Well here she is, the new addition to the studio family. A 46″ Schact 4N4LS/ 12T loom. I am beyond thrilled. I drove up outside of Albany and met a lovely woman named Ginny who sold it to me. She makes amazing triangle shawls. I had never seen a triangle loom before and it is a fascinating piece of equipment: very simple and the weaving process is just genius. We were able to fit this loom in the Toyota Matrix (she does it again, folks!) and off I went.
This loom feels a little more grown up to me. My first one, a 28″ 8S/10T Norwood was, um, rickety at best. Although it was a heavy weight, I had to tune the loom after every piece I wove. The back beam ratchet was just that: a simple ratchet with a loose hook, so if I advanced without extreme care, the tension of the warp would unravel my entire warp and I’d have to cut off what I was doing and start over. I have definitely had enough of that.
But that is to say, I have no idea how this one is going to weave. But I’m excited to try! It has texsolv heddles, which I think is interesting. That may make for too light a shaft, although right now the shafts raise and lower just fine. I also have no clue how fast I’ll be able to thread them. Not to mention they’ll make the weaving process quiet. I’m curious to see if I’ll like them. If not, I can always replace them!
I’ll be sure to share my first woven piece with y’all!… And so it goes
Do you know of Pendleton blankets? They are high quality wool blankets which designs are often inspired by Native American motifs. (We received one as a wedding present from good friends and I am SO EXCITED to use it this winter. Thanks T&L!) I recently found out from a very helpful rug weaving video (yep, I own weaving videos) that the Pendleton company sells their selvedge scraps – the edges of the blanket they cut off when finishing. I was super excited about this and ended up purchasing a whole bunch of Wooly Worms:
I might have purchased too many. I’m afraid to tell you how big that box is. But for the amount, they were fairly cheap. Well, sort of. Shipping was more expensive than the poundage total!
Anyway, I’ve started weaving small rag rugs out of them. And the result has been sweet!
Check them out in the store!
It’s always shocking when I notice something that I didn’t before and it’s been there the entire time. I’ve passed it day after day and perhaps took it for granted? In this case, something as simple as the subway grates at my stop… how cool is that pattern??… And so it goes
Recently I’ve been getting dizzy spells when I exercise. Like hearing-loss, tunnel vision, about to pass out sort of dizzy spells. (Don’t worry I’m fine.) After one very expensive visit to the cardiologist, he gave me this advice which I probably could have read on the internet if I had looked into it hard enough: “You have low blood pressure. [Duh.] Don’t stand up too quickly. [Duh.] You need to be well hydrated to prevent fainting when exercising. [Duh.] And if you’ve done that and it’s still happening, add salt to your diet. [Wha?] As much as you want. [YES!]”
So I shouldn’t skip the salt at meals. Just make sure there isn’t shitty food underneath that salt. Done and done. Did I mention that on the first date with my now fiancee, I told him my favorite dessert was a side of bacon?
[This is where I give permission to all the non-dye-information-seeking people to leave. :)]
But this post isn’t just about adding salt to my regular diet. Obviously. This post is about the importance of adding salt when dyeing with reactive dyes other wise known as MX procion dyes. Dyes used to color cellulose fibers such as cotton, rayon, and hemp.
I have been ignoring these dyes for a while. Mainly because I haven’t been able to achieve awesome vibrant color-fast hues like I get with acid-based dyes. And that has been INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING.
So I decided to figure out why I wasn’t getting what I expected out of these dyes, the only way I know how. Chemistry lab style.
I started by researching. Several instruction sets on reactive dyeing told me that the amount of water didn’t matter as long as the fiber had enough room to “swim” around in. If you want even coverage, you need the right amount of water [in the right shaped container] to cover your fabric without it folding on itself. Also, make sure to stir the pot a lot. But one source said salt wasn’t needed, and another source said it was imperative. On top of it, I found 3 different water to salt ratios to use. Confusing.
So I put together a small test setup where I tested just the addition of salt. Two yogurt containers, each with the same amount of dye, water, soda ash and fabric. One did not have salt, the other contained salt in an amount that correlated with the amount of water I used. I used a highest salt to water ratio I found.
Let’s see the results:
Holy. Crap. Look at that difference. (True, I didn’t get even coverage, but that’s because I didn’t have the right shaped container for the thickness and stiffness of the fabric I used.)
[This is where I give permission for the non-science-y people to leave.]
So why is salt so important? It apparently boils down to some basic chemistry. This is what I found, paraphrased:
[gn_quote style="2"]When a fiber is immersed in water, it develops a negative electrical charge at the surface, to balance the positive charge inside the fiber. MX dye will split into Na+ (sodium cation) and dye- (dye anion). The positive charge in the fiber is enough to push away the dye, since like repels like. Also, the dye is much more interested in reacting with the water. Enter salt.
When salt is added to water it breaks down into Na+ and Cl-. It is referred to as an electrolyte because it makes the solution electrically conductive. This means it can “mask” the charge at the surface of the fiber. [Imagine the salt ions pulling away the curtain of positive charge on the fiber so that the dye ions can waltz in and bond to the fiber. A little fluffy, but helps to picture right?] Common salt is used because it is pH neutral, easy and safe to handle and cheap.
-Taken from my college notes![/gn_quote]
Now some of you are wondering, “But I’m not bothered by the pastel color that the non-salt bath created.” I’m with you. Pastel lovers of the world unite. But this is the other reason why I’m sharing this post: now the soft red on the left side can be achieved simply by using less dye. Use salt in your dye bath, less dye can be added, more dye is exhausted into the fiber, and less dye is poured down the drain at the end. Win-win. YAY!… And so it goes
I used to paint with watercolors in high school and am getting back into it. I forgot how much I love it. It’s amazing how similar it is to dyeing – they are both transparent mediums (which can become opaque in special situations). That’s probably why I gravitated to dyeing.
One day, I was experimenting with dye on raw silk. I remembered a technique from a middle school art teacher where if salt is layered on top of watercolor paint, it creates really interesting sunburst effects after it drys. Perhaps it could work on fabric? So I tried:
I put salt over some of the purple dye to see if it would help it to spread. Instead (and I’m hoping you can see this in the picture) it helped set the color of the purple dye. The areas on the left and bottom (the deeper plum color) had salt on them, and the area on the top right (lighter lavender) did not. Interesting…. more on this salt thing later.
Remember that ikat warp I dyed? Well here it is in all its glory!
I attempted tying this warp to an existing warp already on the loom. I’ve done this only once before although had a terrible experience with it; I ended up taking off the old warp and just re-sleying my loom with the new warp. Mostly because I am not an great at knot tying. But of course, if at first you don’t succeed…
I was pleasantly surprised it worked this time! I had a few knots come undone, but otherwise it went off without a hitch!… And so it goes
Here are just a few shots of the panels they had on display. This a gorgeous batik that references waves:
I love the diagonal lines formed on this one. It got me wondering how I could create something like that on my own loom:
Oh, how time has flown by. I hope this isn’t too terribly late, but I just wanted to wish y’all a very: