This was the project I was dreading: learning how to dye dollhouse shingles
Let me explain why.
When I read the directions for the shingle dye kit, it said the whole project would take five days. Five days! Why would it take so long to dye dollhouse shingles?
Fun fact. I started going grey when I was 16 years old, and I’ve been a dye job ever since (in a few colors, too). So, when it comes to dying hair, I consider myself an expert.
So, why the heck would it take five days to dye dollhouse shingles? Dye is dye is dye, right?
I admit I’m no expert on how to dye dollhouse shingles. And, yes, I know, hair and dollhouse shingles are not the same thing. But, five days made no sense to me.
Then, I dyed my dollhouse shingles. And, now I get it. Five days is a bit much, but this is not a one or two hour project.
I Followed the Instructions (Sort Of)
When it was finally time to dye the dollhouse shingles, I shockingly read through the instructions. Several times. I know, I know. Totally out of character for me. However, messing with dye is no joke. Working with any kind of dye is a messy (ha!) project. Get it on the wrong thing, and the dye can and will cause a permanent stain.
That’s the least of my worries, though. I only have one shot at getting the dying dollhouse shingles thing right — unless I want to buy another bag of shingles and dye. I don’t want to do that. So, not only did I read the instructions on how to dye dollhouse shingles, I actually followed most of the instructions as written.
How to Dye Dollhouse Shingles
I figured the shingle dying instructions would be pretty foolproof. And, I have to say, the advice in the instructions was pretty good. There were a few spots that didn’t make sense the first time through. So, I did have to read some of them over several times before I figured out what the instructions were instructing.
That said, the instructions aren’t perfect, and I have some tips for anyone (newbie or veteran) who want to learn how to dye dollhouse shingles.
Gather your gear
Because I am a regular dye job (no shame!), I know it’s important to protect your workspace and your clothing. It can’t be said enough times. You will permanently dye (or stain) almost anything the dye splashes on.
Wear something you don’t love. In fact, wear something you hate. Splashes happen, even when you think you’re being careful. You’ll see errant stains on my arms and fingers. Also, what you won’t see are the splashes on the bottom of my jeans.
Cover your work area with a plastic tarp, or something similar. Rip up old grocery bags if you’ve got to. The key here is that it’s plastic. I also grabbed a ton of newspaper (pic) for the shingles to drip and dry on. The paper soaks up the excess dye that runs off the dollhouse shingles. You want the excess dye to run off your dollhouse shingles and into the paper, so you don’t overdye your dollhouse shingles and end up with too dark shingles.
If this seems like overkill to use paper and plastic, I promise, it’s not. When you dry the shingles on newspaper, the dye is going to seep into and bleed through the newspaper. But, it’s going to seep and bleed more than you think. Placing plastic under the newspaper creates a waterproof (or, in this case) dye proof barrier that catches the dye in case you underestimate how much newspaper you need.
While you could use just newspaper, that alone won’t protect your work area. You’d need a lot of newspaper to cover everything effectively. And, newspaper isn’t nearly as waterproof as plastic. My part-expert-part-newbie advice: when dying dollhouse shingles, use paper and plastic.
My dollhouse shingle dying workspace
Here’s my tarp and newspapers.
I lucked out the day I did this, and the weather was gorgeous. So, I did this project outside. You might wonder why I’m still using the tarp even though I’m outside. That’s because the dye will stain the concrete.
Like I said, no joke.
The tarp is doubled over twice because it’s huge. Folding it over on itself gave me a smaller work area to deal with (as in, easier to reach stuff). It also made the tarp a little heavier and less likely to blow in the wind. That said, I ended up weighing down the ends anyway.
Prep your tools
You can’t just mix the dye in any old container. Well, you can, but you risk ruining it.
Generally, when you dye or stain stuff (hair, wood, furniture), you dip something like a brush in the dye, then apply it to whatever you’re dying. The only exception I can think of to this is certain tye dye projects (like the dip it in a bucket method popular at slumber parties). But, in general, it’s dye on brush, brush full of dye on thing.
However, you’re not dying one shingle at a time. I mean, you could, if that’s your thing. But, for the rest of us, it’s not. So, you’re going to have to batch dye your dollhouse shingles.
The instructions recommend that I take an old gallon container and cut it in half.
Here’s what my container looked like after I cut it:
I used some crappy utility scissors I had, figuring the container edges didn’t need to be perfect.
You’ll notice I cut it just below the handle, so the handle is intact. This is important later. Also, you’ll notice that the lid is off the top part. This is also important later.
Mixing it up
Next up, making the dye. In this case, it’s the packet of dye with, and I quote, one to one and a half cups of water.
I get it. Less water means a more intense (or darker, depending on your perspective) color. While more water means a less intense (or lighter) color.
I emptied the dye power packet into the bottom of the gallon jug (the half without the handle). It’s very red, but dye in its undyed form always looks weird. Trust me on this one.
Because I can’t take out the water once I add it, I started with one cup of water. Here’s what the initial mix of water plus powder looks like:
As you can see, it’s clumpy. I mixed it with a plastic knife. Why a knife? Even though it’s a plastic knife, it’s got a little edging on it. This helps break up the dye clumps. Every clump I leave behind is that much less dye in my final mix. I mixed until all the clumps were gone.
On a related, but side note, there were all sorts of dire warnings about fumes. I’m familiar with those warnings. I see them on all the hair dye boxes. I’ve always assumed they’re there for legal reasons.
That said, hair dye can stink. I use an ammonia-free version, but it still smells. Not bad. It’s just a distinctive odor. Even though I dyed the dollhouse shingles outside, as I mixed the dye in the water, I did notice an odor. Nothing bad, nothing intense (and nothing like hair dye). But, I did notice it.
Testing it out
I had no idea if I was going to like the one to one ratio, so I decided to test it on one shingle.
You can also see the dye in the background. It looks positively brown in this picture, and I swear, that is no lighting trick. Again, though, dye looks weird when it’s just dye in a container. It never matches the final color.
At this point, I should mention that the shingle dye kit only included one rubber glove. I thought that was weird. Most dye kits include two gloves or no gloves. That said, for this kind of project, I kind of get why you wouldn’t include two.
Put two gloves in the kit, and you’ll probably put one on each hand. With two gloved hands, you’ll be tempted to stick both hands in the dye. Then what? Now you’ve got two gloved hands covered in dye. How do you open the door? Turn the faucet on? Take pictures?
It’s a good thought to put in only one glove. Less temptation to use both hands that way. That said, I think two gloves is a good idea whenever you’re dying anything. Without even realizing it, you’ll end up with dye on the ungloved hand. That could happen from splashing. Or, it could happen from you not thinking and grabbing something with your ungloved hand for whatever reason.
I tossed in one dollhouse shingle.
Then, I swirled it around for a few seconds. This is what I ended up with:
I let the shingle drip, then blotted it on the newspaper. Here’s how it looks after:
Nope. Too dark for me. I added another quarter cup of water (give or take) and did the experiment again. Here’s the side by side:
The one on the right is with the added water. I love it.
I’m set with dye intensity. Now I have to actually dye the dollhouse shingles.
A little bit at a time
So, back to the instructions. This part is where I go a little off book.
You’re supposed to start with a handful of shingles. There’s no definition of “handful” so, I guess whatever works for you. Here’s my handful:
I tossed that handful in the dye then swished it around with the gloved hand.
The instructions say that after you swish your pile, you’re supposed to take the handful out and place them in the top half of the gallon container like so.
Then, while those shingles are draining, you’re supposed to dye another handful of dollhouse shingles and dump them on the first set. Repeat a few more times until the “drainer” can’t hold any more shingles and dump them into a pile. Repeat the whole process again until you’re done dying the shingles.
A less than perfect method
Sounds like a great system. But, doing this means I have to sacrifice another container for dying. Plus, if I have to hold the drainer the whole time, I’m short one arm, and I usually need both of them. And, that “holding” arm is going to get tired. I guarantee it.
So, instead, I held my drainer over the dye and let them drip back into the main container. Then, I took the shingles out of the dripping container and heaped them on the side. I dumped the new handful on top of the old handful until I was done with my shingles.
Also, with this particular gallon jug, the shingles sometimes fell through the bottom opening. Could just be my gallons. But, I did have to keep an eye out for falling shingles to make sure they didn’t fall back in the dye and get overdyed. Here’s an example:
Overall, I thought this was a decent method. I might try this again, but with some modifications. I’ll need a gallon jug with a smaller opening. And, I’ll probably use two gloves, so I don’t get dye on my ungloved hand. I think I’d still use my method of one handful at a time instead of filling the container up with shingles until it’s full.