When it comes to bead embroidery, the foundation is incredibly important. There are all kinds of suitable options but my favorite so far is Peltex 70. Typically, Lacy’s Stiff Stuff is the go-to stitching material that you attach everything to. When I first learned bead embroidery this is what we used and colored the white backing with Sharpie Markers. While this is great if you have no other options available, I found that the Lacy’s can get a little fuzzy if it’s handled a lot during large projects and Sharpie ink can run if the piece has been exposed to water. There are pre-made colored backings available in a rainbow of colors and I’ve tried a few. I found the intense colors or the backing distracting and it influenced my color choices. I think the dye for some of the backings also made it a little tougher to get the needle through.
I was given a “recipe” for dyeing the material of choice and I’ve adjusted it just a bit. Rit has a nice website with even more instructions. https://www.ritstudio.com
Cover what might get exposed to the dye! Little splashes = big mess!
What You’ll Need:
Backing Material – Lacy’s can take the dye but feel free to experiment with other stitchable backing materials available at fabric and hobby stores.
Rit Dye – I use black or grey in powder form. I have found it in our local hardware store and grocery store. There is a liquid but I haven’t tried it.
Large pan – I use an old jelly roll pan. I have no intention of making a jelly roll but because this pan has taller sides than a cookie sheet, it works perfectly for my dying purposes. A 9″ x 13” baking pan will work. Cut your backing material to easily fit into your pan of choice.
Mixing bowl – I highly recommend a metal or glass bowl. If you use plastic it will become the color of your dye. It also needs to handle boiling water.
Tongs – You’ll need these to pick up your dyed pieces from the large pan. The dyeing water will be hot.
Gloves – The usual kitchen gloves (yellow) will do but the thinner latex gloves are even better. Use what you have to protect you skin; you can dye it!
Newspaper/plastic table clothes – Cover everything you don’t want to get dyed! I dye my material in the kitchen. My basin in the basement is plastic and will turn black. I cover the counters and floor. I keep lots of old, big rags available too.
Smock/old shirt/apron – Cover yourself. It is almost inevitable that you splash that one little drop on a shirt you like, pants or shoes.
Big towels/rags – Lay them flat for absorbing some moisture and get your pieces to a drying rack.
Laundry drying rack – Move over laundry, this is a great place to finish drying your pieces or hang them up on a good old fashioned clothes line.
Start by boiling your water. I fill the kettle and bring it to a good rolling boil. Put two tablespoons of powdered dye in a the mixing bowl. Add about three cups of boiling water to the dye. The mixture will fizz a bit but won’t be terribly dramatic. The more water you add the lighter your color. Even though the dye is black, your pieces will come out in varying shades of grey.
Use the tongs to mix the dye and water. Careful not to splash. You want to make sure all the dye is dissolved. There may be bits that don’t dissolve and they’ll show up as little spots on your material. This isn’t a bad thing since you’re going to bead right over it.
Pour the dye and water mixture into your larger pan. Place your material (cut to size) into the dye. Let it sit there for a few minutes and absorb the dye. Use a tongs to lift it out and let the excess drip off; move it to a sink. My kitchen sink in stainless so it won’t stain. I don’t know how it will react with other materials so be careful. Repeat the process. It’s ok to stack the dyed materials in the sink.
Rinse the pieces. A lot of dye will run off and your material will be varying shades of grey. Anything is better than white glaring through your work. I leave the material to drain in the other side of the sink for a bit then move them to the old towels on the counter. Be sure there is newspaper under those towels as a precaution.
I eventually move the material to a drying rack in my basement. Once the pieces are dry, the color should not run under normal use. I have gotten finished pieces wet and haven’t had any issues.
Cut to size and start stitching!