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Something Wicked This Way Comes: Dyeing Witch Capes for "Big Fish"

I spent this entire past week in the costume shop working experimenting with tie-dyeing techniques for dyeing the witch chorus capes for our upcoming musical Big Fish. I found this week to be exciting, since I don't have a lot of experience working with dyeing fabrics. The capes are made from china silk dyed a base coat of bronze dye after being soaked in soda ash for approximately 10 minutes. After the capes have dried from the base dye I decided to try dyeing the first cape using a crumpled method that I found online in order to achieve a mottled dye look. I started to bind the first cape in rubber bands.

While the online tutorial showed the fabric needed to be crumpled in a flatter fashion, our capes are not constructed as rectangular pieces of fabrics like the example was. Therefore, the cape bundle ended up being more like a large tumor instead of a flatter crumpled disc.

Here I am affectionately holding the finished bound cape tumor-- I named it Bartholomew (I recently binged American Horror Story: Hotel).

Next, I took the cape bundle to the sink where I injected it with burgundy, bronze, moss green, and dark brown dye. After getting the bundle dyed I placed him in a plastic bag overnight.

The next day we took the bundle out of the bag and rinsed it out and placed it in the dryer with no heat. To our dismay the dye didn't soak through the bundle all the way in some spots since it was bound to thickly. Therefore, we had to reevaluate our plan of attack to dyeing the capes.

As the original dye tutorial depicted the fabric needed to be crumpled in a way that wasn't too thick and flatter, however, with the irregular shape of the capes it presented a slight challenge. I improvised and decided that making the capes into long skinny crumpled noodles might be our answer. The fabric didn't get too thick so presumably the fabric could throughly be soaked by the dye through its core.

The noodle chains also doubled as a fun fashion accessory for the shop.


The next day when we washed the cape noodles we saw that the new technique was extremely successful and we achieved our desired dye look to the capes.

Playing around with the capes and the dye made for an interesting week. I can't wait to see what they look like with the rest of the costume and how they'll look onstage with the choreography.

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