Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dyeing for some blue

 Day three.  I realized what the weather is going to be the rest of the week and knew if I was going to try to darken yesterday's work I'd have to do it today.  I also realized I had the hard work behind me so the work table wasn't so cluttered.  The dye vat turned totally dark blue yesterday, which means it wouldn't dye.  It needs to be a yellow-green and after consulting my little book of instructions that meant just "sharpening" it with more powdered pee and a little more of the stock (in the canning jar.)  So the white bowl holds diluted powdered pee and the canning pot yesterday's left over dye pot.  I'm a pro now.  I poured some diluted powdered pee into the pot, and some stock, put the lid on and came back 15 minutes later to a yellow-green dye pot. 
 Dip the fabric in and get a teal color( blue and green makes teal.)  But you can see it changing right before your eyes.  Honestly, I pulled up a chair and just sat there and watched!  It's  magic. 
 Look at the difference between this after it's oxydized and the picture above in the teal color.  Magic.
This is dip number 8 for the navy and dip number 3 for the little piece of muslin from yesterday.
 Look at this luscious navy blue!  And the white piece is what it looked like yesterday!

The hard part is that you're not supposed to introduce oxygen into the pot.  I finally figured out to put the lid on the pot when I was going from one step to the other. But it also was contradictory because when the fabric or yarn is in the pot you are supposed to keep it gently stirred but not let any oxygen into the pot.  No bubbles so don't wring out the fabric. Don't let it drain back into the pot. It creates bubbles.  Don't put it in in a clump because bubbles will escape and get into the dye bath. Stir the fabric but not the vat ( What???). I know what I was doing wrong yesterday and tried to be gentle to the nth degree today. It's a touchy thing. Which makes it all the more magical.  How did they know thousands of years ago that this little green leaf will give off this gorgeous color but only if mixed with pee?
When I took my rubber gloves off I discovered I had a hole in the finger!   It's going to be blue for awhile.  I feel so authentic!

I know what you're thinking.  I can hear you.  "Why didn't she just get a box of RIT and in 15 minutes in the washing machine she'd be done?"


Monday, September 8, 2014

Indigo day and a good book

Our internet has been down since last week.  Our internet is always down.  

Last week PH took me to work with him. He was making sales calls in a quaint, beautiful little town called Pentwater and was going to be gone for two days.  Weather was beautiful, so I tagged along for the ride.  We stopped at wineries, restaurants, attractions, farmer's markets and hotels. Mostly I sat in the car and read while he spent a few minutes with his accounts but there were some things that needed investigating and a whole day Friday shopping in the cute downtown.

 I love farm stands.  I love the homemade-ness of them. I love to photograph them.
 When we drove by this one the next day, most of the corn was gone!
 And quilters!  Are you into hexies? This bed and breakfast home was hexagon shaped!  I thought it would be perfect for a weekend quilt retreat!

Today the weather was going to be perfect.  I had the day in front of me with no excuses. So I got the jar of indigo stock and got going on part two.
 These were the things I was going to test.  The yarn is alpaca, the muslin on the left, a scrap of white in the middle and pure, stark organic white on the right. Before getting fancy with something I didn't know much about, I decided to just dip them.  If this works and I understand it's idiosyncrasies I can get fussy another time.
 The pot is ready, the fabric and yarn wetted.   I used the powdered pee again, hide glue for suppleness in the end, and rubber gloves.  Oh, and if you're going to dye with indigo it's a good thing to be wearing navy blue.  And not such a good idea to swat at the flies and mosquitoes which seemed to love the distinctive smell given off by the powdered pee.  Splash.
 The vat smells strongly and it looks pea soup green.  In goes the fabric or yarn, it comes out green and....
 by the time I got it hung, it was already turning (oxydizing) to blue. This is the first dip
and this is the fourth.
 First dip
and fourth.  
This tangle is what happens to a skein of yarn that drops out of your hand in a dye vat and you can't see it.  When it's all done I can detangle it but for now I told it that it if it couldn't play nice it had to hang somewhere away from the fabric. No bad influence needed, thank you very much.

By now the vat wasn't green anymore, it was deep blue.  Deep blue vats do not dye blue, they quit and don't do anything.  I have to read up on how to get it back to green so I can dip some more.
I'm not sure how this is going to go. The fabric and yarn are now dry but I didn't neutralize them because I want to try again tomorrow.   Good friends of mine were on their way to Grand Rapids from Chicago and stopped to visit.  That's a perfect reason to end the project for today.

It takes a long time.  Between each step you wait for 15 minutes to a half hour.  So four dips can take all afternoon.  The recommended dip amount is at least five but the Japanese go to 25!   This is a really pretty shade of blue and I would leave it alone but for the fact there will be wash out.  I'm also not sure how color fast this is.  I've read everything from "use vinegar" to "use pee" (again the pee) to "don't bother, it will rub off no matter what you do."And there are pictures of people in Africa who live in indigo dyed fabrics and their bodies have turned blue. So.....curtains maybe?

Indigo won't dissolve in water, it needs to be broken down with an alkaline like urine in order for it to dissolve.  I have been reading websites for a long time on dyeing with indigo and happened on one about using actual urine (not the powdered kind I think I have.)  Friend Laurie was hysterical with the mental image of me peeing in a five gallon bucket but I swear this is true.  This woman pees in a bucket and when she wants to dye something she tosses an ounce of indigo into the pee pot and tosses in some fabric.  She leaves the pot to "ferment" outdoors and it's "always ready when she wants to dye something." 

To be continued......

One more thing!!!  I just finished this book.  It will be published in October and is worth every minute of time you give it.

 The Luminous Heart of Jonah S.

Something I learned.  There are Iranian Jews.  I didn’t know that.  And I didn’t know that when many, many, many of them left Iran when the Shah was deposed, they came to Los Angeles.   Assimilation here is difficult for any immigrant but trying to fit into Los Angeles could be particularly difficult.

This is the story of the Soleymans family and when the story opens Raphael’s Son (yes, that is his name) is found dead in the front seat of his car, his throat slit, the car saturated with his blood.  He is definitely dead.  His wife finds him, goes into the house to call the police and upon her return finds the car empty.  After forty years of tormenting the Iranian Jewish community both in Iran and Los Angeles, no one feels particularly sorry to hear  Raphael’s Son is dead.   It’s the story of the Soleymans family that we learn as the investigation proceeds that’s so  riveting.   Raphael’s Son was cast off in Iran, his mother particularly horrible but who wouldn’t be told that Raphael’s Son wasn’t a true member of the Soleymans family.  A family that never accepted him.  Raphael’s son became a Bernie Madoff type who, in his hatred of all, ruins so very many lives in his Ponzi scheme. 

 There are so many suspects!  And it’s their story that brings this all together into the story of the Iranian Jewish community.  Their struggles to assimilate, their struggle to maintain what shaped their lives for thousands of years.  There are the driven ones, and there are the ones who try to live as their customs at home guided their lives but find themselves not in Iran but in LA.  There are the children, the next generation. And there are those who were professional doctors, lawyers, accountants  at home but stocking grocery shelves here, lost in their own pain.

And this incredibly engaging, interesting, informative and gorgeously written story takes off from there.  We see the Iran we didn’t know about.  The one that’s not in the news .  I wanted to read this every minute of the day but knew if I did I’d finish it and I didn’t want that to happen, either.  So I kept reading, shaking my head at the author’s talent and after turning the last page just said, “wow.”