Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Of Bottles and Brushes

My tie-dyeing squirt bottles often get scummy inside, especially if I've left dye in them for long periods (weeks to months) or used thickener, which gets moldy after a while. Mmmm, yum. I've never been happy with those spindly baby bottle brushes for cleaning them, and a toothbrush often can't get to those scummy spots.

However, I have a bag of old toothbrushes (I just hate throwing things away!), a candle, and some needle-nosed pliers, so it's time to make what I need.

I heat the neck or head of the toothbrush gently over the candle flame. I have to be careful not to get the bristles in the flame, or they will shrivel up and become useless. Occasionally the brush might catch on fire. If it does, I just blow it out quickly and keep working. I'm not worrying about prizes for beauty on this job!

Once the handle plastic has become soft, I grab the head and do the bending with the needle-nosed pliers. I hold the head in the desired position until the plastic has cooled enough to hold its shape.

I modified several brushes to fit different parts of the insides of my squeeze bottles. Here are the resulting brushes. They come in very handy!

If you try this, be sure to work in a safe, well-ventilated area (I did it on the stove with the hood fan turned on full) and remember to wear your eye protection!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tie-Dye Classes, Take Two

The new Mountain View-Los Altos Adult Education Fall class catalog is now out: The classes will be at Mountain View High School, and you can register online.

I have two tie-dye classes in the catalog, "Classic American" and "Stitch Resist and Shibori" (descriptions below). I had been planning to teach these over the summer, but the classes were both canceled due to low enrollment by the enrollment deadline. It seems that quite a few classes, not just mine, were canceled for the same reason. One coordinator I talked to thought it was partly due to the recent downturn in the economy coupled with the recent high gas prices. It makes sense: if you are having a hard time making ends meet for the necessities, it's a lot harder to justify going out and taking a "fun" class--and you're probably spending that extra time making more money if you can. Fun is important, but so is eating!

So we'll see if the Fall classes get a chance to take flight. I hope so, and I've been preparing more class materials and examples for them (like the clamped shibori T-shirt below). And if it doesn't happen this Fall? Maybe Spring. Or Summer. I'm patient. And I can always use at least some of my examples for teaching my first graders and summer camp groups!

Class Descriptions

Tie-Dye I, Classic American Tie-Dye!

Do you want to make your own unique holiday gifts? Tie-dye isn't just for summer anymore! Come to class and learn classic American tie-dye folds and designs and make your own wearable works of art! IMPORTANT: bring white, 100% cotton articles to dye - t-shirts, white cotton turtlenecks, tote bags, socks, bandanas, etc. - washed with NO fabric softener or dryer sheets. In addition Sara will have a limited number of white items available for purchase. Wear clothing that can get stained and bring an apron. Materials fee $28 payable at first class meeting. Register online or use form on inside back cover before 10/1

200207 W 10/8-10/15 2wks 6:00-9:00PM MVHS/109 $51*

Tie-Dye II, Stitch Resist and Shibori

Join this advanced class to learn how to do stitch-resist and shibori tie-dye to make your own wearable works of art! IMPORTANT: bring white, 100% cotton articles to dye - t-shirts, turtlenecks, tote bags, socks, bandanas, etc. - washed with NO fabric softener or dryer sheets. In addition Sara will have a limited number of white items available for purchase. Wear clothing that can get stained and bring a apron. Materials fee $28 payable at first class meeting. Register before 10/29

200208 W 11/5-11/12 2wks 6:00-9:00PM MVHS/109 $51*

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Progress in Various Directions...

Well, the jeans circle quilt still isn't done, but Lacey is pleased to point out that I've now got all the colored pieces arranged to my liking. It took several days, partly because I wanted to let it rest (kind of like bread dough) for a day or so and then look at it again and rearrange a few pieces. I did that process a few times until I was happy with it (or sick of it, anyhow!).

If you look in the upper right corner of the picture, you can see the baby fence I put around the quilt to keep Lacey off it. It was totally useless; the moment I opened it to go in (I'm too short to climb over easily), she was right there in the middle of the quilt, waiting to have her picture taken!

Now I'm slowly pinning in the batting pieces as I watch the Olympics on TV (one of my current distractions).

One of my other distractions recently has been playing with shibori itajime dyeing (Japanese tie-dyeing with clamps or objects clamped to material). I did a fair amount of shibori work, including stitch resist, binding, and clamping, when I first started doing tie-dye, and off and on ever since. I love the possibilities it provides, and I especially love the surprises that result from folding and clipping the fabric in various ways.

Here are a few of the experimental "play" pieces I did a few days ago. With the shooting star and the butterfly I'm experimenting with using shibori in a more representational manner.

By the way, if you are interested in any of the baby rompers, I've got them in my Etsy shop at Much as they liked these, my own kids outgrew such things ages ago, and I'm working through my stash of white blanks. Sorry, my husband has already nabbed the big T-shirt!

Monday, August 11, 2008

When Is One Color More than One Color?

One of the things about Procion dyes for tie-dye is that they are usually made up of other colors of dye. Sometimes they separate or bleed into their component colors, producing an outer halo effect at the edges of the dyed area (similar to chromatography experiments I did in school). Not all colors do this, and the ones that do separate don't do it all the time.

Most professional tie-dyers use thickener with their dyes. This especially applies to the dyers that mass produce tie-dye for wholesale and silkscreening. The thickener primarily keeps the dyes from spreading too fast, and it prevents them from blending much with the adjoining colors, but it also stops the separation or bleeding.

In fact, one way I can easily spot a "store-bought" shirt is by looking at how much bleeding or blending the shirt has. If there isn't any, it's probably store-bought. The other thing I look for is the density of color. Store-bought shirts usually have very little or no white on them--it's all perfectly colored.

It's useful to create a color sampler with the colors of dye you're using (as Dharma says, "test, test, TEST!"). If you do it without thickener, you can get an idea of what separates and what doesn't. Here on my test T-shirt (T-shirts are cheap!), I found that a mixture of fuchsia and lemon yellow gave a great yellow halo, and chocolate brown bled bluish, for example.

Once you know the bleeding properties of a color or mixture, you can plan to use that feature to good effect. My favorite bleeding colors are the purples, such as Dharma's "blue violet", which usually produce a pretty blue edge. Here I've colored this entire shibori shirt in blue violet. I didn't add any blue, but the blue seeped under the clamps I used to create the resist pattern and gave me that beautiful halo effect. This is one of my favorite shirt designs.

Happy experimenting!

Friday, August 1, 2008

With Help from the Dog

The latest on the jeans circle quilt:

I've got all the colored fabric squares cut out, as well as all the squares of batting (lots of them, since I decided to use a double layer). I've got my new red thread for sewing it all together.

Now I'm on the long step of figuring out where each colored square goes in the overall quilt, since each square is unique (the nature of tie-dye, of course). I expect this phase will take me several days, and the sewing will take another several days. Of course, that doesn't even count the pinning: 221 squares, at least 4 pins per square--I think I'd better go get some more pins! I'm throwing out a lot of them, too, since the pins are bending easily as I force them through all the thick layers of denim and batting.

The sewn-together-and-ironed-over circles look pretty good, but I have a minor case of "blank canvas syndrome", where I just can't decide where to start!

Fortunately, I'm getting some help. I let my younger daughter try laying out a pattern, and she did a pretty good first cut:

Now I can move forward, since I have an initial design to work from or work against (mine is likely to be completely different, but hers gives me something to rearrange). In the meantime, I'm getting a little too much help from Lacey!

She always manages to pick a background that looks good on her. She thinks the quilt is for her anyhow, so she's making sure she likes it...

I guess it's hard work being that cute all the time!