Sunday, 22 February 2015

Making Extracts and Messes

 I made this post earlier, but it's been languishing in the draft file. So I might as well post it before it gets to the point where it's been too long, like most of my unposted drafts.

While Shemar hasn't been working, I've been doing other things, most especially with my Christmas present, and trying to figure out how to make the mukluks but too scared to actually cut the material. My first project with the new burner has been a bit of a comedy of errors. Like most of my dyeing experiments.

After the last disaster mama said "you are always trying so hard on these projects and they always backfire on you". Which is true and why I'd never be able to do anything creative professionally. Accidents are really the primary part of my creative process.

I've had some cochineal for years and never used it. Since I know it can produce a lot of dye by multiple extractions, I decided I wanted to make a powder extract. I looked on the Place For All Answers, the natural dye list, but couldn't find anything much on the best process to produce a powder extract. So I thought well it would just be about extracting and then dehydrating, can't be that hard. But then I forgot this was being done by me.

The process took up most of January but I did manage to produce 30g of dye extract which should dye 300g of fabric. It's also the amount of bug I started with, so I have an extract that should be ten times more potent than the whole bug. So it's not entirely unsuccessful.

Through the errors I've figured out the best way to do this is to make small batches of dye and then bake it in a pyrex plate at about 300F and scrape out with a razor. But it took a lot of not doing that to get to that point. My basement looks like I killed someone in it, and so did my hands. Red EVERYWHERE. But got to do some cool experiments anyway. And I took pictures for mem's benefit, since he is so interested in dye process (hah). I intended to post them here but I'm lazy so it's taken me the better part of a month.
The bugs secreting their lovely red. I ground them up a little, but not overly so. Once they had been reconstituted, they really did look like bugs again. 

  first extractions, so red they were opaque. I'm pretty sure I did at least 20 extractions before the bugs stopped producing enough colour to be worth it.

At this point I decided to siphon off some of it in case I ruined it and see what I could get for colour. The first attempt precipitated, and now I have some cochineal pigment after I cooked it down. Then I got some nice pinky reds on silk and alpaca. The silk surprisingly took the best colour. This is the same silk I used for Athanasius and John Owen, and it never took ANYTHING well. Except cochineal apparently. 
As I continued to extract, I put the small extractions into my giant stock pot with a light to reduce and the plan to cook that down in the pot. But I started to notice some black sludge forming at the top. Didn't know what it was or why it was there. Was it going bad? I skimmed it off with shop towels.
black crap. 

When I dyed the yarn, I added a little vinegar to shift the colour a bit. The black sludge turned bright orange. Turns out it was dye material and I had gotten rid of it (I had reserved about a cup of it because I wondered if there was something I could do with it and there was soo much. So I only threw away some of it, but it all had to be reconsituted). Here it is on the table where I had spilled some of the black--orange in the vinegar. 
Damn it I threw away dye. I pulled out the shop towels and soaked them in vinegar to pull the dye back out. I'm not sure what kind of chemical thing was going on here, only vinegar would return it to a coloured dye material from a pure black.

   reconstituting the sludge.

 Making a mess. I looked like I slapped someone silly after this. Prolly what Nicholas of Myra looked like after the council of Nicea.

This is the sludge that was sitting at the bottom of the big stock pot when I strained it. I decided to pull that out and start drying it out on its own. 

I put the sludge on some foil and stuck it in my pyrex plate. I cooked it on broil and it worked nicely. The second time I put it on broil without foil, the plate broke when I pulled it out. So I need a new plate. Then I broke another one! Mama told me to put it on bake instead of broil and the rest of the extractions went nicely. But more dye wasted. :( 

Originally I attempted a dehydration set up with a light and aluminum foil. This actually worked pretty well, except the plastic melted and the containers were too small so it took longer for the stuff to dry out and turned out to be difficult to scrape out. I eventually started just pouring each extraction into the pyrex plate and cooked for like half an hour then scraped it out. I'd get about a gram of dye with each extraction. 

Altering the colour of the saved bit. Ammonia added to vinegar. 

After I realized that the black sludge was in fact dye and pulled out what I could from the shop towels soaked in vinegar as well as the cup I reserved, I played with the ph a little. 

This is how you get orange and scarlet with cochineal, it's an indicator dye. That is, the colour can be shifted by changing the ph and by adding different auxiliaries.  The ph on the left is about 4 with vinegar and 8 on the left with ammonia.

The final result. 30g of carmine (I got some more after this). And probably another 30g all over my basement. Some of it did wash out of my housecoat. Some of it.

I'd like to try this with my wood dyes, but they're way more temperature sensitive in my experience, especially logwood. My first logwood experiments became a very ugly brown that actually seemed to discharge the purple colour before it ever even got to the boiling point. That was an interesting, if less than cool experiment. So I guess I'd have to cook at much much lower temps. And probably dehydrate in an actual dehydrator because baking would probably destroy it.

So I have pure forms of two of the dyes for project. Murex next, right?

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Finished (kind of) Projects!

A few months ago I mentioned my plan to add to the double wedding ring quilt I had made years ago. It didn't really turn out quite as well as I had hoped as a lot has changed in those years including my sewing machine and the neutral fabric I used. Also I didn't have Fergus to ruinate everything. Overall I guess it could have been worse, and I can put the new part to the bottom edge of the bed. :)

I did take pics of it's progress; this is one of the quilts in my original quilt journal, which years later I'm actually finding helpful in a few cases because I documented my process so well and it HAS been almost 20 years in some cases. So this is pretty pic heavy. Mostly phone pics, but I used my camera at the end.

Shemar crapped out in mid-December, and I finally got the time to get him out and to the repair shop, hopefully to have his hook race replaced. I pulled out the old QC to finish the edging of this quilt, as well as other projects awaiting completion since Shemar was sent on vacation while still insisting he prefers Versace. Anyway the quilt is still awaiting a binding. I fricking hate binding in case someone out there didn't know. Given my record I'll do it eventually in 10-13 years or so.

Crappy phone pic of the arc blocks with the various neutral fabrics I bought behind them.  They ended up not exactly the same colours, but I was still okay with the way the new matched the old colour wise. I did also find more of the original fabrics, and hardly had to use the jelly roll. So I still have most of a jelly roll for other things.

Unfortunately once I got the melons done, I learned why the quilt was smaller than expected all those years ago: the blocks that were meant to be 15" were all actually 14". I had to cut all the new blocks down to make them match the old ones. 

When I cut down the new blocks, it caused the four-patches to go pretty wonky. Above is an old four patch and the worst of the new ones for comparison. The patches, having been cut so much, were just not all the same size. This was really disappointing because at the time I was proud of how well the original four-patches matched up. 

Part of a completed new unit.

All units sewn together, ready to add to the quilt. Despite mangling the four patches, I was glad to see that they did in fact match up with the old piece. Alas, that was a temporary reality.

It also took some work to get Fergus the hell off of it so I could take a picture. Not the last time with this quilt, as you'll see. I threw him off, turned around to take a picture, and got this. He got kicked out and the door closed after this.

Beginning the process of ripping out the old quilt. Probably the easiest part of the whole process. I chose to hand sew a strip to the back so I wouldn't have to cut as much quilting out. I trimmed the batting to match inside. 
New and old pinned together, with the old backing and batting pinned away. Another problem is that these kind of blocks are meant to be sewn together in an "S" pattern. Because I was adding new rows, I had to add them in "C" patterns. This meant I had to hand sew the four-patch units while laying the pieces on the floor. So that was annoying.

Here it is after hand sewing, all in one piece. At this point I decided to add some paint to the four-patches to at least give the worst of them the illusion of matching better than they really did.

I didn't have my beloved spray adhesive, so I pin basted. It was challenging to lay out because of course there was a completed quilt on the end of it, so I taped the backing down and weighted the quilt so that it was still taut. I ended up with a tuck on the edge where the strip to add the two pieces was, but meh.

Pin basting in the hoop.

So once it was together I started quilting. I used the original quilting pattern as I had it in the quilt journal. As mentioned, this was the only quilt I ever completed on my hoop. Now that it is no longer in storage I pulled the hoop back out; it was far easier to use than I remember. Partly because I think I learned more about keeping tension right, and partly because I sat on my bed which is really really high. The hoop practically sat in my lap.  Here it is in the hoop, started on the rings then added the central motif.

I used a thicker thread which made me crazy and I had to use a needle slightly larger than a between, but over all it was fun to do. I tried to match but the stitches were slightly smaller than the original. And with less tension in the hoop, it was much less painful to do than the original. Helps not having an arthritic flare up too.

Fergus thought this was a "box" and tried to sit in it whenever I readjusted the quilt. He also tried to chew the thread and jump on top of the quilt while in the frame. He got kicked out and the door closed...again.

New ring above, old ring below. I had been considering getting a smaller hoop for the frame (you can get different sizes) but now I find that while the large hoop has it's challenges, it's just not that difficult to use anymore. 

Ready to cut down, and...oh look it's Fergus the king of the aholes.

....yeah. He wanted in the kitchen as soon as I had covered the doorway.

The last pic was taken after I had quilted and edged, but before washing. Glad I did it, because after washing, the new rings all shrunk considerably. They are now significantly SMALLER than the old ones. I think it's because I used kona cotton for the centres instead of broadcloth, as originally. So I didn't need to cut them down anyway, they would have shrunk down. That said, they wouldn't have matched. Still, I did a lot of extra work on them because they weren't the right size, then they SHRUNK. PHEH.

There's now a ripple in the middle of the quilt though it's more noticeable on the back, as can be seen here (note the hand-sewn strip too--been awhile since I hand sewed like that, and it wasn't the straightest, heh).  It also shrank more to one side than the other.

This is how much smaller the three new rows are. :( Mama and I did tug-of-war with it for awhile to stretch it but mostly only succeeded in almost knocking each other over a few times and lawling at each other. It really didn't stretch too much and mama once again reminded me of how often I fail at my bad ideas. Sigh.

Anyway here's some more pictures of the finished quilt. It really has turned out to be quite large and it was hard to find a wall big enough for it. The darkest rings all ended up in the last row and colourwise I think that's the only thing that looks a little weird (more noticeable in the pic with Ferghole the douchecopter). 

 The entire quilt, new part on the top so there's some rippling to the larger bottom. I had to actually Hammer push pins into this wall! This apartment has some kind of rock hard particle board that nothing sticks to or in for walls.

Look at that shrinkage. One thing I will say is that it makes the quilting look pretty nice...I mean for part of it. Really the quilting is where a difference is most apparent. 

 Quilting in the sunlight. We had a very sunny day today so I decided it'd be good for the colouring.

This picture or the one above probably show its colours best. 

I figure if I put the new part on the bottom of the bed with the smallest side against the wall, as it is here, its hardly noticeable that it's smaller. 

The DWR plus another quilt I just finished.

So though it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to, they never really do. I know that it's not the best idea to pull the fork out again once you've declared something done, but I don't think it's a habit I'll ever be able to break. I do have a large and useable quilt now. And I want to hand quilt the New York Beauty even more now. Still working on the sashing!