Friday, August 16, 2013


I know, I'm very late to this party.  I decided to take up knitting (again) to remind myself first hand what it feels like to do the thing I ask of my students.  It's been a while since I faced being a rank beginner or very rusty at something I was never good at to begin with.  I wanted to do something to keep myself honest.

The photo of a very ugly sock says it all.  It is becoming a sock though.  I just came from a class where I showed it to my students who laughed at it at the same time they also told me how well it's coming along.  I can only hope I am as kind with them as they are for me.

The take away for me, trying something that I've attempted several times before but could not make myself get over the hump to become a knitter is that having others to want to do something for is a great motivator.  I could not tell them that I tried and then come up with some dog ate it excuse. to do what I ask of them:  just stay with it even if you think you are bad at it.

I do have a sock, or at least I will in the next day or two when I get to finish the toe.  It will be warm and the holes in it are smaller than the ones worn in my favorite pair of socks, also this color of purple wool that I've not been able to make myself throw away despite those holes.  I've stuck it through so many much more difficult things but somehow learning to knit always lost out to other concerns, but really I had a hard time looking at the mess I'd made of it and wasn't willing to take the time to fix it.  I love socks.  If I had only done this sooner, I'd have a whole drawer full of beautiful warm socks.  No regrets, though.  I can do it now.

I do have two feet though.  I have hope that the second one will be better than this one.  I'm looking forward to wearing them both and looking down at my feet wearing a reminder that just sticking with it most times is all that I need to do.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Homemade Dye Spray Booth

My Dad gave me my first driving lesson without being allowed in the driver’s seat.  It was more a lecture demonstration on all the features of a car, especially the safety features.  He also showed me how to check the oil, antifreeze, water in the radiator and battery.  Last, how to change a tire.  I have to admit it was one of the most valuable afternoons I ever spent with my Dad.  I have to give the same credit to my Theater Department in grad school for giving its students, known for experimenting in their shops, a class on craft safety.   I recently found several videos online using fabric dye that made me apprehensive for anyone who had not been in my class.

Fabric dye is not just correlated with toxicity, it is a known carcinogenic.  This means that rather than an  acceptable concentration to stay below like with lead, mercury or cadmium, a few years of unprotected dye exposure builds from risk to eventuality of cancer.  Contact needs to be avoided all together.
In the segments I’ve seen recently, loose dried dye was sprinkled freely in the open.  Anyone who has cleaned up after using dye, especially in powdered form has seen drops of water hitting a surface kept scrupulously clean suddenly burst into color when it hits a spec of dye too small to the naked eye.  Unfortunately, this leads to a cancer risk.

Fortunately, there are measures that are easy and effective.  First, try to use liquid dye whenever possible.  Second, never use any utensil or container used for dyeing for eating or drinking.  Keep a set completely dedicated for dyeing.  And use a spray booth.

This is a contained workspace that captures stray particles or droplets.  If you don’t have access to an industrial shop equipped with one, no worries, it’s so easy make one and keep it around for all your projects it’s foolhardy not to do it.  All you need is a cardboard box big enough to mix and pour in, a couple of old towels or a roll of paper towels,  a mist water sprayer filled with ordinary water and a pair of gloves. 

  1. Cut the side off the box as shown below making sure to keep a lip at the bottom. 
  2. Line the bottom with toweling. 
  3. Spray the inside of the box with water covering all surfaces.  Also spray a towel or a strip of paper towels big enough to drape over the top, wet side facing the inside of the box and draping down over as leaving just enough opening to mix your dye. 
  4. Put on the gloves. 
  5. Place the container the dye is going to be mixed in the box fill with the desired amount of water and spray the inside of the container above the fill line. 
  6. If you have ignored step 4, Put on Gloves! Mix your dye bringing the measuring equipment and envelopes or containers of dye into the booth to open them smoothly near the destination container avoiding as little flyaway of dye particles.  
  7. Leaving measuring and stiring utensils inside the box, remove and use the liquid dye solution taking care to wipe any spills or droplets immediately.
  8. For cleanup, spray the inside of the box again fold the towels rolling the exposed surfaces to the inside and dispose of in a closed container like a plastic bag and dispose of or put in the wash separately from the regular wash.
For a reality check look at the inside of the draping towel at cleanup.  No matter how careful I’ve been, I’ve never found it to be without any marks of dye.  If you look carefully, even just tearing the corner off an envelope of dye gives off a little “smoke” of dye particles stirred into the air just by the motion of tearing.   My spray booth has also come in handy with spray glue and spray paint although I do that in a well ventilated area or outside away from intake vents.  It will contain paint droplets but not the fumes.

If you insist on needing to manipulate the dye other than using a dyebath, use your dyebooth to mix the dye into a medium like methyl-cellulose or agar agar.  Under no circumstances should you ever spray dye without a respirator with the correct cartridge that still has time left on it.  A particle mask will protect you only from larger particles that by the time the water droplet dries may be too small for the mask to filter out.