Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Dyeing Safely and Other Bits and Pieces

Here is a picture of a few bits of equipment that I use when dyeing. I really want to point out the mask, safety glasses, and gloves. I am pretty fanatical about safety. I am sure my mother will be happy to read that. I have safety gear for the many things I do. I wear safety glasses and ear protection when weed-eating, building, jewelry making, and dyeing (no ear protection when dyeing unless using blender!). I wear earplugs even when vacuuming the house. I have safety gear for the more risky things I do such as mountain biking and climbing, and, even though I am working with non-toxic natural dyes, I have and use safety gear when dyeing.
Most of the extracts are in powdered form. It is never a good idea to inhale particles even if they are non-toxic so I always use a mask when handling them. The glasses prevent splashes from getting in my eyes and the gloves prevent skin irritation and having my hands stained. Toxins can be absorbed through the skin. I wear protective clothing too. Just because something is natural, doesn't mean it can't harm you! This may seem like a no brainer but sometimes we forget. Take the rhubarb plant for instance. The stalk is edible the leaves are poisonous. Rhubarb contains oxalic acid and the leaves and root make an excellent mordant, or so I have read. You do not want to stand over a pot of rhubarb mordant or dye, and you handle it with great care because of the toxins it contains.
In addition, I do not use my natural dyes, or any kind of dye, in the kitchen. All the pots and utensils I use are dedicated to dyeing and are stored in a different area. I just don't feel the risk is worth it.
I do compost my spent natural dye bath. I pour the mordant bath down the drain to the septic. I only use alum for a mordant which is considered safe to handle but not to ingest of course. This is the accepted way of disposal. Mordants such as copper and tin are highly toxic and should be considered hazardous waste. I do not use these mordants at this time. One of the reasons I like using the percentage method with your WOF and DOS calculated is that it cuts down on waste of dyes and mordant.
That is my speech on safety for the day! Yesterday I went to my local spinning group in the morning and got the alpaca and dog fur carded and ready to spin. When I got home, I put a skein of each chestnut DOS in an iron modifier bath. I really liked the results. The light DOS came out a lovely medium grey with a slight greenish cast. The medium DOS came out a dark grey/green color that I really like. Iron deepens and saddens the color. I was pleasantly surprised with the way it reacted with the Chestnut dye. To use the iron bath, I calculated WOF with 2% iron powder to get the amount of iron needed. I heated enough water to cover two skeins in an old enamel kettle to 130 degrees F. This kettle will now only be used for iron as it will be ruined for any other dyeing. I had been warned about this ahead of time so I picked a pot I knew I would be dedicating to iron. When the water had heated I added the iron that had been dissolved in a bit of boiling water, straining it through a coffee filter into the pot. Then I simply swished the skeins around until I saw the color change. It didn't take very long, about 30- 60 seconds at the most, and, of course, I had on my safety gear!
I will post a picture of the skeins tomorrow as well as the walnut dyed cotton. Until then, Think about the activities in your life that should be done with safety gear. Are you covered? If not, a bit of gear is really a very inexpensive investment that will repay you with a higher quality of health and life. Yours in safety, -Renee

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