Table of Contents
- Gather Your Gear
- Protect Your Stuff
- Make the Dye
- Dump, Swirl, Drain: How to Batch Dye Dollhouse Shingles
- Pile and Stir
- Spread and Dry the Shingles
- Whatever You Want
Learning how to batch dye dollhouse shingles happened the first time I tried dyeing dollhouse shingles. If you haven’t read about that, you should (if only for the laughs).
While I covered everything in that misadventure, I want to give the batch dyeing dollhouse shingles process a more in-depth look. And I want to put my own newbie spin on things. This way, you can learn from me, and I can feel better about everything I did wrong! It’s a win-win.
For the record, what I’m covering in this how to only refers to wood dye. This has nothing to do with wood stain. Using wood stain on any part of a dollhouse is a topic for another day.
If you want to skip the details, drop to the bottom of the post for the fun infographic that sums this all up. Otherwise, here’s the step-by-step on how to batch dye dollhouse shingles (with wood dye).
Gather Your Gear
The first step in learning how to batch dye dollhouse shingles is to get your supplies together. You’ll need:
- Dye bucket
- Strainer (for the wet dollhouse shingles)
- A “catch” bucket (for the excess dye that runs off the dollhouse shingles)
- Something to stir the dye
- Lots of old newspaper
- Plastic tarp (or old plastic grocery bags)
- Gloves (at least one, but I recommend two)
My suggestion for these supplies is to use stuff you don’t mind “sacrificing” for the cause. One thing you need to know about batch dyeing dollhouse shingles (or anything, for that matter), is that they become permanent “dye” supplies. It’s not worth it to try to clean the dye off the supplies, and it may not even be possible. So, skip it and just make these part of your dollhouse building supplies.
Buckets and Strainers
Because you’re likely going to trash whatever you use as a dye bucket, strainer, and catch bucket, it might be worth investing in a cheap set of buckets and strainers that you use solely for batch dying.
However, not many people batch dye dollhouse shingles very often. In fact, most people probably don’t batch dye a lot of anything very often. Therefore, it may not be worth the money to invest in a permanent set of dye supplies. So, you’ll need to come up with a temporary and disposable solution.
One suggestion I ran across (and tried) was to take an old milk gallon jug (the plastic kind) and cut it in half. The bottom half becomes the “bucket.” The top half has the handle and becomes the strainer. I’m not going to rehash my experience with this, but here’s a picture of what that looks like:
This system worked (and I’ll explain it in detail below), but I don’t know if this is the greatest way to batch dye dollhouse shingles.
As I drained the dollhouse shingles in the milk gallon top, they slipped through the spout of the container and landed back in the dye! If I were to try batch dyeing again, I’d use a smaller container (like a half gallon jug) to see if the opening is smaller and could do a better job holding in the dollhouse shingles.
Believe it or not, my next thought would be to try batch dying with plastic cups. I haven’t tried this method, but I like the idea. I’d have to poke holes in the bottom of the cup to create the strainer portion of the system, but with a strong enough cup (and a light enough touch), I don’t think I’d collapse the cup.
My concern is that it might take longer to strain the shingles. I think that the occasional shake of the cup would help that out. However, a cup wouldn’t hold nearly as much as the milk jug.
I’ve seen the suggestion of using a foil tray or pan for the drainer. It’s easier to poke holes in them. But, they are wide and flat, making it harder to heap the shingles while they are draining.
However, foil is reactive. And, if you’ve ever read the instructions on hair dye, you aren’t supposed to mix dye in a reactive bowl. While hair dye and wood dye aren’t the same things, I’d still be concerned.
Protect Your Stuff
It should go without saying that you should wear clothing you don’t care about. But I’m saying it anyway. Wear clothing you hate. It’s going to get trashed. I suppose you could wear a smock or even painter’s gear. But whatever you wear, know that it will never look the same after you’re done dyeing the dollhouse shingles.
You’ll also have to protect your work area. I don’t care where you’re working, you have to do this. The dye will stain everything. Even concrete. Since wood dye is water-based, it splashes and splatters more than you realize. And you’ll never realize what’s happened until after you start cleaning up. By then it’s too late to get the dye out.
Three Things Make a Difference
As I was learning how to batch dye dollhouse shingles, I found that there are three key supplies to help protect your stuff: newspaper, plastic, and gloves.
I’m not going to lie. I was surprised at how awesome newspaper performed during this project. After I drained the dollhouse shingles, I (per the instructions), piled them in a heap on the newspaper, then added more shingles as I went.
I fully expected the dyed dollhouse shingles to stick to the newspaper. Much to my surprise, they did not, even though there was plenty of excess dye running off the shingles. The newspaper did a great job of soaking up the runoff without sticking.
That’s where the plastic comes in. While the newspaper soaked up the dye, there was a lot of excess dye on those shingles. Far more than I expected, and the dye soaked through layer after layer after layer of newspaper. Having the plastic tarp spread under the newspaper helped keep things dye-free.
Which brings me to the rubber gloves. I strongly recommend wearing one on each hand. You just never know what’s going to happen. And, while the dye won’t permanently stain your skin, it is kind of weird to walk around with dye marks all over your hands. Like this:
Make the Dye
Follow the instructions on the dye packet. But start with the smallest amount of water indicated on the instructions (there’s usually a range). You can always add water if the dye is too dark. You can’t take it out if it’s too light.
When you add water to the dye powder, there will be clumps in the water. Mix the powder and water long enough to remove all of the clumps. A mini whisk is your best bet (just watch the splashing), although a knife with a serrated edge (like a butter knife) can also work. In a pinch, you can use a fork. Or, use a spoon — but make sure to break up the clumps with the back of the spoon.
Test It Out
Once you’ve got a clump-free dye, test it out on one shingle. While dye is translucent, the intensity of the dye can still be too dark for your tastes. Dip the shingle completely in the dye, swirl it around, then pick it up and let the excess dye drain off into the bucket. Dab it dry on the newspaper or with an old rag.
If the color is too dark, add more water to the dye. I recommend 1/8 to 1/4 cup increments. Anything more and you might dilute the dye too much. Stir in the water and test your shingle again. Repeat until you’re happy with the dye color.
Dump, Swirl, Drain: How to Batch Dye Dollhouse Shingles
OK. Now for the fun stuff. Take a handful of shingles. While teaching myself how to batch dye dollhouse shingles, I learned it’s better to grab fewer dollhouse shingles than you can comfortably hold in your hand. Too many shingles and you’ll drop them, either on their way into the dye bucket, or when you remove them from the dye. While there’s no harm in letting a shingle sit an extra minute in the dye, you may not be pleased with the results.
Drop that handful in the bucket then swirl the dollhouse shingles around with your gloved hand (or ungloved hand if that’s your thing). Make sure the individual shingles are not sticking together. Swirl until every shingle is coated in the dye.
Drain Method 1
Here’s how most people drain their dyed dollhouse shingles. In one hand, hold your drainer over your “catch” bucket. With your other hand, retrieve the dollhouse shingles from the dye and place them in the drainer. When all of the dyed shingles are in the drainer, add a new batch of undyed shingles to the dye, swirl them, then add those shingles to the drainer without taking out the old batch.
Keep dumping, swirling, and draining until your strainer can’t hold any more shingles. Then, empty the shingles in the drainer onto the newspaper. Let them stay in a heap while you finish dying all of your shingles.
Drain Method 2
I used the above method and didn’t like it.
Using a second “catch” bucket seemed like a waste to me. Instead, I drained the excess dye into the dye bucket. It’s one less container to trash, and I feel like it’s a better use of the dye (meaning, no waste when I transfer the “caught” dye back to the dye bucket).
Also, I did not hold the drainer and add more shingles to it. My arm would never have lasted. Instead, I drained one batch at a time, adding the new shingles to the old shingles that stayed in a heap on the newspaper.
It took longer, I’m sure, but it was worth it to me and my arm.
Drain Method 2 1/2
As an alternative, you could place the drainer on top of a “catcher,” if you’ve got a way to balance everything, so it doesn’t fall over. I like this idea because this way you’ve got both hands free but you can also keep old and new shingle batches in the drainer (like how most people drain their dollhouse shingles).
Pile and Stir
Once all of the dollhouse shingles are dyed, keep them in the heap for several hours. Mix the heap occasionally (using a gloved hand) to bring the shingles from the bottom to the top, and the shingles from the inside out (and vice versa). The longer you let them stay in the heap, the darker the final color will be. Spread out the heap from time to time to see if you like the color.
While the heap is steeping, the newspaper will soak up the excess dye that runs off the dollhouse shingles. Use a lot of newspaper under that heap. The dye bleeds more than you think it will. Or place plastic under the newspaper. Actually, do both just to be safe.
Spread and Dry the Shingles
When the dollhouse shingles are the color you want or are dry to the touch, spread them out to finish drying. Do this on clean, dry newspaper. You’ll probably still have some wet or damp shingles, so use plenty of newspaper to soak up any dye drips.
Try to get the dollhouse shingles in a single layer. If that’s not possible, make as large and as wide of a “pile” as you can. The fewer layers, the better.
The dollhouse shingles should be dry by morning. But, they aren’t ready for use yet. Oddly, a large part of batch dyeing dollhouse shingles is the drying. They may be dry to the touch, but the color is still soaking into the wood. Wait a few more days (as many as five) before you use them.
Whatever You Want
One thing I’ve left out of this explainer is that you don’t have to dye your dollhouse shingles. You could attach the unfinished shingles to the roof and paint them. I hear that’s a thing!
But it’s not my thing, which is why I did the dyeing shingles route.
What route will you take with your dollhouse shingles? Let me know in the comments!
Image credit: Canva