Thursday, October 26, 2006

RIT Large: Dying for Good Color

Having worked for so many high tech businesses that are out of existence, I'm always curious about some product or other from my childhood that seems to have disappeared from the supermarket shelves. Does Ipana toothpaste exist anymore? (I can still remember the taste. And having done a quick google, if I want to check my memory on that taste, I can go to Turkey and buy a tube of Ipana there.) I think P.F. Flyers ("They fly down the street. Just look at their feet. They wear P.F. Canvas Shoes.") disappeared for a while, but they seem to be having a hipster resurgence. And I'm guessing that Lik-A-Maid, which was bitter and dyed your tongue orange-lemon-or-lime, is a goner, if only because the name would be considered too suggestive for today's crude world. (I guess the high-tech products I've worked on over the years aren't the only products to disappear from the market.)

But speaking of dye... I recently noticed that my navy blue bathrobe and my favorite, knock-around navy blue sweater, had gotten bleach stains on them. That's what I get for Cloroxing while wearing anything other than a used burka or a clean room suit. Recalling my mother's dye-jobs - I can't remember what she dyed, other than my organdy First Holy Communion dress, dyed a pale orchid so that it could be repurposed as my party dress for the year - but I do remember those boxes of RIT Dye. (My sister Kathleen reminds me that our mother also redecorated with RIT: dying bedspreads and curtains for a "fresh look.")

(My mother wasn't the only one who tried to give things a new look: I had a Ginnette baby doll and her eyes weren't blue enough for me. So I tried to make them darker, using a Magic Marker. Given my Magic-Markering skills, I managed to both make 'Nettie's blue eyes darker and to wipe out the whites of her eyes. Needless to say, she never looked the same to me, and our relationship ended shortly thereafter. I dumped dolls and started spending all that free time calling in song requests on WORC.)

Back to my dyeing day, when - in hopes of salvaging my robe and sweater - I went store-to-store casting about for some RIT. Well CVS doesn't carry it. My otherwise excellent and pretty complete - given its size - local hardware store didn't have it. Nor did my otherwise excellent and complete supermarket. Each inquiry, however - each made to someone north of 40 - produced a nostalgic sigh. Unprompted, when I asked whether they carried dye, they answered "like RIT?"

Someone in the hardware store suggested Michael's, which has all sorts of craft materials. An excellent suggestion. Michael's not only carries RIT, but it carries both liquid and powder.

I invested in one bottle and two packets, which, while not in the same red box I remember from yore, doest retain the same 30-ish logo, I was pleased to see.

Rubber-gloved, I filled the washer, added the dye (plus the suggested cup of salt) and started dying away. Alas, I must report a somewhat mixed result. The original dye stains were the color of the old Crayola "flesh" crayon. They're now a much for easy-on-the-eye pale purple.

OK. Deep down, I knew that applying dye to the entire garment wasn't going to even things out - just make everything darker. And my robe and sweater really look better than I rationally expected, but of course that's not as good as I'd hoped. The robe remains in service, but the sweater is now retired to indoor use only. The improvement, however, is more than marginal - my eye is no longer obsessively drawn to the flesh-spots -and I was relieved to find that the RIT dye company is still in the busines of making the world a more colorful place.

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