Indigo Shibori Scarf Tutorial

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Hello dear readers! I figured that it was about time that I do some straight up indigo shibori dyeing for you! I will walk you through setting up your indigo dye vat and doing a very simple shibori technique on a beautiful piece of fabric – with spectacular results (if I do say so myself). 🙂

But first, let’s chat a bit about indigo. Ah, indigo…sublime indigo. It’s such an amazing color! If you have ever toyed with the idea of dyeing with indigo, I say DO IT! Dharma Trading sells a kit for $8.49 that includes everything you need for one 5 gallon vat that will dye up to 15 yards of fabric. Ridiculous.

But I digress, back to indigo for a minute. Indigo is an ancient dye that has been in use for thousands of years. In fact, in September of 2016 Smithsonian.com reported:

Archaeologists recently uncovered several scraps of indigo-dyed fabric at the Huaca Prieta ceremonial mound in northern Peru. Believed to be about 6,200 years old, this find pushes back the date for the earliest known use of the dye by roughly 1,600 years, Cynthia Graber reports for Scientific American.

You can find a nice summary of the history and use of indigo on Design Sponge. Here are a few excerpts:

Indigo is a colorfast, plant-based dye that can come from a number of different plants, but it was primarily found in Indigofera, a tropical plant that was cultivated and became a staple agricultural crop. There are three steps to the traditional process of extracting the dye from the plant. First the leaves are fermented in a steeping vat. Then a liquid is extracted and oxidized, and from that, a blue solid forms in the bottom of the vat that is collected and dried. In the 19th century most indigo was made in British-run factories in India.

Indigo is different from all other natural dyes (apart from shellfish purple) in that it needs no mordant (a substance used to set dyes on fabrics); it is insoluble and is deposited on the fibers as microscopic particles without needing to form a chemical bond with them. The chemical properties of indigo dye remained baffling well into the 19th century. It was so mysterious and challenging to work with that, in many cultures, folklore arose around the dyeing process. In Bhutan, pregnant women were not allowed near the vat in case the unborn baby stole the blues, and women in Morocco believed the only way to deal with a particularly challenging vat was to start telling outrageous lies. All this trouble was worth the final result. Once dyed, indigo is so colorfast that it can last for centuries or even millennia.

I love the bit about outrageous lies and I love that the amazing history of indigo gives a context for dyeing with and wearing this glorious color.

Please note that the indigo I am using is what’s known as “pre-reduced indigo.” This means that the dye molecules have already been processed so that they are able to dissolve in water without the effort (and chemicals/yeast/or stale urine – seriously) that would otherwise be required. Indigo purists would probably take offense to the pre-reduced version, but this form has the distinct advantage of being incredibly fast and user friendly by comparison.

I had previously been under the impression that the pre-reduced indigo crystals were naturally derived. However, from what I understand they are what is known as a “synthetic organic.” This an organic compound that is synthesized in a lab and that is chemically identical to it’s natural counterpart.

Materials:

  • 5 gallon bucket (I got mine at Home Depot)
  • 4 gallons of water
  • reuseable gloves
  • Pre-reduced indigo crystals
  • Thiox or Color Remover
  • Soda Ash Fixer
  • Stir stick
  • Fabric – indigo works on cellulose or plant based fibers like cotton or linen and protein fibers like silk and wool. I’m using a silk and wool blend scarf/shawl from Dharma Trading.
  • Mild detergent – I use Synthrapol
  • Acrylic circle
  • Rubber bands
  • Various containers (see below)

Tutorial

Please be sure to work outside or in a well ventilated area. Also, please be mindful that indigo is a DYE and it will stain whatever you are working on or around, so take appropriate precautions. Wear gloves and don’t use any bowls or measuring cups from your kitchen! All tools should be dedicated to dyeing – so if this is not already the case, run to the dollar store and pick up a few bowls, cups, measuring spoons and containers.

1. Fill you five gallon bucket with four gallons of water. The water should be cool to the touch (between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 15-21 degrees Celsius).

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As you can see, my bucket has been used many times for indigo dyeing. By adding chemicals and or indigo you can actually keep a vat going for many months. My last indigo vat went for about a year! Here are directions for tending an indigo vat (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

If you are using the kit mentioned above, you don’t have to weigh or measure anything! Since I generally purchase my dye and chemicals in larger quantities, I will need to weigh it all out. If you don’t have a scale you can convert grams to tablespoons or cups online.

2. Weigh your Thiox (Color Remover) and add it to your bucket. The recipe I’m using calls for 160 grams.

3. Weigh your pre-reduced indigo crystals and add them to your bucket. The recipe I’m using calls for 50 grams. I wanted a really strong vat, so I’m using 100 grams. I have read that your fabric will be more colorfast if you use a “regular” (i.e. 50 gram) vat and dip your fabric multiple times to darken the color (rather than using a strong vat and fewer dips). So far, this hasn’t born out to be true for me. However, I have predominantly dyed scarves that are washed very infrequently. So perhaps this more critical for garments that need to stand up to repeated washing?

4. Weigh out 240 grams of soda ash. Next, add a little hot water to your soda ash to help it dissolve (mine looks blue in the pic below because there was some indigo residue left in my jar). Your soda ash won’t dissolve completely but not to worry, your vat will be fine!

5. Time to stir the pot…or in this case, the vat (sorry, I couldn’t help myself!). Use a dowel or a large stir stick (I used a paint stir stick from Home Depot) to stir your dye. Stir it in a circle in one direction about 10 or 15 times and then slow down and go the other direction the same number of times. Before removing your stick, drag it along the outer edge of your bucket. This will bring the foam to the top. The foam is referred to as the “flower.” Underneath your flower, your mixture should be yellow-green in color.

6. Let your vat sit for a bit before using it. I prefer to let mine sit overnight but according to several sources you can use it 15-30 minutes after your done adding everything. You will want to be certain that the dye is yellow-green in color under the flower. If it’s not, wait another 15-30 minutes and check again.

7. Time to prepare your fabric! I’m using a gorgeous silk and wool blend (63% silk and 37% wool) scarf/shawl from Dharma Trading. This fabric is super soft and warm but incredibly lightweight. It’s truly a beautiful fiber and it takes indigo dye extremely well. It’s very important that you always wash your fabric before dyeing it. Even fabric that is PFD (prepared for dye) may have “schmutz” on it that can affect your final result. I use Synthrapol to wash my fabric but any mild detergent will work. Simply give it a quick wash and wring it out before moving on to the next step.

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8. Now it’s time for some shibori! My fabric is 36 x 80 inches so it required quite a bit of folding. First, I folded it in half width wise. Next, I accordion folded it lengthwise. Finally, I accordion folded it until I had a neat little folded stack of fabric. This actually sounds much more complicated than it is. I Promise. The most challenging aspect in this case was the shear size of the fabric and the fact that the fabric was wet. But, wet fabric is KEY. You never want to put dry fabric into an indigo vat (or any dye bath for that matter) and you don’t want to wet the fabric after it’s folded because the folds interfere with the fabric’s ability to absorb water evenly.

If you have never done this before, you may want to practice with a piece of paper first. You can even dip your paper into your vat to get an idea of the pattern you will create with your folds! Here’s a diagram that should help you get the idea.

Here’s my little my stack of folded fabric…

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9. Now it’s time to add a resist. I’m using two 4 3/4 inch acrylic discs that I got here. Apparently, these are intended for cake decorating, but they work great for this purpose and they are affordable. I had actually intended to use a 3 inch circle for this project, but I inadvertently ordered the bigger size, so I decided to go for it! I simply placed a disc on either side of my pile and I used rubber bands to secure it in both directions.

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10. When you are ready to dye, you will first need to remove the “flower” from your vat. I scooped mine out with a plastic dollar store strainer and I put it in a plastic dollar store container (you must save your flower because you will put it right back onto your vat when you are done). Now grab another container so that you will have someplace to set your fabric bundle when it comes out of the dye. Did I mention the dollar store? 🙂

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11. Grab hold of your fabric bundle with a gloved hand and give it a dunk in your vat. I held mine under for about a minute before pulling it out.

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Okay, so the green leaves that look like they’re growing in and floating on my dye are actually just a reflection of the leaves that are growing up the fence behind my vat! So crazy!!!

12. Pull your bundle out and place it in a container of some sort. Let it sit for 20 minutes to oxidize. This is actually one of the coolest parts of this process. Your fabric will look green when it comes out of the dye bath and as it hits the air and begins to oxidize it will turn blue!

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Unfortunately, my bundle has already oxidized a bit in this pic but you can still see some green on the right side. If you look carefully at the bottom you can also see the clouds above and the leaves on the fence behind my container reflected in the acrylic disc. 🙂 🙂 🙂

13. You will need to continue to dip your bundle until your reach the color you desire (bearing in mind that the fabric will look several shades darker when wet). Depending upon the strength of your vat, this could take four or more times. Since my vat is very strong, I only dipped my fabric two times. Be sure to allow your fabric to oxidize for 20 minutes between each dip.

14. When you have reached your desired shade of indigo and your bundle has finished oxidizing, it’s time to rinse. I like to keep my bundle intact and rinse it until the water has a very small amount of blue left in it before I open it up. I do this in order to prevent the indigo from dyeing the fabric that I want to keep white. After you have opened up your fabric, rinse it until your water runs clear. Giving your fabric another quick wash with detergent will also help to remove any excess dye. This can take a little while so try to be patient (says the incredibly inpatient woman).

By the way…opening up a shibori bundle is one of the greatest joys of this process. It really is like opening a present! You never know exactly what you’ll get, which is part of the beauty and mystery of dyeing.

15. Hang your fabric to dry and iron if necessary.

16. Put the lovely “flower” that you removed from your vat right back on top. This will help to seal your vat and keep oxygen out. This is important because too much oxygen will negatively affect your indigo vat. Next, stir your vat in the same back and forth circular manner described above and put the lid on.

Here’s my result! You might have thought that I would get a circle shaped pattern…but as you can see, it turned out to be more like a square or grid pattern. I’m sure this was due to the fact that the circle was so large in relation to the size of my folded fabric stack and because I secured my stack with rubber bands (rather than a c-clamp – which would hold the resist much more strongly and result in a more well defined pattern).

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If you are looking for a more distinct circle or square…here’s the secret. Once you have folded your fabric place your resist (acrylic/wood circle or square – or whatever) onto your fabric and clamp it tightly with a c-clamp. In the first example below, I added some rubber bands after I clamped on my shape. The next two scarves also employ clamp resist shibori (itajime) techniques and the last piece was dip dyed into my vat. A few of these babies are still available in my etsy shop.

If you have an questions or if you have dyed with pre-reduced indigo and you have something to add, please feel free to comment!

Last, but not least, as I mentioned previously, a properly tended indigo vat can last a very long time so this is by no means the end of your indigo journey! Even if you just buy the little kit I talked about, you have lots of dyeing to do before your vat is exhausted. Also, setting up your vat really is the hardest part. Once that’s done it’s simply a matter of prepping your fabric, dipping and waiting and rinsing which is WAY easier and less time intensive than many other types of dyeing. So have at it!

 

 

 

Block Print Mandala Pattern Tutorial

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I have a thing for Mandalas. I became enamored with them about 14 years ago when one of my close friends starting incorporating them into her art making. She believes that they have mystical powers. With all due respect to my dear friend, I’m not so sure about the mystical powers thing. However, I do believe that there is a meditative quality to both making and looking at them.

Mandalas are a super popular motif at the moment and for good reason. The beauty of the mandala is undeniable, but I wanted to dig a bit deeper into the origin and meaning of this symbol. According to Wikipedia:

A mandala (Sanskrit: मण्डल, lit, circle) is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Indian religions, representing the universe.[1] In common use, “mandala” has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe.

In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of practitioners and adepts, as a spiritual guidance tool, for establishing a sacred space, and as an aid to meditation and trance induction.

Very cool, right? It looks as if my observation about the meditative quality of mandalas was on point and who knows…maybe they do have mystical powers! 🙂

Materials:

  • fabric or surface for printing – this is your call (in addition to fabric, the ink used in this project works on paper, wood, leather or other absorbant surfaces). I’m using a pillow cover from Ikea and two tote bags that I got here
  • Soft-Kut Printing Blocks (this is my favorite block but Speedball Speedy Carve or Speedy Cut would be fine too)
  • ruler
  • exacto knife
  • carving tools
  • Versacraft Ink in real black

Tutorial:

Step 1: Cut your carving block into a square. The Soft-Kut blocks cut easily with an exacto knife. I made mine 4×4 inches.

Step 2: Make a grid on your block. I marked mine at 1/2 inch increments. This will help to insure that your design is even from side to side and that your squares will match up to create your mandala pattern. This will make more sense as we move along, but please don’t skip this step!

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Step 3: This is the fun part…well one of the fun parts! It’s time to get creative and draw your design. You can be as simple or complex as you would like. I like to think of my mandalas as a series of layers that start in the center and move outward. As you can see below you are creating 1/4 of your mandala. This will enable you to create a repeating pattern. The design on the lower right corner is optional. I like that it adds another element to the pattern but feel free to eliminate it.

If you are having trouble thinking of a design I recommend going online and finding a pattern to copy (or feel free to copy mine). If you are nervous about drawing directly on your block you can make your marks in pencil so that they can be erased. Or, you can draw your design on a piece of paper and transfer it. Most carving blocks will accept a pencil lead transfer. Simply draw your design on paper being certain to make strong, dark marks. Then put your paper on top of your block face down and rub firmly to transfer the image.

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Step 4: Now it’s time to carve. This material carves easily, which is great, but it means that it’s quite possible to dig too deep or overshoot your lines. To help prevent both of these problems, it’s best to hold your tool in a more horizontal plane in relation to your block (rather than like a pen or pencil, which would angle more vertically towards your surface). This takes a little getting used to and a little practice but it’s well worth the effort. You will also want to carve out from the corners and vertexes. If you carve towards these points, it’s much easier to overshoot your lines and mess up your design. Another tip is to move your block as you carve rather than moving your tool. For example, if you are making a curved line then you would turn the block to make the curve instead of turning your carving tool. If this is your first time carving a block I strongly suggest that you take a few minutes to practice on a scrap piece of material.

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Step 5: Do a test print! This is super helpful! I always test my carvings by printing on a piece of paper before printing on fabric. This will enable you to see any areas that might need a bit more carving or refining…which is almost always necessary. I also lightly ink my blocks at this point to avoid wasting ink or I use another ink pad that I’m less concerned about wasting.

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The test print below was made with the block that I used to print the tote bag in the back row in the introductory picture. My goal for this one was to create a less complex design that could be more easily replicated by someone else (ahem…I’m talking to YOU, okay, maybe not all of you, but some of you).

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Step 6: Printing time…well almost. Please be sure to protect whatever surface you’re working on because you will very likely get ink on the surrounding area. In addition to putting a drop cloth down on my table, I like to put paper towels around the edges of my fabric so that I can simply pull them out and throw them away. This minimizes the chance of getting ink anywhere that you don’t want it. I realize that it’s not the most environmentally friendly solution but I have yet to figure out an alternative.

Before you ink up your block I strongly suggest that you find the center of whatever you’re printing on and work your way out from there. For my pillow case and my tote bags I folded them in half in both directions and pressed them with an iron to create intersecting lines that gave me my center point. Depending upon the fiber you are using, you may be able to get away with simply folding and creasing your fabric to find your center.

It’s finally time to print! I always begin by firmly pouncing my ink pad onto my block until the color is dark black. I then carefully check my block to insure that it is facing the right direction, find the center of my fabric and press my block down firmly and evenly (top left picture below). It’s important not to rock your block but to simply press down strongly. When lifting your block, you will want to lift straight up. Next, you will rotate your block around the center point to create one complete mandala (bottom left picture below).

You will then work your way outward being mindful that it’s very easy to get confused and place your block in the wrong spot (ask me how I know). 🙂 So double (or triple) check that your block is facing the correct direction before placing it on your fabric. I recently saw a tutorial where they numbered each side 1-4 to help keep track of which side goes next. I thought this was a brilliant idea and I will definitely be trying it out the next time I create a repeating pattern.

Step 7: Allow your your fabric to dry for 24 hours and then heat set it with an iron on the highest setting for 2-3 minutes. I followed this procedure for my pillow case. However, since I wanted to print the second side of my tote bag and since I’m very impatient and I didn’t want to wait 24 hours, I took a risk and I ironed side one about 20 or 30 minutes after I printed it. Just in case, I put a cloth between my tote and the iron. I was happy to discover that no ink transferred to the cloth which told me that my ink was in fact dry, yay! This allowed me to confidently proceed with side two, however, if you are worried about your ink being too wet or if you want to play it safe, then I would definitely wait until the next day to print the other side. I then allowed side two to dry for 24 hours and I heat set both sides using the procedure I described above.

Here is the completed pillow case. Unfortunately I gave it to my niece as a housewarming gift before I had a chance to photograph it with a pillow insert. 😦

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Here are my tote bags. I love how they turned out!

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In addition to being super stylish these babies are super useful! I love the repeating patterns and I love the negative space that the stamps create (the areas where you see the background color)!

If you happen to be in my area, I  will be teaching a Mandala Tote Bag Class on 11-3-16 at Create Studio in Westlake Village, CA and I would love to meet you!

Please feel free to comment or ask questions. 🙂

Dyeing with Turmeric and Iron aka “Sad Turmeric”

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My last dyeing session left me with a pot of turmeric dye (about 6 cups of water plus 3 heaping tablespoons of turmeric and one tablespoon of alum) that was just begging for me to do something with it! I had recently seen an online post that said that if you add iron to turmeric dye it will “sadden” or darken the colors. It also said that you can get olive green colors by doing this…which peaked my interest.

I had two options to sadden my dye. The first was iron powder that I had purchased from Dharma Trading. The second was a homemade brew that was created by submerging one pad of extra fine steel wool (0000) in vinegar and letting it sit until the steel wool dissolved. This typically takes about two days. However, since mine was leftover from another project it had been sitting for several months, so it was good to go!

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My understanding was that it would only take a small amount of iron to alter the color. So I put my.pot on the stove, turned the heat to med/high and added 1/2 teaspoon of the iron powder.

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Hmmmmm, well it was really pretty but it didn’t look “sad” at all? I then added another 1/2 teaspoon and I waited. Nothing. Okay, time to give my concoction a go. I added approximately 1/2 cup of my brew and I waited. This time I was getting somewhere. After another 1/2 cup addition of my homemade iron solution, this is what I got.

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It was definitely looking more “sad” although it didn’t exactly look olive green. Since I had already added a good amount of iron to the mix, I chose to proceed.

Now it was time to address my fabric. I decided to use two silk scarves and some simple shibori techniques to create patterns on the fabric. I folded both scarves into a triangle shape as follows:

For some odd reason, this particular triangle fold has always been difficult for me to wrap my head around?! Hopefully it will be easier for you! I started by folding my scarf in half and then (as you can see above) I folded it past the edge of the fabric. Next I folded it back onto itself to create a triangle. Last, I folded the whole triangle back and forth (accordion style) until I reached the end. I followed the same procedure for the second scarf and then I gave each of them their own personality. For one, I used three extra large popsicle sticks that I bound with rubber bands to create a resist. For the other, I simply tied a row of rubber bands down the length of the triangle.

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Into the dye they went! I simmered them on low for one hour and then I turned off the heat and let them soak for approximately 3 hours.

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Next, I rinsed them in cold water until the water ran clear. There was very little excess dye coming off of the fabric which told me that the fabric and the dye bonded well. Unfortunately, the olive green that I was hoping for was nowhere to be found. But the color was definitely altered and is more of a mustard yellow than the bright sunshine yellow that I got from the turmeric dye alone.

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This brings me to the subject of colorfastness and washfastness. After doing a TON of research online (seriously, I could write a dissertation), I learned that while turmeric dyed fabric is very washfast it is not known to be lightfast. Although using mordants such as alum and iron will most certainly help with both wash and lightfastness, I have been unable to determine the extent to which this is true. This is my third foray into turmeric dyeing and I can tell you that my colors are holding fast so far. The fist piece of fabric that I dyed is now about 5 months old and I can see no discernible fading. I would be very interested to know if anyone has had any longer term experience with turmeric dyed fabrics, especially when an alum mordant was used. Please comment below if that’s you!!!

After air drying and a good ironing, here are my finished pieces.

I really like the one on the left and I’m not so sure about the one on the right. The pattern is kind of interesting, however, the color is blotchy and uneven. I am a fan of the mustardy yellow though and it was interesting to see what the iron did to my dye bath. All in all it was another informative adventure down dyers lane. I hope that you enjoyed the ride as much as I did! Please feel free to comment or ask questions. To see the scarf on the left in my etsy shop, go here. 🙂

 

 

 

Dyeing with Avocado Pits and MORE!

 

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I have been hording avocado pits and skins in my freezer for a while now. Apparently, these babies dye stuff pink – who’d have thunk???  Folks who know me might be surprised to hear that I’m excited about dyeing something pink (but I am, really!). I did in fact have a very strong aversion to pink at one time. So much so that when I was pregnant with my baby girl I actually exchanged a bunch of pink gifts (sorry if you were one of those pink gift givers!). But then I had my baby girl and as you might expect, she loved pink. Mind you, she’s not a girly, girl and she actually dislikes Barbies pretty strongly (I swear that I had nothing to do with that), but she is a fan of pink. Though her love has lessened as she’s grown to a whopping 8, almost 9 years old, she definitely turned me to the pink side. 🙂

But I digress! I decided to dye three silk scarves that I had purchased from Dharma Trading, two 8mm Habotai and one silk charmeuse (Dharma calls this one a belt, but I think that it makes a cute skinny scrarf). First, I needed to sort out my dye recipe. After reading a bunch of stuff online, I decided to wing it, sort of. From what I discerned, the dye from the avocado pits is a soft pink while the dye from the skins is more brownish pink in tone. Since I was looking for a sweet, ballet slipper pink, I decided to go with the pits.

I pulled my collection of frozen pits and skins out and I realized that I hadn’t done a great job of thoroughly cleaning them before I popped them in the freezer. Soooooo, I dunked them in some hot water and much to my delight all of the leftover avocado flesh came off with ease.

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From what I had read, you need at least a 1:1 ratio (by weight) of pits to fabric to achieve a strong color. In order to insure that I met this minimum requirement, I weighed my pits and my fabric.

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As you can clearly see, my pits (on the left) outweigh my fabric (on the right) by nearly 4:1, so I’m good to go!  I filled my dedicated dye pot with enough water to allow my fabric to move freely and I added one tablespoon of alum and one teaspoon of cream of tartar. Alum or potassium aluminum sulfate is a fixative or mordant that is often used by natural dyers. It may be helpful to think of it like a molecular glue. Since fibers and dyes often have a weak affinity for one another a mordant, in this case alum, is the “glue” that bonds them together. It is also one of the safest mordants, which is why many dyers will forgo other metal based mordants in favor of alum. However, caution should always be taken when using a powdered metal, so gloves are recommended. Additionally, any tools used (such as measuring spoons) should never be the same ones that you use for food. So please run to the dollar store and buy a set that you will only use for dyeing! The Cream of Tarter acts as a ph buffer and it softens the water for improved results (I got mine at my local Target).

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Next, I threw my pits into the drink and I turned my heat to high.

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Now I moved onto my fiber. I decided to use some very basic shibori folding and binding techniques in order to add some interest and pattern to these pieces. But first, I gave my scarves a quick wash with synthrapol (any mild detergent will do). While they were still wet, I folded them in half like this:

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Next, I accordion folded two of them (like the paper fans that you made when you were a kid). One was then simply rolled up like a little snail and secured with a rubber band and the other one was accordion folded again in the other direction and secured with a series of rubber bands:

The last scarf was flag folded and then secured with rubber bands at each corner:

Next, I took a look at my dye bath and I noticed that my pits were not giving off ANY color. So I impatiently threw in the avocado skins knowing full well that I may not get the color that I had intended to get. I then tossed all three scarves into the pot. As you can see, the dye bath took on a pinkish hue very quickly after I threw in the avocado peels!

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What came next was a surprise and a bit of a mystery. After allowing my pot to simmer for one hour, I turned off the heat and I took a peek at my scarves. In spite of the fact that the water was a gorgeous deep pink, my scarves looked grey. This was definitely not the ballet slipper pink that I was going for?! I decided to let them soak overnight hoping that a miracle would occur and my scarves would somehow be pink by the next morning.

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Well, as you might have guessed, I was completely delusional. This is what I ended up with the next morning:

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Hmmmmm, what the heck went wrong??? After doing a bunch of hunting around online, the best that I can figure is that some iron or steel got into the mix and “saddened” my color. I had previously used an iron mordant in the same pot and although I cleaned my pot very thoroughly perhaps there was enough iron left in the pot to affect the color? Or, maybe it was the steal in the pot itself. Whatever happened, I needed to figure out what to do next. Although I like grey, my guess was that once these babies dried the color would be a very pale, muted grey that wouldn’t add much in the way of pattern or design.

I decided to use this as an opportunity to add more color and interest, so I took off some rubber bands and I added a few rubber bands (to keep some of the grey).

I then threw two scarves into a dye bath that contained three heaping tablespoons of turmeric and one tablespoon of alum. The last scarf went into a brew of beets that had been sitting in my refrigerator for a little while. Okay, so maybe it had been sitting in my refrigerator several months….(ahem, I had used it to dye Easter eggs, so only about four months). Don’t judge. I was waiting for the smell to assault me when I opened the jar, but it just smelled like beets and vinegar and there was nothing funky growing. So, I added one tablespoon of alum for good measure and I put the jar outside in the hot Southern California sun for some solar dyeing (which I had never tried before).

I brought my turmeric mixture to a simmer and I let it go for one hour. I then turned off the heat and I let my scarves sit for a few hours to allow the color to deepen. I let my beet jar sit in the sun for about five hours before I pulled out my scarf. Finally, I rinsed all of my scarves thoroughly and I hung them to dry.

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The next day, I gave these guys a much needed ironing and I took their picture. Although it’s NOTHING like what I had intended, I’m very happy with the wider yellow scarf. Yes, that yellow is as brilliant as it looks! The pink scarf is definitely the ballet slipper color that I wanted. It’s soft and subtle and sweet while the skinny scarf has some lovely shadowy grey marks from the avocado that contrast nicely against the bright yellow. I toyed with the idea of adding more color to this one but I would hate to loose those soft greys so I decided to leave it alone.

Alas, it was another long and winding trip down dyers lane…I seem to have a lot of those! In the end, I learned a few new things and I’m happy with the outcome, so it’s definitely a win!

Thanks for hanging out with me. Please feel free to comment or ask questions!

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DIY Tea Towel Tutorial

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Tea towels…we all need them, we all use them, why not make them beautiful? But then this is about more than just tea towels. The stamps that I created for this project are ridiculously easy to make and the patterns (although they look complex) are not at all hard to pull off. REALLY! So, you could stamp away at pillow covers, scarves, tote bags, zippered pouches, you name it!

I was inspired to make these when the amazing Jemma Wildermuth of CReATE STUDIO (www.createstudiofun.com) asked me to teach a class of some sort. Since one of the major components of CReATE STUDIO is recycled and reused materials and since I’m totally down with that concept, I wanted to add an eco-conscious element to this project. So I scrounged and salvaged as much as possible to make my stamps.

Tutorial

Materials:

  • cotton tea towels or whatever your heart desires
  • wood shapes
  • scrap craft foam, foam shapes, rubber bands, wine corks, etc..
  • VersaCraft ink pad in real black
  • Permaset Aqua fabric ink in jet black (optional)
  • iron to heat set

Step 1: Wash your tea towels (or whatever fabric you’re using) before you begin stamping. This is particularly important for fabric that will shrink – like tea towels!

Step 2: Be certain to protect whatever surface you’re working on and be sure to try out your stamps on a scrap piece of fabric before you begin stamping on your tea towel. Honestly, I don’t always do this because I like to live dangerously, but you really should. 🙂

There are so many options for creating stamps! If you’re a newbie, I would recommend copying mine or using mine as a springboard until you get the hang of it. Then branch out and do your own thing!

Okay people, this is literally a 3 x 3 inch piece of wood (leftover from an indigo shibori project) that I wrapped with dollar store rubber bands. I then inked it up with my VersaCraft ink pad and stamped away turning as I went. So easy and so cool!

For this one, I simply cut some scrap craft foam into circles and hot glued them to wooden circles. As you can see, I wasn’t even super careful about cutting out my circles – which I think made the print more interesting! I mean just look at that awesome print!

This one was a tad more complex but still ridiculously easy considering the result! I used another 3 x 3 piece of leftover wood and then hot glued foam shapes to create a pattern. I stole these foam shapes from my daughter’s stash of art materials, but you could just as easily cut them out. The only shape that I altered was the square in the center. I then inked my stamp and began stamping being careful to turn it and line up the “like” sides to create a pattern.

Apparently I forgot to photograph this one before I inked it up?! But once again, it’s super simple. I hot glued craft foam in diagonal strips onto a 3 x 3 inch piece of wood. The amazingly cute pattern happens when you align your stamp with the same sized lines as you move along.

I wanted to cram multiple techniques onto one tea towel to demo them, but I’m very happy with the overall result. You could most certainly do an all over design with any one of these stamps and it would be gorgeous!

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Speaking of all over designs…I was so enamored with the circles that I decided to devote an entire tea towel to them. I used the two circle stamps above and I added a few more.

I hot glued craft foam to three wood circles. I used a ball point pen to draw concentric circles on two of them and I left the third one blank. Interestingly, the blank circle ended up transferring the pattern that the hot glue made under the foam (the print in the center on the bottom row above). This was unexpected, but I liked it. To get a completely solid circle in a few spots I inked up a plain wooden circle.

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The diamond shape in several of the circles was from the pattern on the Bounty paper towels that I had placed under my tea towel!

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Voila! This is the finished towel. I think it’s lovely. It’s a bit off kilter in spots because my stamping wasn’t perfectly straight and because the fabric isn’t perfectly square but that doesn’t bother me one bit. The only caveat is that this baby was time consuming! If you’re making it as a gift, you should definitely bear that in mind.

Last but not least, I wanted to experiment with slightly larger scale stamps and I wanted to try using screen printing ink rather than the VersaCraft ink pad.

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This stamp was made by linking four equally sized diamonds to form a shape. Once again I glued the craft foam to the wood with some hot glue and I inked my stamp with the Permaset Aqua. This method was a bit messier than the ink pad but it worked fine. In order to get an even layer of ink on my stamp I first put some ink onto a piece of plexi (any hard, flat, non-porous surface will do) and I rolled out a thin, even layer with my foam brayer. I then rolled the ink onto my stamp and pressed it firmly onto my fabric being careful to lift straight up when I removed my stamp. Once again this was super simple to create but it looks complex.

Last but not least, I joined the diamond shaped pattern and I made the little border at the bottom with a wine cork.

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The next pattern was made with a wood shape that I found at Michaels. I attached craft foam to one side, rolled on my ink and stamped away. This one went quickly and because the wood shape was thicker, it was really easy to press onto and lift off of the fabric.

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The last stamp for this project was created to act as a bridge between the two patterns above. I cut the diamond shapes out of some trusty dollar store craft foam, drew the lines with a ball point pen and hot glued them to a rectangular piece of wood (sound familiar?).

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Another graphic, modern piece of functional art for your home! There really is something so lovely about picking up and using a tea towel that you made or that was made for you by someone you love. I almost always pause and think about that fact when I use these and it makes me smile. Not to mention how much style these little babies add to my kitchen.

Step 3: Allow your fabric to air dry for 24 hours and then heat set it with an iron on the highest setting for 3-5 minutes. I generally put a cloth or some paper towels between my iron and the fabric, but that’s probably not totally necessary.

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SO Cute, right?! I have to say that I’m kind of in love with the black and white thing. The screen printing ink left a bit more texture on the fabric than the ink pad, but both inks worked well.

I know I’ve said it ad nauseam but these stamps really are RIDICULOUSLY easy! And for the last time, the patterns that you can achieve with such simple designs are amazing!!!!! And once you have your stamps you can use them again and again on a wide variety of things!

Check out the flyer for this class here. If you’re in the vicinity, I would love to meet you!