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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Reverse Shibori Tutorial

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!

Materials:

  • dark colored natural fabric (cotton, linen, wool)
  • 2 acrylic or wood shapes (same shape)
  • rubber bands
  • bleach
  • hydrogen peroxide or bleach stop

Tutorial

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).

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This diagram is from Paula Birth’s site – which is an awesome resource for dyers!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Step 6:  Voila! This is the finished piece. It reminds me of African Kuba cloth. So pretty!

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