Friday, January 29, 2016

(Sn) ice dyeing - continued

I finally confirmed my crazy lady status in the neighborhood. I planned to do some snow dyeing with concentrate, not powder, but the snow disobligingly melted before I could get to it. However...the snow plows had left heaps of compacted snow all around, so I headed outside with a bowl and a shovel (I could feel the blinds twitching: Those weird furriners are at it again, taking the snow inside). I soon had lots of cold stuff to work with. Not exactly pristine snow. I pulled out the stones and twigs, and was grateful not to find road kill. Also not exactly ice, though, so I'm calling it sn-ice!
 Since our brief Indian summer had passed and it was c-o-l-d outside, I was now staggering around the basement with heavy trays of dye-concentrate infused sn-ice. One more reason to love the plastic basement floor. This is what it looked like after a quick clean up when gravity overtook the klutz and a basin landed with a thump and showered dyed sn-ice everywhere. You would never know it happened, and as far as anyone in my house knows, it never did....although you may notice some selvages in the bowl of ice below, scooped up off the floor in the clean up.
When I dye I use the basement bathroom for batching. I close the vent and the door and make a little microcosm, which I can pump up to 75 degrees without affecting the rest of the house. I also have some deep, sturdy plastic trays which I use under my dye basins out of an excess of caution. The cats are deeply fascinated, and quite sure I am cooking catnip in there. They prowl about outside the door and sneak in whenever they get the chance. This is discouraged. I'm pretty sure the smell of soda ash would deter them from taking a sip of dye water, but I prefer not to put that theory to the test!
Folded, soda soaked fabrics on a grid, covered with sn-ice and then squirted with liquid concentrate. This time I used up the very few pre-mixed dyes I have from when I started dyeing, Dharma's rust and navy, along with some pure turquoise and grape.

Here are the results. I like these better in general than the ice-dyed fabrics, although some are a little dull. Since I used different techniques, it is hardly a fair comparison though. Click to enlarge.
Accordion folded

Smaller accordion folds

Accordion folds then diagonally folded

Maybe next year I will buy a few small tubs of mixed dye before snow season. Snow or ice-dyeing are certainly something to brighten up the dull mid-winter, but I don't think I will be doing the sprinkling thing again. It uses up a lot of dye and I just can't get past the loose powder without twitching. Susan's class was great though. Lots of interaction and well worth the very reasonable fee. She is running it again in March. Check it out!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Ice-dyeing - results

Many of the results were blah so I won't bore you with them. 

Here are the ones I was somewhat pleased with:

t shirt ice-dyed with Procion MX
This was scrunched. The fat quarters I scrunched were just blah. Maybe this was big and dense enough that the dye ratio to fabric was good, and there was space for the color to spread and blend.

Fat quarter ice-dyed with Procion MX
Twisted fat quarter. There could have been more color variation for my taste. 
Fat quarter ice-dyed with Procion MX
Twisted fat quarter. Using up my golden yellow. We are not friends. I hate how it makes smears of color.
Fat quarter ice-dyed with Procion MX
Fat quarter with 3 pinch twists. Reminds me of a sunflower somehow!
Fat quarter ice-dyed with Procion MX
Shibori ice-dyed style. Very different from normal dipped shibori!

I finally got to play with the new Procion MX pure grey. Results next time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ice dyeing - prep

I recently signed up for an ice dyeing class with Susan Purney Mark. She's a Canadian artist who has a fabulous soy wax batik DVD, highly recommended.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have a very healthy respect for dye powder. Ice dyeing involves sprinkling dye powder on ice and letting it melt. I tried snow dyeing last year, but I used dye concentrate, so all the powder was safely suspended in liquid. I was really torn about whether to actually try ice-dyeing, but then we had a 51 degree day over a January!!!! in North East Ohio!!!!!! The stars were aligned.

First step, heavily wet an old towel to work over, so errant dye powder will land on it. A horrifying amount did.

 Second step, get everything ready so the time with open containers and dye powder is limited.

Third step, mask on and get sprinkling. I mainly have pure colors, so any mingling and interesting bits is going to be limited to where the dye powders overlap. Make sure wet spoons don't go in the dye containers!

Fourth step, each container double wrapped in clingfilm as soon as the sprinkling for that container is done.
Fifth step, mask on until all cleanup is done. An unsettling amount of dye powder got mopped up.

This was my first time ice-dyeing and here are the things I would do differently next time:
1. Use a lot more ice. My containers were flat and sat on top of the drip catching trays. Next time I would put them in a bigger container so I could really pile up the ice without it falling off the sides. I had 8 containers and I used 4 bags of ice and everything that was in my freezer's ice maker. My ice was better quality, more dense, but I don't have space to stockpile ice.
2. Use less dye powder. When I snow dyed last year I used too little dye. This time I used too much. I was using up my older powders and wasn't sure how strong they would still be. Plenty strong as it turned out. I should also have mixed my dyes before using, instead of hoping they would blend on the way down. I was a little disappointed with some of the results.
3. Along with using more ice, I would like to try using dye concentrate instead of the dye powder. I just don't feel comfortable with it. Outside was better than inside, but outside also involves breezes. Not helpful!
4. I tried a bunch of different ways to manipulate the fabric. I would check what worked and reuse those techniques, as well as trying some new ones.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Procion MX - dye safety - my glove box

I have asthma and airbourne allergies, so for the longest time I resisted Procion MX dyes, because there is no way around working with dye powder. I used Dye-na-flow, which comes in fabulous colors, mixes well to make new colors, doesn't change the hand of the fabric, and comes in liquid form. But! It is a paint, not a dye. It sits on the fabric, it doesn't bond with the fabric. The more you layer and manipulate it, the more you risk it abrading. This means that you get crease lines in your color, and it looks awful. Even regular laundering can cause fault lines. So frustrating.

I did a class with Melanie Testa, who uses Procion MX. She did all the mixing, and I began to see the possibilities. It still took me another 6 months to build up the courage to begin using the dye powder. What tipped me over the edge was finding a way to add more safety that just a mask and gloves.

The chemist did a project at college where she used a glove box. The wheels began to turn. I googled glove box and found out way more than I wanted to about mushroom farming! I also found out that to buy a glove box was going to be way more $$$ than I wanted to spend.

Then I discovered a blog post by Elizabeth Barton. She, too, has asthma and wanted more protection, and had created a perspex glove box. See her blog post where she generously explained exactly how she did it. The DH is an engineer. He can also manipulate glue so that he actually sticks together the things he was intending to stick together. I regard this as a phenomenal skill set which I don't have.

Dye mixing glove box
 The gloves are held in place with plumbing supplies. The furnace continually photobombs my shots! The pipes are NOT part of the dye box....
Dye mixing glove box
With only a minimum of swearing and nagging, a glove box was duly produced. Lavish praise was bestowed. The glove box lived on a cupboard in the garage when not in use. It only looks slightly creepy with the gloves dangling down like disembodied hands. I think my neighbor thinks I cook meth on the side...

Then we had some windows replaced. We have long windows. The replacement windows were difficult to move about. You can see where this is headed. The glove box ended up in a sad heap on the concrete floor. The contractors were very confused as to why I was so upset about this rather unexciting mass of perspex, gloves and glue. Every other aspect of the window installation had been stellar. But I knew how much motivation was going to be needed to produce another glove box!

Luckily the DH is a very sweet man, and even improved on the design. Since the glove box is just sheets of perspex glued together, there is very little structural strength. He added some reinforcing on the corners, used thicker perspex, and it is better than before!

Inside the dye box I use damp paper towel. This helps me collect the bits I spill. It is quite shocking how many little particles fly about when you measure the dye. Until you pin them down with water, you may not even be aware they are there. I also spray down the sides of the dye box before I start working. Be careful not to get moisture in your dye powder jars though!

Look how much powder adheres to the gloves too! Mixing is a messy business. Especially if you are a klutz to start with.

Another great thing about the glove box is that it doubles as an eye-level surface for measuring water. Note all the sawdust and other junk on the dye box. There really is no point in cleaning it while the basement boys are in woodworking mode.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen - Customization

Phew! With having no time off work over Christmas, it's taken a while to recover from a houseful of people. I think most of the laundry is now done and things put back where they belong. Mostly..

Having had the HQ Sweet Sixteen just over a month, here are how it's been customized so far. 
1. Anti-slip mat for the foot pedal. Maybe I am just short, but the cord for the foot pedal seems like it could be longer. I got sick of the pedal skidding out of reach. This mat works fine and doubles as a thread catcher...

2. Storage on top of the machine. There is so much real estate up there, but the surface is so slick I had issues get anything to stay there. I was nervous about using magnets because of the proximity to all the electronic components. I checked with HQ and they said it shouldn't be an issue, but I'm still not feeling that comfortable with loading the machine up with magnets. I tried suction cups, but they just slide off the slick surface. Eventually I found these sticky backed velcro circles and they work a treat. The problem with most plastic containers is that they have a little lip around the bottom edge, so they don't connect with the sticky velcro. This container is half of some kind of plastic packaging and it works a treat as the whole of the bottom of the container is in contact with the sticky pads, plus it's recycling. Two-fer! I can put my box of pins in and take them out whenever I need them somewhere else.
3. I had my scissors in there too, but then I had to reach for them every time I needed them, which is a lot because there is no thread snipper on the machine. Why HQ, why?? Enter Command hooks. Now I have my own personal Sword of Damocles...
4. And lastly, one more sticky velcro pad for the self-threading needle. I first had it stuck on a piece of double sided tape, but I think this is more secure as I can push it into the velcro. I don't want it falling into the bobbin area, or in front of the machine's needle while I'm sewing.
5. And lastly the addition of a torch to my box of tricks. I got cocky and changed a needle without consulting the manual. Stitching went haywire and I ended up with a mare's nest in the bobbin area because I had managed to put the needle in back to front. Unlike a domestic sewing machine, the Sweet Sixteen will accept a needle the wrong way around, you'll just both be sorry about it afterwards. The bobbin area is a rather dark and inaccessible place, but this little torch works well. 

See all those wound bobbins! It's been a productive month. I have been practicing my stippling and it is getting easier. Mrs. Kaye was right, practice, practice, practice.