Saturday, October 22, 2011

Willow, Dye, And The Space-Time Continuum

Yesterday in my post on steaming and simmering natural dye bundles I mentioned the challenge I have controlling the temperature of dyebaths on the second-hand hotplate in my studio. In small batches simmered in a saucepan, if I turn the dial past the halfway mark at any time to speed things up even a smidge, I risk bringing the works to a boil. That kind of heat can strip the luster from silk.

Since I haven't cooked on an electric range in years, to get used to this tool I had to do something I rarely do: I watched the pot. In other words, I did nothing else while observing the interface between an electric coil and the liquid contents of a saucepan.

Actually, I did make a cup of tea. But I didn't sort beads to use in jewelry I'm making for holiday sales, or re-read the discharge chapter in Holly Brackmann for the nth time, or pick up some handwork. Zero multi-tasking occurred while that burner ticked and liquid began to steam. Did you notice a small tear in the space-time continuum? My fault.

I'm used to dovetailing tasks. And now that I have more experience with that hotplate, I've learned there are things I can do while stuff is simmering. Yesterday, I tied resists on black fabric I plan to discharge. The day before, I finished taping the edges of thermofax screens I burned one evening at Sievers.

But when I'm hot-dyeing, I can't handle too many distractions. If the phone rings or UPS pulls in or a neighbor drops by while I'm hot-dyeing, it's better for me to turn the burner off. Maybe not if it's a big pot of dyestuff I'm trying to bring to a simmer slowly, but definitely for a saucepan of silk.

One of the advantages of cold-bundle dyeing is it takes little to no management. I might move a tub of baggie-dyeing bundles into Bill's black truck to take advantage of its warmth and not think of it again until Bill asks how long I plan to keep it there. I'm good at forgetting things, which makes the joy of rediscovery sweet.

That's what happened in the studio on Thursday. On the counter, I discovered a baggie with a coil of willow bark wrapped in damp fabric. It's bark I soaked a week ago then wrapped up to mellow for my demonstration at the SDA meeting last Saturday. And even though it was coiled with the inner bark to the inside, it had begun to mark the fabric (a thrift shop napkin).

It seems fitting to wrap up this series of posts in response to the SDA meeting by wiping out the saucepan with that napkin (which I did yesterday) and thanking you for reading (which I'm doing now!). I know some people are still having trouble getting comments to post, so if you have questions or your own experiences to share, please email me or post them on my Facebook page. I'd love to hear from you!

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