As you will all know by now (since I won’t shut up about it!), we recently moved house. From a very spacious modern 4 bedroom flat we moved to a cute but oh so small one bedroom terrace house. A house with a front garden, a back garden and lots of character. Did I mention the house dates from 1911? Bizarre to even really imagine what the world must have looked like at the time for those workmen who constructed this house all those years ago. The wars this house has lived through, all those to whom it provided a roof, the change in cars it has watched passing by through the years…I’m drifting off subject though.
I want to tell you about something very specific today; how I managed to completely customise a second hand IKEA sofa without spending a fortune;
by dyeing its cover!
When news of our impending move to a one bedroom house hit us, both James and me were completely on the same page about one thing: space should NOT be a reason NOT to have guests over. Lots of guests. Big guests. Small guests. Foreign guests, national guests, hell, even guests from outer space should they wish to have a sleep-over. Besides making guest sleeping arrangements a priority, we were also picky about the type of bed we would get. We didn’t want to resort to shopping channel inflatable beds or flimsy mattresses, we wanted a proper decent double guest bed with a mattress supported by bed slats. Without the space for a guest bed it would have to be a good quality sofa bed. And so the hunt for the perfect sofa bed commenced…
My research lead me to a specific IKEA sofa bed that had excellent reviews; considered to be the holy grail amongst sofa beds by some: I present to you… the IKEA KIVIK sofa bed.
The arm rests double as extra storage for duvets and pillows, the cover comes off to wash. (being able to wash the sofa cover is such a plus, since we’re often covered in diy dust and we’ve got bunny Parker hopping on and off the sofa)
The KIVIK sofa bed is supposed to be as comfortable to sleep in as a normal bed without diminishing its sofa-esque functions and vice versa. You don’t want the sofa cushions to slide away from underneath your bum every time you sit down just because of the sofa bed’s design. Sliding bum cushions during Netflix marathons… no thank you. So the KIVIK it was then. Only one problem: IKEA stopped producing KIVIK sofa beds in 2015.
Excuse me, say what?
Yes. Our “space-saving- allowing-our-multinational-family-and-friends-to-comfortably-stay-over-in-our-tiny-house-solution” was DISCONTINUED.
Thank god for second hand shopping! I scoured Marktplaats (that’s the dutch version of gumtree / Craigs list) and only a few days in I happened upon a snow white version not too far a drive from our house. After some messaging forth and back we agreed on a price and upon arrival we were pleasantly surprised by its mint condition. The lady who owned it had only used it as an extra sofa in her guest room, plus she was super clean and didn’t own any pets. She threw in a free extra hocker, which turned our supersofa into an even super-er corner sofa. Success!!!
Supersofa as we lovingly called her, was our first big purchase for the new house. Because of bad timing and the fact she was incredibly heavy to lift, supersofa ended up spending the next four weeks in the middle of our new living room. Wrapped in layers of plastic and placed on little castors she patiently stood there and witnessed all our weeks of demolishing, cleaning, wall plastering sessions, our painting sessions, and our laying the floors.
Eventually she was ready to be unwrapped. As we gently moved her over our newly layed floor and placed her against our freshly painted wall James and me both squintingly looked at each other and said; god, that sofa’s white! ‘Do you remember it being so white?’ ‘I don’t remember it being so white’. ‘That’s colour will not stay white in our household! Not even for a day!’.
And so we faced challenge # 10632 of the ‘new-small-house-project’:
how to change our sofa from eye blinding white to a more appropriate grey/ blue. We thought grey was a safe choice, not too dark because of the small house and not too light because of the stain proneness.
Since the KIVIK sofa bed was discontinued, I couldn’t count on IKEA to buy a new sofa cover. I looked into online companies who offer slipcovers for IKEA sofa’s in any fabric but I was so disappointed with their prices. I think it’s ridiculous how much some companies charge for a standard slipcover, I mean, it’s not even a custom design, they have the standard sizes on file so how much time could it really cost to make a cover if you have the proper machinery? We decided we needed to hold off buying a new cover until we had saved enough and so I started looking into a temporary solution:
dyeing the sofa cover.
I started researching methods of dyeing a big fabric item such as a sofa cover and came across this incredibly useful blogpost, written by Lizzie. I heard about washing machine dyes before, I think I’d even given that method a go sometime when I was in high school. I remembered it to be a bit of a pain in the ass to get any type of material dyed evenly, even when trying to dye small items of clothing. That’s why I was so thrilled to read about Lizzie’s excellent results with bath tub reactive dye. I was so excited to try this myself. I looked up the dye company Lizzie recommended and E-mailed them for some advice. I weighed all my fabric, converted the kilograms into lbs and ordered the dye. I have to say I was completely blown away by their delivery time. I received the parcel TWO DAYS after I ordered it. All the way from America to the Netherlands in two days and that was the normal delivery method. So far so good.
But the next challenge awaited.
Challenge # 10033 We don’t have a bath. You need a bath in order to dye a big piece of fabric in one go.
I don’t know anyone in my town well enough yet to ask them if I could borrow their bath for a night. And their bath wouldn’t be the only thing I’d need: the sofa cover would have to dry somewhere too.
I did however still have a ridiculously spacious and empty flat to my use for another few days… A big flat with a big shower room. Braincells gurgling and humming…. here’s what I came up with.
Yep! I bought a kiddie pool! And no, I wasn’t gonna inflate the thing by mouth so I bought one of those electrical pumps with it too. I have to admit I somewhat misjudged the size of the pool and so in the end I had to fold the ‘bath’ in half as it didn’t actually fit in my bathroom:-) Achherm..
The dye preparation. What I needed according to the Dharma trading website:
Fiber Reactive Dye, Soda Ash, Non-Iodized Salt, Urea (optional), Calsolene Oil (optional), Synthrapol or Dharma Professional Textile Detergent (PTD), Milsoft (optional), a bucket large enough for your item to move around in or a top loading washing machine.
Any of the ingredients that were listed as optional, I did not get. I didn’t know where to get them locally and getting them sent from abroad wasn’t really an option, given the weight of my fabric. One of the most difficult things of it all I found to be the maths part. I’m not very good with numbers as it is, having never heard about American quantities before sure added to my incompetence. I never knew there were different types of pounds and a gallon to me sounded like a character straight out of a Tolkien book. I know that sounds ridiculous but that’s how bad I am with numbers. However… I managed to get there in the end.
I needed a lo-hot more salt than I expected (did the salt calculations very last minute) and therefore had to run to the supermarket to get some just before closing time. The only suitable non-iodised salt I could find in my supermarket was the salt that you’re supposed to put in dish washers. I knew you couldn’t just use normal table salt , it has something to do with the water PH value. Dishwasher salt would surely do for that exact reason I figured, the only problem was: the dishwasher salt came in very coarse crystals. I tried several ways but didn’t manage to dissolve the salt, I tried to help the dissolving process by adding boiling water, grinding it with metal spoons, both methods failed. In the end I just used the salt crystals in their full coarse glory. Besides hanging out on the bottom of the pool and tickling my feet the rocks didn’t interfere with the outcome of the dyeing process.
Challenge # 15242637289: Soda ash, anyone?
I read about soda ash in Lizzie’s tutorial and the manual that came with the dye mentioned it too. I couldn’t find a Dutch supplier of the stuff and since I didn’t want to pay a fortune for having it delivered from abroad I needed to find a solution. This youtube video was the answer to my soda ash prayers. Basically, there is a way to make your own soda ash in the oven. All you need is baking soda, which is affordable and widely available. It saved me a ton of money and effort; baking soda is so cheap and turning the oven on is hardly rocket science.
One tip: when you try to turn baking soda into soda ash in the oven and you’re not sure how long to put it in for: take the baking tray out and hold it up to the light. When your baking soda starts to lose its shimmer and has turned completely matte (stir it once in a while) then you’re good to go.
The instructions that came with the Dharma reactive dye were pretty straight forward. To dissolve the dye it said: Paste up the Fiber Reactive Dye with some warm water, smashing it with a spoon, like making gravy. Next, add about a cup of warm water (more if you are dissolving lots of dye, like with black) to the dye paste to make a well dissolved slurry. Finally, add to the tub or bucket and stir to mix evenly.
So that’s what I did. Also: don’t forget to wash your fabric before you start the dyeing process. Make sure it’s still wet. Apparently even greasy fingerprints can make for blotchy stains after the dyeing process.
Time to add the paste to my folded in half inflatable pool with carefully measured water…
With the help of two broomsticks and my muscles I sent the next hour stirring, swishing, swooshing and moving around. I read about the fabric having to be in motion at all times to get an even result.
After a while the fabric (and my feet and hands) started to change colour…
Yes, I used a shopping trolley to help me get the job done. The fabric was so heavy and there was so much of it, I thought it would be a good solution. I know you’re not supposed to take supermarket trolleys home but I did give the trolley a free wash in return which cleared my conscience. After a night’s dry in a bathroom with the radiators on full blast, this was the result…
-if you don’t have the money but you do have the time, elbow grease and perseverance, I can definitely RECOMMEND dying your sofa cover. Especially if, like us, you have a bright white version, since that will be the easiest version to dye and get the desired results.
-you need space to do this. A lot of space. Not only because you’ll want to dye all of your fabric at once to avoid colour differences, you will also need space to dry the cover afterwards. In hindsight I think I underestimated the size of this project, I was lucky to have such a massive space to use.
-Buy enough salt. So you don’t have to run to the supermarket to get dishwasher salts. They could have really messed up the dyeing process.
-Do your maths. Gallons, pounds, you don’t want to get them wrong.
-If you own an oven, make your own soda ash. It saves so much money and it’s too easy not to do.
-You don’t necessarily need Urea or Calsolene oil. My sofa is proof.
-Ask a friend for help, it’s a pretty tiring process to keep the fabric in the water stirred at all times, it was a relief being able to take turns at stirring. And the whole process being more fun when you’re together is an added bonus.
I am thrilled with the results. I’d love to hear about other people’s sofa dyeing attempts, please leave your comments below!