Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Rescue from Mediocrity -- Salt Dyes Again!

Well, my terminally ugly piece has new life as a beautiful deep navy with green and brown undertones -- I am very pleased!

Well, I posed a question on Dyerslist about my mix of soda ash and bicarbonate that I was using for my salt dyes. This is a mixture of 4 parts sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and 1 part soda ash. My mixture was a year old and I suspected that was why I was getting such pale results. Indeed, someone wrote me that they had checked with ProChem on this question and said that sodium bicarb loses its potency in much less time than I had it. I really liked the last blues pieces I did today and wanted to rescue it from mediocrity (the previous night's blue piece) so I decided to apply Afterfix. I have mentioned this before as a way of activating the dyes on a piece that you forgot to presoak in soda ash. I figured if it was indeed the old bicarb, then this technique would save the piece. If it was the week- old dyes, then there was no hope! Well, it was the bicarb as the Afterfix is washed out and the piece is bright and remains pretty much the same as it was before washing!

It was recommended that you not use Afterfix on big pieces but I am not sure why that would be. If you use a paintbrush, it does take time to apply it (it is about the thickness of heavy cream and sticky). However, I decided to just use a paint roller. It took about a cup per yard and was very fast to apply. I may try some other things using this technique from now on.

The way you would use it would be to (1) paint your dyes all over your piece, (2) let it dry , then (3) apply the Afterfix and (4) after one hour, you immediately remove the Afterfix as you don't want it to dry on the fabric and then (5) wash out the fabric. It works like a charm but the secret is using that paint roller (one of those 3 or 4 inch ones that you use to paint in corners or near your molding).

I figure I can do 16 yards with a gallon (which is what I have). I bought mine from Dharma but I know ProChem carries a different version as well. Well, doing the math, it costs about $1.25/yard to use this stuff so that is probably why the recommendation for limited use. Soda ash is certainly a LOT cheaper!! But if you have to rescue a piece, it is well worth the cost!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

More on the Salt Dyes -- What Not to Do

My favorite begonias are going crazy in the planter on the front steps. I just loved this pinky/orange/yellow one.

Well, the night last night was super humid and that combined with some dyes that I think were over the hill combined to make a nice piece really ugly! The final words are not in but it didn't look too good this morning when I went out to the garage. It was soaking wet, the humidity had been so high which of course caused the dyes to migrate even more than I wanted and made the trails disappear and just become lighter smudges of mud. Hopefully, the trails were well established and that the further migration won't obliterate them completely.

Well, after washing it didn't turn out super ugly as some of the trails returned and if I split it into fat quarters, it will be interesting. I think that a little less humidity and more heat would work better.

So back to some safe colors today -- the blues and blues only! No more of those three primaries even though it looked pretty good to begin with. I think the humidty was just too high and there needs to be some drying for this process to work properly.

Now my other piece that I was trying to make for a quilting buddy is about as ugly as you can possibly get so my cure-all for that is to just overdye with blue! Something will come out of it!! I suspect that I am not going to be able to meet her requirements! I will make one more try with a smaller piece today and see what happens. The color she wants is a muddy very pale beige which then becomes more yellow as you move to the top of the cloth (and even paler). My attempt using the colors that worked in the gradation produced the ugliest color of green mud you have ever seen!

Well, true to my word, I only did blues for this first piece today, trying out all the blues I have!! So it is turquoise, then intense blue, basic blue and finally deep navy (the pure navy). I didn't use the mixing blue as I know that works but had no idea whether the navy or intense blue works. Twenty minutes have passed and already some deep trails in the intense blue so looks like that will be a wonderful choice as well. We shall see. Of course now dear husband is whining about blocking the garage door with my tables. The weather has not been cooperative though so I haven't been able to depend on the weather outside the garage all week and I had made up the dyes on Monday. I know they wouldn't last with any strength at all much longer. Tomorrow will be the last of this batch I think.

The green mud piece has now been unceremoniously dumped into navy blue and mixing blue where it will stay until it behaves better! I have learned the hard way not to use basic blue and intense blue as my overdye as intense blue doesn't discharge at all and basic blue discharges to an ugly beige that is not at all interesting.

This is one area of the piece I did yesterday. Looks very faded to me but in small doses, it was acceptable.

This is a second area. I have no way of photographing the whole piece outside yet but looks better in small doses anyway.

This is the newest piece on the two tables. This was taken about 10minutes after I put the last dye on. It is turquoise on the edges, going to intense blue and then basic blue with navy in the middle. I know that basic blue and turquoise don't go together well without something splitting them as turquoise is a very green blue and basic blue is the only red blue of the Procion MX dyes.

This is a closeup where you can see the salt has already started acting. I just swept up the rest of the salt as there was enough movement for me so now I will let it dry which hopefully it will do. It is still pretty muggy out but the blues almost always turn out well.

This shows the trails already starting pretty well. Double click to see it bigger!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Dyeing with Salts -- First of the Summer!

This is a two yard piece of fabric stretched out over two six foot long tables. There is another piece underneath and is separated from this one by a piece of fleece and some plastic. You really need to double click on these pictures to see the salt trails.

Well, I mixed up quite a bit of a number of dyes earlier this week awaiting a nice warm humid day for doing some direct dyeing outside. It is time to get back to dyeing with salt patterning again. I spent the better part of the summer two years ago working on this technique to get the best effects on fabrics with the least amount of work!!

I started by using the directions from ProChem's web site on how to work with salts. Over the years, I have collected every size of salt crystal!! I have regular salt, kosher salt, sea salt, pretzel salt and ice cream salt. All have different sized pieces of salt and will act differently on the fabric.

What I found out also is that (of course as in all dyeing), the primaries all act differently and some don't work at all. Add into that the dye concentrations, it can be rather challenging. My goal I guess was to try to have patterning like you have on the nicer commercial batiks from Hoffman or Tonga -- now why I want to spend time creating fabric that I can purchase for $6 or $7/yard is a bit mystifying -- I guess I just want to know "how did they do that". I did know that they stretch theirs and most directions have you stretch the fabric out as well on stretcher bars. Being also a very lazy dyer, this would not do for me!!

This is one of those techniques that is sooo easy with fabric paints. With fabric paints, you just make sure your surface is nice and damp and then just throw some salt on and voila in thirty minutes, you have all sorts of movement of the paints with little trails to (or from) the grains of salt. Not quite that easy with the dyes!!

The key in the directions is the direct dyeing technique that you use. Instead of pretreating your fabric with soda ash, you mix a combination of 4 parts baking soda to 1 part soda ash and use one tsp of this mixture per cup of dye. Of course you have to move quickly, as the soda ash will immediately start activating the dyes so you don't want to make up too much dye in this manner at a time (I tend to work in 1/4 cup sizes).

I start with dry fabric (usually I cut off the selvedges as well) that is fairly smooth. I then spray it rather vigorously with urea water -- not enough to get it really wet, but damp enough that you don't have trouble painting on the dyes. I use one of those really wide Japanese brushes which hold tons of dye in them and paint as fast as I can. I try to do 2+ yards at a time and will apply the salt as I go along. I also occasionally use sea sponges to apply the color. I make sure the whole area is painted with something.

After the color is applied and some grains of salt randomly applied, it is time to wait and let the piece get at least partially dry. It sometimes takes a long time to see the effects, sometimes it is very fast. I don't let it dry out completely and after about 3 hours will cover it with plastic and let it sit for at least 8 hours (at least 70 degrees or warmer) and preferably overnight. I don't have the science down completely yet but think I do best when I have concentrations of dye that are no greater than 3% (3 gms of dye - 1/2 tsp - in one cup of urea water per yard of fabric). I allow about one cup of dyes at 3% per yard of fabric so proportion accordingly the colors I have. This is not exact obviously! My biggest trick was to always place my fabric on either another piece of fabric or batting. I have started using poly fleece for this. It allows excess dyes to move down rather than fill in the areas that the salts have made white. Hope this makes sense. If you want to work, you can stretch out the fabric or some sort of stretcher bar and that works also (and probably better but I have gotten some great results with my lazy way).

I get really good results anytime I use turquoise or basic blue or any color using one of those two colors. I get okay results with golden yellow and mixing blue. If I apply mixing red on top of other colors, it seems to work okay as well. I am sure fuchsia will never work (except maybe added on top of another dye later on). There are a number of colors I have had no success with including grape and boysenberry. I suspect intense blue won't work well either. Sometimes you just get dark spots where the salt was and no patterns. Turquoise will truly give you a surface where there are lengthy, thick trails all over!!

The next three pictures are closeups from the piece above. They are not dry yet but have been left to sit for about five hours so far. Hopefully there is enough fixative in the dyes so that I get some nice color from these.
I used first a coat of golden yellow and then put on mixing red in places on top of that and then finished off with some basic blue (MX-R) (all ProChem names). Double click to see closer up and you can see the salt trails.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Have You Ever Heard of a Northern Catalpa Tree?

This is the beginning of the walk along the expressway just at dusk which is nice because it is shady the whole way!

Well, I have just spent the past hour trying to find the name of this flowering tree which I saw on my walk last evening, growing in the wild. It is not easy to identify something when you have no idea what it is except that it is a tree growing in NY and it has beautiful white orchid looking flowers. But finally I succeeded and now I want one! It is the Northern Catalpa. The leaves are very large and the flowers are in large clusters and look like miniature orchids -- I have a weakness for orchids...

Surprisingly, my pictures of sweet peas really came out well. They grow wild along the fence next to a very busy expressway, along which there is a pedestrian walkway which you can see above.

It always amazes me how many different kinds of wildflowers you can find along these narrow wild areas. I probably saw at least four or five other varieties. It was very windy and a getting toward sunset, so picture taking can be a bit challenging as there is not enough light to get the shutter speed fast enough!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Well-Equipped Dye Studio

Having a well equipped dye studio when using Procion MX dyes certainly makes the job easier!! Well-equipped does not mean costly, by the way, it just means organized with enough of the right "stuff".

Here is a list of what I consider essential to ease in working:

  1. At least ten 3-gallon pails -- kitty litter containers or or old plastic detergent containers are great as well as plain old buckets. I like to have at least four that have some kind of lids. I use these to store soda ash (sodium bicarbonate, pH+, washing soda, or dye activator depending upon who you ask!), urea pellets, salt and print paste mix. I also put the instructions for using these right on the container with a permanent marker (ie urea water is 5 tsps/cup of H2O). The remainder are for using during the dye process itself. I use one for soda ash in liquid form (9 tbs per gallon water), water for watering down the highly concentrated liquid dyes and water to wash my gloves. These also serve double duty as they become my rinse buckets as well.
  2. Two pairs of rubber gloves (at a minimum) -- one is a regular pair for mixing dyes and doing low water immersion. One is the "over the elbow" kind which is great for doing regular immersion dyeing. They are a little clumsy for day to day dye work though.
  3. At least one set of measuring spoons. Even though I do almost everything by weight, they are convenient for measuring urea and soda ash, as well as print past mix. I also use them for scooping the dyes out of the containers where any size will do.
  4. At least one one cup dry measuring cup (the ones that come in sets -- better yet a whole set) that is used just for your dyeing. I use this in low water immersion dyeing to add water or soda ash when doing my gradation dyeing (other posts talk about my method).
  5. Seven or eight one quart containers preferably with markings on them for measuring. I use these when mixing up my concentrated dyes and I like to have a lot of different colors in concentrated form. This is a great size for using even if you are only mixing one cup of dye at a time as splashing stays at a minimum.
  6. As many of your old towels as you can find for wiping up surfaces, your hands, dye spoons etc. This is a much more efficient way of doing things than using paper towels (and may save a few trees as well).
  7. Several long handled plastic spoons or chopsticks for mixing the dyes or urea or soda ash into water.
  8. Several old pairs of pantyhose or knee highs for straining dyes to keep those clumps out.
  9. Several small wire whisks -- these can be a little difficult to come by so when you see them, buy a bunch. These are the best ever for mixing dyes, mixing water with print paste to thin it down and many other uses. This was an Elin Noble hint and worth the price of admission to one of her classes!
  10. At least one black permanent marker and some masking tape for marking the dye colors on your containers.
  11. A dust mask which should be used when mixing the powdered dyes into water and when mixing soda ash into water. It is not necessary to use it any other time.
  12. Some old newspapers for use in the area where you are mixing your dyes. These should be soaked with water and will catch any dye powder that wanders out. Throw them out after using. A lot of people actually build a small box to do their dye mixing in so no particles escape.
  13. A nice selection of the MX primary dye colors (covered elsewhere in the blog).
  14. Soda ash -- 5 lbs will do a lot of dyeing and last forever. It will also last in solution but will eventually chrystallize. It will eventually eat holes in thinner plastic like gallon milk containers.
  15. Urea pellets - 10 lbs will dissolve a lot of dyes into solution and make enough urea water for direct dyeing that you should be well set.
  16. Print Paste Mix -- a pound will get you going and this lasts for a fairly long time in a closed container before it goes bad (the urea in it will start to break down).
  17. Salt - if you are doing low water immersion only (little water), no need for this. Otherwise, a 25 lb bag of uniodized salt is a good purchase.

As I do most of my measuring by metric weight, I find it essential to have a good small scale that measures in grams as well as a set of plastic cylinders with metric markings on them for mesuring liquids. These can be purchased on line at many chemical houses. A friend also gave me these wonderful 1 gallon old mayonnaise containers that I use to store urea water as it seems to last forever. I always make my urea water up well ahead of mixing my dyes as it pulls heat from the water and gets very cold.

Now if I can just figure out why this all takes up so much room in my basement! Ah, it is all those non-essentials like rubber stamps and clamps and the other fun things to add to your dyeing or painting enjoyment!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My Pieces from the Shibori Days

This is a slide show of a lot of the pieces I did but will include some in the blog anyway! If you double click on it, it will take you to my Picasa albums and you can see the labels under each piece if you choose the slideshow option!

Well, as a follow up I thought I should post some of the pieces that I did with some explanation of how they got the way they were! Mine were far from the nicest examples done during the two days but I was running out of battery in the camera so I didn't get as many shots as I would have liked. Some of the ladies did some awesome stuff with their fabrics.

It has been hard to sleep as I keep thinking of what I want to do next to some of the pieces. Winning out is doing some monoprinting on top of the clamped pieces that have lots of white -- even though I like the pieces, I do have an aversion to any white left on my dyed pieces!!

Something I will be doing more of in the future is setting up an immersion bath (not low water immersion) and wrapping and clamping using a wide variety of techniques but the same dye baths. I like having a whole bunch of fabrics in the same palette but very different in texture and design. The tables are outside and the weather should be cooperating soon!

This is a traditionally stitched shibori piece. It was a one yard piece of cotton sateen. I ironed in fairly evenly spaced lines. I then formed a pleat on each ironed line and sewed through both layers of the pleat and then gathered it. You get a nice effect this way and can stitch it anywhere you want on your piece. This was dyed with ProChem's blue violet mix which is one of the few mixes I do buy occasionally. I also like their Basic Brown which is a mix.

This is just a closeup of the piece above.
This is a piece that I literally threw together at the last minute, wrapping a piece of cheaper fabric around a pole and then just throwing on some rubber bands to hold it somewhat. The colors used were mixing red, strong orange, a little golden yellow and some mixing blue (to darken it a bit).

This is made by sewing the fabric into a tube and then compressing it on a pole as described in an earlier post. This was the fuchsia and black mix.

This is one of my favorites and was made by diagonally putting on a pole and twisting down. It was first dyed in yellow and then without removing from the pole overdyed with a 3 primary mix (kind of a brown).

This is the first of two pieces (more on my Picasa site) made with the golden yellow and navy mix. It was scrunched in a stocking and thrown into the dye bath.

.This was just accordion folded and clamped randomly with some clamps.
This is the first of two that were on the same pole in the same bath. They were first dyed in a yellow bath and then overdyed with a intense blue/navy mix. Notice that the top one has far less color than the bottom one.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Very Short Glossary of Fiber Terms, Beth Style!

Well, I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about fabrics in general, having been sewing for almost 60 years but obviously, I can be mistaken too as I was in my recent shibori workshop. I did some online searching for some of the fiber and fabric terms we were throwing around quite blithely!

So here goes for my attempt at clarification:

  1. Pima Cotton -- pima cotton is a long staple (long fiber) cotton which because of it's fiber length is perfect for making high thread count fibers. However, this doesn't mean any particular thread count, just that the fiber is a special high quality cotton.
  2. Pimatex -- this is a brand of tightly woven poplin made by the Robert Kaufman company. One of the "colors" is pfd white which is sold by Hancock of Paducah. It is a firm high thread count fabric that produces nice results.
  3. Egyptian cotton -- again, this is a type of cotton (like Pima) that used to be grown only in Egypt but now is grown in the Southeast US. It is an extremely high quality cotton (probably the best) and lends itself to high threadcount applications.
  4. Kona cotton -- this again is a brand name sold by Robert Kaufman and is a relatively low threadcount but has good firm threads. It may be made from pima cotton.
  5. Cotton Lawn -- this is a very soft, finer quality cotton which is the basis for the Hoffman batiks for the most part. It is most likely made from high quality pima cotton as well.
  6. Cotton Sateen -- this is a weave of cotton. The highest quality sateens are made from pima or Egyptian cotton and are combed cotton. It is almost impossible to get the highest quality here in the US but a couple of manufacturers are making a decent sateen these days.
  7. PFD or Prepared for Dyeing -- this is fabric that doesn't have any finishes that interfere with the dyeing process. Some of these finishes might include permanent press or optical brighteners. Being labelled PFD does not guarantee that it will give you the wonderful bright crisp colors that you might like. This requires that the fabric also be mercerized.
  8. Mercerized cotton -- this is cotton that has been treated with a very strong base during it's processing (seems to me I read that it was lye in combination with some other things). This process causes the fibers to appear to hold more color because of the surface. You can kind of tell if a pfd fabric is mercerized as it has a very slight sheen to it when held in the light. I have found many fabrics not labelled as pfd but which were mercerized and dyed beautifully. I have found others identified as pfd which don't dye well at all!!

There are also many different weaves and thread counts of cottons. I cheated above as sateen is a weave as well as a "finish" which makes the surface highly reflective.

Old damask in many cases makes for a great dyeing surface (check out those thrift stores). Also, if you can find those sheets that were all cotton and made back in the 40's and 50's, they tend to be mercerized as well. Before the advent of optical brighteners, mercerization was the process used to insure you had nice bright whites!

Many times you can find sateen or Egyptian cotton sheets made in India or Pakistan that contain no optical brighteners and therefore dye beautifully. I have found that optical brighteners make the white fabrics look vaguely pale, pale lavender under the store lights. You have to look really, really closely. I have found for some reason that the sheets made in Thailand or Malaysia almost always have optical brighteners!

My personal opinion is that viscose (NOT acetate) rayon dyes more beautifully than anything else. It rarely if ever has any finish on it but is hard to find except from pfd vendors in 100 % rayon. You have to be careful with it when it is wet though as it tends to be a bit fragile. However, any combination of rayon/cotton or rayon/linen that you can find will dye beautifully as well, even if not pfd. When you get the mixes, be careful that there are no permanent press finishes though. I love the 55% rayon, 45% linen fabric from Joann's. It is great for clothing and dyes wonderfully.

Silks dye wonderfully using the same processes. Lighter weight silks will just not hold as much color so a 3mm silk will not be as colorful as a 10mm silk just because there is not as much fiber to dye. Charmeuses and silk blends (with rayon, cotton or linen) dye beautifully using the MX dyes and soda ash. Pure silk can be dyed beautifully with MX dyes using vinegar or citric acid as well.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Day 2 - Shibori Dyeing

This was a visitor to our dyeing venue who had taken up residence on my gloves overnight. He had to climb up a table to do this!
You can see that the day turned out beautifully and the lawn was covered by our product by mid afternoon.

Well, it turned out to be a beautiful day and fairly warm so perfect for dyeing. We managed to go through another two complete iterations before some of us older folk were just too tired to proceed any further.

I took less risks with the colors I mixed today going with some tried and true mixes. I have moved so far away from mixing by volume measuring, it took some time to get the proportions right. I always measure by weight now in my dyeing as I like some predictability in colors (never guaranteed though).

There were definitely some lessons to be learned from the last two days which are as follows:

  1. You can get totally different results using the same pole, fabric and dye pot depending upon where in the dye pot the particular fabric falls. I had three pieces of fabric wrapped on a pole and the top piece was very different than the bottom piece. Cause: not enough agitation of the dye bath!

  2. Different fabrics act very differently when compressed. My pfd sateen resisted color far more than the Egyptian cotton in the same dye bath. Where I had clamps, it was actually white without dipping in water first.

  3. Just using plain old clothespins or clamps right on some fabric that you have sloppily accordion pleated and then folded will yield some wonderful results.

  4. Clamps on plexiglas in a group setting just don't work. Using rubber bands was easier on the clamps and a lot cheaper in the long run.

  5. Going a little heavy on the dyes in the dye bath will increase the likelihood that you will get better overall patterning in your shibori especially when you are using a big piece of cloth wrapped around a skinny pole. It is better to go a little lighter on the concentrations when using big fat poles as it is more difficult to get the good compression.

  6. You can shibori silk successfully if you compress well. We had many excellent examples from one of our dyers in the group who was willing to try anything.

  7. You can use a Bernina sewing machine to sew through many layers of fabric and actually prevent the dye from migrating into the center of the sewn piece; i.e. , if you sew a square through all the layers of an accordion pleated piece of fabric, you will have nice resist marks for the stitching but will also have lightly dyed squares all over the piece of fabric.

  8. Give a group of 10 creative women some color and fabric to play with, and you will have 20 new ideas by the end of two days and one heck of a lot of fun! We had some interesting experiences today and things that I learned!

The most favored colors were the navy blue and my blues mixes. I use the Procion MX Deep Navy which is one of the pure blues. I mixed up turquoise with the navy for one mix and mixed mixing blue, turquoise and intense blue for another. Also very well received were the two greens made with (1) intense blue and golden yellow and (2) navy blue and golden yellow. They yield nice earthy greens. My purple lovers loved the Pro Chem Blue/Violet and a purple made with their Deep Black and Fuchsia. I made a nice red with mixing red, strong orange, some golden yellow and a dash of mixing blue -- it was a deep earthy red. Everyone loved just the black mixtures as they would of course break down into their components and move at different speeds. Of course the yellows and turquoise do this as well.

Some things to remember:

  1. You need to clamp and tie pretty tightly to get effective patterning.

  2. Don't wrap your poles too tight or you won't be able to compress the fabric down.

  3. If you want more patterning and more white areas, soak your fabric for about 10 minutes ahead of time in plain water. The water will act as somewhat of a resist (depending upon the colors you are using). Turquoise and the yellows seem to wander just about wherever they want, regardless of how tight you clamp. Use this to your advantage.

  4. You can always discharge! Most of the time this is true; however, intense blue, golden yellow, fuchsia and turquoise don't discharge. Basic blue discharges to an ugly beige. (I use the ProChem color names -- one of my earlier blogs has a conversion for those who use Dharma dyes). Random dyeing like this is apt to give you some real "dye dogs" but they are opportunities for discharging, painting with paints, rubber stamping with paints and just plain overdyeing!!

These were Barb's from the second day. She had overdyed some of the fuchsias that she didn't like as well as one of the yellows.
These are two pieces that were created just with folding and clamping the fabrics. The top one is one of the blue mixes and the bottom is the navy and golden yellow mix.
This was the lawn where we were drying the fabrics before bundling them up to take home. Believe it or not, this is mostly my bunch from the second set of pots. Because Bev has well water, we decided to only rinse twice and then dry the fabric. This would ensure that no color leached between pieces (even though the Synthapol would more than likely have taken out the stain). The weather cooperated and pieces dried in probably a half an hour so while we were cleaning up, everything dried.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Day 1 - Shibori Dyeing

This is the view off into the Bristol Hills where we did our dyeing. It was just a beautiful venue for doing this activity and we thank Beverly for hostessing us!

This was the barn where we did a lot of the dyeing. It was a very sunny day at first and many in the group had to be very careful not to get too much exposure.

Well, it looked like it would be a nice day but it was a bit cool and we lost the sun after lunch so the challenge was to keep the dye pots warm enough so the dyes would react.

There were about 10 of us dyeing altogether. Our process was to first set up the dye pots with the warmed water and the salt needed for immersion dyeing. We used good deep buckets because we were doing a lot of poles. Everyone came really well prepared with sewn, clamped, twisted and wrapped fabric. We set up 6 different colors originally using sun yellow, golden yellow, strong orange, black, green and a brown of sorts. We had about 2 tbsps of dye in about 3 1/2 gallons of water with 2 cups of salt added. The salt weight should approximate the weight of the fabric you are dyeing. We took turns putting in our fabrics into the different baths, cycling through all of us so we would all get a chance to have some in any of the baths. We agitated the fibers and stacked the poles one inside of another so maximize our space. We agitated the fibers for about fifteen minutes and then added about a cup of soda ash to each and then agitated again for another fifteen minutes so that the dye wouldn't sit on the bottom. Altogether the fabrics stayed in the baths for about an hour and fifteen minutes. Everyone was anxious to see what they had so we unwrapped at the end, after doing enough rinsing to get the soda ash out.

Another technique that people enjoyed was painting the fabric with plain old dyes (no soda ash). We then let those pieces dry and then wrapped and clamped them and then dunked them into the second set of dyes we had created -- darker colors this time. You get wonderful color underneath that is a bit subtle as not a lot of the soda ash gets to the colors and they are diluted a bit by the heavy water concentration in the regular immersion.

After we unwrapped the second bunch, we gave out some Synthrapol and told everyone to rinse, rinse, rinse and then wash with the hottest possible water with the Synthrapol in it. Several of the members had front loaders, so we cautioned them to use very, very little of the Synthrapol. Tomorrow we start again.

This is a lot of the ladies laboring over the dye pots. We had to agitate quite a bit for the first half hour of each "session" so that the dyes would not just move to the bottom and get lopsided dyeing. They were working hard.

This is just one of the pots where you can see we stacked the poles inside of one another to maximize the amount of fabric we could fit into the pot. I still think we didn't put enough fabric in as the results were pretty dark!

Donna was putting another piece of her painted fabrics out on the line to dry. All of these fabrics had been dye painted without any soda ash. Again, they were pretty concentrated dyes.

Anne is very proud of her beautiful piece where she used tried and true tie dye techniques.

Marcia accordion folded this one and used clothespins to clamp along the side. I think it was dyed in our navy blue bath.

This was done by just sewing a folded up piece of fabric together on the sewing machine. It was just a simple sewing a line in the shape of a square through all the layers.

This was a piece that had been dyed once that Jeanne overdyed by just schrunching together and putting some string around it radiating out from the center. I think it was one of our made up colors over a golden yellow.

This was one of the traditional pole wrapped pieces.

This piece was another by Marcia and it was accordion folded and then tied together. It looked even better in person. I think this was one of the manufactured blacks.
This was made by taking those small pebble like things you can get at the dollar store for putting in vases and wrapping cloth over it and securing with a rubber band.
This was wrapped on a thick piece of rope and then dyed. I like this one a lot!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Arashi Shibori or Bust!

Well today was spent preparing for the two days of shibori dyeing at a friend's house. It took pretty much the whole day of wrapping and folding to do up about 10 yards worth of fabrics. To get the best patterning, I prefer to use the largest diameter pvc pipe I can find and use no more than half yard pieces per wrap. As I mentioned before, I use "fat halves" which are half yard pieces cut lengthwise giving you two 36" x 22" pieces. However, one of the nice things is that if you have nice deep containers for doing the dyeing, you can actually fit two or three pieces of fabric on one pole by squeezing down nice and tight. The smaller the diameter of the pole, the higher up the fabric will squeeze down to on the pole.

Marcia is cutting up her fifteen yards of fabric in preparation for our dyeing day.

The next several shots are of the diagonal wrapping of the fabric on the poles. This first shot shows that you lay your pole on the diagonal of the fabric with the right hand upper corner end parallel to the end of the pole. Very gently you place the corner closest to you on top of the pole and start wrapping very loosely (this is harder than you think). You should place a rubber band to hold that upper right corner firmly onto the pole.

Here shows the pole partially wrapped. Because these poles are only 2 feet long (instead of the preferred 3 or 4 feet length), we will have to twist and push some of the fabric down the pole before we anchor the upper left hand corner with a small piece of thread (use thread that has come off the fabric) and tie around the middle very loosely with this thread.

With your two hands positioned as they are in the picture, hold your left hand steady on the middle of the pole and slowly twist the pole with your right hand while simultaneously pushing the fabric down toward the rubber band with your left. So it is a push down with the left hand, hold and twist with the right hand.
These are four poles that I wrapped using the above technique. I first saw this technique in a class taught by Jan Myers-Newberry who is one of the nicest and classiest teachers I have had.
This is a second technique that I use on some of the narrower pvc poles although it works just as well on the wider ones. First you measure the circumference of the pole (or you can be really fancy and trust that pi x D really works). Then you add about an inch to that measurement. A five inch in diameter pole would have a measurement of about 17 or 18 inches wide. Mark that on the lengthwise piece of your fabric (fold in half to make a 36 x 11 inch rectangle). Measure over 9 1/2 inches from the center and sew with your sewing machine a line of stitching using the longest stitch your machine has. Then put the pole inside the sleeve, put a rubber band to hold it at one end and then push down as far as you can. I then fluff out the fabric that is left over so that it will get some nice even dyeing. A variation on this founded my another friend Mary was to actually sew this sleeve and then to fold the fabric back over the sleeve and sew a second sleeve over the first (making sure you don't catch the first sleeve in your stitched line). You will get a gradation of striped colors with this variation. I have even done it three times with an extra narrow pvc pipe.

Of course you can always just wrap a pole and then wrap string around it and then push it down and compress it as well.

The next bunch we did were clamped using plexiglas (you can't see it in the picture but it is there). I first accordion fold the fabric in one direction and then accordion folded in again in the other direction, slapped a piece of plexiglas on either side and then held it together with these small clamps.

Here Marcia used canning jar lids so she will get nice circles in the middle. I really like these small clamps as they don't take up too much room in the dye bath.

Of course Suki had to put in her two cents about the poles. We had to make sure she didn't come home with me accidentally as I had so much in the trunk.

There are a number of other techniques to do shibori including stitching and direct dyeing which I will discuss in another blog entry.