Author Archives: sedoniaraqs@gmail.com

Checking colors and my ego

A while back I received a custom order from a repeat customer who had a beautiful modern costume covered in silk flower petals. The flower petals were pale yellow and pink. She sent me a couple so I could match the colors.

Well, I almost got a little too big for my own britches with my color mixing skillz. I almost didn’t even do a test swatch. To be perfectly honest, I almost didn’t even fetch the petals and take them to my workshop when the time came to make the veil, because I thought I had the colors in my head, like a musician with perfect pitch or something.

Luckily I did do a swatch, and did get the petals for comparison. I had the yellow wrong in my head (bottom swatch). I fixed it (top swatch).

Not exactly a near disaster, bur it was a little daily ego check. I do not have perfect pitch, and while I do remember colors well, I am not infallible. Test swatches are good. Looking at the costume photos/swatches as I dye custom orders is good. (I would have looked at the petals before shipping the veil, then I would have had to make another veil.)

No measuring spoons here

My approach to dyeing is sort of “right-brained”, which is biologically not really a thing, but meaning I don’t measure things out or go by recipes, even though virtually all of my standard colors are mixtures of at least 2, if not more, powdered dyes. You would think, being a scientist by day and all, I would take careful notes and measure things out. But I don’t; I do it all intuitively. And if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right?

Plus there are some very practical reasons why recipes and measuring spoons would not improve my methods. Consider the photo below. Here I have 4 veils that I’m taking through multiple dips in 3 different dye baths (copper, purple, teal), but let’s just talk about the purple. I blend my own purples using 2 dyes. Look at the purple region of each veil. They are not the same. The top veil is more blue-purple, and the bottom veil is more fuchsia-purple. Yet they all were all dipped in the same dye bath for about same amount of time. See, the dye bath doesn’t just get more dilute with each piece of fabric dipped. The blue components get eaten up by the fabric faster than the fuchsia in this particular mixture. So I not only have to account for overall concentration; I also have to adjust for the constantly shifting ratios of hues. So I throw in some more blue and re-dip each veil, this time working in the opposite direction, so the colors get evened out. Not ever color mixture shifts around like this one; each dye has its own behavioral quirks.

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I think even across time, my consistency is very good. The colors are in my mind’s eye. But when I dye matching veils for troupes, I always do then together (like the 4 in the above photo) in one or a few small batches, so I can keep the colors very consistent.

Here’s another reason recipes don’t work well: you run out of a color and buy another jar of it, and it is different. Dharma Trading, you HAVE to do better with your house brand acid dyes. Below is a picture of dye lot inconsistency in one of my favorite dyes for mixing golds, and it is really, really annoying. Actually, this is not really a problem for my long-beloved Jacquard acid dyes, just the Dharma house ones.

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Final product:

On consistency, quality control, and stock photos

I’ve seen some pretty terrible things lately in the silk veil market. I’m not just talking about mass produced cheap stuff from developing countries, but also some pretty bleh things from within the cottage industry.

Of course hand-dyed silks are each a little different, with small inconsistencies. This doesn’t give me license to send out sloppy work and then whine that I’m an artEEst. I give detailed attention to each item that leaves my workshop. Order from me, and you will not receive something that looks like it was used for paintball target practice.

I do use stock photos for my ombré gradients, but I don’t cherry pick the best ones for photos and then send out lesser items.

badveilCheck out the veil on the right: It has pale, underdyed areas. Blotches. Harsh transitions. The veil on the right is, by my standards, a big NOPE. Especially if I’ve used the veil on the left as advertisement. No, I didn’t ruin a veil just to make a point. The veil on the right is just unfinished, after the first round of vat dyeing. Numerous more dips are required to blend away harsh boundaries, melt away blotches, fill in pale, washed out areas.

If I think a veil is finished, and later see that it isn’t, it goes back to the basement for more dyeing. Or maybe I have to start over. Right now I have a stack of gold/black and silver/black gradients that I thought were finished, but after they dried, I see I didn’t get the black edges black enough. Black is difficult. But when I say something is true black, it has to be so.

I make beautiful veils, and I confidently stand by my work with an open return policy.

Iridescent Silk Chiffon

Iridescent silk chiffon has a shimmery,luminous glow to it. It changes hue and/or shade as it moves. Unlike all the other silks I work with, iridescent silk comes factory-dyed in several dozen colors.

Its special qualities arise from the warp and weft fibers being different shades. Take for example, this “silver” iridescent chiffon veil:
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It is actually not silver at all, but rather has black threads running one direction and white threads the other direction:

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Now, in another video I have made, I argued that ombre veils were superior because they have dimensionality that shows off movement better relative to solid color veil. Iridescent chiffon offers an alternative way to highlight your veil moves. It can be overdyed to make an ombre, but it also shows off movement quite nicely in its original factory-dyed condition. Check it out:

Looks like liquid silver in motion, doesn’t it? By the way, this fabric only comes in 54″ widths, so it is actually easier for me to make 54″ wide veil. Tedi is dancing with a 54″ x 3 yard veil in the above video.

As if the “silver” iridescent chiffon isn’t cool enough, it looks great overdyed. When it is overdyed, the white threads dye, and the black ones just stay black, so the end result is a color with a black underotne:

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Here’s some other photos of overdyed iridescent chiffon. The first one is the silver overdyed. The others are overdyed peacock blue or light pink iridescent chiffons.

Here’s another look at iridescent silk chiffon in motion — this time a teal/peacock overdyed ombre and a handpainted peacock pattern.

 

You can purchase iridescent chiffon veils in my etsy store:

Functionality of Ombre Veils

An ombre veil is more than just a way to bring several colors together. The ombre brings something to your dance over and above what can be achieved with a solid color veil, or a mottled, tie dyed, or randomly blotchy veil.

A 2.5 minute video is worth a thousand pictures; my dance partner Tedi provided me with several hours of barrel turns holding various veils so you can see what I’m talking about. (As an aside, don’t you hate instructional/informative type videos where the narrator starts out with that ear-piercing “Hi everyone!” and then proceeds to ramble in front of the camera for waaayyyy too long? You click one minute forward into the video and they are still rambling uselessly, so you click two minutes in, three, four. Finally you get to the 15 seconds of useful information in the five minute video? I hate that. I promise to never waste your time like that. The video that youtube tries to make you watch after this one will probably be one of those.)

In a nutshell, the ombre itself brings dimensionality to the veil. It distinguishes the two edges of the veil in 3 dimensional space, so that what you are doing shows up better. The effect is particularly striking on a big stage.  This 3 dimensionality shows up whether the edges are contrasting colors as in the video, or whether the ombre is more subtle. For this reason, when customers ask me for a solid veil, I will usually suggest a subtle lighter to darker gradient of their desired color. It just provides depth to veil in motion; even a subtle difference brings dimensionality to the veil in motion.

An alternative strategy to highlighting movement is with a lengthwise gradient in which the colors transition across the 3 yard dimension of the veil. These aren’t as popular, and for a long time I thought they were inherently inferior. I recently made one by error and was quite surprised. Here is a side by side comparison. I found the way it highlighted movement different and delightful from the usual ombre.

And finally ombres provide options in terms of the direction of the gradient that we hold. Depending on the the colors of your ombre, your costuming, and the lighting, you might decide one direction lends itself more to what you are trying to create with your dance. You can also change the edge you are holding during a dance and play up that contrast.

What about painted designs? I try to do them on a gradient background if possible, for just all these reasons.

I Love Jacquard Silk Acid Dyes

dyejar2I do not keep it a secret that I use acid dyes almost exclusively for my silk art. I love me some Jacquard silk acid dyes. Why? Let me count the ways…

1. what you see is what you get. Whatever color the dye looks dissolved in water is the color it will dye the fabric. Okay, there’s instinct involved in mixing colors, and there are nuanced idiosyncrasies of specific colors that are learned through experience, but these dyes work with me, not against me. Customers ask me for very specific colors , and it is workaday for me to mix those colors up. It has to be, because custom-dyed gradients are the bread and butter of my business. Customers want veils that coordinate and/or contrast properly with their costumes, not veils that clash. Baby pink, shell pink, dusty rose pink, hot pink, slightly-peachy-pink-but-not-quite-peach-enough-to-call-peach pink. No problem. No hassle, no worries. I got it. Most of the time, to be honest, I don’t even dye a test swatch. I just analyze the color by eye, then add the necessary mixture of colors to the pot and dye the silk.

All this is in contrast to fiber-reactive dyes (like Procion MX), which shift horribly on silk. Mix up teal and you get kelly green. Mix kelly green and you get yellow. Mix one kind of brown and you get some other kind of brown. Or maybe something not brown at all, like orange. Do elaborate “corrections” and still not get what you want. Yeah, no thanks. I do not have time for that nonsense.

2. They blend. Trying to do smooth ombres with fiber reactive dyes is awful. The most oft-touted “pro” of fiber reactive dyes (their high washfastness) is one of the reasons they are so poor for making ombres. Once they’ve reacted and bonded with the fiber at the molecular level, they will. not. budge. Which means they won’t blend or smudge into another color very well. Acid dyes can be coaxed to come off a little bit in extremely hot water (as in nearly simmering), and can be partially replaced by another color by overdyeing, which allows them to be blended together. (They are still washable; I recommend warm or cool water.)

3. They get super bright and super intense. If you want pale or earthy, I can do that too with acid dyes, but so many belly dance costumes are bold, bright jewel tones. Not saying it is impossible with other dyes, but acid dyes make some of the absolute brightest and most intense colors.

4. Black is black. Because when you need black, murky maroon just doesn’t cut it. True black is virtually impossible to get on silk with fiber-reactive dyes, but easily achievable with Jacquard’s jet black acid dye.

5. In 18 years, I’ve never had one of their standard colors vary from batch to batch. I also use some of Dharma Trading’s house brand acid dyes for silk, but so far they seem to have more batch-to-batch variability, which causes me some distress.

6. They are versatile and work for all of the techniques I like to use: vat dipping, low immersion, painting, shibori, etc.

If you’ve been itching to try silk dyeing, I highly recommend to give Jacquard Silk Acid dyes a try. You can purchase them at Dharma Trading

So, silk artists, what do you use and why?

Beautiful things that inspire me

pinterest

This is my pinterest “inspiration” board, full of beautiful images that I love to look at to get my creative juices flowing. Some of them I have interpreted as silk paintings. Others I want to.

Follow Sedonia’s Silk Creations’s board inspiration on Pinterest.

From this board, here is my top list of things I want to turn into a veil design:

Monteczuma’s last remaining headdress:
Monteczuma's Last Remaining Headdress

Johnny Jump Ups:
flowers

Desmids:
desmids

Sphagnum Moss Cells:
moss cells

Bad-Ass Scarab:
scarab

Faience Necklace:
faience

MOAR PEACOCKS!
peacock

Which one should I paint next?

[Please note that I did NOT call this post “She assembles a pinterest board. What she does next is AMAZING!!!” or even “Seven veils I need to paint now!”. You’re welcome.]

Iron your veil

By the time you get your veil from me, it has, depending on the technique used to make it, been dipped repeatedly in a near-boiling dye bath and/or steamed in a pot for an hour or more, washed, air dried, and then IRONED. With a very hot iron and lots of steam.

Somehow, everyone has gotten the idea that silk is a delicate fabric. It really isn’t. And to look good in a performance setting, a veil has to be free of wrinkles and fold lines. Part of me cries when I see a beautiful dancer in a beautiful costume holding a wrinkled veil. Or it’s one of my veils, and I recognize my own fold lines from the shipping.

So if your veil looks like this:

wrinkledveil

iron the heck out of it!

Silk wrinkles tend to be quite tenacious, so the best thing to do is spritz down each section  liberally with a spray bottle of water before ironing. I use my iron’s hottest setting, and have never scorched a piece of silk. And believe me, I have ironed a few hundred meters of silk.

Your veil will stay more-or-less wrinkle free if you fold it lengthwise a couple of times and then hang it on a padded clothes hanger. If you can’t hang it, folding is better than wadding it up. If you wad it up, that’s okay too, just iron it before you perform. If you have just a few soft wrinkles, hanging for an hour or so, or a few minutes in a steamy bathroom may freshen it up. If you need to control static, a fine mist of water may help, or dragging the veil across a metal clothes hanger. Avoid, or be very careful with, Static Guard. Use it in small amounts and hold the can several feet away. It can stain the fabric if you use too much or spray it to close to the veil or spray from a clogged up nozzle. Also, I’ve had bad experiences using dryer sheets – they have also stained silk with a waxy coating that would not wash out.

The best static control is handling. When you dance with a veil and handle it, small amounts of skin oils get on it that soften it up, make it even more buttery, and help keep the static down.

 

Habo-huh? Mummies? I just want a veil!

Are you wondering what “6mm habotai” is? Or why some veils seem to move so differently than others? Habotai (sometimes spelled habutai) is a lightweight silk fabric with a plain weave. It is the most common kind of fabric for silk veils. The “mm” stands for momme, or mumme, and is a weight of silk. Habotai comes in weights ranging from 4 momme to about 14 momme, but only 5, 6, or 8 mm are appropriate for belly dance veils. My dance partner Tedi and I made this video demonstrating how these 3 most common silk weights move and compare:

What weight to you like best? Leave a comment!