Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Acid Redux -- Silk, Wool And Dye

Thanks to a great find of percale sheets at the local thrift store (and I went back to get the pillowcases -- aka fat quarters), I ran out of room in mouseproof storage container space. Just thinking of mouse poop on hand-dyed fabric is enough to give anyone a seriously bad case of heartburn. I was able to empty one container I can use for fabric in Monday's paperwork purge, but that's not enough. So I started pulling stuff out of bins to figure this out, and found a lot of silk and wool begging for more color.

Some was fabric I had already dyed or painted but never got past the blah stage. Some was wool felt or fabric picked up at garage sales. Some was yardage -- really good fabrics I "inherited" from my friend Di's Aunt Mary. I know I'll never make garments from them, so might as well play with them and see what happens.

All this was stashed in bins waiting for me to decide what to make with it and to apply color accordingly. Trouble is, that's just not how I work most of the time. I'd much rather throw color around then step back and see what I find there. It's sort of like watching the sky and finding clouds shaped like ships or animals or faces. My favorite kind of challenge is to scrunch/slosh/spatter color, say "now what can I do with this", paint myself into a series of corners, and figure a way out from each one. That probably wouldn't read well on an artist statement, so mum's the word.

As long as the fabric was out, I started just dying the lot of it.

I presoak the wools and silks before dyeing (well, most of the time). That's what you see in the Santa container and the pink tub on the left. Since the Nesco was still set up from steaming the Top Shelf Dyes Procion H stuff, I pulled out the big recycled cookie tins, crammed in the soaked fabric, sloshed on Dharma acid dye mixed with hot water, covered the works with foil, and put stuff in to steam.

After desecrating a navy blue plaid I'm much happier with it. It's beautiful fabric, but do I look like a navy blue plaid person?

This fabric was from a hand-me-down white wool suit from my mother. Seriously: Me? White? Suit?

I have a bunch more silk to do yet, but made a start.

There's still plenty of plain-Jane white fabric for when I do need a fresh start. That's in two bins and a piece of repurposed luggage. But before long I may have to seriously reconsider how I manage these materials. I'm spending too much time digging through opaque containers looking for stuff. I would love to have things on open shelves sorted by color. The mice would love that, too, I'm sure, so it's not gonna happen.

Would that I could blow soap bubbles to encapsulate colorful stacks of fabric, to float around my studio where I would swat them out of the way to reach a different colorway or type of fabric. That's about as likely as buying all-new clear bins to replace the 20-year-old opaque ones that are still perfectly good.

Any suggestions?


  1. I store my yarn - by color, of course - in extra large plastic storage bags and/or space bags available at Target. I know mice will chew through plastic bags to get at actual foodstuffs, but will the fabric alone be enticing enough for them to exert the effort?

  2. I haven't had mice chew into the 2-gallon zip freezer bags to get at fabric. However, I have been prone to overstuffing them and then failing to keep them zipped. Same goes for that nice big rolling duffel that American baggage handlers destroyed the wheel on, except it wasn't clear. Before anybody else says it, perhaps I should stop blaming the mice for my sloppy studio habits and just zip it.

  3. They are making plastic storage bags MUCH larger than 2-gallon size now. Big enough for even the rowdiest of over-stuffers! No comment on the subject of sloppy studio habits. It would be hypocritical.

  4. Bigger sounds better, and mum's the word. I'll be going to the big city soon. Must put Target on the shopping list. Thanks, Anne!

  5. No mice here (thank goodness) but plenty of those big, opaque plastic bins, twenty years old and too good not to use. My solution to knowing what's inside is a small zip bag attached to the handle outside, with swatches of the big and/or important pieces inside. Sticky label on the bag or bin with a name for the collective contents (e.g linen, or blues) Works decently . . . which means I don't have to open every single bin, including the holiday decorations, to find the blue stripe for the next voyageur's shirt, or the linen scraps a friend wants for a waistcoat . . .


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