Although I love my framed Hungarian embroidery, I can't say I'm a huge doily fan. I never thought they'd pique my interest until one day my Mom mused, "I wonder how easily we could dye doilies..." Excuse me, did someone say teal? I'd never thought about dyeing doilies!! Lucky for me, my Mummu had a stash of about 100 - every size and shade you could imagine - so I tried a little doily dyeing experiment.
I earmarked five doilies for dyeing and dyed them along with some napkins in my washing machine. It was so easy!
- White or cream doilies (thrift stores, yard sales, etsy, Amazon)
- Rit Dye (Teal)
- 1 cup of table salt
- Washing machine
- Bleach (for cleaning the machine)
Choosing Doilies to Dye in the Machine:
If you're machine dyeing, as opposed to hand dyeing, there's a risk that the doilies could become a bit stretched or mangled in the machine. My machine is fairly gentle, but I've used washers that really whip the clothes around - even on a gentle cycle. Choose doilies with a more dense, less frilly pattern, because they will hold up to washing better. If you have a sentimental doily, use a hand dyeing method, just in case. Cotton will take the dye better than synthetic doilies.
How to Machine Wash Doilies:
Set the machine to a small load and fill with hot water. Add the cup of salt and dissolve. While the machine is filling, soak the doilies in hot water and set aside. When the washing machine is full, add 1 bottle of Rit Dye, close the lid, and let it agitate for a minute. Then toss in the wet doilies, making sure they aren't folded or bunched - I also added some napkins. In total, the weight of my fabric was a pound, so a half bottle of dye would be sufficient, but for bright/dark colours, doubling the dye is recommended.
I let the machine agitate for seven minutes, then removed a doily, rinsed it with cold water until the water ran clear, and then hung it up to dry. I re-set the machine and again, after seven minutes, removed another doily and repeated the rinsing process. I wanted subtle colour differences, but you could leave them all in there for the duration of the dye bath. I kept re-setting the machine so the dye bath was always agitating and in total, it took about 30-45 minutes. I then let the machine finish the cycle and hung up the doilies and napkins to dry. Then I ran an empty load through the machine with bleach to clean it out.
After dyeing, the doilies felt a bitter stiffer but I was surprised how well they held up in the machine! Either the agitation or the very hot water caused some to pucker ever so slightly, but that was easily remedied by misting the doilies with water and then steaming them flat with my iron. No dye was released during this process and by coaxing them back into shape, they once again returned to their normal, flat selves - and they softened too. Here's a look at the same doily pictured on the left, above, once it was ironed:
I layered the teal doilies on my teak dining table, along with a collection of white ones - I chose patterns that reminded me of snowflakes. If you're really committed to a doily runner, you could easily stitch them together, or sew them on to a contrasting table cloth. I just laid them down on top of each other - so simple!
I added some vintage plates, my matching napkins, a part of my Iittala Festivo candle holder collection, Iittala Kastehelmi mulled wine cups, my glittering Christmas balls, and - to warm up this wintry palette - my vintage bronze flatware. Now I'm totally smitten with doilies and want to try dyeing a batch a brighter aqua or maybe mint or coral...