copyright 2001 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved
Crank's Corner: Commentary by Linda Marcas
Dye, Dye, My Darling!
Once again, my hubby and I find ourselves in the throes of a
remuddling --ah, remodeling -- project, a little home improvement to while
away the happy hours. This spring, we are turning what used to be the kids'
living room into our Red Room, a shrine dedicated to the Red Elvises, Our
Favorite Band. Now, before you start thinking, "how weird!," please give a
moment's thought to how many folks decorate their basements, rec rooms,
or home theaters in the colors, logos, and artifacts pertaining to their
favorite sports team? Nobody thinks those people are partcularly strange,
just really into something they enjoy. Well, we're not keen on sports, but we
do like Rokenrol.
The Red Elvises are three former Soviets, now American citizens,
who tour the country playing music which combines elements of rock-and-
roll, surf guitar, disco, Latin, western swing, klezmer and other Mid-Eastern
music with traditional "Russian" folk and symphonic melodies. Don't worry
if you can't make sense of this description; we have all their CDs, and will
play them at the drop of a hat for anyone who'll hold still long enough. My
point here is, they used to be Reds, they wear a lot of red, their guitars are
red, and, sometimes, their hair is red, too. Hence, the Red Room.
Ultimately, the Red Room will be our home theater, entertainment,
and "fun" room; with a kegga beer and potato chips, it's Party Approved.
Hubby had his heart set on red velvet curtains for the windows to block out
light, improve the acoustics, and give the room that old-fashioned movie
palace feel. Not being one to hang out in fabric stores very often, he was
truly shocked to find that velvet costs $25.00 a yard. Velveteen, the next
best thing, was prohibitively expensive, too.
Luckily, I've collected textiles for over a quarter century, rescuing
antique fabrics from thrift stores and garage sales. I'm no seamstress, but I
can put together a pillowcase. My stash of materials contained seven panels
of vintage crushed velour draperies in a color best described as "dusty
salmon," and I just happened to have several packets of red dye sitting
around, so, voila! My husband has his red curtains, and I have red hands
and a pink washing machine.
Where did it all begin? With Easter eggs, of course. When else can a
child make a mess with adults not only smiling about it, but actually helping
the kid to color his or her hands, clothes, food, and anything else nearby
with colors never seen in nature? Later, I discovered the joys of putting
food coloring into my milk and other beverages; as long as I drank whatever
horrible swill I created, my mother didn't mind.
My first experience with dyeing anything other than Easter eggs and
beverages came in junior high school days, when I took a sudden fit and
decided that I wanted to dye all my underwear purple. My dear mother
humored me, possibly in an attempt to stop me from doing anything even
more insane. The results were disappointing; a single box of Rit is not
enough to do much to a washer full of unmentionables, except to turn them
an unmentionable color. Come to think of it, my mother probably knew that
all along; she is sweet, but devious, and the poor results of my first effort
prevented me from using her washing machine for any more dyeing
Years later, I started dyeing again, this time at the request of a friend
who had a vintage clothing store. She'd send me boxes of dye, dingy nylon,
ravaged rayon, and faded cotton; I'd try to turn rags into marketable
clothing. By this time, I was dyeing things in a big pot on the stove, a witch
stirring her caldron at midnight. Sometimes, I melted the buttons. Live and
After my friend quit the rag trade, she let me keep all the extra boxes
of dye that I had left over; the stuff doesn't go bad, and I still have some of
them, twenty years later. While dyeing clothing, I learned that you can dye
some sorts of costume jewelry, too, such as plastic beads and fake pearls,
but that it's a good idea to keep them from sitting on the bottom of the pot,
because sometimes they melt. That led me to experimenting with dyeing
old clamshell buttons and ugly plastic buttons, to have more interesting
colors when I use them in jewelry. Small batches in the microwave, using
liquid dyes, works best; use some sort of loose-fitting cover unless you want
purple spots in your microwave that match the ones in mine.
When my step-kids were little, we did a tie-dye project, with them
getting to choose the colors and stir the big pot. We had fun, but it was
tedious enough that they never wanted to do it again (see, I have learned a
few sneaky things from my mom!) Hubby got into home-brewing and
commandeered my caldron; the kids grew up and moved on, and my dyes
gathered dust on the shelf. Until last night, that is, when my husband, in his
desire for red curtains in the Red Room, said, "Dye, dye, my darling!" At
least, that's what I hope he meant.
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