Thursday, March 20, 2008

Recycling and Dog Toys

How do I combine recycling, tie-dyeing, and dogs? In this case, my daughter and I made something very similar to the draft stoppers in my earlier post: tie-dyed jeans and cut-up old socks and shirts for stuffing made into a tube with closed ends. But there are two differences here: size and a not-so-secret ingredient, squeakers!

I got the squeakers at my local PetSmart. The brand is "Dr. Noys' Pet Toys", and they are marketed as replacement squeakers for that brand of dog toys. The PetSmart had them in two sizes. I used both sizes in each toy, because the different sizes sound different, and I thought it would be more interesting to the dogs to have different sounds in the same toy. I could have gotten them more cheaply in bulk via the Internet, but this was just an experiment, and I was looking for instant gratification!

The toy for Moxie, the 95-pound Giant Schnauzer, is a 14-inch-long piece cut from the bottom of the jeans leg, sealed at both ends.

Moxie's toy has four squeakers in it, two at each end. We sewed two squeakers into each of two old socks before putting them into the toy, so they would stay in place better.

I sewed the I-beam shape in the center before stuffing so it would be easier for Moxie to hold the toy in his mouth.

For Lacey, I made the toy much smaller, about 6 inches by 3 inches.

It has just two squeakers, one of each size.

The canine reviewers judged the experiment a success. Lacey particularly liked her toy, since she loves anything squeaky. She even came running when we squeaked the squeaker before putting it in the toy! The smaller toy worked better for squeaking, too, since there was less other fabric/stuffing to muffle the squeakers.

Now if we can just teach Lacey to put away her toys when she is done playing with them... !

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cute Pooch in Tie-Dye

Okay, I admit it: I wanted another excuse to put gratuitous cute pictures of my dog on my blog.

But I've been thinking for a while that while she's already got a few cool tie-dyed shirts, what Lacey really needs is a tie-dyed collar for her wardrobe. So I got some buckles and instructions from Creative Designworks and got to it.

I started with a cotton bandana that I had tie-dyed during a previous set of experiments with purple dyes.

I cut of a strip from one side of the scarf, ironed on interfacing and assembled it according to the instructions, and voila! A one-of-a-kind tie-dyed collar for my one-of-a-kind dog! I was pretty pleased with the stuff I got and how well it came out.

When I wanted to take pictures of Lacey in her fancy new collar, along with the remains of the scarf, she started playing with this scarf as if she were a cat with catnip!

I had a little trouble getting a shot of the actual collar through all that white fluff, but I did get at least the back of it.

And she finally agreed to do her "Sphinx" pose.

Lacey has previously chewed off a brand new store-bought nylon webbing harness the first time we put it on her, and she has also managed to rid herself of a webbing collar, so I know she's sensitive and doesn't put up with such discomforts. In this case, she seems pretty comfortable in her new collar, probably because it's soft washed cotton.

And, of course, because she knows she looks fabulous!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Inspiration All Around

Inspiration is often an elusive beast. I can sometimes go for months without doing very much tie-dye, just because I don't feel inspired by anything new to try out. And then there are other times when I'll be tying and/or dyeing every day or two, because I just can't wait to see the next set of results.

A big pile of concentrated color is always inspirational for me
I get a lot of inspiration from other people, as many artists do. My friend with the tie-dyed couch has been a great inspiration lately, partly because of what he has been trying out himself with his own tie-dye (he's big on marbles), and partly because of his sheer "no matter what, it's gonna turn out great!" joie-de-tie-dye. I wish he could bottle that stuff!

Another friend gets inspiration for her oil paintings, and moral support to just keep working at it, from groups of other artists online (see her blog for more inspiration). The Internet has really made it easier to find support and inspiration from far-flung places--you don't have to host a salon in Paris anymore.

When you need an inspirational boost, books and videos can really be useful. Both the video "The Art of Tie-Dye" with Michael Fowler, and the video "Learn How to Tie Dye: Complete 3 Volume Set" with Tom and Martine, show some really inspirational pieces, even if you don't want to just follow their "cookbook" steps. The "Tie Dye, Back By Popular Demand" book by Virginia Gleser is an inspirational starting point too. Dharma provides even more inspiration on their website with their "Featured Artists" section.

But for complete "this is why I do it" inspiration, kids are the best. My daughters enjoy wearing tie-dye, and are quite happy to suggest what they'd like to add to their wardrobes! One of them likes to dye her own, and both of them are always happy to "adopt" shirts, sheets and other tie-dyed treasures that emerge from my work area in the garage.

First graders, Girl Scout troops, and other groups of kids are also good. The abundant energy and the wild abandon with which kids dye their pieces just charges the entire atmosphere. It's hard not to absorb their enthusiasm and want to dive in to do a few more pieces of my own.

While it's a lot of work, some of the volunteers (including me) who do the annual first-grade tie-dye project with the local school almost fight over getting to take the shirts home to wash en masse. Getting to look at all those wild shirts at once really gets the creative juices going.

T-shirts for the whole first grade, all washed and ready
But that's enough for now. I've got to go get my next batch in the wash...

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Review of Tulip Tie-Dye Kit

At one point I was planning to teach a regularly-scheduled tie-dye course for a local craft store. That didn't work out, but the plan was that I was going to have to use the products they carried in the store. You know, teach classes at the store to encourage students to buy the store's products (dyes, white stuff) . Sounds good, but the store doesn't carry the products I usually use! So some trials were in order to see if I could come up with a class worth teaching using their available products. The short answer is "yes, but..."

The Adventure Begins

The store carries a line of Tulip "One-Step Tie-Dye Kit" brand kits made by Duncan. It comes in several different groups of colors , such as "Classic" (yellow, fuchsia, turquoise), "Vibrant", and so on. I used the Classic colors.

The kit consists of three teeny little plastic squirt bottles, each containing about half an inch of dye powder, a pair of really cheap plastic gloves that appear to be made of plastic wrap, a small handful of rubber bands (maybe a dozen), and an instruction sheet (which contains English, Spanish, and French instructions, so only about 1/4 of the glossy page is useful to me).

Nowhere on the package or instruction sheet could I find any mention of what type of dye the kit contains, but the website says it's Procion dye. There is no soda ash packet in the box, so I assume the soda ash fixer is mixed into the dye powder in the bottles. The extra little paper notice tucked into the box says to make sure to use the dye within 30 minutes of adding water (the glossy instruction sheet says 45), so I take that as confirmation that the soda ash is in the bottles with the dye. Normally I would have the soda ash separate, because then you don't have to use all the dye right away. But at least it's the right kind of dye!

Next comes the white stuff. I'm used to getting a wide variety of cotton things from Dharma, but the challenge is to get stuff from the craft store! Well, they have a line of t-shirts from Jerzees. The shirts are fairly cheap, about $2.50 on special sale, but they are made of 50% cotton and 50% polyester. Wait, I find a 100% cotton shirt mixed in with the others, also from Jerzees. But it's from a different part of the rack, and costs about 7 dollars! Ouch. I get one of those and a few of the cotton/poly blend shirts.

Now the Work Starts

I washed and dried all but one of the shirts in detergent with no softener or dryer sheets, as is my usual habit. I wanted to dye one shirt (a cotton/poly shirt) unwashed to see if that made any difference. I folded and banded all of the shirts (dry), to make an X, two diamonds, and a swirl.

I added the water to the 3 bottles as directed and shook them up. I then took about half an inch of dye from each of those bottles and used it to make up three more bottles (same sized bottles, which I already had around) of those colors, diluted with more water. This second set of diluted dyes is not part of the kit instructions, but I figured that since I tend to go through a lot of dye I should stretch it as best as I could.

I usually dye pieces while they are wet from being soaked in soda ash. In this case, the shirts were all completely dry, and the dye had a tendency to bead up and roll somewhere I didn't want it. I had to jam the tip of the bottle onto the fabric to get the dye to stay put. That's not so much because of the particular kit so much as it's the particular process with the soda ash mixed into the dyes. Next time I'd try it with damp shirts from the washer.


I managed to dye four t-shirts with the six little bottles of dye, and I had enough left over to dye a pair of socks (okay, so those weren't from the craft store!). Here they are:

Can you spot the cotton shirt? It's the X. The colors are definitely more vibrant and "popping" on the cotton shirt than they are on the cotton/poly shirts.

[Lacey, tie-dye hound that she is, can't resist pointing out the cotton shirt... she sees me laying out tie-dye on a blanket to take pictures, and she's right there in the middle, posing!]

For this X, I folded the shirt in quarters, then accordion pleated diagonally from the center to the outer corners. I used the full-strength dyes in sections on one edge of the pleats, and the diluted dyes in the same sections on the edges of the other side. That's what gives it the dark-light-dark effect, which is especially noticeable in the turquoise stripes.

It's hard to see in these photos, but the dyes spread differently on the cotton than they did on the cotton/poly. Remember that I applied the dye to dry, washed t-shirts. On the cotton, the dye tended to stop spreading and not blend quite so much. On the cotton/poly, the dyes tended to spread out more and blend more, giving a more "smeared" effect as seen in the diamond shirt below. Close up, the cotton/poly also has a more "heathered" appearance because the white polyester fibers don't pick up the dye. This diamond shirt is the one cotton/poly shirt that I did not wash before dyeing.

The diamond pattern is folded the same way as the X, except the pleats are folded on the other diagonal, from the underarm to the neck.

Here is the other diamond shirt (cotton/poly). It looks more faded mostly because the majority of the shirt (the outer sections) were dyed with the diluted dyes. That's the opposite of what I did with the first diamond, which is more faded in the middle.

The only difference I can see between the pre-washed and unwashed cotton/poly shirts is that the pre-washed shirt is pilling more than the unwashed shirt, having been through the washer an extra time. That's one reason I usually avoid cotton/poly blend shirts--they pill like crazy, so they just don't feel as good to wear.

Here is the swirl shirt (cotton/poly). Notice again how the colors sort of smear together. I like the visible difference between the full-strength and diluted yellows here.


I liked the fact that the water-adding instructions were printed right on the bottles. Once I had gloves on, it was hard to handle the instruction sheet.

The instruction sheet provided lots of good ideas, but not enough "meat" on how to actually do some of those ideas. A lot of the space was taken up with the Spanish and French versions, so there wasn't much space left in any of the languages for more in-depth instructions.

Since there is no measuring and almost no mixing for the dyes, it's really easy to use. And because the soda ash is right in with the dye, you don't need a separate bucket or container for soaking the shirts before dyeing (and no dripping mess from moving the wet shirts around).

Like many craft kits, the actual quantity of materials (dye) provided is pretty limited, so it's not good for more than one or two people (and definitely not the hardcore "let's-dye-the-couch" types that I hang out with!). At about $10 for the three-color Classic kit I got, this is definitely not the most cost-effective way to do tie-dye (see my blog entry on resources). The box says the kit is good for "up to 8 projects", but I didn't even get close, even after diluting some of the dye.

These tie-dye kits are marketed towards young teenage girls, as shown by the picture on the boxes. For one or two girls doing a kit session on an otherwise dull afternoon, this is a great kit to have on hand (along with a couple of cotton t-shirts). It's also good for a first try at tie-dye on your own. For anything more than that, get a bigger tie-dye kit from Dharma or put together your own.

Monday, March 3, 2008

New Life for Old Stuff

I'm really into the whole "reduce, reuse, recycle" thing. When I first learned it, though, it was called "don't waste perfectly good stuff" (and some people called it "just being cheap").

I really hate to throw out a perfectly good pair of jeans just because my husband has worn keyholes through the back pocket or had an ink pen explode in the depths of his front pocket. Hey! Those still have perfectly usable fabric on them!

And then there are the really expensive jeans you find at trendy stores like Abercrombie and Fitch, with all the strategically-placed rips, worn spots and, I'm expecting to see any day soon, burn holes in them. And you pay extra for that! Hey! I've thrown out jeans in better shape than that!

Anyway, I digress (and I rant ;-) ).

So besides hating to waste stuff, I have this other affliction called "being a packrat". I diligently save all the old jeans, worn out socks and socks without matches, old curtains I always hated anyhow, and so on. But every so often, some of that stuff comes in handy!

Recently it has been pretty cold outside. Well, at least what a native Californian considers cold, such as 40 degrees Fahrenheit... A friend has a particularly drafty door to his apartment, so I made him a draft stopper, also known as a "draft dodger" or "draft snake". It was a simple, fun project. It even allowed me to combine tie-dye with recycling!

I tie-dyed some old, dead jeans (mens), and I cut fabric from the legs (2 pieces, each 21" x 8"). I specifically cut the fabric so the ends of the finished tube would be the hems of the jeans legs, which I wanted to show. I sewed the two pieces together to make one 40"-long strip, which I then sewed into a long tube, and sewed one end shut. All my seams are double seams, by the way, to make sure the stuffing stays in.

Then it was time to stuff it! The moment I'd been waiting for! Packrat vindication was at hand! I gathered up those old socks (hey, they were clean), the remaining scraps of the jeans, ripped t-shirts and such, and cut them up into small pieces (2-3"-long pieces of socks, for example). I stuffed the draft stopper very firmly, since it needs to be heavy enough to stay in place against a door with wind blowing underneath it. A draft snake can swallow a surprisingly large number of socks!

I sewed the second end closed and put decorative ties on each end (made from more jeans scraps). Here is the finished product:

Amazingly enough, it worked! I like the way the tie-dye stripes give it a more snake-like appearance. Then another friend liked it and wanted one too. Yay! Another sock-eating snake! This time, it also became a machine-sewing lesson for my daughter, as well as a recycling project. She cut and sewed this one the same as the first one, except we left off the ties. Here is a picture of the second draft snake.

I really like the blues and greens on this one. So did my daughter, who was reluctant to give it up, even though she had made it specifically for our friend. Another project...

Reduce, reuse, recycle... and tie-dye!