Aug 082012
 

imperial-purpleI finished another project last night.  It’s a Custom Dyed Tatami Women’s Estilo 3.0 in size F2.  The color selected was Imperial Purple. 

I really like this color because it’s a darker, true violet that is gender neutral.  Any lighter and it starts to slip up into a more pastel range, or the color itself becomes lighter, like a lavender.  But at the same time, it’s not so dark that it slips out of a true purple color.  

The end result is a very even, vibrant color that stands out on the mats and just begs for some lighter colored club patches to make the purple pop even more.

I like gis that start with black or another dark colored offset stitching.  The dye I use is a Fiber Reactive dye that is made for natural fibers, which means that anything that is completely synthetic will just simply not take the color.  The end result is that patches, such as the Tatami patches on this one, and the thread used for stitching, don’t color.  However, lighter colored, organic stitches, as are often used on embroidery, will take the color.  It’s difficult to know for sure outside of trial and error, how a particular patch will take the dye, because sometimes, the patch is made with a combination of natural and synthetic threads.

imperialpurple1

And below is a closer shot of the color and fabric. 

imperialpurple2 

If you’re thinking about purchasing a custom dyed gis, there’s a gi style and a color to suit every person.  Check it out.  A Ladies Estilo 3.0 Gi, like the one pictured above, can be purchased in any size and any color for $169.95 (or for $129.95 in white).

Jun 032012
 

A friend took advantage of an absolutely terrific sale over at Warrior One, and picked up a nice, single weave gi for his daughter, which I dyed hot pink for her.  The other is a pearl weave dyed Deep Orange.

May 292012
 

I worked on a new batik gi.  I don’t know why, but I ended up determined to put an image of Cthulhu on the back.  For anyone who’s unfamiliar, Cthulhu was created by H.P. Lovecraft, a horror fiction author from back around the turn of the 20th Century.

Click here for images of Cthulhu.  And if you’re interested in reading the stories, the entire H.P. Lovecraft library has been published online as it has fallen out of copyright.  Call of Cthulhu, for example, can be downloaded here.

It was my first project where I really tried to do something with multiple colors and build the final color of the gi with multiple dye-baths.  Overall, it worked out pretty well.  I’m going to have to learn to be a bit more patient applying the wax, but that will come. 

Batik, I’m learning, is like drawing really fast with a magic marker that bleeds.  Or, have you guys seen pictures of classical Chinese calligraphers?  I imagine them with large paint brushes wet with ink that they apply to the paper with quick, deft brushstrokes.  Well, batik is like that, except that I am just learning to control the brush.  But I’m thoroughly hooked.

Below is stage one.  A blank canvas, so to speak.  The canvas in this case is a generic, Lucky Gi knockoff, A3 (actual fit is somewhere between A2 and A3).  The quality is actually REALLY good.  The top is a high quality, gold weave material, and the bottom is heavy, canvas.  All of it had green, offset stitching and details. 

I hand drew a picture of our buddy, Cthulhu, on the back of the gi.  I did it big, because he is the ultimate evil, after all. 

cthulhu1

The next step was to block out only those areas that I wanted to remain white, or that I want to be able to dye bright red.  The final result looked like this:

cthulhu2

Okay.  Next step was the first dye bath: Kelly Green.  And the result:

cthulhu3

At this point, I had to re-draw my friend Cthulhu and then reapply more wax only where I wanted to keep the bright green, then another trip into the dye bath.  This time, Dark Green.  The result looked like this:

cthulhu4 

Okay.  Starting to come together.  At this point, I removed all of the wax and then applied more wax to those areas I wanted to protect and keep green.  At this stage, I’m going to dye it one more time, this time in Oxblood Red.  The result will give my gi its final color, while also making the eyes and some other highlights nice and bright red. 

Below is what the image looks like with the final application of wax:

cthulhu5

And then the finished product.  I added my belt so that you can get a sense of the color.

cthulhu6

And the front of the gi.  The finished product is pretty cool.  I didn’t spend as much time agitating the water as I should have.  Frankly, after three dye baths, I was getting impatient.  But the result looks like an intentionally uneven finish with areas of deep maroon/purple, and some green peeking through.  You can see a bit of that in the image below:

cthulhu7

Anyone want a one of a kind Cthulhu gi?  I’m pretty happy with it, but ultimately, I’m going to have to sell some of these projects to make room for more. 

Also, I think I’m going to start creating patches as a less expensive way to explore the batik side of things.  Let me know what you think!

Mar 282012
 

Good times lately. I’ve been watching several food documentaries, and while I’m sure that people have their opinions on food, I’ve decided to give a vegetarian diet a try for a while. I don’t have any real moral compunction about eating animals. I like steak and chicken and don’t overthink our place at the top of the food chain. That said, I do try to buy food where it’s pretty clear that the only real bad day the animals had was their last one. Free range just seems to me to be healthier all the way around.

But I’m game, and it seems as though there are many fellow Jiu Jitsu practitioners who are vegan or vegetarian, so I’m looking forward to getting information and recipes. I’ve already received several great leads on websites, from the happyherbivore.com to information on the Dolce diet, which is a lot of vegetarian/vegan stuff.

Training regularly and feeling pretty good. I’m going to try and amp things up a little bit and compete at the Revolution in November. That’s the goal, but in order to do that I’ll need to drop a few pounds. To be clear, the diet stuff above isn’t about losing weight, but hopefully that’s a by product.

20120328-200415.jpg

Moving on. That’s the crew from Phantom BJJ. Great bunch of guys. We took a couple pictures, and that’s the hamming it up one. If you look carefully… okay, not too carefully… you’ll see a few of the gis I’ve dyed over the years. The one I’m wearing is one of my favorite gis, and the second one I ever dyed. It’s holding up really well. The orange one and the light green one are two others I’ve done.

I’ve also been pretty busy recently, doing a chocolate brown Gameness for Rhino and a Fire Red Hayabusa for Brandon. I’ve got a couple projects on tap, as well. I picked up one of the Prana “flow” gis and dyed it Mist Grey. I’m going to do a ShoYoRoll “The Count”, as well. Also Mist Grey.

One last thing. I’m going to do ScriptFrenzy again this year. 100 pages or more in one month. Write that screenplay that you’ve been dreaming of. Who’s with me? Last year, I wrote a first draft of a full length screenplay about, what else? BJJ. The goal this year is to push myself a little and write something with a little more dramatic heft. I don’t know if I’ve got the emotional gas tank to make that work, but I guess there’s no way to find out without trying.

Feb 272012
 

I made it to all three classes last week and feel pretty good.  I’m looking forward to tonight’s class, as well.

Haven’t had a lot of time to post, though.  I put together a website for my friend, Bing Crook.  Since Phantom BJJ in Maple Valley is so new, Bing hasn’t had a chance to put together a website.  While I’m no pro, I like to do this stuff.  Please check it out at http://www.phantombjj.com.

I have a few things I’d like to do still, but I think I got the important stuff on there: the name, the phone number, the schedule and where we train.

And if anyone is ever in the area, look us up!

I also dyed a gi for Rhino, one of the guys over at Foster BJJ.  He asked for “Hot Chocolate.”  I’ll post some pictures tonight.  I think it turned out pretty nice.

 

Feb 082012
 

Had a great time at class on Monday. I made it through the entire class, but took it a little easy during sparring. While I’m over the pneumonia for the most part, there’s a lingering cough that the doc said might last for up to a month. And while my wind just isn’t there, the thing that’s killing me is this persistent fatigue. It’s like I’m tired all the time. But better every day. Don’t get me wrong. Every day I wake up, I feel better than the day before. I’d say I’m at about 80% now, which is awesome. I’m ready to get back in and train at least three days per week again.

But I felt really good after class, and am looking forward to getting back on the mats tonight. Woke up yesterday sore, but ready to go.

One of our old buddies, Owen, showed up yesterday. He’s been out of the State for work for the last several months, but was up just for the day. Got to roll with him and remembered just how big he was. At one point, he passed my guard and was just grinding with shoulder pressure in side control. He’s a big dude… like Thor. I could totally see him jumping over the side of a Viking long ship with axe in hand, ready to plunder and pillage some small village off the coast of Ireland. Or maybe not.

I have three gis ordered and am looking forward to making them different colors. While I’m going to leave the detailed reviews to Meerkatsu, I’ll post a short review of each with some pictures once I get them. I have high hopes for them both.


I’m also working to put together a website for my modest venture into small business ownership. “Dye, Steve. Dye!” is coming together. While I’m still working on getting the gallery put together of my projects and such, you can get more information at http://www.stevebjj.com/store.

Feb 022012
 

kellygreen2I made it to class last night and felt… okay.   Last week, by the time Friday rolled around, I finally admitted to myself that I was getting worse, not better.  I was planning on going to the doctor on Saturday if I didn’t feel better, but Friday morning, when I began coughing up a charming combination of phlegm and blood, I figured I’d probably better get some help.

Sure enough, I was diagnosed with pneumonia, given a stern look or two by the doctor, and a couple of prescriptions.  By Friday evening, I was already feeling better. 

kellygreen1Bing had some personal business to take care of, so we worked some basics. I showed a simple scissor sweep along with a couple of variations, including the elevator sweep. Nothing fancy, but we have several white belts, and I figure that you can’t get enough of the basics. I also talked a little about the “dead angle.”

My energy level remains very low and I’ve still got a cough, but I’m feeling so much better.  I just feel like I’m dragging through the day, but I guess it takes a while to get over pneumonia.  I’m just thankful that I’m on the mend and able to get to class, and I’m looking forward to Friday. 

I was really pleased that Brandon was at class last night.  I was able to give him his newly dyed gi and he really seemed pleased.  In the second picture, I made the mistake of looking directly at it.  While it’s not quite as bright as Bing’s Orange Crush, it’s pretty bright. 

Also, after giving it a lot of thought, I’m going to offer my services if anyone is interested in having a gi dyed by me.  While I think that the process of dying a gi is very accessible, I get there are people who want a unique color, but who aren’t interested in DIY. 

The price is something that I gave a lot of thought to, and I’m going to charge $80 for a single colored gi.  Considering the cost of materials, shipping and the time involved with hand dying each gi, one at a time, I think this is a very fair price. 

I’m in the process of putting some actual policies together on a website so that everything is very clear.  But the way I look at it, I’ll help you with information for free. I have made a lot of information available, and I encourage anyone who’s interested to give it a shot.  But, I’m also available to do it for you, if you’d like to pay for the service.  It’s something I enjoy, and I have done enough of them now that I’m confident that I can make your gi look really good.  I’ll also be working on some hand dyed gi patches and shirts using batik.  More to come on this in the near future. 

Jan 182012
 

Me:  Brandon, I’d be happy to dye a gi for you.  What color are you thinking?

Brandon:  Can you do green?

Me:  Sure.  {pulls Dharma Trading up on my Droid} Which one do you like?

Brandon:  I like Bright Green.

Me:  Well…  that’s pretty bright.  It’s going to be as green as Bing’s gi is Orange.  You want it that bright?

Brandon:  Well, I want it bright.

Me:  How about one shade darker?  Let’s go with Kelly Green.

And that’s how we ended up here:

kelly-green 

PR66 aka Kelly Green. 

PreDye

Above is the gi before going into the dye vat.

rinsed

Here it is after a rinse cycle in the washer.  It’s still wet and has a lot of excess dye, so it’s a little darker than it will be once it’s dry.

washed (2)

Washed twice, but still wet.  All of the rogue color is gone, so this is pretty close to the final color.  It will still get a little lighter once it’s dry, but I think it’s pretty close to spot on according to the color chip below.

kelly-green 

And here’s the final product.  I hope Brandon likes it.  The color turned out close to flawless.  It’s very even, and I can’t see any imperfections.   He was very specific about wanting a really bright green, so I think he’s going to be very happy.  I put my belt on there to provide a little context, so you can see that the color is pretty accurate.

greengi4

What do you think? 

And if you’re interested in doing your own projects, please take a look at my step by step guide.

Jan 182012
 

I’ve dyed several BJJ gis and while the process is pretty simple, I’ve learned a few things each time that make it a little easier and improve the final product.  I’ve posted pictures and such in the past, and even though Georgette has posted a great instructional on her blog, I still get asked about this a lot.

First, there are instructions available on Dharma Trading’s site that are great.  I’m not a pro and don’t make money off of this, so what follows may not be the “right” way to do it.  It’s simply the way I’ve found that results in a pretty good looking, even color that won’t fade or bleed.

So, here goes.  My practical guide to dying a BJJ gi:

What You Need:

I’ve broken out the materials you’ll need to do a good job into three categories:  required, recommended and optional.  It’s a pretty long list, but don’t be intimidated.  Most of it can be purchased from Dharma Trading, found easily at stores around you or you probably already have them.  Also, once you have a lot of the gear, you don’t need to replace it.

Required:

1:  A BJJ Gi. The weight of each gi is a little different.  Rather than getting too anal about things, I just figure 4 lbs per gi.  This helps me figure out how much of each ingredient to use.

2:  procionmxHigh quality Fiber Reactive Dye.  I used Procion MX, purchased from Dharma Trading.  How much you’ll need is going to depend on the color and the weight of the gi.   On a 4 lbs gi, most colors will need 4 Tbsp of dye (which is about 2 oz).  For some colors, you will need to double or quadruple that amount.

3:  Non-Iodized salt:  You’re going to need a lot of salt, about 12 cups for a 4 lbs gi (twice that if you’re doing black).  You can get a large bag of it at Sam’s Club or Costco for next to nothing.  Otherwise, you’ll look a little funny loading up the grocery cart.  Just tell them you’re brining a deer or something.

4:  Soda Ash:  You’ll need 1 1/2 cups for a 4 lbs gi.  This is absolutely critical.  Don’t skip this.  The soda ash fixes the color.  If you’re going to the trouble to dye your gi, make sure that you fix the dye so that your gi won’t fade and the colors don’t bleed.

TIP:

You can order it from Dharma if you want to, but it’s heavy and will cost a ton to ship ($5.95 for 5 lbs of Soda Ash costs almost $13 to ship.)

Soda Ash is also called Washing Soda or Sodium Carbonate (NOT the same thing as Sodium Bicarbonate).  It is used to condition water and in home-made laundry soaps.  So, look for it in pool/hot tub supply stores or in a pinch, at the grocery store in the laundry aisle.  Don’t pay more than around $1 per lbs.  This stuff should be cheap and you’re not going to get any better results buying a brand name.

I saw a 5 lbs container of “premium” Sodium Carbonate for $26 at a pool store.  What a rip off.

5:  A large plastic bin:  Once again, the size is going to depend on how much you’re dying.  You’re going to need 3 gallon of water per lbs of fabric, so a 4 lbs gi will need 12 gallons of water (and don’t forget displacement).  An 18 gallon tub is perfect for one gi, but I have a 45 mixingbowlsgallon bin I use for big jobs, like doing multiple gis at one time.  And conveniently, when I’m not dying a gi, everything fits in the tub so that I can store it in the garage, out of the way.

6:  Measuring cup, plastic scrapers, plastic mixing/measuring bowls and spoons: You can buy new ones or do what I did…  just shrug and mumble a little when asked, “Where the hell are all my measuring cups?”

7:  Damage Control Rags:  Two or three rags or towels you don’t mind getting dye on.

Recommended:

1:  Synthrapol or an equivalent:  Pre-washing the gi is important to get oils, softeners and other chemicals out of the fabric that might prevent the dye from getting into the fabric evenly.

2:  Calsolene Oil:  I use 3 Tbs.  The Calsolene Oil helps break the surface tension in the water.

3:  IMG_1469Gloves:  To keep you from looking like Ed Harris in the Abyss.  I tried using the big, dishwashing gloves, but frankly, they’re a pain in the butt to take off and put on.  So, I just use disposable non-latex gloves.  You can buy a huge box of them at Costco.

4:  A Big Stick:  For mixing and waving around when you get bored.

5:  A fine mesh strainer with a handle (for the soda ash).

Optional:

1:  Urea:  This can help the dye dissolve.  If you’re doing anything red, or if you’re concerned about mixing the dye completely, use this stuff.

2:  Milsoft:  This is a pro grade fabric softener and damn, does it work.

3:  A spray handle attachment to the shower:  Being able to hold the showerhead in your hand is… well, handy.  It helps when filling the bin and also makes cleaning up much easier.


How to do it:

Okay.  You have your materials together and you’re ready to go.  Next, think about your space.  I use the bathtub in the downstairs bathroom.  My wife would kill me if I stained or damaged anything in house, particularly in a “public area.”  So… wait for him or her to leave and then get started.

I strongly recommend that you remove any towels or cotton, decorative shower curtains and keep him or her away from the room until you’ve cleaned up.   Seriously.   My wife had (past tense) a nice, white, decorative shower curtain with a separate plastic liner.  “I’ll be careful,” I thought.  This also goes for any bath mats and basically anything else that might take the dye.

Replace the nice towels you like with the ones you don’t and then if there’s a spill or something, you can wipe it up without drama.  These are item 7 on the “required” list.

Step 1:  Wash the gi.  I appreciate when I get clean gis, but you should still wash them.  Use the Synthrapol with no fabric softener.  It doesn’t smell great, but that’s the point.  No perfumes or other crap that could screw up your work.  You can dry it or not.  I typically don’t, but it’s no big deal either way (that I’ve seen).

splotchyStep 2:  Mix the dye.  If you are using urea, put a heaping Tbs into about a cup of warm (not hot) water and mix it to dissolve it.  Next, mix warm water (or the urea mix) into the dye powder.  I do a little at a time until I get a paste and then add a little more.

This is a critical step.  The first gi I dyed had red streaks and splotches (pictured left).  That’s because I didn’t get the dye completely mixed up.  Red is stubborn, so take your time with this step.

 

TIP:

blenderbottleTry using a Blender Bottle (or something like it.)  These are containers commonly used to mix/drink protein shakes.   They have a little metal ball inside them which is designed to break up the clumps.  They work great for mixing dye and will minimize the amount of dye powder you breathe.

CAUTION:

I’ve heard that people can develop a sensitivity over time to the dye powder, which is very fine.  If you’re sensitive to chemicals or want to be careful, consider wearing a mask or something for this part.

stirringupthesaltStep 3:  Dissolve the salt.  I put the vat directly into the tub, so that spills go there and not on the floor (if you’re lucky).  In your dye vat (the 18 gallon tub), put in about 12 gallons of lukewarm water and dissolve the salt into it.  I use my arm to mix the salt.  That way I can feel the salt in the bottom of the bin to make sure that it’s completely dissolved.  Don’t be a weenie.  It’s just warm, salt water.

Step 4:  Add the dye mixture.  This should be a piece of cake, as it’s completely dissolved from Step 3.  Just dump it in and swish it around to make sure it’s good and mixed up.  This is also the time to add the Calsolene Oil, if you choose to use it.  I usually do.

inthevat1Step 5:  Add the fabric and settle in for about 20 or so minutes.   Set a timer so you don’t have to guess. I usually swirl it around, pick it up and make sure that the folds and creases all get worked out so that it dyes evenly.

TIP:

Set up your laptop, tablet or smart phone somewhere in the bathroom where it’s well away from water, but visible from where you’ll be sitting.  Do this BEFORE you get started and put on a good, long BJJ related video and just let it run in the background.  You won’t want to touch it after you get the gloves on, and it will keep you happy while you’re agitating the fabric.  You’re going to be stirring regularly for about 1 1/2 hours, so plan accordingly.

sodaashStep 6:  Soda Ash/Sodium Carbonate.  Dissolve the soda ash into some warm water.  Use your stick to move the gi over to once side of the vat and then pour the soda ash a little at a time into the dye bath.  Don’t pour the soda ash directly onto the fabric, or you’ll get spots.  Also, take your time.  Do this over about 10 or 15 minutes, a little at a time.  Be careful with this part, because the soda ash generates a lot of heat when it’s dissolving.  You don’t want clumps here, either.  I use the fine mesh strainer as I pour it into the vat to make sure no clumps get into my vat.

inthevat2Step 7:  Settle in again.  Agitate and keep the gi moving pretty often over about 30 minutes.  Dharma recommends up to 1 hour for deep colors, but I’ve never done it for that long.

I don’t know about you, but at this point, I’m tired of stirring and this is where I’m tempted to rush things along.  Resist the temptation.  Remember, the soda ash, among other things, fixes the dye.  Give it a full 30 minutes, at least.

So, just relax and watch the video you’ve got playing.  I prefer tournament footage over instructional videos.  What about you?

prewashStep 8:  Clean up.  The dye isn’t harmful to the environment and since my vat is in the tub already, I just pour it directly down the drain (pictured left).  I would recommend not allowing anyone to see the tub in this condition.

Don’t panic!  Because you used good dye, it won’t stain and washes right up.  postwashSeriously.  A quick wash and rinse and it’s like it never happened.

Step 9:  Wash the Gi.  Okay.  Here’s my method.  First, I put the gi through a rinse cycle just to get out as much of the excess dye as I can.  After the rinse, I wash it with Synthrapol.

Finally, I wash it one more time the way I normally do.  I use whatever detergent my wife has bought and add 1/2 cup or so of White Vinegar to the rinse cycle.  Check this post out if you’re interested in my tips on keeping your gi from stinking.

I’ve posted pictures of the final product here: Brandon’s Kelly Green BJJ Gi.  Hopefully, this answers most of your questions.  If not, feel free to leave a comment and let me know.

I’m also interested in your tips and tricks.  If you do things a little different, I’d love to hear about it.