Saturday, January 22, 2011

Step 1: Mordant

Ok, so I've mentioned before that I'm doing some natural dyeing for my senior collection. Well I finally got it all sorted out and I'm starting tonight. It's quite a process so I'll be showing this in steps throughout the next week or maybe more. 

Mordant: Basically a mordant is a pre-treatment to your fabric, or yarns, to help your dyes adhere to your fibers. If you've ever used vinegar to set your colors after dyeing, it's the same concept, but it's a pre-treatment. Different mordants will give different results and due to the nature of natural dyes, being lighter and sometimes harder to achieve than chemical dyes, most processes need a mordant. An exception to this rule are walnuts. Walnut hulls, juglone being the active dye, are so potent that they will stain basically anything it touches.

Alum, Copper, Tartic acid, Chrome, and Iron are just some of the mordants you can use, and depending on the certain color your trying to achieve, you might chose one of over the other. I'm using Alum.

Alum is the least toxic compared to other metal mordants and seems to have the least negative effects considering my fabric (some will make your fabric brittle and what not). Christiano's momma just happened to give me a chunk of this stuff the other week because it works great as a natural deodorant. Looks like I'll have to stick to my old spice for a few more days until I can make it to the store for another chunk. 

Alright, so I started by boiling down the alum. Now, ideally you would stick your fabric in the pot and let it simmer for an hour or more, but I have too much fabric for that so I'm using the tub. 

Situation #1: How do I keep a tub full of water hot enough, long enough to make this work. 
My solution: I boiled an extra pot of water and dumped it in with my alum solution and I plan to just keep adding two pots every hour or so until I go to sleep. hmm that's just going to have to be good enough.

So here's my tub full of fabric. Oh yea, there is a ratio of the amount of alum to fabric you should use. And probably alum to water... well I didn't listen to that because it's 2:30am and I don't have anymore alum and my fabric is just going to have to soak up all it can. I spoke to it earlier and coaxed it into absorbing as much as it can and assured them (my yards...and myself) that they will give me beautiful colors. 
steamin' up my camera and errthang!

Situation #2: Hey what's that green thing sticking out of the drain of your tub? Well, I'm so glad you asked. We've been having a real problem with our drain clogging around here and I finally cleaned the darn thing out... Gross! (I should give some credit to Christiano, he helped, that sweet thing) But it's great because now when I shower, like magic the water just goes straight down. But now... it won't plug. I mean if it's not one thing, it's another you know? 

Well that became a problem as soon as I needed to fill the tub and keep it filled. 
My solution: A mason jar flipped upside down with ticky-tack lining the rim of it, stuck to the bottom of the tub with a huge antique glass jar full of water to hold it down just in case the pressure of the water makes that empty mason jar want to pop up. It seemed to be holding alright as I was filling, but you just can't assume right? All I could think of as I was doing it was.. Gaaa-Het-Tow. Gotta do what ya gotta do, I guess. 

**Oh yea, you should also be aware of the pots you use, that is, if you're letting the fabric or yarn simmer in it. Different pots will cause a different chemical reaction, but if you're doing this, you'll read up on that. I used a steel pot to boil my alum in and just a metal pan to boil more water in. I figure boiling just the water won't hurt anything. 

Situation #3: Where in the world am I going to hang dry all 21 yards of this fabric?!
My solution: unknown

Next I'll be cutting the fabric (once it's shrunk down) to the pieces I need and getting into the good stuff... color. 

My ingredients:
Espresso & coffee grounds- light brown/tan
Blueberries-light blue 
Blackberries- grey
Onion skins- yellow
Ground mustard- brighter yellow
Red onion skins- who knows
Beets- red, even though they say it probably won't I have 
Cherries-might mix 'em in with the beets for higher probability
Walnuts- brown
Pomegranate- possibly another yellow

All of these colors are with fingers crossed!

A lot of foods produce colors your wouldn't expect.. and I think that's kind of exciting. Not great to plan around, but I guess that's what I get. Also, a lot of them are reactive to light.. the more light they see the lighter they get. These fabrics are just going to be unpredictable! 
this fun picture came from here

My friend Kate from Sorella's told me her mom used to tell her and her sister that, "What can be painted, can be painted over" when I told her I was nervous to mess all this fabric up. I'm keeping her words in mind and goin' for it. 

These are some of my favorite images I took from this summer in NY...wait, who am I kidding, they're all my favorite! These were at the Union Square Market and they stopped... me... in... my... tracks. This whole collection is really inspired by the things I saw and learned this summer and these I guess subconsciously these images have influenced me and what I'm pursuing. 

 Here and here are some of the websites I've been pulling from, and if you're really interested there's some great blogs and youtube videos of this stuff.

Want to know more about all this? I've gathered quite a bit of info, just shoot me an email. I'm also pretty interested in organic and natural fabrics, if that isn't already evident, so if you just want to have a conversation about it.. well I'd love that! 

Have you done this before? Got any tips for me before I start the color? Leave a comment below.

Gotta work at 11 and I'm still wired, but while I wait on two more pots I'm going to try and settle down. Have a delicious Saturday!


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