Much Better

I haven't written in a couple of weeks, but I haven't been idle, I swear! Just look at this dress. When I bought it earlier this month, it was pretty ridiculous looking. This color combination just...doesn't work for me. I'm not sure the photo does full justice to the mess of weak red, grey-brown, and almost-pink that this thing came in, but believe me, it was bad. (If you love it, I apologize. I'm probably crazy.)

So I decided to dye it. I'd never dyed anything before aside from tie dye at summer camps, but I'd seen RIT dye at drugstores and had always wanted to try it. I also considered using natural dyes for this, but I've heard that it's hard to get really dramatic results with onions/tea/etc.

Isn't it surprising that pharmacies and hardware stores still carry this stuff? How many people dye their clothes any more? I imagine each store must sell about one package per month. Their website seems to be marketing to my demographic, so maybe there's some kind of underground dye revolution going on among the young folks.

The bad thing about using this dye is that it's got lots of chemicals (maybe not toxic, but I wouldn't want to drink the stuff), and the directions instruct you to scrub everything that came in contact with the dye (bucket, sink) with chlorine bleach. I really didn't want to buy a big container of bleach to flush into the water supply, so I mixed the dye up in an old stainless steel stockpot, and disposed of it in the kitchen sink, which is also stainless. And indeed, there were no stains.

I wanted to somehow unify the colors in the dress, and so I picked the midpoint between black, brown, red, and pink: purple. (Also, my choices were somewhat limited by what RiteAid had in stock: fire engine red, sunflower yellow, forest green, "denim" blue, mauve, black, and purple.) I didn't want the color to be too dark, so I mixed a third of the detergent into hot water with a lot of salt and a little detergent. I was surprised that you have to add soap to the mixture to get it to set, but I'm sure there's a good explanation for it. Unfortunately, I guess I didn't have enough water in this initial bath, or the water wasn't hot enough, because I later discovered that the salt and dye had not completely dissolved. As a result, there are some little speckles on the dress where dye pellets adhered to it in the initial dunk. But the pattern is so crazy that you can hardly tell.

Despite the long, long list of directions inside the dye pack, the process was pretty simple. Dissolve dye in some hot water, add salt and detergent, add to larger bucket of hot water. Pre-wash garment, then soak in clean hot water. Add garment to bath. Agitate. And agitate some more. The package says to stir the whole thing constantly for up to thirty minutes. I wore rubber gloves, but I still got overheated, standing over three gallons of steaming hot dye and swirling, swirling, swirling the dress. That part wasn't very fun, but it was cool to see the color take and develop.

I left the dress in for about 15 minutes. At that point, the color looked pretty dark, and I didn't want it to obscure the pattern altogether. I accidentally splashed a dish towel that was on the counter in the midst of my agitating, so that went into the bath, too. Now I wish I'd thought ahead and lined up a few things to dye, because the towel came out looking great and didn't add much to the workload.

The dye pack said that the color would dry much lighter than it looked wet, but I didn't realize how much lighter. I would say that the final color was about half as dark as it looked coming out of the dye.

I'm happy with the final results, though. The pattern still looks outlandish, but the palette is a lot more cohesive. And the process was fun. You could make it even easier by doing this in the washing machine (there are instructions for that, too, on the package), but we live in a big building with just two collective machines, and I was afraid I'd screw up the process and all our neighbors would end up with purple-tinged t-shirts. Someday I'll have my own machine, though, and then I definitely intend to try it that way. I also want to try shoe-dyeing sometime, but my current running shoes are still too new and nice to experiment with.

And that's not all I've been up to! But right now I have to go out and enjoy the long weekend, so next time: saft.


The Latest in Shoes and Books

Did you know that five years is the Shoe Anniversary? Yeah. Actually, it's the Wood Anniversary, but that's for wedding anniversaries and we're not married, so I think I get to make up whatever kind of present I want. I got those Tigers on the right for Stephen. While I was shopping, I couldn't resist getting some new sneaks for myself, too. These Converse have Little Red Riding Hood on them, and I love the red laces.

Stephen stuck to tradition, purely by accident (I think), and got me this little bird, because I love sandpipers:

A few years ago, I sent out valentines with the Least Sandpiper on them, and did a little bit of reading on the subject. These little guys are the smallest shorebird. They're native to North America, and breed on the tundra. Groups of them are called peeps. See why I like them?

I had a final on our anniversary (it always falls on or just before finals week; rotten timing). At least it wasn't the day before the final, when I was studying like crazy. Actually, I was supposed to be studying like crazy, but I was mostly procrastinating. I had just gotten a new book and I accidentally read half of it instead of making flash cards about biostatistics. How did that happen.

Yes, there's been some upheaval in the Book Club of One lately. First I got the name of my April book wrong (I read The Psychology of Everyday Things, not The Design of Everyday Things, although the author and the cover image are the same), then I got way behind and had only finished the first chapter by the last week of April. It was due back at the library on April 25, so I just returned it and went to the bookstore to look for a quick read.

I found The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld, whose emotionally insightful and articulate writing style I really respond to, and finished it within a week. I love books and movies that are set in familiar places; most of this one took place in Somerville/Boston, so yeah, I really liked it. (When we saw 21 on the Vineyard, all I could think about during the Cambridge scenes was whether they were really set in Massachusetts or recreated elsewhere. Most of it was pretty accurate, except the T scenes. Why are the MIT students always riding express trains to Davis? Express trains to Davis don't even exist, and even if they did, MIT students wouldn't ride them. Unless they were going to Redbones maybe? That I could understand.)

Now I've started my May book, but I'm worried that I might not finish this one, either. So far, there's a lot of overlap with the Omnivore's Dilemma. But the truly damning feature is that it's hardcover. I've realized that if I want to finish a book quickly, I need to be able to lug it around in my huge bag for a couple of weeks without resenting its weight or bulk. And since I'm already hauling around some combination of lunch, gym clothes, work shoes, and schoolbooks on any given day, and since I pretty much walk everywhere, tiny paperbacks are much preferred to thick hardcovers. I think I'll try to finish this one up because I've always wanted to read Barbara Kingsolver, but afterward I'm going to try to stick to smaller books.


Lemony Fresh

The lemon bars were awesome. I wasn't sure how they would turn out, because we ran out of both flour and sugar while making them and had to substitute bread flour and confectioner's sugar, which has cornstarch in it. And then I overbaked them, so they were a lot more cakey than they were supposed to be. But still, delicious.

The whole apartment smells like lemons now because Stephen deep-cleaned the bathroom in preparation for replacing the caulk around the tub. We've been trying to use non-toxic cleaners since we moved here, mostly relying on baking soda, borax, and vinegar. I hate the smell of white vinegar, so I add a ton of lemon oil to the mix. It's pretty fun to clean this way: the vinegar and baking soda foam up alarmingly, like an elementary school volcano project.

I've been using baking soda and vinegar to clean my hair, too, for the past couple of weeks. I went to a talk recently about all the hormone mimics and other nasty chemicals we put in and on our bodies. The speaker advised us to stay away from plastics and other synthetics as much as possible. Of course, it's pretty much impossible to avoid plastic (even the speaker was using a plastic water bottle), but I'm trying to cut it out here and there just for peace of mind. Since I make this stuff myself, I can keep it in glass bottles. Also, my skin is extremely sensitive and doesn't like shampoo in general, so I thought I'd give the no-soap regimen a try. It's not nearly as explosive as it sounds. First you rub a little bit of baking soda/water paste into your hair (I think this is different for long hair: you're supposed to dissolve the baking soda in a lot of water so it's much more liquidy--mine's like toothpaste), then rinse it and follow with an extremely dilute vinegar rinse (I use 1/4 tsp vinegar and maybe 20 drops of essential oil to 2 cups water). After I'm done, I rub a little clove oil into my hair for moisture and the nice smell. So far, I see no difference between this and shampoo; my hair feels the same as it always has. I'll let you know if it suddenly turns green or anything, though.