A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rust-Dyed Shibori: Some More Results

As noted in some earlier posts, I wanted to experiment with rust-dyed shibori using different liquids: sea water, black tea and a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water.

Here are some pictures of the fabric that was wrapped around rusty pipes and steamed for an hour and a half. Each of the pieces is very different from the others. In this instance, the fabric wet with vinegar and water became the most rusty. The fabric wet with tea also became somewhat rusty. That fabric also has some spots that were caused by the interaction of the tannin in the tea and the iron on the pipes. The fabric wet with salt water was the least rusted. Note that the patterning on each piece is different from the patterning on the other pieces even though they were all wrapped and steamed in the same way.

In my second experiment, in which I kept the moistened bundles in a warm oven, I also got the greatest rusting effect from the vinegar and water combination. The rusting effect was also stronger with the batching method than with the steaming method. The next best effect was from the sea water. The fabric moistened with tea had the least amount of rust, and it also had some black spots from the tea. This picture shows each of the results. The vinegar/water piece is on the left, the sea water piece is in the middle, and the tea piece is on the right.

What surprised me most from this experiment was the different kinds of patterning I got on each piece. All the pieces were wrapped in the same way: the fabric was wound around the pipe and tied with string. I tried to compress each fabric piece but was not able to do so because of the friction on the pipe. Despite this, I got some very distinctive and interesting marks.

In conclusion to my series of posts this month, I would say that it’s possible to use unusual methods to get shibori effects on fabric. The outcome of each method is different from what you’d get using traditional shibori methods with Procion or acid dyes, but interesting all the same. 

Finally, if you haven't already done so, please check out my book, Dyeing Alchemy. It contains a great deal of information on Procion dyeing and also includes a workbook that does all the dyeing math for you. And, please read the latest review of the book in Shuttle Spindle and Dyepot. The link to that review can be found on my website, on the Dyeing Alchemy page.

Thanks for reading my posts this month! I hope they were useful.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Rust-Dyed Shibori: What Worked and What Didn’t

The steaming method of rusting was somewhat successful for the arashi shibori, but less so for the itajime shibori since I used plastic clamps and disks to hold my fabric in place. That was a bad decision. The clamps warped from the steam and didn’t hold the fabric. The same was true for the plastic disks. Here’s what happened to the plastic I used:


And here are some pictures of the fabric that was wrapped around the tin cans and tied with string. The fabric isn't washed or ironed yet, but you can see the rust patterning. Because it wasn't possible to compress the fabric and push it down the can, the marks are not true arashi shibori marks. Some of the rust will come out of the fabric when it's washed.

Earlier this summer, however, I did some itajime shibori at the same time as I was doing some botanical dyeing. I clamped some fabric to some metal plates, using 3 identical plates, one each on the top and bottom of the fabric and another one in the middle. I steamed this bundle for about an hour. Here’s a picture of the resulting fabric. This looks more like true clamped shibori than do the arashi pieces.

Friday, November 25, 2016

An Aside: Rust Dyeing and Botanical Printing

I recently become interested in botanical dyeing, and this summer I took two workshops focusing on the process. One of these workshops used plastic pipes or wooden dowels for rolling the plant-laden fabric, but the other workshop used rusty iron pipes. This led to some interesting discoveries as well as some great fabric.

In the second workshop, the fabric was steamed on the rusty pipes for several hours, depending on the fabric type. As the fabric steamed, it received a bath of vinegar every half hour. The steaming process transferred the images of the plant material onto the fabric, and it also transferred rust. 

Working with those pipes gave me the idea of using them for my experiments with rust-dyed shibori.

One of the most interesting rusting effects I got during the summer was accidental. I was steaming some delicate silk, and I did not want the silk fabric to get too dark during the steaming process by being in direct contact with the rusty pipes for a long time. To prevent this, I cut a piece of linen fabric the length of the pipe and rolled it around the pipe, tucking the ends into the openings at the ends of the pipe before placing the plant-covered silk onto the pipe. The plant material on the silk also transferred to the linen. In addition, the ends of the linen that was tucked into the pipe end openings created a lovely rust pattern.

Next year, once the plants are back and the weather is warm, I plan to experiment more with this process since I think the combination of rust and plant images create very nice fabric.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Rust-Dyed Shibori: Preparation

After reading Alice Fox’s book, Natural Processes in Textile Art, I wanted to experiment with different wetting agents in the rust shibori process. I used 3 different agents: (1) sea water from the Atlantic ocean, (2) black tea which I made by steeping loose tea in hot water, and (3) a 50-50 mixture of vinegar and water. I soaked my fabrics separately in each of these liquids before doing any fabric manipulation. In the past, when I did rust dyeing in a dishpan during the summer, I used only a 50-50 mixture of vinegar and water. This time, I wanted to see if I could get different effects and different patterns using liquids other than diluted vinegar.

For my rust dyed shibori experiments, I rolled fabric around iron pipe. I had previously tried some clamped shibori but it was unsuccessful because I didn't have rusty objects of the same size to put in between clamps and because I had not very smartly tried it using plastic clamps and then steamed the fabric. 

For the arashi shibori examples, where the fabric was rolled around the rusty iron pipes, my original intention was that I would wrap string around the pipes, just as I do in regular arashi shibori, and then compress the fabric along the length of the pipes. When I tried to do this, it was impossible. The pipes I used were very rough, and I could not push the fabric down along them. So, I then decided to wrap the string tightly to see if I could get strong string impressions that would give the effect of arashi shibori. This is how the fabric looked on the rusted pipes.

I will show the results in my last two posts.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Rust-Dyeing: Some General Comments

Since the Fire blog just included a segment on rust dyeing in October, I have only a little to add here about the rust dyeing process.

In my experience, successful rust dyeing requires warm to hot temperatures to speed up the rusting reaction. When I tried rust dyeing in the past during the fall and winter, I was unsuccessful and got little reaction.

Since I had a very busy summer this year, I did not have the time to create the rust dyed shibori samples I needed for these blog postings. Given that, I had to resort to some other methods of supplying the heat that was necessary for the rusting reaction.

First, I decided to create some arashi and itajime samples using rusty cans and other objects and then steam them in a large pot over boiling water. The steam would supply the heat and moisture that is usually present in the rusting reaction.That method led to mixed results which I will discuss in a later post.

The second method involved rolling the fabric on rusty pipes. I then put the manipulated fabric into separate plastic bags and put the bags, on a metal tray, into my oven along with a bottle of hot water. I kept the oven turned off, but left the oven light on. The fabric stayed in the warm oven for 3 days. (This is the same method I use for batching fabric that I have printed with thickened dye, although then the batching period is only 24 hours.) The plastic bags kept the fabric moist, and the heat from the oven was enough to create the rusting reaction. This method was more successful than the first one .

I did not try itajime shibori using my second method since I didn’t have any rusty objects that I could use for the clamping process.

With both methods, I experimented with different wetting liquids to create the rusting process, and I will discuss these in my next post.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Snow-Dyed Shibori - Some More Results (2)

As noted in an earlier post, I decided to experiment with whiffle balls as a way of manipulating my fabric. Doing so gives circular elements to the finished fabrics. Sometimes the results look like geodites. Here are some examples:

I was much happier with the fabric in which I used fewer colors of dye (the lighter green fabrics), but this may be because I tend to prefer palettes that are monochromatic or that use analogous colors. I find these fabrics easier to use in my finished pieces. While the center blue and green piece was very vibrant, I couldn't make it work with the other pieces.

Here is a large quilt, Evocation, that I made using some of these fabrics. It is heavily embroidered and machine-quilted.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Snow-Dyed Shibori - Some Results (1)

In my first session of shibori snow dyeing, I experimented with arashi and itajime shibori. I was very pleased by the results. Here are some of the fabrics that I got:

 As I noted in an earlier post, I tend to work fairly monocromatically, not using too many colors on each piece of fabric. As a result, I tend to get fabrics where the color contrasts are not too great. Those are the kinds of results I prefer.

One thing I noticed in doing snow dyed shibori is that the resulting fabric appears less crystalline than when using other methods of preparing the fabric for snow dyeing. Here’s a piece in which the fabric was crumpled. The crystalline patterns are more apparent.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Snow Dyeing Process

There are a number of methods for doing snow dyeing. Here is mine, excerpted from a tutorial I did on snow dyeing on my own blog. The tutorial contains information about mixing dye concentrates, similar to the information included in my earlier post on the Fire blog.

1. Scour (wash) the fabric to remove any dirt or finishes. Do this in the washing machine. For 8 yards of fabric, use 3 tablespoons of soda ash and a teaspoon of Synthrapol. Wash the fabric using a hot cycle. If any suds remain in the fabric, do a second hot wash. Hang the fabric over the shower rod to dry. You can use any plant-based fabric for the snow dyeing process.

2. Using Procion MX dyes, mix up 5% dye concentrates, wearing a face mask. If you will be dyeing a fair amount of fabric, make up about 200 ml.each of several colors. For each color, add 10 grams of dye powder (about 2 teaspoons), plus 1/2 tablespoon granular urea, to 200 ml. of water (a little less than 1 cup). Mix the concentrates in bottles with tight caps by shaking them thoroughly. If the dye powder didn’t fully dissolve after being well shaken, stir the dye concentrate with a chopstick to dissolve the last particles. Choose several primaries along with some neutral colors such as black, brown, gray or rust. These neutrals are mixed from different pure colors, so this means you are likely to get a lot of color splits and new colors as the dyes combine and migrate to the fabric at different speeds. Use squeeze bottles for mixing the dyes since it is much easier to apply a controlled amount of dye using a squeeze bottle than by pouring it from a wide-mouthed bottle.

3. Soak the fabric in soda ash soak for 30 minutes. Soda ash soak is made by adding 9 tablespoons of soda ash to 1 gallon of hot water. Wear a face mask when measuring the soda ash. Stir thoroughly to dissolve the soda ash. After 30 minutes, wring out the excess soda ash into the soaking basin and return to the soda ash soak bottle. The fabric can be soda soaked ahead of time and dried over the shower rack (not in the dryer) or soaked right before dyeing. 

Fabric Soaking in Soda Ash Solution
4. While the fabric is soaking, prepare the dye vessels. I use dishpans with various racks to keep the fabric out of the dye. (Any pans or racks that are used to dye fabric cannot be returned to the kitchen.) Since I didn’t have enough racks, in one instance, I used a piece of old fiberglass screening which I attached to the sides of the dishpan with some small clamps. This was suspended above the bottom of the dishpan. For arashi shibori, you can use a bucket. 

5. Manipulate the fabric. You can experiment with various manipulations, including crumpling into small folds, knotting, crumpling and twisting, folding lengthwise into loose pleats, and wrapping fabric around a pole. You can also do a variety of clamped shibori techniques.

6. Place the manipulated fabric on top of the rack or screen in each of the dishpans. You can dye more than one piece of fabric in a single dyeing container if you want.

7. Fill the containers with snow. Different kinds of snow will give different effects. Light and fluffy snow gives better patterning than wet or icy snow.

Manipulated Fabric Covered with Snow and Ready for Dye

8. Squirt dye over the fabric and snow, using several colors of dye. If you’re lucky, the dyes will mix and form lots of secondary colors. This is especially likely is you work with mixed colors instead of pure colors, but both sets of colors will yield interesting results. You can also combine several pure colors ahead of time and use that mixed color as one of your dyes. Experiment with different ways of pouring the dye over the snow. The more you do snow dyeing, the more you’ll understand the patterning you’re likely to get from each method of applying dye.

9. Leave the dye containers in a cold place to allow the snow to melt slowly. I leave mine on an enclosed, but unheated, back porch. If your dyeing space is extremely cold and you think the dye will freeze at night, bring the containers into the house after 10-12 hours. Leave the containers for a total of 24 hours. The snow will continue to melt and form patterns as it does. Because you are dyeing at a very cold temperature, it will take much longer than normal for the dye molecules to bond to the fabric receptor sites. A 24-hour waiting period will enhance the amount of bonding that takes place.

10. If you notice that there are a lot of places where the dye hadn’t penetrated the fabric, you can massage some of the melting snow/dye mixture into the white parts of the fabric to encourage more dye pick up. Do this with gloved hands.

11. The most exciting part of this process is washing out the fabric and seeing what happened to it. After the 24-hour waiting period is up, untie/or open up the fabrics and rinse in a bucket of cold water. Change the water several times to get out all the soda ash and much of the excess dye. Keep the colors separate at this stage by using several washout buckets rather than soaking all the fabrics together in a single bucket. This is especially important if some of your fabrics are light colored. Keeping the fabrics separate prevents back staining in the light portions of the fabric.

12. After you’re satisfied that you’ve gotten out all the soda ash and much of the excess dye, soak the fabric in hot water with a little Synthrapol or Blue Dawn. Because I have a front loading washer, I always add boiling water to my hot water soaking buckets to get the final hot water temperature above 140 degrees. Let the fabric sit in the buckets for 30 minutes or so. This stops all the dyeing action and allows the unbonded dye particles to move into the water. If you have a top loading washer and can get your water temperature above 140 degrees, you don’t have to add boiling water to the hot water soaking bucket.

13. Dump the fabric and the soapy water into the washer and wash on the hottest cycle without adding additional soap. If you have a lot of excess dye in the hot water soaking bucket, wash the fabric for more than 50 minutes. At this stage, you can wash all the fabric together because most of the excess, unbonded dye had been poured away from the fabric, and back staining is unlikely.

14. Take the fabric out of the washer, admire it, and then dry it. It generally takes 15 minutes on medium heat to dry a lightweight cotton. Iron the fabrics to bring out the patterning which is harder to see when the fabrics are crumpled.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Snow-Dyed Shibori: Methods for Preparing Your Fabrics (2)

After seeing some intriguing pictures of fabric that had been dyed using plastic whiffle balls, I decided to purchase some of these balls and experiment using them with the snow dyeing process. I bought whiffle balls in two sizes and played with different ways of incorporating them into my fabric.

Below are some photos of the balls tied into my fabric.

In all cases, I used a combination of rubber bands and string to tie my whiffle balls into the fabric. I experimented with tying some of the balls inside the fabric and others outside the fabric. I also experimented with the placement of the balls, trying to create straight lines or curved patterns. I also wanted to see what would happen if I used different sizes of balls in the same piece.

I will show you the results in a later post.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Snow-Dyed Shibori: Methods for Preparing Your Fabrics (1)

When you are doing snow-dyed shibori, you have to prepare your fabrics for dyeing in the same way as you would if you were doing ordinary shibori dyeing. The only difference is that you have to take into account the size of the containers you’re using for snow dyeing and make sure that your prepared pieces will fit into those containers.

I’ve experimented with both arashi shibori and itajime shibori using the snow-dyed method. I have never tried stitched shibori with snow dyeing but I see no reason why this can’t be done.

Below are some pictures of fabric that I have gotten ready for snow dyeing. Later I will show you the results.

Here, I am preparing fabric for clamping:

 The prepared fabric is being held by a heavy clamp.

The remaining pictures show other methods of preparing fabric using chopsticks, clamps and resists. In the arashi example, I have sewn fabric tubes, stretched them on PVC pipes, and compressed the fabric.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Snow-Dyed Shibori: Mixing Your Colors

The first step in making snow-dyed shibori is thinking about the colors of dye you want to use. In this case, less is more.

During the process of snow-dyeing, because of the slowness of the dye migration into the fabric and the subsequent bonding with the fabric (because of the cold temperatures), it’s possible to get a large number of secondary colors from just a few dyes.  This is particularly true when using dye concentrates made from mixed colors or by combining dye concentrates of several primary colors with each other and with another neutral color. As the snow melts during the snow-dyeing process, the different dye components form additional colors which bond to the fabric at different rates. 

The photo below is part of a quilt I made with snow-dyed fabric. A number of secondary colors formed from the combination of dyes used in the piece.

You can get mixed colors in a variety of ways. Some people buy a lot of dyes that are already mixed by the dye houses from which they purchase the dyes. Other people, who—like me—are more economy minded, mix their own colors ahead of time using primaries. Still others work only with primaries, allowing the mixing to happen during the dying process itself.

Depending on your color preferences, the decision about colors can be spontaneous or it can be thought out ahead of time. I like to work somewhat monochromatically, so I tend to use a relatively small number of colors in my snow dyeing work. I often use black or brown or grey, or maybe two of these more neutral colors, in combination with one other color. Sometimes I will use two shades of one color, perhaps a golden yellow and a lemon yellow, together with black. Despite using such a limited color palette, you will often get a surprisingly large number of additional colors in the final piece.

Once you’ve made a decision about the colors you want to use, you should mix up several bottles of 5% dye concentrate. I usually work with squeeze bottles and make about 8 ounces, or 250ml, of each color I want to use. If I plan to work with several snow-dyeing containers, each of which will be in a different color family, then I will make enough bottles of dye to see me through the entire dyeing session. 

Since snow dyeing is done in the winter, the dye concentrates will last longer, even without refrigeration, than they would in the summer, especially if they are kept in a cold place. And, at the end of the snow dyeing session, the remaining dyes can be used to dye threads or paper.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

5% Dye Concentrates

Most of the time when I dye a lot of fabric, I work with 5% dye concentrates rather than with dye powers. To make 5% dye concentrates (or dye stocks), you mix 5 grams of dye powder with 100 milliliters of water. If you want more dye stock than 100 ml., you would increase both the dye powder and the water, but keep the proportions the same. For example, if you want 250 ml. of dye stock (roughly one American cup), you would mix 12.5 grams of dye powder with 250 ml. of water.

There are a couple of methods for making dye concentrates. The first involves using urea water to dissolve the dye powder, and the second involves using urea granules along with the dye power. Urea is a chemical that helps the dye powder dissolve more easily.

Be sure to wear a mask and gloves when working with dye powder and other chemicals. Either work in a dye mixing box or in a sink, lined with damp paper towels, below the level of your face. (For more information on this method of working in a sink, see my earlier blog post in which I describe this method of measuring dye powder.)

A well-used cardboard mixing box

Dye being weighed in a sink, below face level. Here the dye is measured into a cup, not a bottle
Method 1
Put your dye mixing container (usually a wide-mouthed bottle with a tight fitting lid) directly on the scale, and tare the scale to zero. Use a spoon to take the dye powder out the dye container, and tap the spoon containing the dye powder directly into the dye mixing container until you reach the required weight. Warm the urea water in a microwave to about 95-105 degrees F (35-40C). Pour the correct amount of urea water into the bottle, and shake well. Make sure the bottle has a tight fitting lid. As you pour the urea water into the bottle, pour some of it over the spoon to get off the last bits of dye powder. Shake the bottle well until the dye is fully dissolved.

This method assumes that you have urea water on hand. Urea water is made by dissolving urea granules in water in a 10% ratio. That means that you use 10 grams of urea for each 100 milliliters of water. If you want to make one gallon of urea water, dissolve 400 grams of urea in 4 liters (roughly one gallon) of hot water (120 degree F or 49 degrees C). Shake until well dissolved. You can keep urea water for many months. If it begins to smell like ammonia, discard it.

Method 2
This is the easier method for mixing dye concentrate. Put your dye mixing container (usually a wide-mouthed bottle with a tight fitting lid) directly on the scale, and tare the scale to zero. Use a spoon to take the dye powder out of the dye container, and tap the spoon containing the dye powder directly into the dye mixing container until you reach the required weight. After measuring the correct amount of dye, add a small amount of urea granules to the dye powder. I usually use half a tablespoon of urea granules if I am making 1 cup (250 ml) of dye stock. The exact amount doesn’t matter, though err on the light side since you can always add more urea. Add the correct amount of warm water (95 to 105 degrees F or 35-40 degrees C) and shake the bottle well until the dye powder is fully dissolved.

When the dye powder is dissolved, the dye concentrate will be translucent, and you will not see any undissolved dye particles in it.

Partially mixed dye 

Fully mixed dye which is now translucent