Curing, Rinsing, Learning

The soy-sized and dyed goods must cure for a “time.” Curing oxidizes the soy, making the bond between the fibers and the soy permanent. According to John Marshall, there are many variables depending upon climate and weather. The work can cure for several days up to several months. I cured my dyed goods for a 3-plus days, hanging above a radiator, before rinsing out the rice paste. The issue with the soy in the dyes is that you don’t want it to sour. So warm, dry air is best for curing. If you cure goods for the minimum then rinse paste out, the soy won’t wash out — you just need to be gentle handling the fabric. The soy continues to cure after rinsing the rice paste out.

I soaked my work in the bathtub for a while to soften it, then rinsed the rice paste off, then gently squeezed it out and rolled it up in a towel to blot, then hung it to dry over the radiator again. There was not a drop of pigment in my rinse water! This thrills me after many years of working with fiber-reactive dyes and frustrated by the amount of water necessary to rinse out the spent dyes.

Full Blue Heron design after wash-out
Full Blue Heron design after wash-out
Heron Design Detail
Heron Design Detail
Coneflower design after wash-out
Coneflower design after wash-out
Coneflower design detail after wash-out
Coneflower design detail after wash-out

The final image, below, shows the outcome of the rice paste resist problem documented in my previous post.

Resist Problem Detail after wash-out
Resist Problem Detail after wash-out
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Rehearsing

Today’s Writer’s Almanac included a quote from playwright Sean O’Casey, which rings a bell for me this week: “All the world’s a stage, and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.”

Last week and this week I am getting a feel for the process, the rhythm, the dyes and the brushes, and playing with colors. So far, I’ve made rice paste that was too thick, applied too many colors of a too-bright palette, and was too careful brushing on the dyes. I’ll be selecting a better color palette this week, and playing with a looser grip on the brush. The stencils are obsessive enough. I want the dyeing process to be less so!

The photo below shows work on the pasting table. I can’t avoid the reflection on the wet paste, due to overhead lighting. The surface under the work is indoor/outdoor carpeting, the cheap kind. It must be smooth, i.e. you don’t want the kind with a ribbing-like texture. This provides a bit of a cushion and prevents the fabric from slipping.

Pasting stencils
Pasting stencils

The detail below illustrates a common problem, most likely due to rice paste that is too thick. You can see the places where the paste did not adhere to the fabric, leaving traces of the texture of netting that protects the stencil. It takes practice to learn the best consistency for the paste, sort of like learning to cook. The paste RESISTS the dye application. It’s like a really strong, water-soluble glue. This will all be washed away after dying (and curing) is complete.

Thick rice paste problem, part 1
Thick rice paste problem, part 1

The natural pigments come in powder format. You add a small amount to a mortar and pestle (inexpensive porcelain), then a bit of water, and grind to a smooth consistency. A small amount of this is added to a dish along with soy milk, and then you are ready to paint.

Natural pigments
Natural pigments

The next photo illustrates Part 2 of my rice paste problem. Remember where the paste pulled up from the ground? This leaves the fabric exposed to dyes where you don’t want it to be. So there will be little dots of dye where the paste did not cover the fiber completely. Click the photo and look at the area in lower right near my thumb.

Thick rice paste problem, part 2
Thick rice paste problem, part 2

So far I’ve put 2 coats of dye on the Heron pillow. I loosened up quite a bit with the 2nd coat, applying without too much regard for the edges of the various forms in the image. I want colors to blend more smoothly.

After 2nd coat of dye has been applied
After 2nd coat of dye has been applied

Katazome Samples

I washed the rice paste out of my sample, and here are the results, along with a couple of photos from my Sunday walk through Reservoir Woods. With this process, there is virtually no pigment wash out. Amazing. I will go ahead and use this fabric for my next project. The soy milk, used before dyeing as a sizing and then as a binder with the (pigment) dyes, gives the fabric more body and makes it easier to iron when it wrinkles.