A Hot Topic

Solar oven

This is my solar oven in which the magic happens when I dye.  I don’t cook my dinner in it.  It’s not food grade and you would never want to have dye chemicals come in contact with what you put in your mouth.

However, this  lovely little home-made contraption will generate enough heat to allow the dyes to bond to the fibers of the fabric that has been dyed.  It can get kind of whiffy when the lid is opened up after a day sitting in the sun because the urea used to bind dye to fabric degrades into ammonia in the process.  Another reason not to cook in it.

The advantage of using the solar oven is that it cuts down on the amount of very hot water required to set the dye, saving a tree or two in the process.  Extreme heat such as that produced in the solar oven, in the 200 to 400 degree F range, produce deeper, more intense colors which also resist fading in the washing machine.  Most  water heaters used for laundry only get water up to 120-140 degrees F.

I leave garments in the oven in the sun for at least a solid 8 hours, sometimes longer, to ensure tight bonding of all relevant chemicals and then allow it to cool off before I open it up and do the final rinse and wash process.

When I am on a roll it takes me about 2 days to dye a shirt from start to finish.  Here is what happens:

  1.  New garment goes into the washing machine with hot water to preshrink and to remove byproducts of manufacturing and shipping.
  2. Garment goes into the dryer.
  3. Garment is soaked in a basic pH soda ash solution to prep to accept dye, I aim for at least an hour soak.
  4. Back into the washer for drain and spin.
  5. Then the folding and tying are done.  Imagine trying to do origami with damp fabric.
  6. Dye is applied.  Mixing and preparing the dyes is another process.  I usually do this while things are washing.
  7. Garment hangs out in the solar oven for a while, at least 8 hours, often overnight.
  8. Solar oven is brought back into the studio, allowed to cool down, again usually overnight.
  9. Garments are removed from oven, untied, and rinsed with cold water to remove excess dye.
  10. A final wash with hot water to test for colorfastness and further set the dye.  I use a special detergent for this that you can’t find in the grocery store, just like you can’t find the dyes I use in the local Wally-World.
  11. White vinegar added to the final cold rinse to act as a fabric softener.
  12. A trip through the dryer.

This is essentially the process that my first ever hand dyed shirt went through and it lasted me for 8 years of regular wear.  It never faded nor shrunk and the only reason I gave it up was because it had worn so thin that I could no longer fix the holes or the seams.

I won’t go on a rant about greedy capitalism and clothing considered a disposable item that is deliberately made poorly, especially for women, and the pressures the fashionistas apply to take advantage of shaky self-esteem, trying to manipulate our self images by convincing us that we are not good enough unless we are wearing the latest “fashion”.  BUT. . . . I would much rather someone wear one of my shirts for 8 years and never buy another one from me than for them to wear it for a season and throw it away and buy a new one from me each season.  Wear my work until it falls apart and concentrate more on building happy times and good memories while you wear it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Hot Topic

Solar oven

This is my solar oven in which the magic happens when I dye.  I don’t cook my dinner in it.  It’s not food grade and you would never want to have dye chemicals come in contact with what you put in your mouth.

However, this  lovely little home-made contraption will generate enough heat to allow the dyes to bond to the fibers of the fabric that has been dyed.  It can get kind of whiffy when the lid is opened up after a day sitting in the sun because the urea used to bind dye to fabric degrades into ammonia in the process.  Another reason not to cook in it.

The advantage of using the solar oven is that it cuts down on the amount of very hot water required to set the dye, saving a tree or two in the process.  Extreme heat such as that produced in the solar oven, in the 200 to 400 degree F range, produce deeper, more intense colors which also resist fading in the washing machine.  Most  water heaters used for laundry only get water up to 120-140 degrees F.

I leave garments in the oven in the sun for at least a solid 8 hours, sometimes longer, to ensure tight bonding of all relevant chemicals and then allow it to cool off before I open it up and do the final rinse and wash process.

When I am on a roll it takes me about 2 days to dye a shirt from start to finish.  Here is what happens:

  1.  New garment goes into the washing machine with hot water to preshrink and to remove byproducts of manufacturing and shipping.
  2. Garment goes into the dryer.
  3. Garment is soaked in a basic pH soda ash solution to prep to accept dye, I aim for at least an hour soak.
  4. Back into the washer for drain and spin.
  5. Then the folding and tying are done.  Imagine trying to do origami with damp fabric.
  6. Dye is applied.  Mixing and preparing the dyes is another process.  I usually do this while things are washing.
  7. Garment hangs out in the solar oven for a while, at least 8 hours, often overnight.
  8. Solar oven is brought back into the studio, allowed to cool down, again usually overnight.
  9. Garments are removed from oven, untied, and rinsed with cold water to remove excess dye.
  10. A final wash with hot water to test for colorfastness and further set the dye.  I use a special detergent for this that you can’t find in the grocery store, just like you can’t find the dyes I use in the local Wally-World.
  11. White vinegar added to the final cold rinse to act as a fabric softener.
  12. A trip through the dryer.

This is essentially the process that my first ever hand dyed shirt went through and it lasted me for 8 years of regular wear.  It never faded nor shrunk and the only reason I gave it up was because it had worn so thin that I could no longer fix the holes or the seams.

I won’t go on a rant about greedy capitalism and clothing considered a disposable item that is deliberately made poorly, especially for women, and the pressures the fashionistas apply to take advantage of shaky self-esteem, trying to manipulate our self images by convincing us that we are not good enough unless we are wearing the latest “fashion”.  BUT. . . . I would much rather someone wear one of my shirts for 8 years and never buy another one from me than for them to wear it for a season and throw it away and buy a new one from me each season.  Wear my work until it falls apart and concentrate more on building happy times and good memories while you wear it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Question For You

profile pic

Oh, best beloveds, I need your input concerning marketing, etc.  Any and all constructive criticism will be very much appreciated.

The header of this blog is also the front face of my business card.  I added the definition of Freak Flag from Urban Dictionary in order to explain my thinking behind the name.  It is also a reference to the song from the musical, “Shrek” and a nod to a favorite  tune by Southern Culture On The Skids.  On the back of the card above my contact information it says “Fly Your Flag.”  My intention is to encourage people to not be ashamed of or hide who they are but rather to celebrate and embrace our differences, to boost self-esteem, and add a little fun and joy to the mix.

A much younger friend recently schooled me on some of the darker, kinkier, street meanings of the word “freak” and suggested the phrase, “Recreating Individuality” instead of “Fly Your Flag”.

I kind of like it, but need some input here.  I am out of touch with popular culture in a lot of ways largely due to my age (64) and lack of interest.  I don’t have the developmental issues the most influential up and coming age group has now.  Been there, done that.

But I also need to sell stuff.  Already I live in a very conservative rural area and do not sell much locally, thus the push to develop an online presence.  I have been on the receiving end of some negative remarks about my company name and motto, but for the most part people around here just don’t seem to understand it.

Speak up, please.  Share your thoughts.  As long as you are not intentionally being rude I will welcome anything anyone who reads this has to say about marketing and branding.  I am already part of an online group concerning this, but I would particularly cherish input from my readers.  I feel I have a closer connection with you.

Many thanks.

A Question For Those Who Read This

colorwheel

Facebook is no more as of a few minutes ago.  I am not sure when or if I will go back to it.  I have never been a big fan of Tumblr and am on the fence about Instagram. It looks like Pintrest will be my distraction of choice for the next little while and I am not sure how long that will last.  Here I am trying to learn to be an entrepreneur and I am sick and tired of ads being shoved up my nose every time I turn around.  Capitalism is not my thing in spite of trying to sell my work.  Marketing and self-promotion are not my strong suites and I shy away from people who are aggressive self-marketers.  It was one of the many reasons for leaving Facebook.

I started this page as a business page, as a way to sell the stuff I dye.  It seems to have turned into more of a personal blog and I am wondering if I should continue to combine the two.   I love color, am fascinated by combining and blending color combinations and by how it effects people’s emotions and moods. The graphic at the head of this entry is an example.  I don’t agree with the astrological data (the colors match the seasons but not the characteristics of the signs) but am intrigued by the word associations with the colors. (Apologies to whoever I stole this from.  If you don’t like it, contact me and I will take it down.  I found it in a random internet search ages ago.)  I am also an advanced amateur photographer (most of the pics on the blog are mine) and an avid gardener who particularly loves flowers.  So if you want to talk about color, I am your person.

A more business savvy friend of mine said that people like to have personal connections with people they buy from.  I have never considered that.  I know I am more inclined to take my business back to people I feel connected to but I never considered using that as a business strategy.  I am known as a galloping extrovert.  I have always liked people and am fascinated by their stories.  I would like for the clothing and yarn I dye to be a reflection of the people who wear and use it.  But using my people connections as a sales gimmick feels manipulative to me. Nothing pisses me off more than an insincere salesperson.

So, what think you, dear readers?  Please chime in. Should this blog stay strictly business and sales?  should I set up another blog for thinking out loud? or is the combination of the two acceptable?  I wonder if it might be a little confusing.

Can’t Escape The Irony

handsandshirt

 

Here I sit in the wee hours of the morning with my cup of faux coffee and buttered toast wrestling with the demons I am sure every “artiste” and creative type  encounters in their careers.

I am a fledgling entrepreneur who is close to deleting my Facebook and Instagram accounts.  Why?  Because I am overwhelmed with advertisements and self-promotion.  The “likes” and “follows” I receive on my accounts don’t seem to be because the people behind them are interested in dialogue but because they want to sell me something or garner “likes” for their own pages.

Sure, I want to sell my stuff, too.  But I don’t want to shove it in someone’s face every time they sign online.  I want to “like” and “follow” other accounts because we have something in common and can communicate about what we do, not because accumulating signs of approval boosts my ego.

I need to sell my creations. I need to create a market for what I do.  But I don’t want to be cynical and manipulative while doing it.  I like fiber and color and pattern so here I am slinging dye around, making tie-dye clothing in a world dominated by dark colors and ironic slogans.  On-line marketing, SEO, hashtags, etc. are a foreign language to me.  The learning curve is steep.

The world seems to be running on algorithms these days.  They are everywhere.  Not only in marketing and sales, but in all the service professions.  No one seems to know how to connect with others in an open, genuine manner any more.  The pressure to do more with less to keep the greedy stockholders happy has reduced the amount of time people have to be more than meat robots.  You want to offend me?  Treat me like just another step in your memorized algorithm.  I will get cranky and obnoxious in a heartbeat and do my damnedest to jerk you out of your robotic responses.  Who would you like me to manifest?  Robin Williams, George Carlin, Andy Griffin, or the evil witch of the West with the flying monkeys?  and I easily recognize jargon.

I am working with an online group that is helping me formulate a business plan.  The questionnaire I am required to fill out is intimidating.  What is my mission statement? Hell, I don’t know.  I make for the joy of making and hope people like what I do.  I want people who use my products to enjoy them, have fun, and feel loved.  Is that enough of a mission statement?  I am not out to save the world. Chip away at some of the gloom, maybe, but not lead a revolution.

And what percentage do I expect my business to grow in the next year? I don’t know that either. I will worry about it when it happens.  Right now I am concerned about materials and supplies to create enough product to sell and finding people to buy it. But I don’t want to get so big that the hand-produced aspect of the business is lost.  And people I have approached to sell to can get cheap rip-offs made in China for much less and toss them away after a few months instead of using them until they wear out.  The shirt I am wearing in the pic at the top of this article is my very first one ever, the one that started me on my journey, and it is now 8 years old.  The one I am wearing in my profile pic is one of my experiments from the past year and is the representative of the direction I want to go with my shirts.

I don’t know how to answer these questions in the same “corporate business speak” language the originators use.  I am afraid to distill my work into spreadsheets and financial projections because that will take the joy out of it, but reality raises it’s ugly head.  It is part of the not so fun side of running a business.  I am already very broke and trying to do this, if I don’t control cash flow I will just be more broke.

I find myself up against the Wal-Martization of the culture and the pitch to the lowest common denominator; the sad complaint of creative types for centuries.  These days hand-made objects are luxuries and the provenance of people who have the time and money to indulge themselves.  Skills that were once a part of daily life are now dominated by privileged white people, usually retired, and the competition among them is fierce. I have rarely seen locals or POC at Master Gardener events or fiber conventions.  In the town where I live the social and economic problems are such that survival is the focus and anything beyond that is viewed with suspicion, so I don’t sell locally.  Not yet, anyway; though I am not discounting the possibility.  When I first started I couldn’t give away my work here.  I hope that as the town grows and groovies up a market for my kind of thing may develop here. There are new bars and entertainment venues popping up downtown as people migrate here to escape higher costs in the big town on the hill west of us.

I don’t mean to sound bitter and angry,  I am more puzzled and groping my way in the dark.  So much of this blog has become a place for personal venting instead of for my business that I am considering starting a separate one for kvetching and keeping this one strictly for sales and marketing.  Any and all advice or comments are welcome.

Stay tuned.