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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rebounding

RainbowGreetings, Beloveds.  I am on a manic rebound after being sick since the end of September.  There has been a trip to urgent care, 2 allergic drug reactions, constant antibiotics and antivirals,  and a hospitalization through the emergency room for which my insurance company has denied coverage.  And those are just the highlights.

Today is the first day since I don’t remember when that I have not been nauseated, in pain, or hugging the toilet.  It’s a hell of a way to lose 10 pounds.  I actually slept more than 4 hours in a row and was able to tolerate real Greek food yesterday without an immediate trip to the toilet within an hour of eating.  I went adventuring with my sister, had good food, and saw a wonderful movie.  I couldn’t ask for a better day or more fun.  It was sorely needed.

Somewhere in all the chaos and depression I initiated the process of writing a formal business plan and applying for grant funding to expand and develop Freak Flag Dye Company.  As part of the rebound my head is bursting with creative ideas and grand schemes.  I am rushing to get all the details on paper before I forget them and formulate plans to see them come to pass.  Reality will eventually settle in and I will have to buckle down and do the grunt work.  I am looking forward to seeing what eventually manifests. My experience at the moment is much like being inside a freshly shaken snow globe.

So. . . .deep breath. . . a few grounding exercises and hugs from my friends. . . additions to the ongoing list in my daily gratitude journal. . .time to get real.  Today I feel bulletproof, tomorrow I may be curled up under my blankie crying again.

Wish me luck.  Much love to you all.

 

Extroversion and Tie-Dye

Alaree in reverse dye scribble

It makes sense to me that extroversion and tie-dye go together.  Tie-dye is unpredictable and can be wild. No matter how I try to control the dye there are always surprises.  Compared to some of the other tie-dyers I follow online I am actually pretty tame, but I am still relatively new at it.

There is a sort of alchemy  in the process when I mix dyes and blend colors; watching my reactions to the colors and patterns as well as other people’s. Start digging into the psychology of color and things get more interesting.

It is a primal, messy process involving splashing liquids around and incubating the fiber to set the dyes. Kind of the way I live my life; the cooked pasta approach; throw it at the wall and see what sticks.  I throw dye on fabric and see what it turns into.

I have been called a galloping extrovert and (please pardon the buzzword) an empath.  I like people.  They fascinate me.  I have never met a stranger.  I am constantly curious about them, sometimes to the point of having been called nosey and intrusive.   Give me 10 minutes with another person and if I am in the  right mood I can often hear their life story and tell you how many eyelashes they have.  And interacting with other people is very similar to dying, there are always surprises, not always pleasant and not always what I think I want, but never boring.

I am famous for having connections with people where ever I go.  I walked into a grocery store in California and struck up a conversation with a young woman who turned out to be from my hometown in NC and whose grandparents were known to me. That sort of thing happens often. in my life.  Someone I know says there are only 100 people in the world.

Friends and I were discussing taking a trip to Florida to visit some of their friends.  I can think of 3 people in the area that I know and a couple along the way that I would love to stop and visit with if time allowed.  If I were going alone I would probably do it.

I can talk with almost anyone about almost anything and have a great time in the process.  There isn’t much of a filter on my mouth (I try, I really do try). I am eternally curious, overly analytical, and have a wicked sense of the absurd in addition to being well-read and in love with wordplay.  Sometimes I like the sound of my own voice too much and tend to blather on too long, but the Universe has ways of shutting me up.  I try to lay down my ego and pride every day.  They get too heavy and I often trip over them.  If I don’t try to put them aside, they may get yanked from my grasp.

“Telling stories” is a southern, mountain thing.  The oral tradition is strong in the Appalachians and, though tending to dwindle, still exists in the groups of men having their morning coffee together in the local restaurant, women on girls’ nights out, and people in fiber crafting groups.

Some years ago I dragged a friend away from his PhD studies long enough to visit my family in the Western NC hills.  He had been born and raised in Michigan and had never experienced a group of people who just sat around the table after dinner and talked. He was astounded.  Not only did we talk, we “told stories” on each other, knee-slapping tales with tongue in cheek humor and only mild exaggeration.  It is a bonding experience and the habit is part of the famous “southern hospitality” as well as part of the reason those of us with roots in the hills have been considered clannish.

I see a saddening erosion of community in the world these days, a lack of deep connection and awareness of the world around us.  In my small way, I try to reverse the process. Nothing is accomplished by a person alone in spite of all the dramatic tales you may hear.  Look behind the tales of the heroes and see who and what helped get them there.  Even Batman had Alfred.

We are all connected on many levels. There are many stories behind every sentient being and every thing we encounter if we are willing and able to try to listen.  Sometimes we have to ask others to listen to us, too.  Sometimes it takes severe circumstances to yank our heads out of our own asses and wake us up to the world around us.

I  recently read an article on addiction that spoke to the theory that addictive behavior is a result of a lack of feeling connected to others.  But being connected also means being vulnerable.  Energy travels both ways.  Reciprocity.  Lack of connection means a lack of feeling safe, of isolation.  So we are self-destructive or other-destructive because we have no tools to create the connections we crave.

When I dye a shirt, I do a little ju-ju over it.  I ask that whoever wears it feels loved, that they have happy times when they wear it, that they grow and learn, that any attention the shirt garners be positive and lead to connection with others, and that the wearer have the strength and support to accept and grow from whatever comes their way.

That may be a big order for a yard of cloth and some chemicals, but otherwise. . .why bother?  You tell me.