Last week I decided that I wanted to whip up a bead embroidery heart tutorial for Valentine's Day. My obstacle, however, was that I didn't have any red colored backing material on hand.
Some beaders recommend the newer backings that are pre-colored, especially Nicoles's BeadBacking. I'm definitely planning to order some (and I'll let you know how that goes) -- but, for this project I needed red backing like now.
I did have some white Lacy's Stiff Stuff on hand, and happily it's dye-able. Unhappily, I had no red fabric dye, either. I rummaged through some cabinets and what I did have was red food coloring. Certain fabrics can be dyed with food coloring. The trouble is, synthetics typically cannot -- with the possible exception of nylon.
Is Stiff Stuff made of nylon? I thought it unlikely, but I experimented, just in case.
In order to dye fabrics with food coloring you need to set them first with an acid, such as vinegar. For my experiment I soaked a scrap of Stiff Stuff in a vinegar and water solution, and then added dark red food coloring and heated the whole thing up. I let it simmer awhile, and then cooled it down off the burner.
The result? A very lively pink! Like this:
Out of curiosity, I decided to check whether this result was any different from simply pouring food coloring onto the Stiff Stuff and rinsing it off -- leaving out all of those vinegar and heating steps. The result was definitely less intense:
Conclusion: Food coloring is not a good alternative to Rit for dying Stiff Stuff, unless you're looking for a very light hue.
My next move was to get out and find some Rit. (Fortunately, there is one store in town that still carries it.) I gloved up, mentally prepared myself for the mess, and went about the Rit dying process, which is:
- Boil 2 cups of water on the stove.
- Gradually, little by little, add 1 teaspoon of Rit powder to the pot (if you pour the entire amount in at once, the dyed boiling water will erupt).
- Drop the Stiff Stuff into the boiling water and dye solution, and allow it to soak for 60 seconds.
- Remove the pot from the burner, and use tongs to carefully lift out the Stiff Stuff (try not to bend the Stiff Stuff, which creates permanent creases).
- Rinse the Stiff Stuff under cold water, and pat it dry with paper towels.
- Lay the Stiff Stuff out flat to air dry.
Here are the results, using Rit Scarlet Red:
Another way to color Stiff Stuff is to stain it with a permanent marker. Here's a scrap I colored with a red Sharpie:
Personally, I can't get behind the marker method. It leaves gaps of white (since it only colors the surface), and it raises the fibers on the Stiff Stuff which makes it fuzzy.
Some beaders avoid the backing color issue entirely by gluing a layer of ultrasuede to the top of their backing before they stitch any beads. (We'll cover that method in an upcoming tutorial.)
Which method do you prefer?
Do you use Lacy's Stiff for bead embroidery, or have you switched to one of the pre-colored options?