I've had my first real "fail" using old dyes. Not that these yellows aren't lovely, it's just that I was going for darker versions of each step as you can see from my worksheet swatches. My first warning came as I dug into the bottom of the big jar of mustard yellow and found it was not "powdery". It was acting as if moisture had gotten in but I forged ahead and scraped away until I'd dislodged enough for my dye stock. Everything looked dark enough in the bath, but obviously the dye did not react with the soda ash to produce full strength color. I think ProChem's mustard dye has some red mixed into it, and I've read that of all the dyes, reds are the ones that lose their strength the fastest, while other dye colors continue to produce true and deep colors for years. Don't think for a minute I haven't been questioning my process (did I measure the dye stock correctly, was there enough soda ash in the solution?) but it has to be the dye powder, and I'm wondering if I made up dye stock using a lot of it, would I get the deeper values in an overdye. I'm probably dreaming and wasting my time if I try it. I should just buy a small jar of fresh dye.
This was not an old dye fail as much as that what I think of as lavender must not be the same as what ProChem does. The lighter steps do shade less reddish purple than the other purples in my stash, but the darker steps look too much like the purple that I already have too much of. Plus the mix of dyes in it struck quite differently, leaving some very blue areas and some very purple areas - this even though I was giving the bags extra mooshing to create more even coverage. I had hoped using a premixed lavender would save me time but I can see that I'd be better off using my own recipe (worksheet swatches on the right) that mixes fuchsia and indigo.
I always have about a quarter cup of dye stock leftover, so used it to dye a half yard piece in a "double dip" method. First it went into the bag with the leftover mustard dye stock for about an hour, then it was removed, squeezing out as much liquid as possible, and placed in a separate bag with the leftover lavender dye stock. The results are quite a puzzle, certainly not what I thought might happen. Even the camera doesn't quite know what to do with it. It has a washed-out faded look to it, kind of a greenish yellow with plum undertones. Should I stamp over it or overdye it? Can't decide, but am pretty sure I don't want to use it as is.
I did the processing over several days and left that vat of black for last. I'd used a ton of black dye powder plus chino dye powder per a recipe Judi and I had developed that seemed to give us a deeper black with less of the blue overtones. I used hot water as recommended. I place the bucket in the hot sun for hours. But when I rinsed out the two 2-yard pieces and ironed them, I did not have the dark black I was going for. Perhpas that black dye is too old too? Would using what's left in the jar to re-dye one of the pieces get me closer to the black of the piece I'm running short on? Would using a different black dye powder work any better? Oddly enough, one length is slightly darker than the other length, (and yes, I'm reviewing my steps to see if this is my fault) and both are very usable as is, but that's not the point. The point of dyeing up these two big pieces was to replenish the dwindling black fabric in my stash, and this wasn't doing it. You can see from the photo the difference between the newly dyed fabric and the darker fabric from my stash.
Well, this all sort of turned me off to proceeding right away with the remaining 4 yellow gradations I'd planned to do, so I turned my sights to something I've been wanting to try for a long time - making paper from paper headed to the recycling bin. I've been lugging around my old blender for years knowing I would need it for this if I ever got around to it. After watching a Design Matters video on paper making, one that took the mystery out of it for me and made it look so simple and doable and confirmed that paper run through my shredder would work, I decided it was time to just do it! I won't go through the process - if you are interested in the steps, you can watch the video here.
I didn't really know what to expect of the finished product but I didn't expect it to be so stiff. I played around a bit with how much pulp ended up on my screen but even the ones with a thinnish layer were anything but "delicate" like is talked about on the video. Plus each piece picked up the texture from the cloth recommended for use between sheets. Wool felt is the standard, I believe, and now I know why. Perhaps the British version of American "Handiwipes" is smooth and I need to find a different kind of reusable cloth. Or find me some felt... My papers reminded me of recycled paper towels and my questions of how I would use handmade papers increased as this obviously could not be used to write on. If you click on the photo for the larger version, you will see some bits of paper that didn't get totally pulped, which is not a mistake. I was hoping for this but in the dim light of the garage where I worked, I thought I'd over-pulped my shredded paper.
But when I took some sample sheets outside to photograph, I could clearly see lots of places where larger pieces had embedded in the sheet, some with color as in this example. Now we can start thinking use with art journaling.
I wasn't going for perfectly square sheets during this learning phase, although I got a few that were close. At least one of the 17 sheets struck me as complete enough and heavy enough that it could be used as a cover for a small handbound book. And after making a few test sheets, I sprinkled in some tea leaves I'd saved after brewing to add some brown specks of interest. I should have run them through the blender too, at least some of the larger pieces from some herbal teas. Those larger pieces bled more brown into the paper around them than I would have preferred.
The video points out that, just like true batik fabrics, the back may look different from the front and boy, is that the case especially with these tea leaves. This is the back of the sheet in previous photo. And because I started separating the stack before completely dry to help speed up the process, most of the sheets are distorted in one way or another. Supposedly they only need to be weighted for awhile to flatten them out, which is where they are right now while I continue to ponder how they can be used. I think I will try more of this.