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Borneo Day 6: Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sasirangan hanging up

Sasirangan patterns hanging up to dry at the factory along the Martapura River in Banjarmasin.

After resting for a couple of hours, we met Nazar, his wife, and his older daughter in the lobby. He was taking us to see how sasirangan, the Banjarese form of tie-dye, is done. As we drove across the river the clouds that had been gathering all day were turning dark black and rain was immanent.

Threatening clouds

Threatening storm clouds over Banjarmasin. This is supposed to be the dry season.

We crossed the Martapura and traveled along a series of ever smaller roads leading us along the west bank. The dyeing process requires a lot of water, so the factories are located inside some of the Banjar style houses along the river we had seen on our trip to Lok Baintan. As we drove along the roadway just to the west of the river, the skies opened up and the rain began. Nazar commented that this wasn’t normal for the dry season. It came down in torrents and buckets, and before long it was impossible to tell where the rainflow ended and the river began – it was all just one sheet of water. We parked under and overhang at the factory outlet and watched the rain for a minute. I took some photos and video.

Rainstorm on river

The rain begins – it came down so fast it became hard to tell where the runoff ended and the river began.

This was quite a storm, but not the worst I’ve ever seen. I’ve been through the edge of a typhoon in Taiwan, and I was once in a downpour in Minneapolis in April 1986 that was beyond belief. The rain there came down so fast that the drainage system couldn’t handle it, even though the city is along the Mississippi River. The pressure in the drains was so great that manhole covers were being blown into the air and fountains of water eight feet high were geysering out of the holes. On my way to the airport a short time later, my shuttle van drove through what looked like a shallow puddle that wound up being five feet deep. The engine got wet and stalled. They had to call another shuttle van to come get us – it drove more carefully into the “puddle” and I had to climb out the window and over to the second van with my suitcase so they could take me on to the airport.

Sasirangan choices

Sasirangan samples in the factory showroom. You can find all types of colors and patterns.

As we were looking at samples in the sasirangan store, a load thunderclap and lightning stroke boomed out and the power went out. I was able to use my flash for photos, but not for video. Craig got his cell phone out and set it to flashlight mode so that I would have some light. We crossed the road to the dye factory on the other side along the river. A man showed us how they use stencils to trace the traditional patterns onto white cloth. The cloth is then tied tightly with small ties to follow the pattern of the stencils. Parts that aren’t to be dyed in the first color are covered in plastic bags.

Tied green cloth

Died green cloth with the ties in place. Where the ties gather in the cloth, the dye won’t penetrate and will leave white places, just like western tie dye. This may be the origin of tie dye.

Next door were the dye vats. Since dye works better in hot water, the room was like a sauna with steaming vats of various colors. My camera wanted to fog up, but I did get some good photos and video. The men there were wearing gloves and dipping the cloth repeatedly into various colors. The bags are moved to the previously dyed areas so that other colors can be applied where the bags had been. The cloth is then rinsed and hung up to dry on railings between the two buildings, something a bit hard to do in this rain.

Plastic covered parts

Dyeing the sasirangan cloth. The dye area was a sauna bath from the steaming hot dye vats. To protect color in areas, plastic bags are tied on to prevent the second color from reaching the first color.

The rain soon let up, and we returned to the outlet store. We looked through the colors; there were many beautiful combinations, and I bought two different bolts of cloth. One was purples and magentas, the other oranges and brick red. These will be for gifts for my sister and daughter.

Dye vats 2

The dyers used rubber globes to repeatedly dip the fabric into the dye vats. The power was knocked out by a lightning strike nearby in the storm. Between the humidity from the rain and the steaming dye baths, this room was like a sauna. They had many types of dye powders and could do any combination of colors and patterns.

Now that the rain was ending, we got back in the car and drove through winding streets to find a restaurant for supper. Nazar knew an excellent place for bakso nearby, and we drove past alleyways and along narrow roads to get there. The late afternoon light after the storm provided a silvery golden cast to everything as it reflected off the wet pavement along the alleyways. It was extremely humid after the rain, but the air was cooler and quite comfortable, so I rolled down my window to get better photos. We passed a cemetery, including the memorial to a local hero. After a few minutes, we reached the restaurant. Nazar’s son rode a Gojek to the restaurant and met us there. I had beef bakso and chilled bottled water for supper, and it was excellent. I like bakso a great deal, and have had some good stuff, but this was the best I had anywhere in Indonesia.

Alley near bakso place

Alleyway near bakso kitchen after the rainstorm.

Bakso kitchen

Bakso kitchen in Banjarmasin where we ate after visiting the sasirangan factory.

Bakso soup

The best bakso in Banjarmasin.

Road after rain

Traveling through the narrow streets of northern Banjarmasin after the rainstorm.

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Jakarta Day 2: Sunday, July 16, 2017

Me doing batik

David Black working on a batik design of Ondel-Ondel at the Museum Tekstil Jakarta.

After our morning sessions at the hotel, we ate lunch at the buffet (the desserts were amazing) and boarded out Whitehorse bus to visit the Museum Tekstil Jakarta, or the Textile Museum of Jakarta. Sarah Sever had set up a class for all of use to learn how to make batik. I was very excited by this, as learning how to do batik is one of my main goals for what to learn in Indonesia.

In my STEAM it Up class, we tried batik at the end of the school year. I ordered a kit from Dharma Trading Company with wax, a canting (the wax pen), and other materials. The instructions were not detailed enough on how to heat the wax, how hot to keep it, or how to hold the canting. The wax was very difficult to keep molten without burning it, and it kept plugging the canting’s tip or not penetrating the cloth. We tried silk and linen, and our results were less than ideal. Then we had trouble getting the wax out of the cloth.

Attempted batik-triangle patterns

One of my STEAM it Up student’s attempts at doing batik. The wax kept clogging the canting and wouldn’t penetrate into the cloth. And it kept dripping.

We walked to the workshop room, which had seats arranged around a series of small burners with wax melted in a bowl on top and cantings for each person. We chose pre-drawn patterns already in embroidery hoops, and a lady showed us how to dip and use the canting to trace the patterns. Where the wax soaks in to the cloth, the dyes won’t penetrate and the cloth is left white. It is a wax resist process.

My own attempt at batik in STEAM

My own attempt at doing batik in the STEAM it Up class. I had the students create a tessellation, such as these arrows, by drawing around a stencil on a pre-died piece of linen. Then we applied wax using a canting. But it kept dripping and clogging.

My pattern was rather complicated, a pair of figures called ondel-ondel with elaborate costumes and headdresses. I saw two things immediately: the wax used here melts at a lower temperature and stays liquid longer that the wax I got from Dharma, which has too much paraffin in it. Here, the wax (or malam) has more beeswax and other ingredients and is more of a brown color.

Craig-Matt-Nikki batik

Craig, Matt, and Nikki working on their batik patterns using canting (wax pens).

You dip the canting into the wax to fill the small reservoir, then hold it at a 45° angle against the cloth, which is held on your left knee (if right handed). I had some trouble with the wax dripping and making splotches on the cloth, but found if I rubbed off any excess wax from the dipping process, this problem would minimize. It felt much like using a traditional pen to do pen and ink drawings; you have to rub off the excess to keep it from dripping there, too.

At Tekstil Museum

Teachers for Global Classrooms educators at the Museum Tekstil Jakarta.

All the teachers enjoyed the process. I was one of the last ones done, and had to rush through waxing the opposite side of the cloth. The next step was to hand the cloth to the man doing the dyeing. We could do red or blue or a combined purple. I chose purple and videotaped him dyeing my cloth as well as others. The wax was then melted out in boiling water and the clothes hung up to dry.

Anu doing batik

Anu working on the same pattern I had: the traditional Ondel-Ondel dolls. Notice how she is holding the cloth at a 45° angle and tipping the canting at the same angle to avoid spilling wax (malam).

While they were drying, we stopped at the gift shop and I purchased some cantings and wax, using money borrowed from Nikki as I had not yet tried to exchange my U.S. dollars for Indonesian rupiah yet. I’ll talk about the exchange rate in a later post. We then took a tour through the museum, where they had examples of batiks from all over Indonesia. A wide variety of plants and animals are used to make the colors of the dyes. We then walked over to the separate museum on weaving techniques and styles.

Kate and Wendy see batik

A master batik artist shows Kate and Wendy her work. She later gave Wendy one of her pieces.

After these tours, I went outside because it was stuffy in the non-airconditioned buildings. It was very humid outside, but at least there was some air moving in a slight breeze. It will be a challenge to adjust to the humidity.

Professional batik

A master artist applying the malam wax using a canting pen. Notice the delicate hand work and how she is not dripping any wax. It is similar to learning how to do hand-dipped pen and ink. I just have to practice.

As I was walking around the grounds trying to find the restroom, the afternoon call to prayer (salat) rang out from several nearby mosques. This is not the first time I had heard the prayer call. In 1984, I traveled with my family to parts of Europe and Israel, and while in Jerusalem I visited the Dome of the Rock and heard the calls to prayer. The calls ring out loudly so that all people can hear wherever they are and whatever they are doing. These prayers are done five times per day, and begin with the Kalimah, a statement of belief that there is only one God and Muhammad was his prophet. This is one of the five Pillars of Islam. The imam for each mosque then decides a passage from the Quran to read, and the muezzin calls out the passage as a song, which is quite beautiful to listen to and rather haunting. I recorded some of it.

Everyones batik drying

Teacher batik hanging up to dry. We could choose red or blue or a combination. The border was painted on and cracked by one of the museum teachers.

Sarah collected our dried batiks. Mine wasn’t exactly a work of art, but it was much better than my earlier attempts in my STEAM it Up class. We re-boarded the Whitehorse bus and traveled gradually toward our next destination. I took photos of bougainvillea and other flowering plants along the way. I have missed the colorful flowers of the tropics.

Batik sample

Batik sample in the Museum Tekstil Jakarta.

Batik sample 2

Other batik samples in the museum.

Me with ondel ondel

David Black with Ondel-Ondel statues. I bought some canting at the museum store for use in my classes at school.

Flowering bushes

Flowering bushes, mostly bougainvillea. Although native to Mexico, this bush is now found throughout the tropics in Asia.

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Further Adventures in Dyeing

Me in sweater - 7-4-17

Sweater crocheted from 100% wool yarn dyed with natural dyes, including rabbitbrush, madder root, cochineal, indigo, walnut shells, sandalwood, and logwood.

Part I: Woad is Me

In my STEAM it Up class at American Academy of Innovation we have been inquiring into the best formulas for dyeing cloth using natural dyes. I’ve reported on this several time in this blog before, and this will be my last post about it (at least for now). I wanted to describe our follow up efforts and present our final results.

Not woad - but pretty

What I thought was woad – but now plainly isn’t. Woad has yellow flowers. This is quite pretty, though.

The first note I have to make is that I was mistaken in my post about woad. The plant that I had accidentally found and identified as woad is NOT woad. I’ve been keeping an eye on the plants as I drive past the spot on Mountain View Corridor in the southwest corner of Salt Lake Valley, and waiting for them to bloom in May so that I could make a final positive identification. But, alas, woad is me, the blossoms were red and pink – and quite pretty, hanging on long stems in small pendular bell shapes. However, woad has yellow flowers. This is not woad, but a closely related species (the leaves and other features are identical).

Real woad

This is real woad. Notice the yellow flowers and green leaves with white vein clustered at the bottom.

That led me to go on a hunt for true woad, and I soon found it – just five miles further south along Redwood Road across from Camp Williams, by the Herriman Pit. There were plenty of other yellow flowered plants, but these I knew were clover. Then, at this site, along the fence, I saw some plants with larger yellow flowers. I stopped and looked and sure enough, it was truly woad. I am including some photos so you can see it, and I will add a retraction to my previous post about woad (A Woad Twip).

Real woad 2

Real woad, again. This was located near Camp Williams on the other side of Redwood Road in Utah. It is a Class 3 Invasive Weed and has gotten out of control in northern Utah.

I did not have the time left in the school year to go through the difficult extraction process, so I merely noted where the plants were. Two of my 8th Grade Science students had written a report for their Environmental Science Project about invasive species. The project required an action plan, and for their action they travelled down to this spot several days later and pulled up all the woad plants they could reach on the road side of the fence. There are still many more further in that I will harvest in September when the indigotin is the highest and have my chemistry students do the extraction. I still have the extracted powder from the non-woad plants – we will experiment with it this fall to see if it, too, is a dye since the plants appear to be related.

Part II: Born to be Purple

Purple everywhere

Our experiments with logwood yielded this beautiful variegated yarn – and lots of purple dye.

We received our money for the Classroom Grant from the Utah STEM Action Center in early May and sent off our order, which included additional yarn skeins (Kona sports yarn, 100% Merino wool). It also contained bolts of silk and linen as additional fabrics to experiment with (more on these results later). We also ordered a package of a new dyestuff: logwood.

We looked up instructions for basic dyeing with logwood and followed them as our first experiment. It called to pre-mordant the wool in alum, which we did, and to use about the same weight of logwood chips as the yard we were to dye. This seemed excessive, so we used have as much logwood by weight as the yarn. We added about 750 mL of boiling water to the logwood chips as per instructions and soaked them overnight, then simmered the chips and solution for two hours. After filtering out the solution, we placed half the skein in the solution so that we could variegate the yarn for more interest and boiled it. After an hour, the yarn had turned a very dark purple. We turned the skein around (a messy process – do these sorts of things in a sink if you can, or in a waterproof container) and boiled the other end for only 15 minutes, which provided a nice lavender, moving the boundary between the colors in and out to get a gradient of color. After rinsing and washing, the dark end was still very intense purple, as you can see in the photos.

Logwood comes from Central America and was highly prized because, with its dark purple color, all it took was an overdye with a yellow color to produce black, which is a hard color to come by for natural dyes. Keep in mind that in Europe, the only reliable purple dye (more of a burgundy) was the famous Tyrian purple made from the Murex sea snail, which was very expensive. Now we have a reliable (and powerful) New World purple.

We were left with a lot of dye solution. I even collected the rinse water from the sink and saved it in an aluminum foil pan, which was still intense purple. Unfortunately, I left the pan over the weekend and discovered that logwood solution is acidic and reacts with aluminum. I came back on Monday to find purple solution all over the cabinet and the tile floor (Note: Never have carpet in a science classroom). It was quite a clean up job and involved lots of paper towels and bleach. I added more water to the logwood chips and boiled it some more and still got a deep purple. This stuff just won’t quit. Now I have about 1.5 L of logwood dye solution left even after using it for several other experiments.

LInen and silk-rabbitbrush

Silk (left) and linen (right) dyed with rabbitbrush. In this case, the dried blossoms were used, which I collected and dried last fall. You can see that both fabrics accept the rabbitbrush well using alum for a mordant.

We experimented with using silk and linen, and both accepted the logwood well. We tried overdyeing with rabbitbrush (our free go-to yellow dye) and it created a kind of sickly purplish grey color – not my favorite, but interesting if you’re into grey. We did not experiment with saddening or gladdening the color. The literature says that adding even a small bit of an iron compound to logwood will turn it a dark grey. That’s an experiment for another time.

 

Sandalwood results

Sandalwood dyed on cotton with modifiers added. On the top right, it is plain sandalwood using an alum mordant. On bottom right, tartaric acid (cream of tartar) has been added to lighten (gladden) the color. On top left, tin has been added as a gladdener. On bottom left, iron (II) sulfate has been added to sadden (darken) the color to an interesting reddish grey.

Part III: Modifying Sandalwood

Sandalwood was another natural dye we did some experiments with before we ran out of yarn several months ago, and a team of students had experimented with saddening and gladdening the sandalwood using iron (II) sulfate and cream of tartar, respectively. Iron turned the sandalwood from brick red to grayish brown, and cream of tartar lightened the brick red to more of an orange. Now that we had more wool, I wanted to dye a skein of it with sandalwood. I had read that copper compounds also make an interesting modifier for sandalwood, so we dyed one end of a skein in a 500 mL beaker with un-modified sandalwood (after pre-mordanting the yarn with alum) and the other end in a 500 mL beaker with sandalwood modified with a small amount of copper (II) nitrate. It turned the brick red into a pleasant reddish brown, a bit nicer than our experiments with walnut shells had produced.

Sandalwood process

Skein of yarn being dyed with sandalwood. The yarn is first boiled in an alum solution as a mordant (a metal salt that helps the dye molecule bind with the fabric), then we added copper (II) nitrate to the sandalwood at left, which saddened the color from brick red (right) to red-brown. The sandalwood had been filtered to remove the dye chips, then the solution boiled with the yarn dipped in it for about one hour.

Sandalwood skein

100% Merino wool dyed with sandalwood after it has been rinsed. The yarn was then washed in a machine on gentle cycle and allowed to dry in the air. I like the brick red and the brown-orange hues.

Part IV: Making a Sweater from Our Results

One of the points of this STEAM it Up class is to create final works of art from our investigations and projects. I now had eight different skeins of yarn, each dyed with a different natural dye using a variety of processes. My wife is excellent at crochet, and she volunteered (with some strong hinting from me) to crochet these skeins of dyed yarn into a sweater. She had never attempted a sweater before, and looked up patterns, made careful measurements of me (this was tricky because I have been losing weight), and set to work. First, she had to untangle the washed yarn and roll it into balls for more convenience in crocheting. Then she built the front and back pieces, counting carefully to make sure there were the same number of rows of each color. She completed these parts by March as a birthday present. Once we had the new colors, she completed the sleeves and sewed the pieces together as a Father’s Day gift.

David Black in sweater

David Black in the finished sweater. It is very comfortable. I have enough yarn left for my wife to crochet a beanie and maybe a scarf . . .

I presented our project at the STEAM Action Center’s Best Practices conference on June 21 at the Utah Valley Convention Center and had about 40 teachers attending. I wore one of my ice-dyed shirts, then the sweater over the top, then my Tie-dyed lab coat over the sweater. It was a bit warm, but during the presentation I did a little strip tease to show them the results. I also displayed other shirts, the yarn balls, and cloth swatches we’d made in the class for our experiments. The presentation went over well, and several teachers complemented my wife on her sweater design. It fits perfectly, and is a very comfortable sweater. Here is a photo showing what the different bands are dyed with.

Part V: A Quilt and Some Viking Dye Ideas

I had students in the STEAM it Up class who were experienced at making quilts – two of them even had their own quilting frames. Quilting is quite a big thing in Utah. As part of these continuing experiments, we have amassed quite a few swatches of cotton, silk, and linen fabric dyes various colors. I have the idea to create a patchwork quilt in the form of our school logo, with correct colors. We haven’t pursued the quilt project yet – too little time left in the semester. Another project for next year. We still haven’t gotten a good green, which is one of the colors in our logo. We’ve overdyed rabbitbrush yellow with indigo blue and gotten kind of a mottled olive green, but nothing really bright.

Stack of swatches

A stack of dyed cloth swatches – the results of our experiments. I hope to have them made into a patchwork quilt in the form of our school logo. On the right are our experiments with pyrography (wood burning), which the students got pretty good at.

Then I had a meeting at the Natural History Museum of Utah to plan out some professional development workshops in the fall (incidentally, one of them will include parts of our dye lab) and was allowed to browse through the museum on my way out. There was an interesting display of Navajo and Ancestral Puebloan fabrics and dyes, and a visiting exhibit on the Vikings that was fascinating. They had one display showing green dyed wool fabric, which was made from woad overdyed with weld (a yellow dye) and was bright green. Or maybe the other way around – the display was vague on that. So now we need to get some weld and use it with our own woad and see what we get. Another experiment for another time.

Sweater with labels

The finished sweater: The yellow at the top is rabbitbrush, the light orange is madder root, the deep red is cochineal in its natural color, the light purple is cochineal with some baking soda added (a base), the light blue is indigo, the yellow-tan to brown at the top of the sleeves is walnut shells mixed with rabbitbrush (in two separate beakers), the brick red is sandalwood, the bright red is cochineal again, and the deep purple at the bottom of the sleeves is logwood.

Part VI: More to Come

This is the fun part about STEAM education, project-based learning, and inquiry science: there is always more to learn, more variables to test, more experiments to refine. I’ve spent a great deal of blog space here just describing one continuing lab on dyeing cloth, but there are so many more ideas for combining the arts and history with STEM.

This post is overlong already, so I will wait for a later post to reveal our final results from the entire year’s worth of dyeing. I still need to talk about our year-end STEAM Showcase, which I will do tomorrow in my next post. Then it’s off to Indonesia on Thursday, which will require a long series of posts, if all goes as planned, so you may have to wait until September before I can return to give the dye lab results. I’ll write up a complete PDF you can use.

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I’m taking a break from reporting on my preparations for my Teachers for Global Classrooms trip to Indonesia to bring you up to date on activities in my STEAM it Up and Chemistry classes, so that I can maintain some semblance of chronologic continuity.

Ice dye shirts 1

Ice dyeing creates intense, random colors.

Once we finished our unit on steampunk sculpture and cosplay costume creation, we began ramping up for the concluding section of our dyeing cloth lab in the STEAM it Up class. To get the students back in the mood, I introduced them to tie-dye and all of its STEAM applications. I’ve reported on how to do tie-dye in previous posts, so I won’t describe what we did again here. We did add a new wrinkle to the process by trying out a different type of dyeing using ice to randomize the colors. This is called ice dyeing, and you can find many beautiful examples online. The colors tend to be much more intense (because the dye powder is less diluted by the ice).

Here’s how to do it:

Adding dye powder

My STEAM it Up students adding tie-dye powder over the ice layer. The T-shirts and other cloth items are scrunched up on a tray under the ice.

First, you find a tray or grate or sieve of some kind that can fit inside a waterproof container, such as a plastic storage box. The grate must have holes to let water through and be raised a few inches above the bottom of the container so that the cloth won’t be sitting in the melted ice water.

Second, you need white or near-white cloth such as T-shirts or aprons or socks. These need to be pre-soaked in washing soda (sodium carbonate) dissolved in warm water. I use about a cup (250 mL) of washing soda to a sink full of warm water. Soak the cloth for at least 15 minutes, then wring out most of the water so that the cloth is wet but not dripping The cloth pieces or T-shirts then need to be wadded or scrunched up randomly and laid in the tray next to each other tightly enough so that they will remain somewhat folded up.

Ice with dye powder

The ice with a completed layer of dye powder. I demonstrated the process at the bottom with a spectrum of colors (and two shirts underneath). Students die the middle and top. Where complimentary colors are mixed, as in the top right, the results were more muddy. Yellow needs to be given more room since any other color will mix in and darken it.

Third, ice or snow is layered on top of the cloth or shirts. We simply raided the faculty lounge refrigerator’s icemaker and poured the ice on top of the cloth. It needs to make a fairly complete and even layer with no holes. We did this in May or we would have gone outside and gathered snow for a finer, more complete layer.

Fourth, tie-dye powder (we used Procion MX dye powder ordered from Dharma Trading Company) is spooned onto the ice or snow. This will use a lot of dye powder, so go sparingly and try to make a rainbow or spectrum pattern, with analogous colors next to each other instead of complimentary colors. Otherwise, the opposite colors will mix and you’ll get muddy results. There is some good color theory that can be taught here.

After the ice melts

To keep the T-shirts from sitting in the muddy melt water, the tray they are sitting in must be raised out of the water. I placed this tray on top of some funnels I use for tie dyeing. This is what the shirts look like after the ice melts. The shirts must sit for 24 hours with a lid on the container before rinsing. By scrunching up the cloth, and by the mixing of colors as the ice or snow melts, the final shirts have bright, random colors.

Finally, put a cover on the container and let it sit overnight undisturbed. It must be airproof, as the dyes need wet cloth and about 24 hours to set in. The colors will mix in the melt water to make a dark olive or brown color that can be saved for other dyeing. The shirts are then rinsed out in a sink with running cool water until no more color rinses out of them. They can then be washed with non-bleach detergent on gentle cycle and dried normally.

Ice Dye shirts 2

Ice dyed shirts.

Here is a photo of the results. Since some of my students forgot to bring their own T-shirts, I brought in all the old T-shirts I could find. Some of them had paint on them or were buried at the bottom of my drawer and hadn’t been worn in years. Now they have a new lease on life and are my favorite tie-dye shirts. Over the years, I’ve built up quite a collection, but these have the most intense colors.

Me in ice dye shirt

Here I am wearing my favorite ice dyed shirt. Notice how bright the colors are, but it does use up a lot of dye powder.

 

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