My love of Watercolors

I used to paint with watercolors in high school and am getting back into it. I forgot how much I love it. It's amazing how similar it is to dyeing - they are both transparent mediums (which can become opaque in special situations). That's probably why I gravitated to dyeing. One day, I was experimenting with dye on raw silk. I remembered a technique from a middle school art teacher where if salt is layered on top of watercolor paint, it creates really interesting sunburst effects after it drys. Perhaps it could work on fabric? So I tried:

watercolor-1I put salt over some of the purple dye to see if it would help it to spread. Instead (and I'm hoping you can see this in the picture) it helped set the color of the purple dye. The areas on the left and bottom (the deeper plum color) had salt on them, and the area on the top right (lighter lavender) did not. Interesting.... more on this salt thing later.


Today's UPS Delivery

It's hard meeting people in New York, let alone making any sort of connection to them. Over the summer, for some odd reason, I was making a lot of online purchases for the apartment, business and myself. Our UPS guy was coming to the door at least 2 times a week. (I know, it seems ridiculous, apparently I was a good consumer this summer.) He is not one for chitchat, mostly because he has so many damn deliveries and he needs to be quick. But I would do my best to be nice and ask how his day is going as I signed my name. I don't know when it happened exactly, but he started calling me by my first name. And now, whenever I see him, whether it's at my door or outside while he unloads his truck, I make sure to wave and say hi. It's the little things, you know?

What does this have to do with anything?  Be nice to your local service people. Well that, and the fact that he came to my door today with a package I totally forgot I ordered... a pair of heat proof, water proof gloves! Whoo-hoo! It's like Christmas today!

I've been meaning to purchase a pair of these for myself to use while I dye. Originally I was going to let my man get them for me for Christmas, but really that's too far away and I need them NOW. You see, when I dye protein fiber, the water has to be hot - like close to boiling hot. I've had several instances recently where it feels like my fingers are burning or melting inside of my regular dye gloves. I know, gross. So I'm super excited for these!!! They have a soft felt removable lining. 

The dexterity isn't great while my hand is inside, but I only need them while handling the fiber and that usually means I don't need a huge amount of flexibility. I'll still have to use my regular rubber gloves while I measure out dye powders. But these will be a huge improvement for the rest of the process!

Like pesto, but without the garlic...

So is it all the various social media or just the ever growing list of things I need to do that has splintered my attention and made me loose my memory and/or mind?? The other day I made pesto for my pasta. I ate it, but man was there something wrong. As I went over the ridiculously short list of ingredients I realized I forgot to add the garlic. It was a moment of clarity mixed with amazement - pesto is just not pesto if you forget the garlic. It just tastes.... wrong.

When I finished my first woven shibori scarf, I decided to do a quick overdye to mute the stark whiteness.  I rinsed it well and then laid it out to dry. And the result? A crunchy feeling piece of cloth. Ugh! Like pesto without the garlic. What's the purpose of having a beautiful piece of cloth if it looses its softness?

The problem though is I didn't actually forget anything in my dye 'recipe'. The soda ash used to activate the dye can result in a rough hand, especially if it's not rinsed well. But the fiber also lost its shine and luster. I'm bummed. There are industrial softeners I could try. I've never used a chemical like that before, and really don't want to take that route just yet. So I'll attempt another soak and rinse and see what happens...

Woven Shibori: Practice Round - Ding!

I don't normally do test runs of things I make. I just like to dive into something and hope for the best. More than likely, it comes out just fine. And if not, then that becomes the test piece. It's a win-win.

My newest obsession is shibori, which for those of you who might not know is the Japanese art of resist fabric dying. In the states, tie-dyeing t-shirts is the closest thing we know, taken from one type of shibori (kanoko). Other methods of shibori include: pole wrapped (arashi), pleated (suji), clamped (itajime), and stitched (nui). I could go on and on about this stuff, but today I'll only bore you with the stitched method.

In basic terms, stitched shibori is where you take a needle and thread to some fabric, make a loose running stitch then pull the thread tightly resulting in scrunched, bunched fabric. The folds created, if done properly, will be tight enough to resist the dye bath resulting in a pattern.  

Recently I discovered a book at the library called Woven Shibori which takes this theory and it applies it to the loom. But instead of hand stitching in the thread, I weave it into the cloth. How genius is that?! I'm so fascinated by this that it's taken over my weaving project thoughts. And since I've never done this (not even hand stitched fabric shibori), I have no idea what it's going to do to the fabric. Which is why I decided to do some actual test pieces.

I used some variegated cotton thread that I've had sitting on the shelf for years. I have no clue as to why I bought it. I really hate variegated yarn because it never gives you the result you think you'll get. I figured it would be good practice yarn. I think I was right since the resulting fabric is so ugly.

I decided to go even further with the test piece and even added some wool threads. The plan is to dip the end into boiling water; the hot water should shrink the wool but not the cotton and it should naturally pucker. We'll see how that goes.

So this is what the test piece looked like B.D. (before dyeing):

This is what it looked like A.D. (After Dyeing):

Why was I so shocked that it didn't take up much dye? Because of all the pre-dyed fibers I've dealt with, usually can be over-dyed. But then I realized that all the fiber I've over-dyed has been protein based. Darn you animal fibers! You take dye so well! You strike again! 

Time to take out the stitches and see what I get!

Learning Phase

I am a acid dyer, through and through. I like to dye fiber that comes from animals - protein based fiber - and this is because of the brilliance of color that can be achieved and consistancy of how things are absorbed. I have control. (Issue? What issue?) And I've been doing it for a while, so I get it. I know how the fiber will react.
Recently, I had this crazy idea to get into cellulose dyeing - essentially dyeing plant based fibers like cotton and linen and such. I wanted to make quiltied pillows and even went so far as to model some things in Illustrator:
I know. This is serious. 
Anyway, I dip dyed a bunch of squares in some procion mx dye. Yes, that is a chopstick suspending the squares in the liquid. I couldn't hold them, since it takes a full hour for everything to steep and set properly.
Then when they were all dry and ironed, I sewed them together. None of the squares line up quite right due to the fact that all that water soaking loosened the fibers, the edges frayed a bunch and my neat squares became rectangles. I didn't realize this until mid-sew. Awesome. 

The fabric was left over from a quiling project I had a while ago. The fibers are blue in one direction and pink in the other giving the fabric an overall purple look. Due to this fiber alignment, it can look more blue or more pink depending on how it's oriented. I purposely aligned the fabric in opposite directions so that the color change would come through in quadrants. The effect is pretty amazing:

Blue fibers run horizontally in the upper right and lower left quadrants.
Overall, a great learning project. Need a little more practice on my quilting and cotton dyeing skills!

Undulating Twill...

Undulating twill is a great weave structure that gives a little visual interest to something that otherwise might look flat. Usually I use it with solid colored yarn because the weave structure is so interesting that it will take precedence over the color. This time around, I wove up a grey version of my favorite undulating twill pattern for a scarf. But the grey was felling a little dull, so I decided to spice it up a bit. 

A huge part of the fascination of dyeing is noticing what colors are leached into the fiber and in what order. (More on that soon! I have some really awesome ideas in the works based on this concept.) 
The fact that the blue leaches into the fiber last gives this one an interesting dynamic: you can see the blue at the edge and the red is deepest on the outmost layer of fuzz, best seen here:

Seeing dye spots...

I know this is trite, but I suppose there's a reason why people say it: sometimes the simplest things are the most beautiful. Yep, nothing deep there. But the other day I went on this massive dyeing excursion, and of course I created little samples to make sure I didn't mess up anything. 
I get a strange glee out of the little spots that are created from the samples. It brings me back to when I was little and used to mix the watercolor paints in my little Crayola set - you know, the one with the quarter sized hard paint pellets. Again, a cheesy memory, but so true.
Especially this one, where the different colors come out at different stages of capillary action. Love!

Where's yours?

A lot of people, now that they know I've opened this little business, ask me when they see me, "Why aren't you wearing anything you've made?"


I've been quite busy making Christmas presents, and frankly have sold most of my stuff (this was not an attempt at gloating) but I figured I should probably put something together to show off in person. Okay. I'll squeeze that in, along with the rest of my tasks....

So here it is. A new scarf. Based on this one, but scaled in both directions and I changed the pattern a little. Solely for me. Consider it an early present to myself.

100% alpaca with ombré over-dye