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!

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