Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Meh Results

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.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Heat & Smoke

I'm a 70's kind of gal, as in I like my temperature highs in the 70's. I can manage some days in the 80's, although even in the shade they can make it uncomfortable to be active outside. But top over into the 90's and I'm not coming out of my house for more than a few minutes at a time, at least not until the sun goes down. And I was doing that at the end of July, heading out just as the sun was dipping behind the mountain, and taking along my sketchbook on one such day. I wanted to capture the daylilies at the park I walk through, buttery yellow blooms amidst the green blade-like leaves. Even a sketch like this can take me half an hour to forty-five minutes, so my plan was to return within the next few days with either colored pencils or watercolors.

But my plans were thwarted by the smoke that has drifted into our valley from forest fires that are as much as hundreds of miles away. British Columbia is burning up again, at one point with over 45,000 people evacuated from their homes for over two weeks. Winds have been blowing all that smoke down into Washington and over into Idaho, along with smoke from Washington's own fires. This happened two years ago so we know the drill. If it looks like this from my front door, chances are the air quality rating is in the moderate or yellow range, and I am part of the population who needs to curtail outside activities - no long walks for me. A few days it has popped over "unhealthy for sensitive groups" or orange (where it is this afternoon) straight into the next level, plain old "unhealthy" or red. There's one more level in which they deem no one should be outside for any reason, but it hasn't gotten that bad yet. I miss my daily walks, and opportunities to go farther on nearby trails but there's no point in risking it. The daylillies sketch will either have to remain a line sketch or I'll have to use my memory to fill in the colors. I think I'll leave it as is.

Favorite Place sketching homework

Being "trapped" inside, I've found plenty to keep me busy. I just completed another section of my Sketchbook Skool class, led by Brian Butler, and boy was it different! It's a little difficult to describe his type of art, so I invite you to peruse his website to get a feel for it. He does a lot of what I think of as grafitti-style murals as well as branding for musicians and merchandise. I think most of the class was wondering what in the world could we get out of something so bizarre and how many of us need to know how to design and paint a mural on the side of a building (which he shared videos of doing). Even he was a little unsure if he fit with this group but we all dived in together and found him fun, knowledgeable and full of encouragement regarding how to use a sketchbook. For him, it's an inspiration generator, where he records the events of the day, capturing visually ideas he may use later in a finished piece. He stressed he seldom shows his sketchbooks to anyone so felt a little uncomfortable showing them to us. He sees them as idea generators that are only for the one doing the drawing, and so they are forgiving; it doesn't matter if you make a mistake in them, and mistakes can lead to a new idea. As he's wandering around sketching, he likes to fill the page to leave as little white or negative space as possible, and encouraged us to try filling some pages in our sketchbooks in that same style. As a homework assignment, he suggested we think of a favorite place, pulling inspiration from images to collage elements unique to that place. I, of course, picked the area I live in and found I enjoyed this style of drawing much more than I anticipated. I usually so carefully center what I am featuring, or if there's more than one thing on a page, each will have its separate place. I really found this liberating!

Trying out the Bimoji Brush Pen on random pairings homework - love it!

So here's a thing I discovered while completing that homework and the other homework of randomly pairing an adjective and a noun from pre-generated lists and drawing it. With few exceptions, I can't remember enough about how a thing looks like to draw it from memory. I've been almost exclusively sketching from life or photos for quite awhile now and found myself having to reference a sketch I'd already made in order to include a particular building, and google images to figure out how to include the train engine and the moose. I've drawn sailboats before but found I couldn't even do a decent rendering of something as common as an airplane. What does a pen look like, or a dog? Why can't I remember what a flame looks like, or a bird? I observe and observe and observe, but I guess because these are things that I don't draw very often, with or without a model, my brain only holds the barest information about them, just enough that I can recognize them when I see them. As for this second homework assignment, I decided I picked bad words to put on my list and it was difficult to figure out how to draw these things. Well, maybe that was the point; it did stretch my imagination a bit.

So here's another thing. It occurred to me that, while I am often asked how long it takes me to make a quilt, few if anyone asks how long it takes me to sketch something. There are quick quilters and quick sketchers for sure, but I'm not one of them. And I think in reality, those fast people are in the minority. I've noticed that I often spend one to two hours on an urban sketch, and even my cup sketches from the Inktober challenge would usually tie me up for 45 minutes to an hour. Does the general public take for granted that paintings and drawings are fast to do but intrinsically know work in fiber and fabric are time consuming? And do they think the images just come out of our imagination or do they understand that anything realistic has been rendered by looking at an actual scene or object? What do you think?

Dye runs "cooking" in the sun
While the sketching class was pushing me outside my comfort zone, I could always fall back into familiar territory by continuing the machine quilting on that lap quilt. I have 3 more rows to reach the border, which I'm quilting separately after the central part of the quilt is done, and then can go back to the center and quilt the other side. This quilt is going to get finished! And I've done another dye run, this time in colors that are replenishing my stash so should be no surprises here. The first bin has mustard yellow dye, my all time favorite yellow. The second is using ProChem's lavender dye, an old dye gifted to me and one I hope will give me a bluish rather than reddish purple, although in the rinsing and soaking today it strikes me as being too much like the purples I already have. The big bucket is holding 4 yards in a black dye recipe Judi and I developed. No idea if those old dyes will give me a good black like I am going for but I will soon find out! Once this run is processed, I have 4 additional yellow gradations to dye up, and then my dyeing should be done for awhile. If nothing else, I think I'll be out of fabric by then and maybe the heat and smoke will be gone so I can be outside again.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017


You saw this spread of my "coloring book" pocket calendar in the last post partially colored in. I suddenly realized how soon July would be over so got to work adding color to the rest of the areas. Except . . . I decided not to add orange to the flowers already outlined in red. I decided I liked the way the white enlivened the page. Are there blooms like this in the real world?