Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Must Be Crazy

I've been playing with silk lately, specifically 8mm Habotai silk veils that I've been cutting into smaller pieces and parfait dyeing, using fiber reactive dyes. I wasn't thrilled with the first batch out of the dye baths.

(Parfait Dyed Habotai Silk)

While the lengths of silk were lovely, and their colors rich and deep, there was little to no discernible patterning- none of those crisp, complex landscapes of shifting color that flow across the cloth when you parfait dye cotton.

(Parfait Dyed Cotton Muslin)

Most of the colors in the silks seem to have blended together so that they almost read as solids. Beautiful, but not what I want.

Enter the Brain Trust over at The Dyer's Forum.

There's been a lively discussion lately on the subject of snow dyeing**.  Being a southerner, we don't know from snow, and I've been suffering from serious Dye Envy of those lucky enough to be able to play with this variation of scrunch dyeing.

However, there have also been some excellent suggestions for closely replicating snow dyeing, for the more snow-challenged among us. The most likely successful technique suggested, it seemed to me, was to wet, tightly scrunch, and then freeze your fabrics before applying the dyes. But while this technique has evidently proved to be successful on cotton, I haven't seen any discussions about it's viability with silk. Thank goodness I'm adventurous.

So, leaving nothing to chance for my next experimentation- and still chasing those beautiful, crystalline patterns I've achieved previously on cotton-  I cut two more silk veils into sixteen pieces, each measuring approximately 12" x 12".

This time, instead of soaking them in soda ask, I soaked them in straight vinegar for several hours. Then this is where it gets a little looney. I scrunched each piece of silk up into a wad about the size of a meatball, tied them off with string, and stuck them in a baggie in the freezer.

I felt odd doing it (the words of my Aunt Peg whispering in my ear, "Nice girl- a 'lil strange,") and the kitchen reeked of vinegar for a full day, but my results were much closer to what I wanted, this time.

After a day in the freezer, the mini silk meatballs had their strings removed (I want patterning, not tie-dye) and then got popped one at a time into a tall, slender container, in this case, the only container I had that would fit the bill- a modified blender cup. Each one received a splash of one of nine dye colors starting with yellows, and then moving into greens, blues, purples, reds and finally ending with orange.

After the silks had been allowed to batch set for about eight hours, and I was sure they were thawed, I steam-set them in the microwave for about a minute and a half. The wash-out cycle then proceeded as it does with cotton, with hand-washings followed by machine washings in Synthrapol. One key difference between cotton and silk is that the silk must be ironed when very slightly damp or you'll have a bear of a time getting the wrinkles to fall out.

I got a lot of very pretty patterning, though way more white areas than I wanted. More dye solution, possibly poured more slowly onto each piece, could solve that problem. However, my real mistake with this batch- also easily correctable, thank goodness- was my color progression. Once the orange dye at the top of the pile mixed with the purple and greens below it, it was all brown, brown, brown from there out. Fortunately, the brown I got was luscious and coppery and shimmering.

So in the next batch, hopefully the final experiment before launching into full-sized veils with a much larger dye bath, I will keep what works and tweak what doesn't: I'll soak the silk in vinegar (I could be crazy, but the colors were richer and deeper than when I soaked the last batch of silk in soda ash), tie it off, and freeze it. And then I'll go back to my usual color progression (yellow to orange to red to purple to blue to green) to achieve the color scheme I'm looking for. I'll post my results when I have them.

In other news, I got a lovely gift box from the folks at CitraSolv

These goodies (with plenty of Concentrate for my next Nat Geo massacre!) came last week in a beautiful upholstered box that I can use to keep... well, magazines, what else? Thank you, Melissa!

Also, I've entered into an arrangement with the folks over at LQuilt to host and moderate some surface design forums for them for the next few months. I was excited to be asked, I love their technique videos, and it should be a fun experience getting some discussions going. I'll give you more details about the forums once all the kinks are worked out.

Coming up this week, I'll be posting photos of my week 3 CS collage and of my newest stitched piece, which is coming along nicely.

In the meantime, happy creating!

**(Here is an excellent blog that describes snow dyeing.)
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