The Dye Dungeon Openeth Again

BANG. “Shit”, pause, “Sorry!” BANG. “Fuck”, pause, “Sorry!” BANG. “dammit”, pause, “Sorry!” The poor water heater man was in the basement, fixing things, and that’s what i kept hearing. Our basement is low ceilinged after all, being in a 107 year old house. You *can* walk upright (unless you’re 6′ plus, in which case you will be grazing the first floor bracing beams), but there are areas where furnace ducts are low, and both Greyman and i regularly bash our heads on them. When my hair was long and i wore it pinned up, it would be a common part of the experience, catching that full tilt on the top of the head……….I finally had to tell that poor workman to stop apologizing, and just get on with. I’ve heard all those words before, so whatever 🙂

And yes, our basement is slightly creepy. The house is after all Old, and there are parts behind walls down there that are the original stonework and earth dug-outs. It doesn’t smell musty or moldy, just old, no strange growths anywhere or slithering whatthehellisthats, one of the benefits of Calgary’s dry climate, even with us being beside the river and probably not that far above the natural water table. (Actually after the 2013 Calgary flood, we *know* it’s not far above, but we do know we also have the only self draining house on the block!) You can stand up in it, something not said about a lot of 107 year old basements, it’s floored with concrete and mostly painted white. We don’t use it for much beyond storage and it occurred to me yesterday that it was largely being wasted.

It’s divided into 4 strange little rooms, evidence of the original size and shape of the house, documenting add-ons and renovations. There’s actually no basement below the teeny back bedroom, laundry room, kitchen, bathroom and one bedroom, unless you count the old stone and earth part (!), but it’s still big enough for a lot of uses. Dyeing space immediately comes to mind through the winter. The garage is uninsulated and too far from the house in terms of -30c weather, so why not just descend to the depths?

That’s where the Dye Dungeon is again, in the back part near what is the old cistern, long boarded and bricked up, and containing we are sure, a body or two…..There’s a tiny backroom with lots of old wood shelves for all my dye supplies, natural and un-natural chemical/synthetic, plenty of old pull string lights, and a concrete floor. Nothing fancy down there at all, just space where the dog never goes (she’s afraid of the creepy old narrow stairs down), and the cat rarely, as “it’s boring, so boring”. (You know how cats are.) I *did* have it set up 7 years ago, but admittedly didn’t do as much then as i had thought i would. I’m afraid right now if i keep using the studio, that the mess will become a wet one, with pots and jars all over, and inquisitive studio assistants, Slapshot (official studio cat) and Nessie the DogFaced Girl (resident i-go-everywhere-Mom-is dog).

(I’ll post pics in another entry 🙂 )

And the first cochineal results are in, and i am very very quite happy 🙂 These are dry too, so none of that misleading wet photograph stuff–we all know wet is more intense looking than dry!

Same threads, different light, to show their beauty, all on wool or a silk/wool blend, different mordants and modifiers.

I have cotton threads as well now, dried after a long soak in the dye bath, and oh i am thrilled with the results!

So, in the last two weeks, with experimenting and testing that i am doing things correctly, behold my new stash!!!!!!!!!

As soon as i can plan for being more productive, quantity wise, i really would like to be offering these in the shop. Stay tuned 🙂

 

 

 

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dramatic cochineal

One of THE easiest dyes to use! Yes, it’s expensive, but not with Cost of Wear, known in the dye biz as WOF, the measurement used to calculate how much dyestuff to fabric. Yes, it’s dead bugs, so if your sensitivities include no “animal” products, don’t use it. (And don’t lecture me either.)

Basically, the bugs are scraped off cacti, dried, sold whole, and ground down to a powder with a mortar and pestle for use, cooked, and decanted 3 or 4 times, and pre-mordanted fibres are thrown into the resulting dye bath. Mordants and modifiers can shift the colours from oranges, to fuschias and reds to deepest purples with every flame colour in between. Very versatile but because of these colour variations, in use after, Ph neutral care is important, though wash and lightfastness are excellent.

Tip o’ the Day: do not be making grape jelly at the same  time: the colour is the same 🙂

Since my practice is to leave things in dyebaths at least overnight, you won’t see the results just yet 🙂 And BEST practice with all natural dyes, is to let the fibres dry, then let “em “cure” for at least a week before rinsing any excess out, so you’re still not going to see them until the 13th earliest. I’m gonna be biting my nails in anticipation.

 

I intend to do cloth as well as threads, testing all the colour permutations possible, with mordants and modifiers. And overdyes as well–indigo yields another purple over top, and osage would warm it beautifully also, i’m sure.

I threw some of the wool thread in the 2nd extraction logwood bath–yum.

However, i know logwood is not as lightfast as other dyes, so this will be overdyed, or post-mordanted with some iron, which apparently will help with that factor.

 

 

sometimes you just get what you get

Well, how about that. Acidity, alkalinity, science, weird science, real science. It was mentioned to me that perhaps the soy pre-mordant was too acid? On the advice of a friend, i hucked in some soda ash, to “blue” it up a bit–after all, nothing to lose at this point! Edit: it did change the colour to a more blue-purple, but the bath had already exhausted, so i got minimal colour— so weak that the poor babies shouldn’t have been taken away from their mommies! (Is logwood supposed to exhaust that fast????)

So, the next pot will be using the reverse osmosis filtered water, and NO soy pre-mordanted fabrics (i’ll save them for the indigo).

I want to use these colours together, in some new work, logwood top, bottom 2 potassium permanganates:

The logwood in proper light is definitely a red-violet, not a blued shade, but i’m starting to like all the variations. I may not get the results that everyone else gets, but that’s kind of the point for my purposes. I want to follow the tried and true METHODS, but i’m happy to get different colours, as long as they are not weak and namby-pamby!

The Osage dyepot was predictable (WHEW), with no surprises there 🙂 Warm yellows with a hint of orange, like a summer sunrise. I might throw some narrow slices of that too in the mix of fabrics in the above photo.

I’ve been collecting the blooms from my “black” Chater’s Double hollyhock all summer, and with only a few more blooms left on the plant, this is the sum total:

Left below, the Chater’s and right, my single deep red and burgundy–they don’t look that different dried, except for their size, but i’m still hoping the colour will be richer and deeper.

Of course, there’s only enough to do a couple of skeins of thread, but that’s part of the game as well 🙂

 

 

making my own rules, potassium permanganate

I really like the effects i get with potassium permanganate, but there’s not a lot of info available, online, or in old books, when it comes to using it with cloth. Most sites tell you how to get rid of the “stains” when you are working with it, in either metal or wood applications, but not how to keep it! I *think* we might have done something with it in the textile arts program in the early 90’s at Capilano College, but if we did, i either took few notes (usually when i wasn’t that interested!), or i threw them out in a long ago purge…….

First of all, this stuff is actually Scarey Dangerous. Yes, very, no exaggeration, in application, storage and with other chemicals. It can be explosive, toxic, mutagenic, corrosive. I cringe when i see people sticking their hands in vats with no protection, but this one in particular made me yell at someone during res who did just that. But it’s also used as an anti-fungal, an antiseptic, water purification, in garden applications, for livestock use, and in science labs for staining specimens and slides.

(Ignore the “antidote” notes on the above, and check the MSDS for the real deal.)

It’s not a “natural dye”: it’s a chemical compound. So why use it if it’s so freekybeaky? Because i like the warm browns it can give, i like the way it chases (discharges, technically) indigo, i love the effects with rust and ecoprints. Respect for what we use as dyers, whether chemical or natural, can go a long way though and i have always stressed safety first in any of my own work, and certainly when i have taught classes. So i will use it, and with pleasure! (The few sites that have had any information make me shake my head too, as they blithely swish things around with bare hands……..)

I know brown is not an exciting colour to most people, and most natural dyers are going to use walnuts, chestnut, cutch or sequoia, or combine different dyebaths with various mordants and modifiers to get brown when they do want it 🙂 (And i have, and do that as well. ) You’re not going to find potassium permanganate for sale on any dye house sites though, chemical or natural. I searched through chemical suppliers, university science sites, and finally water purification shops, and bought mine at a local supplier for  “HVAC, Water Treatment, Fluid Handling and Conservation Industries .”  (I’ve heard it also referred to as “Condy’s Crystals”, an archaic name for it, and supposedly available at pharmacies/”chemists”, though i suspect that’s more in the UK than anywhere nearby!) And i asked for and got the 6 page MSDS that should go with ALL chemical use. (See that first link in this post.)

Initially, it’s expensive. I just about had a bird when i called and asked about the size they had on the website (10lbs)–$169.00!!!! The gentleman on the phone said though that they did have smaller 5 lb packages, at slightly less than half of that amount. In use though, it’s cheap, cheap, CHEAP. At 1/4 to 1 TSP per litre of water, it’s going to last a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time, great Cost Per Wear!

(HA. When i picked it up, he said someone else had just called and wanted that smaller size too, something he hasn’t sold much of in a good while. Maybe another dyer?)

 

ALL “mixing” of this will be done outside in a corner of the back40, wearing gloves, respirator and safety glasses. And lest anyone think i am totally looneytunes using this potentially bombwhacko product, a lot of textile program school scenarios have a vat of it in the wet studio, and no one has reported any Incidents. ALL dyeing should be handled with respect, safety and care.

I remember there are a few other things i can do with “potperm” and cloth, so am off to refresh my memory, and make my own (SAFE) rules for use.

 

 

euc in the house

I missed a week at ACAD–summer holidays with the Greyman, and some serious Garden Hard time, both necessary things, and also time to think on things. If the school studio is too cool now for my favourite processes, what else can i do?

My favourite eucalyptus in “in season” again–that means it’s an import, as it just doesn’t grow in Alberta! One of the perks of working in the fffFlower Mines means access to things that just aren’t available in my garden or neighbourhood. There *are* certain “go-to’s” i can pick fresh, but the majority of plant materials that give satisfying results are neither “native” nor zone 3 hardy.

Yesterday i stitched in the home studio while these were percolating.

Two euc “trees” 🙂

 

LOVE this silk:

 

It was a good day.

 

 

 

revving and refreshing skills

Honestly, i haven’t done any ecoprinting in probably over a year, so thought i’d best get back at it. I need to refresh my skills for the upcoming res and for some slated workshops in the fall.

Below, cranesbill on privet dyed silk with annatto overlay:

Very soft but quite clear detailing, but you’d have to be very close to appreciate the nuances.

Dock dyed silk, with Grevillea ecoprint, softly coloured, but not wishy-washy at all. And look at the detail from the Grevillea buds!

One thing immediately apparent with this method, is that the base colour has to be STRONG, as some of it disappears in the cooking method. (Steaming has NEVER worked for me.) Next up, some premordanted fabrics to be dyed. In cotton, because that’s what i work with, and prefer, i’m hoping the recent gallnut excursions help with colour development. I never had problems before getting richly detailed, deeply coloured prints from leaves and flowers on cotton/cellulose fibres, but now i want true depth, more colour laying and dye fastness also.

translation

Still just peering over the edge of the rabbit hole, but on the way up now. It was a long fall.

paintPaint on paper above, painted cotton below.

painted-fabric

 

machine-on-paint-1FM on painted cotton above, hand embroidery below.

hand-on-paint-b

hand-on-paint

As i’m writing, i realize this exercise made me think of this:

beading-hoodoo-sky-2009(Hoodoo Sky, 2009, in progress)

Tests for possible work, i still have 2 other techniques to try with the remaining painted fabric.

 

 

There’s nothing more satisfying than bringing a cloth to life. I could easily stretch and frame these beginnings on their own, but that needle and thread thing is so addicting, and really, the translation from flat image to textured story is what turns my crank.

“A Birth of Silence”, 2015, base cloth to finished translation

While i “designed” the base cloth for the one above, because it is an abstract, i had no idea when i made it what i would do with it, story wise. Sometimes narratives just happen. Stockpiling cloth like this is like prepping a bunch of canvases, or journal pages, no dreading that blank space!

Admittedly, the deliberate shape and design of a face means the face is the story, but things still can become what they are as they want.

ot translation

“Original Truths”, 2016, from deliberately designed base cloth to completion.

The story will continue.