Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Coffee Talk

So I didn't want to spend 80 bucks on backing fabric for my quilt.  At my sewing class the other day we were talking about inexpensive ways to get backing fabric.  I decided to buy a single piece of muslin and dye it using . . . coffee.  Now coffee is in my top 5 most vile smells.  I can't stand it.  I learned to ignore it when others were drinking it as long as it was brewed in some other county.  I made 2 quarts of it for a practice batch.  

Of course, I must confess I have never made coffee before.  I just put two quarts of water in a pot and added a cup of coffee grounds. I boiled it for 20 min or so and then I added the muslin and let it sit for 3 hours or so.  The dyeing worked great.  There was only one problem.  It sat in my kitchen and made my whole house smell like coffee.  That vile, acidic smell that permeates everything had been damaging the air in my house all afternoon.  I dumped it around 5 o'clock so that it could do no more harm.  

The harm had already been done.  I had a headache of unimaginable proportion thanks to breathing coffee fumes all afternoon.  I am sure Tiger got dinner,  I think it was Tostidos and noodles.  I could barely focus by 7pm and so we all went to bed before 8.

Tuesday I was going to look for a metal tub to dye the fabric in, but then I thought it would be just as easy to dye it in a toy box (rubbermaid tote).  I took out the remaining toys and took it in the back yard.  I started cooking the remainder of a 5 lbs can of coffee in a pot.  I probably should have used a bigger pot because after I put the coffee in there wasn't much room for any water.   Nevertheless, I boiled it for about ten minutes and then added it to the fabric and water in the tub outside.  Now I had 9 square yards of fabric in 9 or 10 gallons of really strong coffee.   
I did go back and stir it every hour or so until dark.  I covered it (I didn't want stray dirt or leaves etc. to get in there).   I let it sit there all day Wednesday.  After 24 hours or so in the dye bath, I was satisfied with the color.  I was really going for anything darker than the unbleached muslin that I started with.  

I did make a couple of mistakes.  I put all the grounds in the pot with the fabric.  I think this is a great idea and makes the dye darker.  My mistake was not trapping them in some sort of bag.  They were all over my fabric, and in little sediment piles in the tub.   I thought the easiest way to get rid of them would be to wash them out in the washer.  You don't wash 4 lbs of coffee out in the washer.  It just doesn't work that way.  At least I used some vinegar in that batch to set the dye.  Now my laundry room smells like vinegar AND coffee (a very sarcastic smirk is appearing on my face).  I took the fabric out after a delicate load to find piles. . . no, heaps. . . no, mounds. . . no, volcanos of coffee surrounding all the holes in the bottom of my tub, and coffee all over every surface in the washer that gets wet during the load.  The coffee was mostly dry though, so I just spent 15 minutes vacuuming the coffee out of my washing machine. 

The fabric lost a few more granules in the dryer (I vacuumed for 3 minutes) and I hung it up for inspection.  There are little dots where the coffee got pressed through the fabric in the spin cycle, and there are still a million or so tiny little grains of coffee stuck all over the fabric.  At least those should wash off now that the rest of the coffee is safely in the vacuum.

So I washed it again on Thursday.  A delicate cycle and viola, spots gone and coffee dust off the fabric.  Then I put it in the dryer.  It sounded like a gravel truck was in the dryer too.  I opened and there was coffee everywhere.  I spent 20 more minutes vacuuming out the dryer, and the lint trap that was FULL of coffee granules.  I even used the shop vac for super suction to try to get them all.  There are still a very small number left on the fabric after drying it again. I should be able to remove those when I iron it.

I have a beautifully dyed piece of fabric, and a whole lot of experience on how to dye with coffee.  Then I went to enrichment book group on Thursday night. One of the sisters in our group owns a restaurant.  Next time I need coffee I just need to ask her a day in advance and I can have 5 lbs or so of grounds for free.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Sorry I never called you back the other day. It was a bad day. I'm glad you found a good way to dye your fabric. A rubbermaid tub sounds easier to come by than a big metal one...