How to custom dye vintage napkins.
Nothing feels prettier in a powder room or guest bath than a lacy hand towel, but their elegance comes at a price. I found vintage napkins with the same look for just a dollar or two each, and gave them a simple upgrade with fabric dye. Here's how to turn your own antique-shop finds into lovely little bathroom accents.
Materials and Tools
- Drop cloth or newspaper
- Rubber gloves
- Cotton or linen napkins
- Fabric-dye packets
- Enamelware basin or old pot
- Disposable container for dissolving dye
- Wooden spoon or paint stirrer
- Mild detergent
Step 1: Gather materials
Try flea markets or thrift stores for vintage napkins or tea towels with details like hand-tatted lace, monograms or damask patterning. (Here, a cool, springy teal brings out a damask pattern beautifully.) Choose a natural fibre like cotton or linen (they will dye more evenly), and buy a few extras to experiment with. If you don't have a large enamelware sink or an old pot, pick up a plastic cat-litter tray to use as a dye basin.
Step 2: Prepare dye bath
Cover your workspace with a drop cloth, and put on the rubber gloves. Fill the disposable container with 2 cups of hot water per dye packet. Dissolve dye in the container. Then, fill the basin with enough hot water to submerge the napkins, pour in the dye mixture and stir.
Step 3: Dye napkins
Wet each napkin with hot water, then straighten out and submerge in the dye bath. Stir constantly. The longer the napkin remains in the dye bath, the deeper the resulting colour will be; I left these in about 30 minutes.
Step 4: Rinse and launder
Remove napkins from dye bath and rinse in warm water. Gradually lower the water temperature until you're rinsing with cool water and it runs clear. Then, wash the napkin with mild detergent in warm water, rinse with cold water and let dry.
Vintage napkins, Waterford Antique Market.
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