I promised somewhere along the line that I would do a homemade stencil tutorial. So here goes! These are SO easy to make! I love that the designs are completely unique, but there are some limitations. For example, it’s difficult to get a really crisp stencil with this method so if that’s what you want, I would use mylar. The only other limitation that I can think of is your imagination!
high temp glue gun
high temp glue sticks
non stick surface of some sort (I’m using a cookie sheet)
Step 1: Gather your materials and make certain that your surface is something that your hot glue won’t stick to. I have read that you can use wax paper or aluminum foil. Trust me, both are not worth your time. I did have some success with parchment paper but that could get pricey. So an old cookie sheet or a dollar store cookie sheet will work just fine.
Step 2: Create your design! If you want to be more fussy about it you could draw your design onto your surface – I would use a washable marker or maybe a pencil? I’m simply free handing it. The only thing that you need to be careful about is making sure that all of your lines are touching so that your stencil will hold together. If any of the connections look weak you can go back and give them another dab of glue.
I like that the glue is kind of “blobby” and uneven. I think it lends a handcrafted look to an otherwise modern design. You can be as simple or complex as you like. If you use a smaller glue gun you can most certainly get some finer details in there. Don’t worry about the little strings that come off as you are making your design because you can easily clean those up when things have cooled down. Also, if you are unhappy with any of your lines you can carefully trim the glue with scissors or an exacto knife when you are done.
Step 3: Let it completely cool off (this takes about 10-15 minutes) and then carefully lift it from your surface. Voila! A homemade stencil!
I will be using mine on an 18 x 18 inch pillow. So after the stencil above cooled I lifted it up and connected another three rows of circles.
Alright so I decided to move on and make a vat of eucalyptus dye. Over the fence I went to snatch some more leaves. While I was clipping I saw some low hanging branches with flowers and pods and I couldn’t resist.
Okay, so I got a little carried away with the pictures. But, really pretty, right? I’m not sure how the flowers and pods will affect the dye but I’m throwing them in the pot. After doing more research, I saw that a lot of folks were soaking their leaves overnight and then simmering for two hours followed by another overnight sit and then possibly more simmering. Geez!
I filled my pot and added filtered water from our reverse osmosis unit. I had read that rainwater is best for your dye pot, but since that is in short supply here (even with our El Nino winter), I decided to use filtered water. When I first saw the recommendation to use rainwater it seemed really “granola” and I figured that it was more about being eco-conscious. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE granola and I’m definitely eco-conscious but I have since come to learn that there is a more specific reason. Apparently tap water can contain trace amounts of copper and other minerals that can affect the color of your dye. So the rainwater is presumably more pure. I’m not so sure about that, but at least I understand the rationale.
As I was gathering my leaves I couldn’t help but notice the gorgeous red color of the stems as well as a bit of red on some of the leaves. Hopefully this bodes well for my dye pot!
eucalyptus (red ironbark, silver dollar – if you use this variety it must be fresh not dried )
rainwater or RO water – optional
protein fiber – I’m using silk chiffon scarves
Step 1: Put your plant material in your dye pot, cover with water and let it sit overnight. Here’s my pot, it’s a little more than halfway full:
Step 2: Bring your pot to a low simmer and let it go for 2 hours.
It’s looking a little murky at this point.
Step 3: Let your pot sit overnight…or not. I did some more reading and I saw that some people were saying that it can take 3-4 hours of simmering to extract the color from the leaves. So, I decided to simmer my pot for another hour or so. The color is looking much better, yay!
It sat overnight and I brought it to a simmer again for about one hour and I let it sit for most of the day. My patience has been rewarded! Look at that gorgeous color! This really isn’t a project for those of you who want fast and easy results!
Step 4: Give your fabric a quick wash and fold and/or bind it to create a pattern. I prefer a pattern to a solid color, but obviously this is completely up to you. If you are dyeing a scarf then be certain to fold it in half end to end if you want the pattern to match on each side. At this point, I will be employing the following itajime shibori folding techniques:
So here are my folded stacks per the above diagrams. As you can see, I then bound each of them with rubber bands.
Step 5: Put your fabric in your dye bath leaving all of the plant material in place. Bring to a simmer and let it go for two hours.
Step 6: Turn off the heat and let your fabric sit for another two hours.
Step 7: Unbind and unfold your fabric and let it dry. It should “cure” for at least one day. Iron to heat set. Done, finally! The color is more terra cotta than the orange-red I was hoping for, but that’s okay. I think I extracted every possible ounce of color from those leaves!
After spending the last week or so immersed in eucalyptus dyeing I have mixed feelings. I love that it’s an “eco” process that doesn’t require any chemicals or toxic ingredients. I also LOVE that the dye is free. 🙂 The color is pretty and it’s fun to experiment with natural materials. But you have to be incredibly patient and persistent. I really can’t stress the patience part enough. This is a multi-day, multi-step process. It was definitely (mostly) fun and I certainly learned a lot. So all in all, no regrets. Next, I’m itching to do some more eucalyptus bundles and I’m hoping that I can get some beautiful, clean leaf prints (unlike the prints that I got in Part 1!).
To check out some of my leaf prints go here and here.
Are you ready for some eco dyeing? I have been interested in exploring eco dyeing for sometime now and after playing around with rust dyeing my interest in plant based dyeing was peaked. So I began poking around online to see if any of the plants in my yard were suitable for dyeing. I was excited to see that eucalyptus (a native of Australia that is plentiful here in Southern California) can be a great source of natural dye. Fortunately I have one in the open space just outside my back fence.
After convincing my husband to hop the fence and snatch some branches I realized that I have an ideal variety for dyeing! It’s a eucalyptus sideroxylon or a red ironbark. Who knew? My hubby actually hates it and has tried to get our HOA to cut it down. Honestly, I haven’t been terribly fond of it either, it’s scraggly and it blocks part of our view. But now that I know that it may be a great source of dyestuff I’m warming up to it. Perhaps I’m putting the cart before the horse, however, since I have yet to see how well this much maligned tree performs!
protein fiber – I’m using two silk scarves
wood boards, plastic, vinegar solution (50:50) – probably NOT necessary, see below
stainless steel pot
Step 1: Gather your plant material. This may require a little research and experimentation. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that has eucalyptus trees then they are a more obvious choice. But from what I understand not all eucalyptus are created equal when it comes to dyeing. If you don’t have a red ironbark nearby then you can buy a bunch of eucalyptus from a florist or Trader Joes! The silver dollar variety that is often used in floral arrangements is supposed to be wonderful for dyeing.
Step 2: Get some fabric! I’m using two blank white silk scarves that I purchased at Dharma Trading. Protein fibers like silk and wool are the simplest fabrics to dye with eucalyptus since they don’t require a mordant (mordants help to fix the dye to the fabric). If you want to dye cotton or linen then you will need to use a mordant like alum (available through Dharma Trading). I decided to dye two scarves at the same time because I was curious to see how each fabric would take the dye. One scarf is an 8mm silk Habotai and the other is silk chiffon.
Step 3: Find two flat surfaces that you can use to sandwich your fabric – I used two plywood boards. Then line one of the boards with plastic. I simply used an opened up trash bag. I gave my fabric a quick soak in vinegar (a little insurance to help fix the dye) and I laid it out on the plastic. I then arranged my leaves on half of the scarf so that when I laid the second half on top the pattern would repeat. This may require some fussing and editing.
Step 4: Spray your fabric with a vinegar and water solution (I used a 50:50 ratio). Put another layer of plastic on top of your fabric and make a sandwich with your second board. Then weight the whole thing down with rocks or bricks.
Step 5: Let it sit. I let mine sit overnight and I took a peek in the morning. This is what I found:
So you can see that some color is transferring around the stems but the leaves aren’t doing anything! Hmmmmmm, back online to research this technique.
It seems that my error was not sealing the plastic well enough to retain the moisture. The leaves won’t print if things don’t stay wet. My failure to secure the edges of the plastic combined with a very warm and windy Southern California day really dried things out. 😦
I decided to abandon this method and try something else. As I was researching, I saw the name India Flint again and again on the eco dyeing posts and blogs. Apparently, she is the eco dyeing guru of sorts, so I dug a bit into her techniques. One of the techniques she uses most is to lay her plant material onto a piece of fabric, roll it into bundles, tie it with twine, and steam it for a few hours. So let’s back up a little!
Step 3ish?: Okay, I’m not sure how necessary the whole board sandwich thing was but I do think it helped to soften up my branches so that I could actually roll the fabric into bundles. So you may want to skip that step and simply soak your branches to make them more pliable or just use the leaves. Here are my bundles:
Step 4: Place your bundles in a pot with a steamer basket and steam for one hour. I have a pot that is only used for dyeing. You definitely don’t want to use a pot that you plan to use again for cooking!
It’s been one hour and Wow! The leaves are bleeding color onto the fabric, maybe my eucalyptus sideroxylon is good for something after all!
Step 5: Turn over your bundle and steam for another hour. Make sure to add more water to your pot. I didn’t add enough water and I scorched the bottom of my pot. 😦
Step 6: Pull your bundles out and let them cool.
This first pic is side one and the second is side two. It looks as if side two has gone a bit gray-green and a tad murky. I read that this can happen if you steam for too long, so maybe a shorter steam time next time. Or maybe not, I kind of like the contrast of that murky color against the redish orange colors. And the blue, OMG I love the blue! I can’t begin to tell you how badly I want to unwrap those bundles!!!
Step 7: You have a few options here. I found some sources that said that you can unroll your bundles after they have cooled. Then again some folks said that you should wait a day or more. I’m going to unwrap one and wait on the other.
Here they are. The silk chiffon scarf on the right is the one that I unrolled right after it had cooled. The one on the left is the silk Habotai that I let sit overnight. It’s still wet in this picture so the color is darker then it will be when it’s dry. I’m not sure that waiting overnight made any difference?
I was underwhelmed with my results. The color is pretty but the design is way too haphazard for my taste. I think next time I will lay my leaves out on the entire piece of fabric before rolling it up. I suspect that I will get a much cleaner print that way.
Step 8: If you are happy with your design you will need to let your fabric dry and then “cure” for several days. Iron to heat set the color and give it a quick wash.
So here I go with another new technique! The first time I did this it didn’t go so well, mostly because I failed to follow the directions. Hopefully things will go better this time.
This is a sun printing technique using a fabric paint called Dye-Na-Flow. According to the Dharma Trading website where I purchased this paint it is a “thin, free flowing concentrated color that works on any fabric.” I had it on hand because I had used it to do some marbling (another tutorial?). According to what I read, you simply paint it onto some fabric, place a mask of some sort (stencil, flowers, rocks, whatever) on to the fabric and put it in the sun. The magical part is that wherever you put the mask the fabric will return to it’s original color. I have no idea how this works but it’s super cool!
As I said, my first attempt with this technique didn’t work out so well. I painted a white silk scarf with a combo of white and black paint and then placed some rocks on top to create a pattern. The pattern was just okay. The rocks left a less defined print than I would have liked and I didn’t do a great job of smoothing out my fabric so anywhere that there was a bump or wrinkle was imprinted! Yikes! When it was dry I hastily scooped it up and rinsed it (before checking the instructions). Apparently, I was supposed to wait 24 hours and then iron it for 3 minutes before washing it. So, not surprisingly a lot of the color washed out. Here are a few pics:
Now for round 2!
white cotton pillow cover – or fabric of your choosing
mask or stencil of some sort
Derwent Inktense color sticks – optional
Step 1: Pick a piece of fabric and give it a quick wash to remove any schmutz. Then smooth it out REALLY well. You don’t want to have any creases because as you can see from the pics above, they will show up in your final result.
Step 2: Paint your fabric with Dye-Na-Flow making sure to cover it well. I’m using a blank white cotton pillow cover that I purchased from Dharma Trading.
Step 3: Add your stencils or “masks.” I am using stencils that I made from hot glue (I see another tutorial headed your way!). I played around with the design until I was satisfied and then I put it in the sun until it was completely dry.
This is how it looked when I took off the stencils. Interesting that it isn’t solid black around the zipper even though I put a lot of paint in that area. Apparently, it needed more! Some of the edges are also a bit lighter then I would like. The pattern is kind of interesting, but I’m not in love with it.
Here’s the back side. I made sure that it was saturated with paint, so I’m not certain what happened here but it’s kind of cool.
I really wasn’t happy with how this came out so I did a little embellishing.
Step 4: Let your fabric “cure” for 24 hours and then iron on high for 3 minutes to set the color. Wash with a mild detergent until your water runs clear. Hang to dry and iron.
Here’s the finished pillow:
As you can see, some of the color washed out. I don’t mind that it’s more muted but I’m not gaga over it. It looks more “craftsy” than “artsy” to me but I think that this technique has potential and I will very likely revisit it at some point. Thanks for hanging out with me! I would love to get your thoughts on this one. 🙂
In my never ending quest to find new and interesting techniques, I recently stumbled upon rust dyeing. I was intrigued by what I saw so I decided to give it a go!
This is a fairly easy technique and since rust or iron oxide is sometimes used as a mordant in and of itself, no mordant is required (mordants “fix” or make dye permanent). Rust will dye virtually any fiber, however, natural fibers like silk or cotton work best.
First off, I had to get some rusty stuff. Given the fact that I live in sunny (drought stricken) Southern California, I simply didn’t have any rusty stuff laying around. So, option one was to scrounge around my garage for some metal objects and then rust them myself. There are various ways to do this, but the best method seems to be a combo of vinegar and salt and time. I wanted instant rust, so I moved on to option two…buy some rusty junk online. Yes, people actually sell rusty junk online! And people (eh…me) actually pay good money for that rusty junk! Here’s a sample of what I got:
The first technique that I’m going to try involves using rusty screws that are bound to the fabric and then left to sit for a day or two. I saw an example on another blog and I loved how it turned out.
My research also revealed that if you overdye the rust dyed fabric with black tea you get a a darker or “saddened” result. This is largely due to the tannins in the tea which act as modifiers. Modifiers shift the pH levels and subsequently the color palate. Since I prefer blacks and grays to rusty brown, I will be trying this as well. So come along as I venture into two new (to me) techniques!
Step 1: Wet your fabric in a vinegar bath. The vinegar significantly speeds up the rusting process, so don’t skip this step! Next, tie on your rusty screws. I used artificial sinew (available at Dharma Trading) but you could use string or dental floss. I wound the sinew around one screw at each end of the scarf and I spaced three more screws somewhat equally along the length of the scarf. I then gave it another little soak in some vinegar.
Step 2: Next simply place your rusty bundle in a plastic bag, seal it well and let it sit. From what I have read the “sit time” needs to be a minimum of 24 hours and can be as long as 4 or 5 days. I’m very impatient, so this may be difficult. Basically, you want to wait as long as it takes to achieve whatever color you prefer while bearing in mind that the color looks darker when wet. I prefer deeper more intense colors to pale colors so this may take a while…
Step 3: Take your fabric out of the bag and let it sit for another 24 hours to “cure.”
It hasn’t been 24 hours, but I couldn’t wait any longer so I untied the screws and took a look. So pretty!!!
I love how the fabric formed to the shape of the screws and the print is gorgeous! I promise I won’t touch it again until it hits the 24 hour mark!
Step 4: Iron the fabric to set the color. I used paper towels to protect my ironing board and more paper towels to protect my iron. Right now I’m loving the color so I’m on the fence about tea dyeing.
Step 5: If you decided not to tea dye then you will need to stop the rust from continuing to oxidize your fabric. Mix one gallon of hot water with one tablespoon of salt and soak your fabric for 15-20 minutes. In addition to stopping the rust, this will also help to fix your color.
Step 7: This is optional people! I eventually got off the fence and decided to go for it. Here’s my scarf soaking in a bath of salt and Earl Grey. It’s difficult to see here, but the color appears to have shifted towards the grey tones.
Step 8: Wash your garment in a mild detergent or shampoo (shampoo actually works great on silk because it is a protein fiber just like hair). I generally use a professional textile detergent called Synthrapol (available at Dharma Trading). Hang to dry and iron.
Here’s the finished product. What do you think???
Hmmmmm, well it definitely turned grey but the rusty brown stayed sort of rusty?! I wish the deep brown that was there when I untied the screws had stayed put. Otherwise, I think it’s really beautiful. Unfortunately, I noticed two very small holes at the center of two of the circles (where the heads of the screws were). I’m not sure why this happened since there was nothing sharp in these areas. Perhaps the rust actually ate little holes in the fabric? I think I may take another swing at this one at some point soon. Thanks for taking this journey with me! Please feel free to comment!
Okay, so this post will get you going with some basic shibori techniques. If you want a detailed explanation of shibori go here. But, and this is a big but, you don’t have to know what shibori is or how to do it in order to make this scarf!
I primarily utilize itajime shibori in my work. This particular type of shibori focuses on using resists to create designs. Resists can be rubber bands, string, or shapes (wood or acrylic) to name a few. Generally, the fabric is folded first which is a “resist” in and of itself and then a “physical” resist of some sort is applied before the fabric enters the dye bath. Reverse shibori differs from traditional shibori in that color is removed rather than added.
*Please note, since this is a reverse process you will need to start off with a dark colored scarf. The color that your scarf discharges to will vary depending upon the original color and the dye used. Synthetic fabrics will NOT discharge (ask me how I know), so please use a natural fiber like cotton or linen. Also, you cannot discharge silk using this particular technique (again, ask me how I know). 🙂 Obviously you can purchase a dark colored scarf, or better yet, use one that you already own or dye one yourself!
dark colored natural fabric (cotton, linen, wool)
2 acrylic or wood shapes (same shape)
hydrogen peroxide or bleach stop
Step 1: Fold your fabric in half end to end. In this case I’m using a black linen scarf with fringe, so the fringe ends will be together. This will ensure that the pattern on the ends of the scarf matches. Then follow the diagram below (just ignore the “sleeves” as the tutorial that this image came from is for a dress).
Step 2: Apply your resist(s). I applied oval acrylic shapes to both sides of my triangular stack and then I secured it with rubber bands.
Step 3: There are several options for discharging the color in your fabric and different fabric will accept the discharging agent in various ways. This is were trial and error come into play. This fabric discharged extremely fast! So much so that my first effort resulted in a scarf that was almost completely discharged. 😦 The lovely thing is that you can generally fix a dyeing error. In this case, I refolded my scarf, applied my resists and dyed in it in an indigo vat. And I’m happy to report that it came out beautifully.
But I digress..I’m using 100% bleach to discharge this scarf. This is mostly because I’m impatient and bleach is one of the strongest discharging agents. I used a very small amount of bleach (given my prior error) and then I placed each side of my triangle in the solution until I liked the color. For this fabric, it was literally a matter of a few minutes. But there have been instances where I have left a scarf in bleach for hours before I achieved the color that I wanted.
Step 4: Take your fabric out of the solution and give it a good rinse in cold water. Then you will need to stop the chemical reaction of the bleach by soaking the fabric in hydrogen peroxide or bleach stop (available at Dharma Trading – my “go to” site for supplies). Soak for 5 to 10 minutes.
Step 5: Undo your bundle and soak the fabric in the hydrogen peroxide solution for another 15-30 minutes. Then rinse, rinse, rinse until your water runs clear. I always give my garment a wash in Synthrapol at this point (which is a professional textile detergent available through Dharma), but any mild detergent is fine!
Step 6: Voila! This is the finished piece. It reminds me of African Kuba cloth. So pretty!