Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Itajime Shibori Process

I’ve been working on a commission of 4 coordinating pieces of Itajime Shibori on cotton.
Itajime Shibori is created by pleating, folding, clamping and dyeing the fabric and it can be used to create really lovely repeat patterns. I often use the technique on rice paper for my own digital projects. It’s amazing the variety of patterns that can be achieved with this form of shibori and it’s really fun to do.
I work on pre-scoured and dried cotton sheeting for this type of shibori.
For this set of patterns I used three different folding methods, all started by pleating and pressing the fabric accordion style.
Each pleat is pressed down as it is made.
For the first two I took the pleated strip of fabric and folded it into a series of right triangles each stacked on top of the others, pressing each fold as it is made.
The third was folded into a stack of squares using the same pressing method.
The fourth is a bit different because I pleated it diagonally then folded it into a larger square stack.
Once the fabric was folded into stacks it was tightly clamped using thick card stock and squeezy clamps. Creating neatly pressed stacks of fabric gives each area of exposed fabric equal access to the dye once it is clamped so I’m really careful to take time to fold and press neatly (unless I want an uneven result).
Next the dyes are applied to the exposed areas by dipping or painting using an activated dye solution. I used three densities of navy blue, I wanted a dark pattern but I find that using three densities creates a more dynamic look. These are the resulting patterns.
These two are the Triangular folds
This is the Square foldAnd this is the Diagonal pleat

I really like the variety I got in this batch.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Spool Experiment

I’ve wanted to try this experiment for awhile now. This piece of shibori was created by using a plastic sewing thread spool as part of the resist. To create it I folded a square of fabric into quarters and took a stitch at the center, I threaded the needle through the center of the spool and used pliers to pull it out. (I used a cotton gauze fabric, anything thicker wouldn’t have fit) Once it was threaded through I flipped the spool over and pressed the fabric down around the out side of the spool. I spread it as evenly as I could around the spool, trying to open the folds so all surfaces of the fabric would be equally exposed to the dye. I then wrapped waxed cord around it tightly to bind it to the spool.

After it was securely bound I dyed it using an activated dye solution sprayed onto the exposed fabric. The result was pretty much what I had hoped for. A central dot is the bit that stuck out of the end of the spool surrounded by three distinct bands: plain white (inside spool), solid (top of spool), and a band that shows the tied resist. I would like the three areas to be more distinct than they turned out to be, the dye didn’t penetrate as well as I had hoped it would. I also got a more diamond shaped motif than I thought I would probably because the fabric was folded in quarters before it was passed though the spool. I decided to try it again using fabric not folded into quarters to see if I could get a more circular motif and more even penetration into the fabric with the dye. I also used plastic zips to try to create a more substantial resist hoping that I could apply the dye more heavily to get a solid area. This was only partially successful, I did get the solid band but I like the wrapped resist on the first one better. And it appears that the diamond shape is here to stay!
I’ve been trying to figure out what type of shibori this is Oboshi or Arashi, it has things in common with both forms but isn’t strictly either. Oboshi uses a core to create a resist but it is used in conjunction with stitching, Arashi would describe the wrapping I used here to a point but I didn’t compress the fabric (good idea for another experiment! Mini Arashi!). It is similar to umbrella dyeing too.
I don’t quite know what to do with this but I like some of its qualities and I can think of many other things to try from here…I enjoy how one little experiment can open up so many new ideas in your brain.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Links, Books and Blogs

Ok so as promised here are some links...

Directions for dye methods:

Supplies online:

Books, the first three of these I own and recommend the others I would like to get:
Dyes and Paints A Hands on Guide to Coloring Fabric - Elin Noble
Color By Accident Low Water Immersion Dyeing - Ann Johnston
Dye Painting - Ann Johnston
Shibori - Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada
Color on Cloth - Ruth Issett
Shibori the Art of Fabric Tyeing Folding Pleating and Dyeing - Elfriede Moller
Shibori Creating Color and Texture on Silk - Karren K. Britto

and finally some Blogs that feature good dye info and/or inspiration:

Only the tip of the iceburg, there is a great deal more out there but these will probably be fun to check out!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Method 3 Vat Dying*

Prescour fiber
Create dye solution and submerge fabric into it thus creating the resist
Activate the dye solution and allow chemical reaction to occur
Remove excess dye solution
* Please note these are not detailed instructions for these methods just an outline. I will provide some links to places to find some more detailed instructions and more good stuff a bit later

This is the method used to create everything from a solid color to marbleized patterns. The variables here are how tightly the fabric is packed into the dye bath and how much it is moved around in there. Loose/ lots of movement = even/ solid color. Tight/ little movement = uneven/ variable color.
The next post will cover books and links that I like as well as some good sources for supplies.

Method 2 Activated Dye*

Prescour fiber and dry it**
Create resist patterns
Create dye solution and activate it
Apply activated dye solution to fiber, and allow chemical reaction to occur
Remove excess dye solution from fiber

* Please note these are not detailed instructions for these methods just an outline. I will provide some links to places to find some more detailed instructions and more good stuff a bit later
**drying the fiber is optional

This is the method I use for Shibori where I am interested in creating a strong resist effect and preserving contrast. Dye is more likely to stay where it is applied than in the soda soak method partly because of the lack of liquid in the fabric and partly because of the wicking factor. This process can be repeated on the same piece of fabric with new layers of resist being added over the old ones too. I don’t do much batik (love the effect hate the wax removal) but if I did this is the one I’d use for it. I also use this for dip dying fabric and print paste mix made with thickener. The limitation here is the time factor once you’ve created the dye solution and activated it the clock is ticking and you have to be aware of that.

Method 1 Soda Soak*

Prescour fiber
Soak fiber in activator solution, wring fiber to damp
Create resist patterns on damp fiber
Create dye solution, apply to activated fabric, and allow chemical reaction to occur
Remove excess dye solution from fiber
* Please note these are not detailed instructions for these methods just an outline. I will provide some links to places to find some more detailed instructions and more good stuff a bit later

This is my favorite for tie dye. I prefer a bottle applied method where dyes are squirted onto the manipulated fabric. I find that the time flexibility works in my favor here. I can spend as much time as I want manipulating the fiber without worrying that my dye is becoming inert because the chemical reaction doesn’t occur until the dye hits the fabric. The amount of activator solution left in the fabric can be used to create effects. I also often aim for full coverage of the fiber with the dyes when I’m doing tie dye leaving very minimal white. This method lends itself very well to that since the activator tends to wick (pull) the dyes into the fiber. I don’t like it for Shibori for that very reason.

The Basic Steps

Here are the most basic step by step instructions for resist dyeing ever. I’m not even gonna give them numbers because it is important to understand how flexible these steps are.
Prescour fiber
Create dye solution
Create resist patterns
Activate dye
Apply activated dye solution to the fiber and allow chemical reaction to occur
Remove excess dye solution from fiber

The trick is that these basic steps can be rearranged, repeated and combined to create the effects you want. Other elements can be added (thickening agents, wax, repeating dye baths and so on) as long as the basic requirements are met it will work. Deciding how to manage this process can be an important element in creating the effects you want. In my next posts I will cover the 3 Dyeing Methods almost all of my projects use. Each of these methods use the same steps in as I listed above in a slightly different order
Please note I’m not going to give detailed instructions for these methods just an outline. I will provide some links to places to find some more detailed instructions and more good stuff a bit later.

Choosing Fibers and the Importance of Prescouring

Procion Fiber Reactive MX Dyes work nicely on a wide variety of natural fibers which is one reason they are so popular. All plant based fiber (cotton, linen, hemp, viscose rayon, and paper, wood and so on) and silk will dye beautifully. I understand wool will too but I’ve never tried it and can’t speak to that at all. Blends like poly/cotton will give a faded, heathered appearance because the cotton will accept and the poly will reject the dyes definitely not recommended. Also watch out for recycled fiber (like old bed sheets) or any garment that isn’t prepared for dyeing (PFD). Even when they are 100% cotton often these are treated with chemicals to resist wrinkling or staining. Those chemicals resist dyeing very effectively too and can be impossible to remove from the fabric. Seriously, if you are going to put some time and effort into creating a resist dye by stitching or binding test the fiber first! It is really painful to find hours of work ending in a pitiful state all because you have fabric that was treated with some sort of stain resistant compound or a poly/cotton blend that was mislabeled.
If you are using fabric* you must prescour it. This is a necessary step. Prescour strips away dirt oils lubricating agents and sizing left in fabric from the manufacturing process. It will open the fibers up and make them receptive to the dye solution. Even if it is PFD don’t skip it.
Unscoured fabrics can be nearly water resistant making dye bead up and run off of them or come out faded and blotchy. To Prescour just hot wash with soda ash and soap (Synthrapol recommended). Do this two times if you want to. You can prescour it ahead of time, dry it and store it for future use so long as you don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets as those will just redeposit a bunch of the stuff you just took out of it.
Once the fabric is Prescoured you are ready to start manipulating it. In my next post I will outline the basic steps to resist dyeing.
* Paper and wood are a different story

The 3 Conditions: Chemistry, Time and Temperature

1. Chemistry
MX dyes are similar to Epoxy, there are two compounds that must be mixed together in the correct proportion for them to work. The first is the Dye the second is the Activator. The Dye has the color in it and the activator creates the chemical reaction which attaches the dye to the fiber. So a certain amount of Activator is necessary for a certain quantity of dye. The other chemical you need is water. Water has two functions in the process it determines how dark the dye will be and it is the agent that allows the other two compounds to mix together.
2. Time- two factors here
A. Once the Activator meets the dye a chemical reaction begins that binds the dye color to whatever receptive molecule is present so the clock is ticking! Dyes will begin to hydrolyze at this point. Hydrolyze means that it binds to the water instead of the fabric. It looks exactly the same but it will wash away in the rinsing out process.
B. MX Dyes require a certain amount of time to set to the fabric and if they are washed out too soon they will be faded, and unset dye can also create staining during the wash out process.
3. Temperature
Dyes require a certain temperature range for optimum effectiveness. They should be dissolved in warm water and they require a certain range of temperature to set to the fabric. That said it is a pretty wide range, say 60 to 100 degrees with 70 being optimum. I’ve only found that to be a problem with really cold temps combined with really dark colors.
Almost all of the problems you will ever encounter when dying fabric are due to one of these factors or a substrate problem (something about the fiber) which I will cover next.

What I Got…

As I’ve been thinking about my word of the day and what I have to offer to others I’ve spent some time reflecting on the things I have been doing recently that have felt on target either artistically or otherwise. One thing I really enjoyed blogging on last year was my Shibori experiments with Maki Age. It was helpful to me to record the process. It occurred to me that my experience working with MX dyes as a tie dye designer and as an artist might be of interest to others especially in conjunction with creative work.
There is a great deal of information on how to use these dyes out there already, much of it better written than I can manage. But I want to create a reference of the basic methods I use and the reasoning behind how I choose which method for which project. I will provide some links for some good information out there too.
So in that spirit…
I use Procion Fiber Reactive MX Dyes for both my tie dye work and my Shibori. This type of dye is really common among both crafters and professionals. MX dyes have some excellent qualities (brilliant saturated colors, lightfastness, versatility and ease of use). Once the process is understood and certain conditions are met they can be used for a large variety of applications with predictable results. In my next post I will outline these conditions.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Word

Over at Christine Kanes blog she has made the suggestion of choosing a word to concentrate on rather than a whole list of resolutions. I think this is a wonderful way to focus my intent for the coming year. I've chosen the word "Present"...
It has two aspects that intrest me.
First it encompasses a shift in perception I am interested in making, I intend to focus more on what I have to offer (Present) rather than on what I want to receive. I often get trapped in needy thinking as if I have nothing of value to give to others. Refocusing on what I do have to offer is a powerful act for me and may very well help me overcome some challenges in my life.
The second aspect of this word is staying focused on the here and now (Present) not a hazy "someday" that never comes. There is a great deal of good in my life that slips by unrecognized because my spirit isn't present. I intend to change that too.
I think both of these shifts in perception can help me grow both as an artist and as a person.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Starting A New Year

I haven’t posted in awhile now. Mainly that is because I have been busy with holiday stuff and moving the studio, but it is also because I have been feeling fairly unsettled regarding my artistic direction.
Dismantling my studio and moving it into my home has meant deciding what to keep, where it goes and how in the world to store it all. A great deal of purging went on. This past weekend I got it down to the final tasks, I’m left with a few things to donate or sell. Once those items are taken care of I will be able to use the garage for its primary purpose, storing cars!
I am a happier person when I’m not weighed down by clutter (I think most people are) but getting to that place often means some hard decisions and sometimes facing regrets and guilt that gets all tangled up in my stuff.
Letting go of the studio has felt rather like unraveling some knitting because there’s a mistake back in the first few rows. Absolutely necessary in order to finish the project but it can be hard not to regret the wasted effort.
I’ve also managed to finish up a few lingering projects
This is the final resolution of the Maki-age project I started back in October…
Some pillows made from some Itajime shibori I made last year…
A simple bag made from one of last year’s Maki-age experiments…
And a knitting bag made from another. This is a gift for a friend. I don’t knit myself. I finally feel ready to start the new year!