I love old quilts, but in antique stores they can be really pricey. I recently discovered that eBay is a great source for quilts of all descriptions; I bought this one (for $40) thinking it was my favorite color combo of pink and mustard.
Alas, when I opened the package I was disappointed. Instead of a cheerful blush, the pink was more of a faded puce. There were different shades of yellow, none of which could be called “mustard.” The color range might be more accurately described as a study of the concentration of urine at varying levels of dehydration.
To make things worse, the yellow dye had also seeped through to the back of the quilt, giving it a particularly yucky look.
The quilt itself is in great shape, and all the hand-stitching makes it soft and lofty. A few weeks ago our favorite blogger Jenny Komenda posted about an idea for overdyeing quilts. As soon as I saw her post, I knew it was the solution for my unfortunately colored but otherwise lovely quilt.
I got a box of Indigo dye at our local art supply store. This is the same stuff I used in my shibori experiments, so I had some idea of how it would work.
The first thing I did was put the quilt in the washing machine on the delicate setting without soap. Fabric needs to be wet when it goes into the indigo dye bath, and I also wanted as much of the bleeding yellow color to come out as possible. While the quilt was washing I mixed up the indigo dye in a large plastic storage container. The instructions call for using four gallons of water, but I used closer to six because I knew the quilt would soak up a lot of the liquid, and I needed it to be deep enough to fully submerge the quilt.
After letting the dye rest for about 20 minutes, I unceremoniously submerged the quilt.
Once in the dye bath, I gently agitated the quilt by hand, and stirred it around with a dowel. After about five minutes, I pulled it out and laid it across two sawhorses to oxidize.
When it first came out of the dye it was very green, but it instantly started to turn a deep indigo.
I left the quilt to oxidize for about half an hour, and then repeated the dyeing process. After it came out of the dye bath the second time and oxidized for another half hour I put it in the washing machine, again on the delicate setting, but this time with a mild detergent. While it was washing I set about cleaning up: I basically flooded the basement with indigo, which, while beautiful, smells totally putrid. But the mess and horrible smell were worth it because the end result is so pretty!
What was once yellow is now a rich peacock teal, and the pink is a deep indigo.
The quilt is destined for the daybed in the soon-to-be-revealed playroom/guest room, and I love the way its new oceany colors bring out the blues in the old persian rug.
While this probably isn’t the right project for quilts lovingly made by relatives, or passed down in the family through generations, I feel like it was the perfect resurrection for this unfortunately-hued quilt with no sentimental value. And honestly it is so beautiful now that it might just become a family heirloom!
What do you think? Would you ever consider overdyeing a quilt? Thanks for reading along!