The Last Shift begins…

Safely back from the excitements of Essex and Carters Steam Fair (more to follow soon!) Monday was the first day of the ‘Last Shift Project’ to make a primary school banner – and what a busy day it was!

Working with toddlers (and their grown ups!), two nursery classes and a reception class, we ‘spiral dyed’ the fabric that will be used to make the banner. I wanted to use spiral dyeing as it produces similar results to Tie Dye -without the need for knots!

As the project is inspired by the time span of the Greenside Pit – from 1906 to 1966, the spiral dyeing linked to the Sixties. I’ll be linking print and design ideas to the other decades, with the help of older children in the school.

On arrival at school I quickly got set up in the hall and added the auxiliaries to the dye powders in the bottles. The dye  becomes ‘active’ once the chemical water and washing soda solutions are added. So for best results the dyes need to be used on the day they’re mixed. Trying to use them a day or two later results in faded colours.

Dye bottles

Ready to add the auxiliaries

Spiral dyeing is a great project to do with little ones as once the dye is mixed in sports cap bottles the children just have to choose colours and add a few drops to the fabric spirals.

I was kept busy ‘spiralling’ the pieces of white cotton throughout the day, I think there are over sixty of them!  But the hardest task was getting little hands into adult sized vinyl gloves! We managed it though, everyone wore gloves and aprons and, as far as I know (!) most of the children kept their hands, and uniforms, free of dye!

Once the children had finished adding the dye to their pieces of cloth, the spirals were carefully placed in clear plastic bags and kept in a plastic crate. The dye needs to ‘cure’ in the fabric for about 24 hours before washing off to ensure bright colours – its also a good idea to prewash the fabric to remove any industrial finish that might impede the uptake of the dye and then to soak the fabric in chemical water before adding the dye. The chemical water helps the fabric stay damp for longer, so the dyes have more time to react with the fabric fibres.

I took all of the fabrics back to my workshop and rinsed them off the following day.

As you can see its important to wear rubber gloves as quite a lot of dye comes off when the fabrics are rinsed. It’s always nerve wracking – will there be any colour left?? Will the spirals look exciting??

Well, take a look…

On the line

lots of different colours

Lovely colours

beautiful colour mixes

pegged out

sky blue pink!

All the squares will be ironed and then I’ll take them back to school next week so the children can see what they made. Then it’ll be time for designing and printing…after a few more days of sketchbook work for me!

 

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