Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Hippies Aren't Dead Yet! Guide to Procion Dyeing!

Tie dye on the highway - see the garlands in your hair
If you’re going my way, come along
What a beautiful sky - we just had to stop and stare
See the beautiful colours fill the air
~Robert Plant

Picture 1: Shibori technique. It reminds me of Rajasthani saris.

Today in textiles class we did Procion-dyeing and pole-dyeing. I had no idea what either of these where so I did what anyone in this day and age would do- I googled it. Beautifully organised images of Japanese Shibori dyeing appeared, and I wondered how we would create such patterns in class. Well, the truth is, we didn't. Sometimes I have to remind myelf this is meant to be practice for teaching in a classroom and the end result isn't really what matters- it's all about the process! So here is my introduction to procion dyes and pole-dyeing. Which, beyond simple tie dyeing, has potential to be something incredibly cool.

2. Shibori technique. How the hell can you tie dye this?

First of all, Procion dye is a cold water dye. Which means it's great for batik and yes, dare I say it- tie dying. It's a vivid chemical dye and works best with cellular (plant) fibres like linen, cotton, flax etc. It is a chemical dye and comes in a powdered form, so it's best to wear a mask when mixing it up but once it's mixed with water you are good to go.

My classmates mixing water and dye with soda ash and salt.

One interesting fact about procion dyes is that it's not enough to make it active by mixing it with water; you need a little salt and some soda ash (sodium carbonate) to make it active. Therefore, you can mix the dye up in jugs whenever and just add the magic powder when you need it. Once activated, the dyes are good for about 24 hours only.

Our dyes! I mixed the teal in the centre.

Next, you need some natural material that has been scoured to wash the sizing out of it, and a plan. You can do all sorts of things with procion dyes, paint it on fabric with a paintbrush, tie dye, batik, dye solid colours, over dye several times, put it in a squirt bottle and spray the fabric- you get the point. Whatever you do, there are two important things to remember- don't wear any clothes you care about and whatever you do, the dyes have to be heat set with an iron or a dryer when you are completely finished.

Picture 3. More Shibori technique. Amazing.

Our first experiment was with pole dying. This is a shibori technique which, if done properly, can turn out looking like this:

Picture 4 Why can't mine look like this?

First you get a pole (or a broom handle a wine bottle, etc.) and you attach it to the surface with some masking tape.

Our instructor showing us the wrapping process in pole dyeing.

Then you begin winding elastics, string, (Or in this case, plastic Ikat tape which resists dye) around the whole pole. Once you run out of space, you push up the material to scrunch it together. Then you start again,winding the Ikat tape and scrunching it, until you are out of material.
When you get this low it's time to scrunch it up and start again.

Here you can dip the pole or paint over the folds. Had I had more time, I may have dip-dyed the whole piece of material first then applied the pole dying technique. I might have also taken more time to figure out ways to make the folds work in my favour but since this was the first try I did a straight pole dyeing experiment, painting stripes down the sides in order to see the effects. Unfortunately, someone had put the wrong brush in the dye so I had some unexpected colours added to my pole dying. Oh well! Next time, covet thy brushes!

My table mates busy scrunching and painting on their poles.

This one is mine. I thought the fuschia would mix with the teal and become purple. I tried to stick to a similar colour palette so it wouldn't be too hippie.
Yep, pretty hippie!
I'm not sure how the pumpkin got in there, other than the fuschia brush had been used for both dyes. But I suppose this is part of the 'unexpected spontaneous nature' of procion dyeing. However, Next time I will be a brush nazi.

Next experiment! Resisting the urge to make a Jimi Hendrix starburst, I pleated a piece of fabric, then tied it tightly in the middle. I painted one accordion side pumpkin, and the other side teal, making sure to put lots of dye in there to saturate it.

My tablemate demonstrates painting with procion dyes.

Oh yes, Jimi Hendrix would have been proud. My accordion dye job.

I was complimented on this one for being somewhat 'organised.' I told my instructor I was having a "Goa flashback" and she laughed- Apparently she lived in Goa for a while and knows exactly what I was talking about!

Here are the three pieces I made. The one on the far left was made by tying tiny rings together and dipping them in both violet and teal. I used a lot of the teal because it was the dye colour I chose to mix up.

It was a fun night, dipping and dyeing, seeing what transpired, which, I admit, I need to become more comfortable with. I tend to be a control freak. But one the other hand, I'm not a great fan of the tie-dye, though I could see doing this project with kids. (God knows, I did enough tie-dyeing as a teenager!) Shibori, however, really appeals to me in the sense that some of these spontaneous creations can be directed in order to achieve some (somewhat) desired effects.

If I had more time and money, I'd head down to Maiwa Handprints and take a workshop with Carol Soderlund from November 1st to 5th, 9 am to 5 pm. Information here if you are interested!

Links to pictures which aren't mine:


Friday, October 22, 2010

Yarn bomb spotted!

Yarn bomb at UBC!

I spotted my first yarn bomb out in the wild! and in my humble opinion, it's a worthy one. I wonder how long it took this particular yarn bomber to lace this piece on this lamp post at the University of British Columbia?

Yarn-bombing book Authors Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain have been busy spreading the word with a yarn-bombing blitzkrieg of lectures as of late (I couldn't get into any of them- all sold out!) So I wondered if I would start to see yarn-bombs in the wild.

Just what this lamp post needed on a cool fall day in Vancouver!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Disasters in Felting: Slippers!

Oh my God, those are seriously horrible. They look like something Frodo Baggins would wear! Get them off your feet and leave them off forever, or go find yourself a house in the shire!!"
-Rene, killing herself laughing when I first put my newly felted slippers on.
You gotta love sisters!

So I decided after my hat experiment, I would try a new experiment from my felting book: Slippers.

This is what I was aiming for: beautiful handmade slippers from Cocoon. I love the stripes and the slightly pointy toe. These were made with straight carded wool for the first few layers, then the stripes were added at the last layer.I admit, I am suspicious and think there might be a needle felted layer between the stripes. If there is, Bravo Cocoon! These are amazing little bundles of warmth!

My felting book told me to make a plastic resist roughly shaped like a big 'U', measuring my feet to guestimate the size of my pattern. I measured my foot leaving a little space around the edges some movement (who wants tight slippers?) and then covered the whole thing in packing tape. If I were to do this experiment again (and you know since I already admitted I messed this one up, I will try again) I would make my plastic resist out of bubble wrap, since it would help create friction on the inside to further help the felting process. To see how this template would work, you have to imagine that you are looking at the side of the "boot", and where the crease of the paper is in the centre, is the opening where you would stick your foot in. I won't tell you how long I stared at the felting book till I figured that one out! (Their pattern wasn't so obvious!)

My packing tape template! Next time, bubble wrap.

Then I got busy laying the felt down. Again next time I would do thick solid layers for the first few layers and the stripes last. Actually, scrap that- next time I'm just doing solid coloured idiot-proof-felted slippers- most likely black. I'll needle felt any design they might need!

Here is my wetted-down, soggy-slipper mess, On a bamboo mat to add friction, and on a black garbage bag to save the kitchen table. As you can see, I folded the edges from the other side over and felted it all together. The felt also seemed to spread out around the edges making my slippers HUGE. No problem though, you can always do what I did and throw them in the dryer for added felting and shrinkage. They were actually quite comfy when they were fresh out of the dryer! When I was finished squishing them in the bamboo mat, (to harden the felt)) I cut the whole thing down the crease in the middle and slipped my feet in the newly created openings to see how they fit.

But they were heinous. So heinous in fact, I regret to inform you, I didn't take any pictures. In fact, I wasn't even going to put this blog up! But then I decided the point is the process, and just as there is a lot to learn from bad teaching, there is so much to learn from art projects gone awry!

Next time, I would do these things:

1. As mentioned before, save the stripes for the last layer, and do them very thin so they grab onto the previous layer of felt well. I'd also use copious amounts of cushy Merino wool roving.
2. I would probably stick with a solid coloured felt and needle felt any designs on them.
3. I wouldn't do the pointed toe. It was too much and Rene said I looked like a Frodo Baggins Christmas elf! Not very sexy! In fact, I ended cutting these ones off completely and stitching them shut. Now they look like Charles Dicken's poor man's socks.
4. If I were to do stripes, I would wind long pieces around the whole thing for continuity of design. Sadly, the gimpy fold over parts ended up on the tops of my slippers and they look horrible.
5. I might not leave so much room around the template of my feet. They were pretty big! Though I admit throwing them in the dryer was a happy mistake.

I may needle felt a design on the tops next time I'm back in the Okanagan. I left them there, they were so ugly! But comfy. I have to say, they were pretty damn comfortable and in the end, they were the right shape, so I'm on to something and it wasn't a colossal failure!

But until then, buy your slippers at Cocoon!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Mission Accomplished! Wet Felting 3D Hats

In the game of life it's a good idea to have a few early losses, which relieves you of the pressure of trying to maintain an undefeated season.
~Bill Vaughan

No wonder the coolest felt hats come from Turkey!

As mentioned in a previous blog, I became interested in felting in Istanbul and always had an idea to make hats and slippers. I'd heard it was easy, but didn't know where to get the carded wool needed for felting.

The hat I broke down and bought since I couldn't figure out how to make one of my own.
It was the last thing I bought myself in Istanbul., and I ran between one Cocoon shop in the Arasta Bazaar and another, comparing hats till I found the one I wanted.

Back in Canada, I had the carded wool, bought a book on felting but still, didn't have a really clear idea of how to felt on a 3d form. I gleaned youtube and felters' blogs for demonstrations and pieced together an idea of how to do it. I asked my teacher so many questions on 3D felting my classmates asked me what I was up to. "I'm going to make a 3D felted hat." I told them confidently. Perhaps they believed me, perhaps they didn't. Remember, we did felting the week after knitting when confidence in my skills were at an all time low!

Expanding foam sealant and my thrift shop hat, which I wet down and formed into the shape I wanted.

Even though the ladies at Birkland Brothers Wool in Vancouver told me I could felt a hat on a balloon, I was nervous about popping my form, so I went the route of kicking around ideas with my Dad during coffee one morning. With a rough plan in my head, I visited the thrift shop and the home improvement centre. I got a stiff hat my size from the thrift store, and some expanding foam sealant from Rona. When I came home, filled my hat with the stuff and watched what happened over the next 24 hours as it dried.

Foam sealant gets sprayed in the hat, and left overnight to dry completely. As far as I know, you can't save the hat, so don't use a good one!

I didn't really know how this stuff works, and the damn stuff kept expanding, until it became a huge puff ball of styrofoam like consistency. If I had to do it again, I would probably do it in stages rather than all at once as it took a long time for the inside to dry its a sealant, so it effectively sealed itself from drying on the inside. The result was, any time I cut into it to shape it with my exacto knife, I hit the inner core of expanding ooze. Eventually the whole thing dried and I was able to shape it with an exacto into the shape I wanted. The good news is, I now have a hat form that fits my head exactly and I can use it pretty much forever.


Next, I got my my supplies together: a plastic garbage bag to protect the table, my hat form, some soapy water, some dish soap, and some old pantyhose.

The felting begins!
The soap really makes your hands dry, so it's good to have a good hand moisturizer on hand.
(Pun intended!)

I covered the form in dish soap first (makes the wool stick to the form) I started with the sky blue wool, and started layering my form with three layers- vertically, horizontally and then vertically again.
Taking the blue hat off the form, discovering how badly felted it was. Boo.

Truthfully, this first time around I didn't do a good job of layering. I left the slivers way too thick and it had a hard time finding the fibres laying in the opposite direction. I decided after wetting it that it probably needed another layer as well. Guess what? You can't add another layer once the felting process has begun. The wet fibres have already started to tighten and won't accept any new wool. Oh well, you've got to make mistakes to learn!

As you can see, the top layer didn't mesh at all.

I massaged the hat form for several minutes, kneaded it all in a bamboo mat, being careful to change the direction of the hat so it didn't stretch in one particular way, and shocked it in hot, then cold water (as directed in my earlier blog.) But nothing was going to save this hat. Except maybe needly felting the whole thing, but I will most likely cut this one up for needle felting designs on to other felt things later on.

The beginning of the green hat. This one is almost perfect! But I put it on with it's ragged edges and I looked like the pea kid from Green Giant canned pea commercials!

So since I had all of this stuff out, I decided to try again, this time using green wool, and spending a lot more time laying the wool carefully in thin strips all over the form. I also did four layers instead of three. I used short pieces for the vertical direction and long winding pieces for the horizontal, tucking the pieces up to hold it's shape. I snapped the pantyhose over the top to help it keep everything in place and I began the process all over again. (I think the pantyhose would probably be useful if there was a design being felted simultaneously. I'm not at that stage yet, so I could take the panty hose of once the whole thing had been moistened and work the wool with my fingers.

Ta-Da! My new hat!

I felted up a dark blue rim separately and sewed it onto the hat. I also needle felted a design onto the surface of the hat. At first I looked like a mushroom with the dots so I changed them into olives. Which looks a little less shroomy.

I took this picture and realised the hats actually match the leaves on the ground!
Welcome fall!
I'm inspired! It's a lot of work to produce these little hats so I don't think I'd go into full production anytime soon.
Next felting experiment: Slippers!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The New Graffiti: Yarn Bombing!

“I think a lot of people are doing these things to show that handmade crafts can make a statement and have a meaning behind them.”

-Anonymous yarn bombing "craftivist", Vancouver BC.

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t knock knitting so quickly.

Your grandma's sweaters are sooo yesterday.

(Check the bottom for the links to the pages I lifted these photos from.)

1. I can't seem to find anything to support this photo is real.

Do Kiss members really knit? Let me know!

It seems that the history of knitting has changed in recent years, transforming from grandma’s-after-dinner-hobby to young super-stealth-ninja-like ladies taking-back the streets armed with a ball of yarn and some knitting needles. Introducing Yarn Bombing (Or Yarn storming as they like to call it in the U.K., as bombing is a taboo word to be throwing around freely in public these days.)

2. Photobooth

It started out with a Texas store worker, Magda Sayeg, who on a weekend decided to knit a sheath for the doorknob of the store out of sheer boredom. Then she started looking out doors at the ugly concrete and steel construction around her and decided knitting a sheath for the stop sign out front would add a little colour to her world. When people stopped their cars to have their pictures taken in front of it, Sayeg was inspired to take it to the streets, and thus yarn bombing was born.

3. Tree bomb. I once saw a knitting installation in Nisantisi, Istanbul.
The one day I forgot my camera at home. Damn!

Two Vancouver yarn bombers, Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain have recently put out their book “Yarn Bombing” which covers installations internationally. Since they’ve just finished a rash of Yarn Bombing talks in Vancouver I look forward to spotting more guerrilla knitting as I am out and about in the city.

4. Parking meter in Chinatown, Vancouver.

Yarn bombing as a post-modern concept is about challenging our conceptions about how public space should be portrayed created and viewed. Traditionally male dominated graffiti art is permanent, damaging to public property, and often negative and sometimes offensive in nature. Yarn bombers however, are largely female. Yarn bombing installations are temporary, non-damaging, cheeky in nature and meant to bring a smile to the faces of people who come across them for the time that they are installed. There is more humour than aggression in this form of graffiti.

5. Crocheted bus.

One thing traditional graffiti and yarn bombing have in common is that historically both have been considered “craft” and have never been considered “art.” Yarn bombing challenges the audience to reconsider what public art is exactly and challenges our notions of how we view this sort of non-harming and fuzzy tagging. Just because it’s heart warming does it mean it’s not a valid form of art?

6. Knitted tank

Yarn bombing challenges us to review our pre-conceived perceptions of art, graffiti, public space, craft and gender as well. A few of my favourite yarn bombing pics lifted from all over the web (My own form of public graffiti!)

7. Knit dress Muses.

Links to pictures:

Links to a few Yarn bombing sites: