Friday, September 10, 2010

The Glove Box

Today’s blog addresses Practical Matters – these too require significant cogitation!

The Glove Box
I dye (immersion, paint, screen, monoprint, tie dye etc…) all the fabric I use in the quilts.  I use Procion MX dyes as they don’t require heat to fix and are very strong and fast.  However they do need to be mixed, as they come in powder form.  When I first started dyeing fabric I took a workshop and was horrified to see people cavalierly flinging dye powder around like flour in a pasta shop!  As I already am one of those very wheezy types, I definitely do not want to be breathing in variously coloured powdered chemicals!  In my next class, we were told to wear masks to mix the dye.  This didn’t make a lot of sense to me: while mixing the dye,  our faces were protected, but our clothes, the counter and the environment were not….and then we took off the masks!!  Anybody who has wiped down a counter after mixing dye knows that there are loads of tiny particles every where…

So then, I attended improved class number two!  Here we were told to take a box and fill it with damp newspapers and drape plastic over it..well you couldn’t see a darned thing!  I’m very adept at spooning dye powder anywhere but the right container when peering through murky plastic….

So, I quit the classes and cogitated.  What was needed was a box made of something rigid and clear; it also needed to be totally contained.  Going on line I discovered Glove Boxes used by lab technicians; the boxes looked great but were about $1000.  Mentioning this to an intrepid friend (it’s always good to have a few of those!), she said “if you can provide transport, money and a sketch, I think I could use the table saw at the local art centre…we could make two boxes, one for you and one for the centre!”

And so it was done, I borrowed a truck, we drove to the nearest store that sold large acrylic sheets, bought one about 8’ by 4’ – had them cut it in two so that it was easier to load and unload.  Also bought a little instruction book for working with acrylic and a can of the ?acetone (or something like that) that melts the edges so you can “glue” the pieces together.

Here are the sizes of pieces we cut out:

IMG_2468 The measurements are somewhat arbitrary – we just used up as much of the sheet as we could.  The height is the most important – it needs to be tall enough for a big jar of dye with a hand entering and retrieving a spoonful of the stuff!

The incline on the upper part of the front makes it a lot easier to see what you are doing.  Having cut out the shapes, we assembled the sides, the two fronts and the back.  This forms a box without a bottom or a lid.  The lid  just rests on top – with a little overlap.  This makes for easy removal.  

Before assembly, we cut two holes in the front for hands and forearms to enter the box.  I posed in front of the box so we could get the width apart exactly the width apart of my arms.  We cut two  1” rings from plastic plumbers pipe the same diameter as the holes – about 6” (it says 4” on the sketch, but 6” is much easier!).  Then we attached plastic sleeves with hose clamps from the auto store to the rings.  Then I  inserted a very long pair of gloves into the sleeves with just the hand bit at the end poking out.

Before mixing dye I put a damp towel in the base of the box – you could use newspapers, but a towel is easily washed.  I also spray the sides with a fine mist.  Into the box I put the jar of dye, a container with urea water, a container of water for soiled spoons, several dry measuring spoons, a stirring spoon, and a jug of water to add to the dye if needed plus a damp rag or two,   the lid of the dye solution container, plus a spray bottle of water.  Then I put the lid on,  insert my arms into the sleeves and gloves…and then the phone rings or I sneeze, or I’ve forgotten something!  But apart from those little problems, it works great.  I open the jar of dye, spoon in the required amount into the container, stir, add more water if necessary.  Put the dirty spoons into the assigned container. Screw the lids on the dye and the dye solution containers.  Spray everything down with water.  Shake the dye solution container well, spray down again to make sure there’s no undissolved dye powder loose in the box…and then extract myself.

I usually make up a pint of dye solution of each of several different colours: cool and warm yellows, reds and blues plus a black and probably a fun colour too!  It’s a bit of a performance, but no wheezing and no masks!  The dye solution will keep in a small dye studio fridge for months and months.

Here are a few photos of the box:                                                                                                                                                                           


This is the profile view, you can see how the inclined lower section makes it easier to see what you are doing.  You can also see the plastic rings, with the hose clamps, sleeves and gloves. 

(As well as a gorgeous autumn clematis in the background!)

















Above is the view from the top (the lid is not on).  You can see we used 1/2” acrylic sheet – this was not necessary and did mean the saw got very hot.  1/4” would have been ample – but we didn’t know!


And above is the view from the front.

I hope this information is helpful; I’m sure there are many other ways of achieving the same goals – I’m happy for you to copy these ideas.  but…please don’t say that “Elizabeth Barton mixes dye in a baby incubator” as once was said on the net!!!  No babies were relieved of their incubators to make me a glove box!

If you have been, thanks for reading!!  Elizabeth


Gerrie said...

This is so advanced in comparison to my mixing box. I cut the side off a cardboard box. I have a pile of newspapers in the bottom. I spritz the top layer of newspaper with water to quickly absorb and dye powder. I throw away the top layer of newspaper each time and add new as needed. I don't do a lot of dyeing so it works for me.

I really like your swanky set up.

Elizabeth Barton said...

I needed to really contain all possible floating dye powder because of asthma and was quite an undertaking at the time, but well worth it! Elizabeth

Quilt or Dye said...

Thanks, Elizabeth!

Yasmin Sabur said...

Great idea. One suggestion, place a piece of soda soaked fabric in the bottom of your box. You will get a beautiful random, and abstract piece to work with. I do the same thing with fabric under my dye buckets.

Elsie Montgomery said...

You and my dad would have got along so well. He also had a great time creating wonderful things that cost far less than "store bought" and worked probably better! Nice!

Elizabeth Barton said...

I like the idea of a piece of preactivated fabric in the bottom of the box!!I'm headed down to the dye studio to do that right now!!!