Saturday, August 23, 2014

Indigo Girls

"The beautiful thing about learning is
nobody can take it away from you."
B.B. King
Over the last many years of my adulthood I have knit, sewn, painted, sculpted and even felted countless artistic creations. But I had never experimented with indigo dyes. The process eluded me entirely. Luckily I have a fearless friend who was well versed in at least the research side of indigo dying, via her extensive collection of books, as well as the art of Shibori (Japanese knot tying). She is a "no guts-no glory" kind of lady and she landed on my mom's doorstep weighted down with bags of supplies, an indigo kit and a yummy sponge cake to fuel us for the day.
Getting Started
We started with an indigo dyeing kit that you can pick up at Opus for under $20. We also used rubber gloves, string, rubber bands, wood blocks, plastic pipes and various natural fiber fabrics and garments to dye.
Preparing the Dye
Preparing the vat of dye definitely took longer than expected, about an hour and a half. This is when you eat your cake and drink tea.
The bottle of dye and powdered fixatives are slowly mixed into a large vat of warm water. After the dye has sat, a flower has bloomed on the surface. Which is really just a nice way of saying a gross, slimy, frothy foam is now covering the surface of the pissy yellow colored water. Oh yeah, and it stinks too. Before you begin each project, remove the flower from the surface (which tends to form continuously).

The Projects
Using string, wood blocks and pipe we used traditional Japanese Shibori techniques to fold, pleat and truss up our fabrics to create interesting patterns. Here is my table cloth getting folded and wrapped around a 2" diameter pipe.
I tried thinner string and it kept breaking so ended up going with quite a thick cotton string.
Into the dye pot!
The magical thing about indigo is that in the dye form, all the oxygen has been removed. When the dye is exposed to oxygen it turns blue right before your eyes. It takes about 10 minutes to check the final color.
Here, you can see the fabric under the string is still green because it has not yet been exposed to oxygen.
The final product has a lovely complexity.
Mom and Judy used wooden blocks to press their folded fabric before tying with string.
This is my awesome mom!
Into the dye pot! Again! It was still really exciting. On average, we found 8 minutes to be sufficient.
The magic happens all over again. And yes, it was still exciting.
Judy wanted a bit more interest and depth to her project so she applied some more indigo by hand.
My mom decided to dye some natural colored skeins of yarn. She created a variegated look by looping rubber bands around the skeins.
I opted for some cozy wool socks. I dip dyed these in timed increments from 30 seconds to 10 minutes to create an ombre effect.
If you have managed to make it through this uncharacteristically wordy blog today, then you will sleep well tonight knowing I have saved the best for last.
Judy used only marbles, rubber bands and a plastic pipe to create the best t-shirt I have ever seen. Check this out!


Monday, August 18, 2014

I Knit The Sun Down

"I knit the afternoon away. I knit reasons for Elijah to come back. I knit apologies for Emma. I knit angry knots and slipped stitches for every mistake I ever made, and I knit wet, swollen stitches that look awful. I knit the sun down."
Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls
I have admitted, on more than one occasion, to being an obsessive knitter. I knit the sun down, every night. In a hectic life of raising and homeschooling boys, being physically active every day, teaching art and creating art, it is the single most therapeutic thing I do for myself in a day. Sometimes I forget just how important it is to me. Earlier this summer I began knitting my latest cardigan, even though a portion of the yarn had been back ordered. I waited... and waited... and while I waited I grew grouchy and sad without even knowing why. I felt a void in my life. It wasn't until my yarn arrived in the mail that my mind turned towards euphoria and I knew. I knew I had desperately missed knitting. I missed the soothing of my soul.
The sweater is finished. And just as my pockets empty of dog bones, my knitting needles empty of yarn. I'll begin again tomorrow, thinking , "Now what shall we knit?"