Monday, February 29, 2016

Dye color chips - storing a record of dye experiments

Don't you hate it when you have a brilliant idea that turns out to be a dud? One of my new year's resolutions was to have less trash leaving the house. Consequently, when I wanted to create "paint chips" from my dye samples, I turned to my ample supply of trash cardboard. Political adverts on good card stock, the cardboard sheets that separate cat food cans, etc. etc. I had cardboard in spades. I spent an afternoon carving it up into usable 2" squares, neatly shaving off a piece of my finger in the process. Apparently scalpel means sharp.

I wound about 40 fabric swatches before the father of the artist reminded me that the artist would strongly disapprove of this project on the basis of acid in the cardboard which would discolor the fabric over time. I suggested that next time he might say something sooner...My recycling project lay in ruins. Then I remembered that I had some 50 sheets of stiff vinyl I bought to make stencils with my Cameo. That endeavor ended in a lot of bad language and leftover vinyl. Recycling back on!
"Paint chip" MX dye samples - fluff from batting
There are lots of pictures of people online who make wonderful color sample books, gluing intricate little squares into clean, white pages. I'm pretty sure that if I tried that it would look like a glue factory had exploded across Pigpen's sketch book. Plus I like to play with my color swatches, I don't want them nailed down. Also, when you do low water immersion dyeing, the range of color across the sample can be quite dramatic. If you are were going to pick a little square to represent the dye experiment below, then which little square would you choose? For me it makes more sense to be able to see the range of color across the fabric.

Previously I pinned my samples onto poster board that had been covered with batting. I lost the feeling in the tip of my finger for about a week after all that pin pushing. The problem was the poster boards took up a lot of space, and the cats took great delight in pulling the samples off. Also, the batting deposited gobs of fluff on the samples.

New plan: roll the strips around vinyl (which is awful for the environment, I know, but this was already bought and paid for, so might as well use it, right?) and secure with tape. There may be some discoloration around the tape over time, but it will be very limited. Also, no more pin holes

These dye chips can now be stored in a much smaller space. I can pull them out and play with them as 2" chips, or I can open them up and see the full range of color across the sample. The "recipe" is written in indelible ink on plain muslin, fused to the top of each sample, and cross-referenced in an Excel spreadsheet in case I drop the sample into a different color...true story....Each sample also has a unique number on it, so I can easily put them back in the drawers when I am done playing. The chemist and I spent several days sorting the colors. It was quite satisfying once, and would make me crazy to ever have to do it again. Colors I particularly liked are named and easily identifiable with a large paper clip. Not as pretty as those sample books, but more suited to my way of working. 
Some 2000 samples now fit into 4 drawers
And the cats do not have opposable thumbs so they won't be able to get into the closed drawers. The day cats evolve opposable thumbs will be a bad day for human kind, and quilter/dyers in particular!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Chocolate scented gloves

Who in the world thought up that one???

I was looking for some rubber gloves. It upsets me no end the number of plastic gloves I go through when dyeing. I found some at Marshalls. I love Marshalls. It's like a lucky dip every time. These are shocking pink Casabella long gloves. Perfect for washing out fabric. I will probably always use the thin plastic gloves for manipulation, just because they give you so much more control.

I was happily wearing the new rubber gloves, feeling like an environmental champion, when I became aware of the smell of chocolate. Cheap chocolate, not Lindt.I was in the basement. I am very picky about not eating or drinking around my dyeing area. I decided I was losing my mind (again). Eventually I figured out it was the gloves. This smell just doesn't come out. The gloves spend their lives in water, and soda ash. They still stink like poor quality chocolate.

Can't you just imagine some fresh-faced little intern in the product development meeting? How can we make our gloves more marketable? People don't like washing up and cleaning. How, oh how, can we make people love us? The intern puts up a trembling hand and suggests that since everyone loves chocolate, if we make the gloves smell like chocolate then everyone will love the gloves? Reason and logic fly out the window, the intern is promoted, some poor chemist is tasked with impregnating rubber with chocolate scent, and voila!

And now I live in hope that the smell will leave someday soon....

Monday, February 8, 2016

A yarn about wool

Ms. Twitch is a rare and very special personage. She is a rescue who had a tragic childhood. She allows only me to pet her. She hisses and even bites at any other hand, and isn't above giving even me a nip when she's had enough love for the day. She also adores to mouth things. Socks go missing. The Chemist was sewing a skirt when suddenly a vital piece went awol. I have a quilt which I could finish except that the top border has mysteriously vanished.  But the thing Ms. Twitch loves most is a ball of wool. She gets a look of complete bliss on her face when her fangs are securely dug into a fuzzy ball.
You malign me, I have no interest in that silly wool
I have wool. I have a lot of wool. I used to be a knitter. My chiropractor put a stop to that, but I still have boxes of wool. I donated a lot, and only kept the more interesting kinds that I could couch, but I still have 7 banker boxes of wool. I feel very sentimental about those boxes. They have traveled half way around the world with me. However, somewhere along the way they lost their lids.
No interest at all
 As you may recall, the basement boys finished the basement themselves. I requested lots of closets, which looked great on the plan. When the framing began there was a certain amount of complaining and attempts at renegotiation, but I held firm. However, when it came to putting ceilings in the closets, it became clear that the camels' backs were seriously one straw short of snapping, and, having learned to pick my battles, I did not push the issue. Also, I had moved into those closets literally before the hinges had been put on the doors!
Ok, I lied, but I am lying on the wool, therefore it no longer exists as far as you are concerned.
 The result is that if you are small and flexible, and not afraid of heights, you can climb into the ceiling in the basement boys' unfinished side, and walk through the ceiling to those intoxicating boxes of wool at the top of the closet, making scary noises, and even dislodging a light fixture on occasion.
Eye on the prize

Those balls of wool, which are just asking to be nosed, and mouthed, and toothed, and loved to death, or at least destruction. You can then pick one up in your mouth and make your way back to the floor and make an unholy mess of all that yarn.
Teeth in the prize
Sadly, that fun is over now. After retrieving 6 balls in one week, and finding more lodged where I can't reach them, and two dangling from the rafters, I finally gave up on my cardboard boxes and bought some plastic boxes with lids.
Hard to couch this
 I like them because they are clear and I can see what's inside, but I'm afraid that for Ms. Twitch, that is just added torture. She can see the prize, but is no longer able to savor the fluffy delights.Thank goodness for her lack of opposable thumbs.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wednesday words: Why LiveandDyeColor?

I hated high school. I was bored and unmotivated, socially awkward, embarrassed by everything. Fairly normal, I guess. The one high point was art class. My teacher was a young woman with opinions about everything, and a huge passion for life. She found everything interesting, and posted fascinating tidbits around the class. She was a huge stimulus for me to go on to university, and I will always be grateful for that. Those 4 years were a game changer for me. I developed new skills, and new ways to articulate what I was feeling. I found out that there are so very many lenses to view the world through. I met the love of my life. I learned to stand on my own two feet. But I have got seriously off topic!

Unfortunately, the focus of art in South Africa in the 1970s was strictly limited to painting and drawing. One of the things in the supply closet, though, was a small group of printer's inks. They were translucent, the colors were rich and glowing, and they spoke to my soul. Not that I did anything fabulous with them, you understand, but when I met dye, I knew that those printer inks had been my preparation for a new love affair with color which runs and drips and oozes and schmoozes with other colors.

The other way in which high school art class set my life's course was art history. I found it so fascinating to see the ways in which the technology, world view etc. of a period were interpreted and reflected through its art. Back then the images under discussion were projected through a rickety slide projector. We looked at many famous paintings, but it was when we saw a Klee painting of colored squares that my world imploded. I have often looked for the painting since, to see if it would have the same impact, but I think that the projected image had a translucence that the painted image probably does not. In any case, at that moment, all of 17 years old, I knew I had found my passion, and that it was color!

The name LiveandDyeColor is therefore a natural expression of my passion for color and for the fluidity and translucence of colors obtained through dyeing.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Procion MX - Pure colors

What is the big deal about pure MX dye you may ask? There are a number of reasons I like using them:

1. It's more economical. Premixed dyes also have fillers.
2. It allows you to control the color. Premixed colors may be discontinued. If you know how to make a particular color, you will always be able to make it from the pure colors.
3. Working with the pure colors helps you understand how the Procion MX dyes interact with one another. Because they are transparent, they are affected by any underlay, as well as anything they are mixed with. It is not the same as working with paint, particularly if you use low water immersion techniques.
4. Some colors have particular requirements. Turquoise, for example, is a picky little molecule. The reds strike quickly. If I have mixed the color myself I know which pure colors went into the mix and what their particular requirements are for batching etc.

The MX names give you clues about the color and strength of each color, but I am too lazy to learn them, they just don't stick in my head. Paula Burch, ever a font of MX information, has a detailed explanation here. She also has a great chart showing the different names for each of the pure dyes by supplier. Seems like turquoise is the only one they can agree on! When someone mentions a particular color, ask who the supplier was or you may end up with the wrong color.

Here is the difference between pure and mixed colors. I was using up old dyes, so I dropped some powder in the sink and ran water over it.

Here is a Dharma's navy. It looks like just a very dark blue in powder form, but when in liquid it separates and there is bright pink too!
Contrast that with the pure dye, grape, where the same color exists in every dye molecule, no splitting into other color components.