project: dyed cotton shirt for dragon.con

we’re going to dragon.con this year as participants.  this is our first year.  we have no idea what to expect, but we’re dressing up.  i’ve got a dragon sari and a dragon dhoti and i decided that jim needed a dragon shirt.  so i got a blank from dharma trading, and jim sketched a couple of dragons on with charcoal, and i’m going to try to put my experience to work painting dyes on cotton.  if you’re curious, you can look back over the last month of blog posts for more experiments on cotton.

the first picture is the resist.  i made up my resist from sodium alginate and applied it with a squeeze bottle and a steel tip.  for the dark resist, i mixed a tiny tip of a teaspoon of red and blue and a little more of yellow, and that made black for all intents and purposes, but i was hoping it would be a little softer than black.  everything that’s not black, like the wavy crest along the back, and the outline of scales within the black contour lines, is sugar syrup resist applied from another plastic squeeze bottle with a tip.

i’ve gone ahead and stuffed the shirt with folded up plastic.  i’ve pinned the fabric to the plastic (which runs the risk of leaking thru the pinholes to the back side of the shirt.  the arms have the same treatment, and inside the collar.

for this try, i’m going to wait until the very end to set it with soda ash, and batch it.  i’ve tried doing it soda ash first, and didn’t get to use my favorite flow techniques, so now i’m doing my second try at fixing it after painting it.  my problem, i think, is i use too much water and get it sopping instead of just damp, to set it.  we’ll see.

this is the back of the shirt, where i started.  i was having trouble figuring out how to suspend the fabric in order to paint it.  at first i had rigged up an inverted tomato cage, covered in plastic, with a broom handle running across the top ring.  but that was awkward, so i took it off the form and laid it flat to do the drawing.

by the time it was ready for resist, i had decided to stretch it, and got out my 50″ and my 64″ stretchers and lots of rubber bands, and suspended it from the corners.  then we flipped the whole thing over when it was time to work on the other side.  i needed help.

for the body, i used my normal technique, which is a line of red on the outside of the scale, a line of yellow in the middle, and a dot of blue at the inside point.  the crest is magenta with a line of cyan on the inside, and the belly is yellow with a line of cyan on the inside.  i have yet to mix up a light red (4 pipettes of water to a dropper of magenta) to wash over the claws.

here i’ve washed the completed figure with clear water, keeping inside the body lines to do the scales, and not using much water there, sloshing water over the crest, violating the resist lines and going far into the white area with clear water, to draw the red into it.  i don’t think i touched the belly, but the water on the scales hit the plastic behind the fabric, and ran right thru the belly area and out into the white fabric.  so i ended up surrounding the figure with water way out into the white area.  this picture is only the first few moments of having wtaer on it.  i don’t think i’ve wetted the surrounding white area yet.

this is how it looked after it dried.  the scales are almost completely washed out an d obscured, and it remains to be seen how much of that muddy color will survive rinsing.  the crest is too blown, and i’m not happy with the general mess.  but it’s not the way it’s going to look when it’s done, so the only thing to do is proceed.

i used less water on the dragon on the sleeve.  it ran less.  the crest is really nice.

so now we start on the front.  i’ve had practice screwing up the back, so now i can do the important part.  at this point, all painted in, it looks very cartoonish.

this is after the water.  the thing has dried, and i’ve just gone back in with more red on the horns, and red on the face, and hit the areas with water to help spread it.  i tried to not use so much water this time.

again, the little dragon turned out lovely after the application.

jim came in after i’d finished watering the paintings back and front, and drew in two dragons around the collar.  first charcoal, then he drew it in with dark resist.  i colored it, using a really dry brush and already mixed up orange.

then i laid out plastic on the table, spread the shirt out, mixed up soda ash water, spritzed the hell out of one side, quickly lifted and turned it and spritzed the hell out of the other side, and then rolled it up in the plastic and left it overnight.

and it was a right mess the next morning, all crumpled up inside the plastic where the rolling wasn’t very smooth.  it’s uncomfortable not to be able to see the face.

again, it’s not over until it all comes out in the wash.

this is how it looks after the wash.  almost completely faded.  what the fuck.

did i do everything right?  obviously not.  but i sure as hell used soda ash, and it was plenty strong (even added an extra tsp), and it sat at temperatures in the upper 80s for ten hours.  i mixed up dye at the prescribed strength (i tsp per cup).  i dissolved the dye in cold water, i didn’t use salt, i didn’t use heat (unless upper 80s is considered heat), i didn’t use calgon.  and i know the dye hasn’t gone bad because i just did a successful dye job with the very same dyes, and it’s been cooler in the past few weeks.

the dye that stuck on the shirt is the dye that moved the first time water was added, not the dye that ran after all the soda ash water was applied.  the resist worked plenty well, but the colors just washed out beyond a very weak tint.

perhaps i’ll steam it the next time.  or set it in the dryer for an hour.  or try mixing the soda ash in with the dye itself.

something.  i’m not giving up.  jim’s going to tackle it again with the dark resist tomorrow, and i’m going to mix up some alginate into a new batch of dye to thicken it, and let him have a hand at it.


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