The "Swagman" camper conversion that was done on my bus in 1978 includes a small awning which extends from the side and is held up by a couple of telescopic poles (see picture to the right). It's quite nifty but it's not that big and somehow it didn't really feel sufficiently impressive for the mobile home of the Psy Chi Foundation. I felt that really what was needed was something a bit more... well "Psy". Well that shouldn't be too hard, right? I mean, the web is full of videos and sites explaining how to do tie dye, so making a nice psychedelic awning looked like it would be pretty straightforward.
Well, not so much, as it turns out. Tie dye has some important similarities to cooking. Making a nice meal for 4 people is not that hard if you follow the recipes carefully and take your time. Try making the same meal for 24 and you run it all sorts of painful logistical problems that render pretty much all of the techniques used for the 4-person version irrelevant. All those tutorials and videos on tie dye? They're for t-shirts. One or two discuss working with thin cotton bed sheets. None of them is for 30 square metres of heavy calico. Working with this weight of material suddenly makes a gentle hobby activity into a serious undertaking! For anyone foolish enough to try this sort of exercise themselves, here are my tips:
- Read Paula Burch's site of dying. There's a massive wealth of useful stuff on there, it will give you lots of background that will help you with the tasks ahead. It's by far the single most useful resource for this sort of stuff that I found. Keep digging through the FAQ as well - there's a lot of useful material buried away under funny headings, e.g. here where there's a useful recipe for tie dye in the middle of a page on Sodium Alginate.
- Get together the relevant materials and equipment. I used the following:
- A large tub. I used a builder's rubble tub from a local builder's merchant
- Some rubber gloves
- Some 24oz squeezy condiment bottles.
- A big mixing bowl and a whisk
- Procion dyes. I used one 21gm packet per squeezy bottle for pale colours, two for dark colours. With 6 bottles this was enough (just!) to cover 30 square metres of moderately heavy cotton fabric
- 500gm of Soda ash
- Some urea
- A small tub of Manutex RS (sodium alginate)
- A washing machine (unless you are really brave)
- A hose pipe (also not strictly necessary, but again, makes things much easier)
- Some sort of big/tall hanging line/rack/whatever outside on which you can hang your fabric and where you can squirt lots of water around with impunity
- A really big expanse of flat space, which you may need to cover with plastic sheeting if it's e.g. a lawn or very dirty. I needed an 8x1.5m space to work with my largest piece of material.
- Some sort of metal rack that will fit over your tub in some fashion. I removed the legs from a washing drying rack and used that. It needs to be big enough that your folded tie dye material will fit on it, so probably 50cm x 50cm is going to the smallest you can get away with, you may need something bigger than that.
- Lots of string
- Some clothes pegs
As you get to the end of your first spiral you will eventually have to make a decision to stop pulling in more material. At this point you want to identify the centre of your next square, and start spinning that in the opposite direction to the first one. The point where the two spirals meet will inevitably be a bit messy; pleat it up as best you can and don't worry about it too much. If you're doing a big piece of fabric you may need to do a third spiral as well, back in the same direction as the first one.
You should now have three spirals bunched up together. You want to tighten them all up against each other as best you can, forming them into something like a big circle. Start winding string around the outside, pulling it as tight as possible to try and hold the thing together. Once you've got 10 or so windings around the outside, tie if off and then start looping string over the top and underneath, effectively dividing the disc into segments (as you would when tying a normal spiral tie dye). You will need at least 10 ties in this direction for the thing to have any chance of holding its shape when wet. Again, patience is the order of the day here, keep putting more ties around it (and pulling them really tight) until you have some confidence that you can lift the disc up, turn it over, work with it etc.
- Put the disc on the wire rack over the tub and rinse through with the hose pipe without undoing it. Turn it over and do the same on the other side
- Cut off the string and open it out very slightly, continue rinsing on the rack. When the tub gets full, empty it out and put the material into it
- Now do 3 cycles of filling the tub partly up with water, working it into the material for a few minutes to rinse out the dye and emptying the coloured water out. You want to work reasonably fast to avoid the material being soaked in the coloured water and the colours running.
- Put the material into the washing machine and spin it
- Do another 3 cycles of filling/rinsing in tub
- Spin again
- Hang the material up somewhere outside and go at it with the hosepipe for a good 15-20 minutes to rinse as much of the excess colour out as possible.
- Spin again!
This is already way too long so I'm not going to provide any details on how I put the bits together into an awning, but here are some pictures of the finished article: