After completing our first attempt at using a dye bath, it was time to move on to Arashi Shibori, and wrapping fabric around a PVC pipe for dyeing. I had more trouble with this part of the class, not so much because it was difficult, but because I let my head get in the way at first, over-complicating things. I attempted a rather complicated fold with angles, and probably too many layers of fabric for a first project. I also procrastinated a bit, and found myself attempting to wrap my too small, and difficultly folded piece of fabric around a rather large diameter piece of PVC pipe that was too large for the job. The pipe was too large for me to hold, the fabric too short, my fold kept coming apart, and it took me a while to learn to hold the pipe and fabric in such a way that I could also wrap the string tightly. Rather than untying everything and starting over however, I decided to go ahead and see what I got, egging myself on with the hopefully comforting thought that it would at least be a learning experience.
We dyed our fabric fuchsia red. Even in the dye pot, one thing was obvious. My fabric was taking up more of the color than Liana's. I had randomly decided to use one of the cotton sateen pieces in this experiment, rather than the cotton/linen I had used for the green. Liana was using the cotton linen. At the end of the afternoon, our pieces were removed from the dye bath, wrapped in plastic still on their poles, and left to cure overnight.
Friday morning we unwrapped our fabric, rinsed it and hung it to dry. My fabric was initially a brighter pink, but more of the dye washed out during the rinse cycle. Liana's fabric took up less dye, but held it better. There was still a difference in the color of our pieces, but it was not as marked as when wet. Mine is the piece on the right, a bit more vibrant than the piece on the left.
I was appalled at my piece. Despite the depth of color, which I do like, I took its rather free-form and amorphous pattern as a sign of failure. For all my self-encouragement the previous day, I was pretty much feeling like I should just stop right there and walk away. Everyone else's pieces were more uniformly geometric, neater, and more precise, and I wished my work was more like theirs.
As we worked on other pieces throughout the day, however, I came to accept the more random characteristics of my pink fabric. As I played with clamping the green linen/cotton, worked on hand painting and other ideas, I realized that my pink piece was very much my piece, very much in character, and try as much as I'd like, I'll never really be the precise, neatly organized, methodical dyer. Yes, I will keep records, but my experiences in dying reflect in many ways my experiences in life. Yes, I can be precise and nerdy about such things as finances and a few other things, but I am also very circular in my thinking. I am not drawn to symmetry. Balance yes, randomness yes. But I am much more interested in the happy accidents, the random connections, than I am in measured results. And yet the struggle between precision and randomness continues to define much of my life. I am both and I am neither. Notes, order, and structure are the backbone that allows the randomness to find harmony. I've said that before; I don't think I ever really believed it until I took a dyeing class.
As I worked on other projects on Friday, I struggled with what I would do with my pink fabric. It needed something, but I didn't quite know what. Liana took her pink piece, folded it, and dipped it in some orange dye that was in a tray. I don't know if it was a stabilized hand-paint, or the remnants of a dye-bath that was mostly spent, but I was drawn to the way the soft orange blurred and muted the pinks in Liana's fabric. I decided to do something similar
I folded my fabric in half lengthwise, and then in half again. Then I folded it into small triangles using a flag-fold. After clamping the fabric together, I dipped all the folded edges in the orange dye, holding it in a few moments to allow the dye to soak into the fabric. Then, when I was done with the orange, I noticed that one of my classmates had mixed a small batch of scarlet red for hand-painting. I took a brush and dabbed the red over parts of the edges that I had just dyed orange.
The orange and red provided just the balance the piece needed to make me happy. Despite the precise fold, the pattern of the dye on the pink is not precise, and I like that effect. I also like the way the color moves from light to dark, with the orange softly muting the contrast between white and pink. I like the way that something that starts out all wrong can still end up being so nice.