Saturday, July 4, 2009

Dying to Dye!

Tell me, is there anything more satisfying and soothing to the soul than watching freshly hand-dyed fabrics flapping in the breeze on a hot, sunny Fourth of July? If so, I don't know what it is. Seeing laundry on the line always takes me back to my childhood when my mother would dry all of our clothes on many long clotheslines strung across the yard, and now as an adult a small zing of excitement goes through me when I see my own handiwork up there on my modest little clothesline.


The fabric above is a 2 yard, off the bolt, high thread count cotton that I compression dyed a couple of days ago. It started out simply enough... an accordion pleat fold and some fabric scraps to tie it all off (the fabric laying underneath is a cotton scrap that I figured would be useful for soaking up any excess dye)...


The intention right from the start was to overdye it with turquoise to bring it up to an electric green.

It sort of worked:


I'm not totally thrilled with the result, but I know I have to be patient with myself: it didn't take me just a couple of months to learn how to paint or to blend paints, it took years, and it won't take me just a few months to master fabric dyeing techniques, either.

However, it never hurts to balance out a semi-success with a total success:


This piece started as 2 yards of unbleached muslin, which I pleated and tied in the same manner as the one above, but this time, in an effort to make the "tie-dye" effect more prominent, I used rubber bands instead of cotton strips in the hope that the rubber would resist the dyes more. That didn't really happen, but the fault, dear Brutus, lies with us: my lousy hand strength just isn't powerful enough to get a good, tight compression. I'm thinking of investing in some narrow latex tubing, the kind you find in medical supply stores, in the hopes of being able to get a little more torque when pulling the knots tight. I'll post my results with that once I've tried it.

This piece was dyed with some lovely cotton and canvas scraps I had lying around and has also produced reams of wonderfully dyed plain white paper towels, which are still drying in the garage.


While it may seem extreme to blog about two little piece of fabric when there are amazing textile artists out there spending weeks out of every year dying pounds and pounds of fabric, I am a newcomer to fabric dyeing, and my hope is to help encourage other newcomers like myself to explore things outside their creative comfort zones, too. Plus, it'll be a hoot to look back on these journals in years to come and see how far I've progressed.

So that's been the last few days. The rest of the weekend will probably be textile-free; it is a national holiday, after all!

This morning, after tragically watching a neighbor's cat make off with one of my backyard baby doves in its mouth, I was able to pull myself together enough to snap these shots of a daddy woodpecker feeding two chicks who were staying safely up the tree until he'd come offering goodies (notice the cardinal looking on- those guys are real characters!).


(The soft focus comes from shooting through the window screen, but I kind of like the effect.)

Daddy was diplomatic in his feeding practices... despite one of the chicks aggressively chasing the other one away, Dad always managed to have a bite to feed to each hungry mouth.


And in the "holy cow!" category, this little squirrel sat poised for a VERY long time on an electrical cable that runs outside our fence.


And just to give a little perspective of exactly how far away from the ground he really was on his swaying perch...


The black arrow points to our tiny friend way off in the distance. And yes, I love the optic zoom on my camera!

So for tonight, it's boiled shrimp, which were swimming in the Gulf just this morning, and then we will watch our city's fireworks from the pool.

It's a charmed life.

Happy Fourth of July!
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