finishing sari/dhoti/sarong projects

okay, i’m done.  there’s more i could do, of course, but i’m not going to be a perfectionist.  if i were a perfectionist, i would throw them all out and start over.  but the hell with that.

i’ve learned a lot about doing direct painting with dyes on cotton, and there’s more to learn, but i will try to sum it all up here.  hahaaahaa.

i took the faded first attempt at susie’s sarong and laid it back out on top of split plastic bags.  then i did something new – i mixed a tiny tip of a spoonful of black dye in with the sodium alginate resist and loaded it into my squeeze bottle.  i’ve never worked with colored resist before, not since i started making my own.

i couldn’t see my lines is one of my problems with the other two pieces.  i could see anything put down with sugar syrup resist, but that spread and caused all sorts of problems before.  but sodium alginate, put on thinly with my smallest diameter squeeze bottle, didn’t go all the way thru the fabric, as is necessary to form a physical resist, and when the resist dried, it turned invisible, and i could only tell where my lines were by feeling them with a finger.  and i wasn’t up for that.

this time i decided not to use any sugar syrup at all.  it was all sodium alginate, even the borders, even the scales.  all put on with a small tiny-holed bottle.  dyed black so i could see it.  it’s a matter of speculation at this point whether or not the black will wash out with the alginate.

we’ll only see when it all comes out in the wash.  that’s the problem with this kind of work.  you only see the end result in the end.  it’s like etching, where you have to make a print to see what you’ve actually done, and then go back to the plate to make changes.

this time i made up all new dyes, using a tsp of yellow to a cup of urea water, a tsp of red the same, and two tsp of blue in a 6-oz baby food jar of urea water, and a tsp of black the same.

i did my reading, and found that there are basically three ways to fix the dye.  you can put the soda ash on first, which i did for the first three dragons.  and that has limited use, and my last one washed all the way fucking out.  you can fix your dye by adding soda ash to the dye itself, but at that point it begins to get weaker, and by the end of a session the dyes are spent and you have to make up some more tomorrow.  i’ve never done it this way.  the third way is to put the soda ash on last, and this is how you do low water immersion, or scrunch dyeing.  i like doing it this way.  so i thought i would adapt it for direct painting, and see if i couldn’t figure out a method that i would like to use again.

so my plan was to paint on the prepared dye and water solution, then let it dry, and then – the same way i do with my silk dyes – move it and fix it with the water/soda ash wash at the end.

but to the process.  starting with the end result of the first attempt at dyeing the sarong.

i’ve done the tail again.  i really liked the tail before.  it was a scribble picture, and i’ve done those since i was a kid, and always have any 3-5 year old students do lots of them.

now, we’re only talking about resist lines here.  i drew in the resist lines for the tail, like i did for (almost all of) the scales.  but the color, all the color, is from the last dye attempt.  i’m going to go completely over all these colors, and the process is called overdyeing, where the colors already on the fabric are going to influence what color that the fabric ends up.

i couldn’t make the outlines for the scales line up completely, and i stopped trying about the third row from the neckline.  i usually end up playing some sort of game with the scales as i draw them, because otherwise that many would become incredibly tedious.  usually it’s a game to do with the bend of the body and the movement of the outer boundaries.

here’s the whole thing, dyed and ready to set.  i skipped all the intermediate steps because i did it three times already and you can have a look at previous posts if you want details.  me, i’m kind of tired of details at this point.

all the bleeding you see is from the application of the dye, and not any added water.  they oozed right around the edges of the resist, probably crawling along the under surface of the fabric, in contact with the plastic sheets the fabric’s lying on.  for most jobs, where you don’t want this crawling to happen, you stretch the fabric so that it never touches anything but the clips you’re using to suspend it.  but for this, i’m being deliberately dodgy with my methods because i want an unconventional result.

i do this in the kitchen, and it used to drive my ex bonkers.  it wouldn’t just be orange juice, nossir, it’d be orange juice with carrot and cabbage.  it would start out as cheese potatoes with a little garlic, and end up something that looked like ethnic food, with turmeric and peas and littered with herbs, where you never noticed the potatoes for all the unidentified stuff swimming in them.

but i’ll say this – it always tasted good.

i’ve already started having trouble with the blue dye, even before putting any extra water on it.  the blue dye travels farther than anything else, and it’s particularly bad where the purple border’s bleeding into the green.  note the black isn ‘t moving at all.  i’ve run black around all the outside bottom edges of the dragon, especially under the belly.  and i’m expecting it to run out and become a nice fuzzy drop shadow.  but it’s only bleeding a little into the yellow and a very little into the white.

but the blue is well enough behaved in the border otherwise, because the purple and the green are mostly blue, just with a little red and a little yellow added.  the red/blue crest is bleeding into the dry white fabric just from being painted, and any movement in the scales seems to be a softening of the red line with the yellow i put on top, and a little crawling of the blue dot at the top of each scale.  i think i should have left the black outlining off the crest as it crosses the body near the tail.  before i put the black in, i could see the scales peeking thru, and i liked it.  now they’re gone and it’s just dark.

here’s the whole thing again from the head, before i put any water on it.

at this point i stopped to mix up the soda ash water.  here’s where it got technical.  because the dye had already dried on the fabric, i felt i should mix up enough soda ash to raise the ph of only as much water as i was going to wet the fabric with.  it’s a teaspoon per cup.  so i put in a heaping teaspoon and went over the scales first with as dry a brush as i could.  trouble with that is that i get impatient when i don’t see anything happening, and end up using more and more water until i’m spilling it off the brush as i lift it from the cup.

i noticed that things didn’t run very much.  is this maybe because the soda ash immediately bonds the dye particle to the fabric?  duh?

i didn’t spray the whole thing with water first and start it running before putting on the soda ash because i really wanted to do it one section at a time, first the scales, then the crest, then the tail and th e head, and finally the border.  and i wanted each one to run a bit, and then set.  and i wanted the crest to run the most, followed by the border.  so i started with soda ash in a controlled application, and i fixed the fabric.  oh.

next time spritz lightly once, then twice, then wait ten minutes, then add soda ash, just the same way you do in low water immersion dyeing.

but i didn’t do that.  i did this.  actually, when i realized that the scales and crest weren’t bleeding very actively, i stopped, took plain clear water and went around the border, and then went back in over it with stronger soda ash water (2 heaping tsp/cup).  and while i was slopping this over the border, i was noticing a lot of blue was scrubbing right up into the brush, and i was sloshing green soda ash water over the white, so i hurried up and stopped.

i probably should have let the borders hang over the side and drip off the excess water onto the floor.  the whole border really bled more than i would have liked (see the irony here?), and it would have been nice not to seal that up in the bag with the rest of the fabric.

in fact, i didn’t make a bag of fabric.  i folded over the plastic bags the fabric was sitting on, and then put that plastic tarp i used last time over that, and that was enough to seal it.  because it was a cool cloudy couple of days, with the temperatures not getting into the 80s, i let it batch for two whole days, and when the clouds started breaking up yesterday afternoon, i took off the plastic tarp and rolled the split garbage bags around the fabric, and took the roll out across the street to the neighbor’s driveway, where there was a great deal of sun in the late afternoon.  when i went to fetch it, the roll was hot in my hands.

i rinsed it out in the kitchen sink with loads of water (too bad about the water usage when dyeing fabric), and tossed it in the washing machine for a hot wash with synthrapol, and then a regular wash with the rest of the laundry in regular detergent.

and this is what it looks like:

the blue and green ran way too much, even in the tentacles, which were treated first thing with soda ash water.  the blue of the ear washed right out, also.  in general the blue seems not only very weak, but very stainy, very apt to run and ‘ruin’ other areas.  i’m not sure if i’m making the blue too strong, or whether it mostly tends to wash out, or what.

sorry for the blur.  i put some very thin black between the teeth so they’d show.  see how little the black has spread under the chin and around the cowl on his neck.  see how much the blue of the ear has spread into the violet of the crest, and bled into the snout from the right tentacle, which was straight blue, while the left ones were blue plus a little red.  so blue by itself runs wild?  and red inhibits blue from running?  the purple band in the border didn’t do much, just here and there a little bleeding.  maybe the blue bled right into the purple and i just can’t see it.

but i think it’s great that the black resist stayed.  and i find it interesting that on the antlers, the red edges are left over from the first dyeing.

the tail could have worked out a little nicer, if i’d used less blue.  if you look at the complete picture, you’ll notice that the green border resist line fades right out between the two claws.  i’m not sure why this is, but it indicates that if i violate the resist with enough clear water, it will wash out.  before it’s fixed by the soda ash.  the other black resist lines didn’t move at all, and fixed right in place.  i wonder what would happen if i colored the sugar syrup?  coming up, i reckon, next project.  maybe the dragon shirt…

here’s the prewashed section, above, and the final, washed out and dried section below, for comparison.  a lot of the blue seems to have washed right out of the crest, and the only bleeding it did was in the initial painting.  the only thing that seems to have moved once the soda ash hit it is the blue.  the blue dot inside the scales bled right out into the yellow and the red, and looks like it went all over the entire body.

you can see in the border where some of the purple seems to have dashed into the white space, and the green just ran strong as wide again as it was painted.  the purple dashes are from the way the plastic sheeting was laid down underneath the fabric.  it formed runnels, and the dye pooled and ran down in there, and soaked into the fabric that was lying on top of it.  i’ve done this on purpose on occasion, and it makes really nice effects.  i noticed it happening when it was wet, but didn’t want to flatten the plastic out for fear of making a smudgy mess of the fabric.

and here’s the entire thing, washed and dried and lying on my work table this morning.  i’m above on a handy dandy ladder that’s sitting out because we’ve been moving artwork around on the walls.

it looks okay.  i’d have rather the crest bled more, and think the border bled too much, but we know that, and we can live with it.  now to practice the hundreds of ways you can wrap a sarong with my sister.

below are all three of the dragon sari series.  the light spot in the middle is the reflection off a window.  all three are traditional sari length (6 yd), dhoti length (4 yd), and sarong length (2 yd), of cotton muslin, and they’ll all be worn as my own personal wardrobe, except for the bottom one, which is my sister’s.

i could do more to each of them, but i’m going to turn my attention to some silk work for awhile.  that, and print production for a stint at dragon.con.  whee hah.

susie’s sarong

this is the reason why i made the sari and the dhoti, so i could practice for making my sister a sarong.  it’s not over yet, but i wanted to report the progress so far.

it was great right up until the moment i washed it.

now it sucks.

it went just like the others.  but this time i mixed up all new dyes, following the actual instructions for ratio of dye to urea to water to salt to soda ash.

circling clockwise from bottom left, there’s a big jar of warm water and urea waiting to be stirred.  there’s the bag of urea pellets next, some empty jars for the various dye mixes, my dharma catalog open to the recipes page, then a jar of calgon to make the water softer, then an empty baggie (whatever) and a 1/8 cup measure (1 oz.) full of urea pellets.  this mixture is what i diluted all my dyes with.  it’s supposed to keep the dye wet longer, and the make the flow better.

the first thing i did was to take my original sari-length design on 6 yards of cotton muslin, lay it out on my worktable, which is 7 feet long (an old door), and scrunch it up until the 18 feet was down to 6.  it took a lot of folding and scrunching, but it finally fit.

this length of muslin is a good deal narrower than the original version, so i had much less room between the dragon’s body and the border.  i had to sacrifice all the cool curlicue smoke, but oh well.

here’s the drawing in charcoal.  and actually i think i’ve finished putting in all the resist lines, too.  you can barely see the scales inside his body.

but in the picture below you can see a problem.  the resist i’m using for the scales is sugar syrup.  unfortunately, i’ve put it in a bottle with a wide opening, and used a bunch of force laying down my lines, and the syrup has run, and all the lines are big gumby sloppy things, and many of the lines have run together and pooled into a big mass of sugar syrup.

and this is bad because?

it’s bad because all those blobs of syrup are not going to take the dye, and will appear as white areas when it’s all said and done.

here is the whole body, just the scales, right before i hit it with clear water and dissolve the sugar syrup resist so that the whole thing will run.  you can’t see a problem at this stage.  you have to proceed on faith.

first examine the scales.  i have put water on them, and let them dry, and you can see where they’ve run all over themselves, and also bled out, especially around the legs.

when i had dried the scales under a fan, i went in with a red purple (8 droppers of red, 6 drops of blue) and got all the spine (but i’m only halfway thru here) and then went in with a golden orange (8 droppers of yellow and 6 drops of red).

and here’s what it looks like before i douse everything but the scales in fresh water.

and right after dousing the whole thing with water (except the scale and the teeth).  it was a large brush, and i slopped water on it, starting with the crest and working into the white, starting with the green and working toward the blue.  you can see the water underneath the cloth by the heaviness of te wrinkles.  and you can see everything starting to bleed.  notice the difference between the color of the lips and the crest.  the lips are straight magenta, and the crest has a tiny bit of blue.

i had laid the cloth out on plastic from the beginning.  i wanted to try to keep the dye wet as i was putting it all on (trying to keep it damp in 90+ degree temperatures is impossible, even with the fan off and me dripping sweat onto my work.

this is what happens when you have to lay your work over an edge and let it hang off the table.  it drops.  the purple’s flooding the blue, the red of the scales is dripping across the green, everything goes on the floor and has to be mopped up before it stains the varnish on the wood.  and i still maintain you can tell it’s wet by looking at how translucent the white part is.  you can see the overlapping plastic underneath.

i really liked what happened with the tail.  i had made a bunch of scribble marks with the resist, and colored the primary colors between the lines, and when i covered it with clear water, it ran and blended wonderfully.

see how nicely the crest red flows into the white, and how the blue tentacles flow, and the green and purple and blue border.

and the lovely gravity pulling the red down into the blue.  great effects.  i’m very pleased.

here i’m batching it.  i found some plastic tarp, folded it up, and lay it on top of the wet fabric.  then i folded the end over onto the plastic because there wasn’t enough tarp.  you can see how the bottom plastic sticks to the fabric and how it’s bleeding color.  it’s very wet.

and here it is this morning, all cured and set, and ready to be washed out.  i really like the crest, and the tail, and the border and everything.  magnificent.

one thing, tho.  you can’t tell the difference between the teeth and the background.  it just looks like a funny looking open mouth.  so i took a very small brush and some black, and went in and outlined the teeth.  then i covered it with plastic and left it for several hours while i did other things.  like make ice cream.

so now to wash it out.  first a rinse in cold water until the dye stops being so thick.  then a wash in hot water and synthropol, and then another wash with my dirty clothes (the darks, duh), and then into the drier.

oh no!  it’s all faded.  practically nothing stayed on the fabric, and practically everything washed out.

and i don’t know why.  see where there’s only half the teeth left that i outlined with black.  i must have painted right on the resist and not on the cotton.

the blue, purple and green border ha faded terribly.  the red violet on the crest and the lips, which were magenta, are now the same color, which is a washed out magenta.

the scales are pitiful.  the orange claws and the golden belly are almost all gone.  the area of the belly where the sugar syrup fused is almost entirely blank.

and the tail, that i was so proud of, is just a miserable string of rags.

so that’s not going to work.  i first have to figure out what i did wrong, and then go back and fix it.

this may be it right here:

The material must be wet the entire time the dye reaction is occurring. The reaction will stop when the material is dry.

it’s possible that it’s something else, like the calgon:

Dharma Trading Company says that it inhibits dye from transferring to and adhering to fabric.

i suspect that there’s a problem with putting dye on a pre-urea-treated fabric, letting it dry, and then batching it later.  or else the dyes in my studio have gone off because of how hot they’ve gotten at ambient temperature (mid 90s inside at times).  i followed the damned directions, so it’s not my usual loose-cannon treatment of the rules that’s gotten me here.

when i finished the sarong i had a lot of dye left.  well, 3 oz of yellow, 4 oz of red, 6 oz of blue, and 8 oz of black.  so i took a sheet with holes in it, and found a sweatshirt i hadn’t dyed yet, and scrunched them into a plastic tub, poured the dye all over them, added some water, let it sit and soak, then poured in soda ash and water to fix it.  it’s batching out in the sun at the moment, and when i wash it out tomorrow i’ll see what happened to the very same dyes done another way.  if the colors are great then i’ve got more evidence to what went wrong. if they’re weak then it might be that i have to make my dyes stronger, or that there’s some mystery problem.

it’s a full moon, maybe that has something to do with how well dyes set.  you never know.

better luck next time.

to be continued