearance. This worked… pretty well. I wrapped each shoe in a plastic bag and put it in “the warm cupboard” to batch overnight.

But as I sat on the couch watching the late news, the color of the shoes really bothered me. 20 hours in that warm cupboard would leave them as bright as possible! Instead, I batched them a bare 2 hours and rinsed them out. Another problem surfaced… I couldn’t really rinse them well in hot water after the cold rinse for fear of shrinking the shoes! Oops.

The shoes were still pretty bright when I turned them over to my friend, but she seemed satisfied with her emergency dye job. I just hope they don’t bleed on her feet as she stands on the beach at the ceremony!


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