Memory Scarf

 

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Ciao lovely readers! The idea for this scarf came about following my daughter’s performance in a play. To be clear, my little one was Tinkerbell in her school’s second grade play and she received an armful of flowers after her performance (which was awesome – but then I’m obviously totally unbiased). At some point, I looked at my baby girl and I said, “Why don’t we make a scarf out of those flowers? That way we can always remember them and your play.” She was totally game! 

There were some silver dollar eucalyptus in the mix, which I knew would dye well but other than that I had no clue what would and wouldn’t work.

We let the flowers dry out for a week or so before we got started.

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My kiddo picked out a narrow longish silk charmeuse scarf (the Dharma Trading site where I purchased it calls this a belt but it actually makes a cute narrow scarf). 

First we wet the fabric and then we laid it flat. We folded it in half to find the middle and then arranged some flowers and leaves on one half of the scarf. This is important because the second half will then be laid on top which will sandwich the plant material and give you a similar print on either side of the scarf. Capeesh?

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Also important is that we laid the scarf out on top of a length of paper towels.

The flowers and leaves that I could identify are silver dollar eucalyptus, rose petals, and chamomile. The hot pink flower running down the center is unknown to me.

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Next, we put a stick at one end and we rolled everything up including the paper towels. I like to use them as a barrier between the layers so that the leaves and flowers print more clearly.

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The next step is to tie it up into a bundle. We used artificial sinew but twine or white dental floss would work equally well.

We put our bundle into my dedicated dye pot to steam.

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After about two hours of steaming, we took it out and it occurred to me that we would most certainly need to use a mordant of some kind to “fix” the plant dye into the fabric. Although some plant materials like eucalyptus are what is referred to as “substantive” and don’t require a mordant, most are not in this category. So since I had some homemade iron mordant (vinegar and super fine steel wool left in a jar for approximately one week) on hand I poured a few tablespoons of that into my pot, gave it a stir, put the bundle in, brought it to a low simmer, turned the heat down and let it go for an hour or so. An alternative to the iron mordant would be to add approximately one tablespoon of alum.

We pulled out our bundle and took a look. Bear in mind that the fabric is wet so the colors are darker than they will be when the fabric dries.

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Here are some close ups.

At this point, we both felt like the scarf could use a bit more color and pattern and since we still had a ton of plant material we did another layer that mostly consisted of leaves of unknown origin.

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We rolled it up again but this time we skipped the paper towels and we put it straight back into the iron mordant bath. We turned on the heat and let it go for about an hour and then turned off the heat and forgot about it for about 3 or 4 hours. At that point, we pulled it out and let the bundle sit overnight. Some folks who dye using this method let their pieces go for a week or more, but we were too impatient for that.

Here it is when we first unrolled it. I’m honestly not sure how much round two added to the design?  But, and this is a big but, my daughter loves it! Now we have the memory of the event permanently on fabric and we have the memory of making the scarf! 🙂 So lovely.

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Finally, we hung the scarf outside to dry and ironed it.

In conclusion, it seems to me that the eucalyptus really did the heavy lifting here. The other plant material added a bit of texture and color and the iron mordant definitely added some grey bits here and there. The eucalyptus left some fairly defined prints but it’s really the gorgeous shades of orange and rust and peach that are the most striking. The other leaves didn’t leave distinct shapes behind. Perhaps a much longer sit would have made a significant difference. I also noticed that the steaming method seemed to do a better job of transferring the color into the fiber. So in addition to a wonderful memory with my daughter, I learned a thing or two. Win, win!!!

Here’s my girl modeling her new treasure. Bellissimo! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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“Mud Cloth” Pillow with Inktense

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Hey there! So I picked up some Jaquard No Flow when I was at a “real deal” art supply store the other day and I was curious to see how it would perform. According to the label you’re supposed to paint it onto the entire surface of your fabric and then voila you can paint with dye and it won’t run! Hmmmmm, I was a little skeptical but I was willing to give it a try. My plan was to paint on a mud cloth inspired design using naturally derived indigo.

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I decided to grab a white cotton canvas Ikea pillow case that I had laying around. Before painting the fabric with the No Flow, I put a piece of clear vinyl into the pillow case to prevent any bleed through.

The No Flow is really thick and it’s very difficult to see on white fabric. So I was super careful to make certain that I covered every square inch of my pillow case. I then put it outside to dry while I tended to my indigo vat.

I’m excited to (finally) be sharing a bit of info about indigo dyeing with y’all! I will definitely be doing more indigo tutorials in the near future. It’s one of my favorite dyes for a multitude of reasons. First, the color. I LOVE this color. It’s ancient and timeless and chic and classy and…sublime. Next, as a dye it’s super fun to work with. I use Pre-Reduced Indigo Crystals from Dharma Trading. This is naturally derived indigo that has been “reduced” to make it much faster and easier to work with than traditional indigo which is not water soluble and requires a series of time consuming steps to get into a workable form. My current indigo vat has been going for well over one year now. I simply add Thiox or Color Remover and/or indigo as needed to maintain it. I also love that the fabric comes out of the vat green in color and then turns blue as it oxidizes. It’s still fun for me to watch this process! Finally, I love that indigo works on protein fibers and plant based fibers and no mordant is required!

The only “con” that I can think of is that indigo can fade over time (like a pair of jeans), but that really doesn’t bother me all that much. 🙂

Although it may be difficult to see here, my vat is looking a bit grey blue and murky which tells me that it needs an addition of Thiox and indigo. Click here for instructions on how to tend to an indigo vat.

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Hello there! Can you see me and my phone in the indigo?

I’m adding 10-11 grams of indigo and Thiox.

Next, I gave my vat a good stir (first clockwise then counterclockwise). The bubbles that form on top are known as the “flower.”  This is a cap or crust that helps to keep oxygen out of your dye bath. You will need to remove it before you dye and then replace it when you are done.

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Since I’m not vat dyeing in this instance, I simply scooped up some of my dye and put it into a glass jar so that I could paint my pillowcase with it.

I decided to sketch out a design with a pencil before I began painting. As I mentioned, I was inspired by the designs in traditional African mud cloth.

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Here goes! Fingers crossed!

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Well, it mostly worked but there are definitely a few areas where the dye seems to be bleeding a bit. Perhaps a second coat of the No Flow would have done the trick?

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I don’t like how fuzzy my edges are! I was really hoping for crisp, clean edges! So, I decided to break out these:

This is my first time using the Fabric Fun Dye Sticks and my third or forth go with the Inktense Sticks. The Fabric Fun sticks are waxy and the intensity of color doesn’t match the Inktense. After some experimentation, the Inktense sticks took the win by a mile and I stopped using the Fabric Fun altogether.

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As you can see, I decided to change up my design as I moved along. The pencil lines will wash out, so no worries! The Inktense sticks are easy to draw with and when you go over them with water, they dissolve and become more intensely colored. According to the directions, they need to sit for 24 hours and then be heat set before the color is washable.

At this point, I noticed that in spite of my best efforts some of the indigo had bled through onto the back of my pillowcase. So I decided to go with the flow and brush indigo onto the entire backside.

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I set my pillowcase to dry and this is what I found the next day.

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Yikes! What’s up with that ugly yellow ring around my pillow? I’m thinking it’s from the indigo and I’m hoping that it washes out?! Regardless, I went ahead and heat set it for 1-3 minutes with my iron on the hottest setting.

Next, I washed my pillowcase in Synthrapol (which is a professional textile detergent – however, any mild detergent would be fine) and it took about four quick washes to get my water to run clear. When I pulled the pillowcase out of the water, the nasty yellow ring had disappeared! Yay!

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For some odd reason I didn’t take pictures at this  point. Argh! But suffice it to say that the wash water took away a good bit of my color even though I heat set everything?! Maybe this had to do with the No Flow? To remedy the situation, I went over all of my lines, first with Inktense and then with a water laden brush. I then gave the back another brush with some Indigo and I added a few black and blue lines with the Inktense for some interest.

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The pillow case is wet in both of the pictures above. so the colors are most certainly darker than they will ultimately be, but I’m liking what I see. 🙂

After 24 hours I ironed my fabric on high heat for about 5 minutes.

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Here it is before it was washed.

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My fingers are crossed that the color holds fast this time. I’m really starting to think that the No Flow interfered with the Inktense because my lines are much more clear and saturated this time.

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Okay, so I lost a little color in the wash, but not bad. I can’t decide if I like the black that bled out around the edges of the lines. On the one hand it gives it a bit of dimension…on the other it looks a bit smudgy. 😦  As for the No Flow it was a “no go” on this one! Perhaps it was my fabric choice or the indigo? My experience tells me that it may work best on silk with silk paints so I’m willing to give it another try at some point. In the end, this was more about the Inktense sticks than the No Flow or even the indigo.

Please feel free to share your thoughts or your experiences with any of these products! 🙂