Sunday, 30 December 2007

who makes procion mx?

When I started working in batik back in Britain I contacted ICI to ask about the safe use and disposal of Procion MX dyes (ICI created them back in the mid-1950s, and in 1991 was still manufacturing them). The then ICI Colours SHE (safe health and environment?) Adviser wrote back with good general advice, along with an assumption that disposal to the sewer in the small quantities I was likely to be using wouldn't be problematic. The adviser also offered to supply the safety data sheets for each individual dye I had.

When these arrived someone I knew working at Severn-Trent Water, and later on someone else at the National Rivers Authority (now the Environment Agency), looked over the data and interpreted it for me. Both said that in the low dilutions I was using Procions, there was no potential harm to aquatic life. If the dye was mixed as a sludge then that was a different matter, Procion is then toxic enough to kill fish. But essentially, the dilute batik doses were of little environmental consequence (at least to fish - my assumption not theirs).

And so, even now in terms of disposal I'm not unduly concerned about using Procions. I still wonder whether, in this respect, they are safer than (most) natural dyes because of their requirement for metal mordants. And of course until I ask people who really know, who have the full facts and the answers, I will keep wondering instead of knowing...

Creation of the dyes is another matter again. ICI no longer makes Procions – it seems Dystar took over manufacturing the full range but they no longer make MX. It's been suggested Procion MX is made in India and I'm making enquiries in an attempt to discover who, where and under what conditions it's now made.

It may sound arrogant and could be completely wrong-headed of me but before at the time I was in touch with ICI, I had assumed that because ICI made the dyes certain environmental procedures and precautions would be met. That high environmental procedures and precautions would be met. I'm older and wiser now and so know not to assume anything with big business. Or with manufacturing in India.

My dithering over whether Procions or natural dyes are the most all-round eco-friendly, eco-sustainable, continues. Which has a lower carbon footprint? Woad, for instance, apparently shouldn't be grown in the same patch more than two or three years in a row as it depletes the soil. Maybe in a rotation system or companion planting soil exhaustion doesn't matter so much but if these or other cropping systems aren't practised, is woad production better or worse than synthetic dyes? I am reading the woad bible, Jamieson B Hurry's "The Woad Plant And Its Dye" (first published 1930, Oxford University Press) and finding some answers. I also know of (and will read up everything available from) Spindigo, a European collaborative research project developing new and sustainable methods of indigo production from woad (Isatis tinctoria), Chinese woad (Isatis indigotica), and polygonum (Polygonum tinctorium). Early in 2008 I intend to visit Woad-inc, Norfolk based growers and producers who also are involved in Spindigo.

The week before Christmas after months of indecision on 'when-to' I called Envision, a southwest based agency that helps businesses with environmental matters. An adviser and I will meet in a few weeks to see how they can help me advance my research and, hopefully, begin to reach some conclusions. I also signed up for a Carbon Trust course (Practical Guide to Footprinting) in February. I feel not only that carbon costing is on its way in to becoming mainstream practice (see here) but along with living systems thinking (nature is role model) it's a major tool for grasping the sustainability implications of every action and production.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Procion washfastness tests update

Neither heat-blasting with an iron nor a second dose of fixing has ended the leaching of colour when soaking. But the second-fix test has clearly demonstrated that tinted soak water is nothing more than excess and unfixed/unfixable dye.

The questions remain: how to rinse it all out and should it be there in the first place?

Current cold (but lovely and sunny) weather rendering my studio at an ambient temperature of 16-17 C means it's not a great time to test the Procions at the advised temperatures. I think only that could ascertain how much excess dye can be expected from direct dye painting.

Meanwhile I'll chuck the existing samples into the washing machine next time there's a load to go on, and see if expensive technology makes a difference. Not that I'd want to do this every time, but it is what Ian Bowers of Fibrecrafts recommended a while back.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Procion washfastness tests

Tests on Procion MX are ongoing. I've found no difference in results between freshly mixed and slightly aged dye (eg several days old without soda ash mixed in).

Nor between dye applied in a warm room (22 C), or in a cooler room (20 C), between warm (32 C) and cool (19 C) temperatures of dye when applied (managed to get dye heated to 32 C in pots on storage heater. That was in the evening, probably in the morning I could get them warmer). I'm aware I hadn't got the dyes to the recommended temperature of 35-41 C or even higher for cyan, so the test may be a false one.

Nor any difference in drying dyed cotton under a polythene sheet (keeping damper for longer thus giving a longer reaction time), and allowing to dry uncovered in natural time (whether warm or cool applied dyes).

Nor any difference between rinsing soda ash off the cotton in cold water before boiling, and not doing so (warm and cool applied dyes).

Nor any difference in drying in a warm room after boiling out wax, and drying in an unheated room (warm and cool applied dyes).

In all cases, the rinse water is clear following the post-boil rinse. But soaking in either hot or cold water loosens first excess cyan, then after some time excess magenta. It would seem that yellow doesn't loosen, because even though it would be hard to see yellow in clear water it certainly would change the magenta or cyan towards either red or green. I don't know about black.

Obviously the photos show some variation in colour between test pots, but the results I'm looking for will show dye in one but not the other.

I have some more ideas to try, including getting dye above 35 C with the ambient temperature up to about 25 C (though once when it was at 23 C it was difficult to keep myself from opening a window), ironing these current tests to give them a super-blast of heat and, applying a second layer of fix to new sections of previously dyed and boiled but not soaked pieces.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

batik in a warming world

Has batik featured in Bali? There's a great story here about how delegates at the Climate Change Conference in Bali had to ditch their formal attire for batik shirts, because despite their requests it wasn't possible to turn up the air conditioning...