Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Problem Water

I have a commission I'm working on at the moment - I was hoping to be putting a lovely report here about it, however instead I am reporting a problem that at the moment I haven't a clue how to deal with!

I need to use cochineal to get the shade of red I'm looking for, I know it doesn't like hard water - but even with soft water in N Wales I had got into the habit of starting with de - ionised water, then adding that to the main bath.

I started sampling for this commission when I was still in Wales, so the colour I have to match was dyed there - I have already done some cochineal dyeing with the hard water we have here - so know I can get good red! The photo shows some wool I dyed just a few weeks ago, although I wasn't trying to colour match with this particular hank!

So to my problem! Last week the water went off - the whole village  was turned off and no one had any water coming into their house for about an hour. After it had been turned back on a note came round from the Commune to say that we must not drink the water, couldn't even use it to clean our teeth. It must be treated with "Javel" (bleach) at a certain percentage before consumption. This state lasted for a few days and then a couple of days ago we got the all clear. I have been doing my preparation work over the past few days - the scouring, mordanting and rinsing. Now I'm not sure if even the mordanting has worked properly. 

 The cochineal itself I did my usual method of soaking out in de ionised water, heated to boiling and then allowed to cool, I wanted as much colour as possible from this dyebath! The colour at this point looks rich and red, seems a good colour to me!

Yesterday I filled the big dyebath with tap water and then added in the cochineal. Horror - the bath went black! Then the cochineal precipitated out, I've never seen anything like it! It's horrid! It smells like a cochineal bath, but there the similarity ends!

This morning it looked gloupy and thick and black! I took a small amount out into a pan and added a small hank of wool and a small piece of cotton ribbon, heated them to boiling to see if there was any "dyeing" power in the bath at all - this is the result. A bit of "purple" maybe but I'm not a happy bunny! I wonder if they could have added more bleach - in the form of ammonia,  rather than chlorine but I really have no idea what they have done to my water!!!

I have now made lots of small hanks of the same wool but from some I had mordanted before, so I can do some experimenting! I will wet out in de - ionised water and then try making a small dyebath with filtered water, try other dyestuffs with the tap water - try anything to make it work!

 It's not good for a dyer to have problems with the water like this!


krex said...

Wow, that is not only disappointing but rather scary . I tend to distrust "the government" in general (having read "Brave New World" as an impressionable teen . ) But what ARE they putting in the water ? Perhaps you can contact your local water treatment plant and explain your situation to them .

I really relate to the fact that you seem more concerned about your dye bath then concerned that they maybe putting something in your water that is bad for you....lol. Thats the kind of craft obsession I can relate to .

jane d said...

Oh dear! Can't think of anything helpful to say except that it is possible they have flushed the system with something that might be used up in a week or two.....If it is ammonia-based bleach I'm sure you have already tried altering the chemistry to neutralise it, tho' how you would do that I have no idea! Not very helpful, sorry!

Anonymous said...

The one time I had this happen it wasn't possible to find out what they put in the water but it was something that actually caused indigo to destroy wool and it wasn't from the ph of the water. That said, cochineal works better in distilled water anyway so if you can get sufficient quantities, used that.

Helen said...

Hi Debbie I am sure this is a contamination in the water. Iron and bleach come to mind. I find the slightest contamination of iron has a massive effect on cochineal. However whatever it is the cochineal has reacted with it don't you think? Not that any of this is much help. I think the dionised water is the only way you can go. Poor you

Debbie said...

We've been and bought 90 ltrs of de ionised water to make up the cochineal bath, however the contamination is probably going to have affected the mordanting as well, so I'm going to have to do lots of tests to see whether I can get away with filtered water as well - rinsing is another factor - so many things that you don't think about in the run of everyday dyeing!