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. 🙂

 

 

 

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!

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! 🙂

 

Easy Peasy Ikea Pillow Cover Hack

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Hello dear readers! I saw this pin on Pinterest and it inspired me to create this easy peasy, totally fabulous pillow cover. I was recently at my (not so local) Ikea store and I picked up a few of these pillow covers.

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I love the color and I love the fabric, which looks like linen but according to the package is made from ramie. What the heck is ramie? I did a little research and here’s what I found on this site:

Despite the shroud of mystery surrounding it, especially in the US market, ramie is evidently one of the oldest fibers cultivated for textiles. Commonly called China Grass, it is grown and used mainly in southern and eastern Asia (with some production in Brazil). Only a small percentage of the overall production seems to be exported for use in Euro/America. Ramie fibers are naturally white, which reduces the need for bleaching, but in order to be used in textiles, they require extensive processing, including de-gumming. The fibers are also very strong and—like linen—improve in strength when wet with very little shrinkage.

Interesting! It has a lovely hand and honestly I would not have known that it wasn’t linen if I hadn’t read the package. Anyways, it was a great starting point, but it was definitely crying out for some color and pattern. When I saw the pin for paper roll shape stamps that I mentioned above I thought, why not?

Materials:

Tutorial

Step 1: Grab and one of these:

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Then cut your paper towel roll holder in half (If you’re using a toilet paper roll holder, then you don’t need to cut it). I used a serrated knife thinking that I would get a cleaner cut and less squishing of the roll. The later was true, the first not so much. So I decided to use the nice, flat factory ends. Regardless, cutting it in half makes it more manageable to work with.

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Step 2: Manipulate your paper roll holder into whatever shape pleases you. I’m going for a squarish shape.

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Step 3: Put some paint or ink onto a flat surface and roll it out. I’m using a brayer, but a little paint roller would work fine. This is just to get your paint/ink into a nice thin layer so that you don’t blob too much paint onto your “stamp.”

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Step 4: Experiment on a scrap piece of fabric or even a paper towel until you find a pattern that you like.

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Step 5: Iron your pillow cover until it’s relatively flat. Then fold it in half and press it in both directions with your iron. This will give you your center point as well as vertical and horizontal lines to help guide you as you print.

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Step 6: Put a barrier of some sort between your fabric so that your paint doesn’t bleed through. I’m using a piece of clear vinyl, but aluminum foil would work fine.

Step 7: Gently pounce your stamp into your paint and begin stamping starting at your center point and working your way out.

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About 3/4 of the way through I noticed that my “stamp” was looking a bit squished and my prints weren’t as sharp. So, I decided to use the other end of my paper towel roll to start anew.

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Maybe I was a little too assertive with my stamping? Or maybe you will need to do this too…so I would have the other half of your paper towel roll handy. If you’re using a toilet paper roll, I suppose that you could simply turn it over. 🙂

Here it is right after I finished printing:

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As you can see, I put some paper towels around the edges. This helps to keep things nice and tidy so that when I’m done printing I can simply pull out the paper towels and I don’t have to worry about getting paint on the underside of my pillow.  You can also see that the row of circles at the bottom isn’t perfectly straight. I’m not sure where things went a bit off kilter, but I’m totally okay with it. This is a handcrafted, hand printed item, so imperfections are part of what makes it beautiful.

Step 8: Allow your fabric to dry completely and then heat set it with an iron on the hottest setting for 1-3 minutes. I generally place a cloth between my fabric and my iron in order to protect my work of art.

Here it is, so great, right?! And SO EASY, this truly requires no artistic ability and in my humble opinion it’s so much cuter than the plain pillow cover. I love the combination of grey and orange and I really love how the paint is brighter in the spots where it went on a bit thicker – It definitely adds dimension and interest to this simple, modern pattern.

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Lotus Flower Stamp – Turning a Lemon into Lemonade!

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The block printing mania continues! In my last post I reviewed six carving blocks and I gave you my humble opinion regarding the pros and cons of each. In the course of this block carving odyssey, I tried out a linoleum block, which I hated. The carving was really difficult and the print (as you can see) was pretty bad.

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I was making this pillow case for my lovely niece Breanna who loves owls…and since I ran out of pillow cases and I couldn’t order more (because they’re on back order at Dharma Trading), I decided to try to salvage this one. My first step was to insert a piece of clear vinyl between my fabric (to prevent any bleed through). Then I set about to cover the whole thing with black ink.

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I initially tried to put the ink on with a little roller, but that didn’t work very well. I needed to roll over the same spots repeatedly and I seemed to be using a ton of ink. So, I grabbed one of my daubers (bottom left corner below) and I gave that a go. This worked much better!

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When I was finished, I set my pillow case outside to dry in the sun. Here it is, the color isn’t completely solid but I’m okay with that.

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Now it’s time to carve! After a little poking around on my niece’s Pinterest boards 🙂 I noticed that she has a thing for lotus flowers so I decided to incorporate them into my design.

But I digress…before the designing and carving bit you will need to work out the size of your carving block. In this case, since my pillow cover is 16 x 16 inches I decided to make my block 4 x 4 inches (using my favorite Soft-Kut blocks) so that I can get a nice pattern going. I first discovered the pattern making technique that I will be using when I saw Julie Balzer’s amazing pins on Pinterest. However, I soon realized that making patterns by assembling small pieces to form a whole goes WAY back to ancient times…like Mesopotamian mosaics and tile work. Not to mention quilt making which dates to ancient Egypt.

Now that you have your block cut and ready to go you will need to draw a grid – actually this isn’t mandatory but it will help you immensely when you’re drawing your design. Mind you, this is coming from someone who is all too happy to freehand something! However, soon after diving into this technique I realized that precision is super important when you’re trying to create a repeating pattern.

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Now it’s time for the fun part! I found a picture of a lotus flower that I used as a starting point…the rest I made up.

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Next, simply carve out all of your lines with your smallest carving tool. This will give you a little “moat” that will help you to stay in the lines when you begin to remove more material.

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Now you need to think about your positive and negative space or what you want to print and what you want to remain the background color. Grab a larger tool and begin carving the block to create your “negative”space (the color of your fabric).

 

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Pretty, right?! Next you will need to do a test print on paper with a regular ink pad. This is a super important step, so don’t skip it! This print will allow you to see your lines much more clearly and it will enable you to determine where you need to do a bit more carving. I always discover areas that need more carving when I do this…and I’m always excited to get an idea of how my design is coming together. 🙂

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After carving a bit more out here and there, this is my block.

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Next you will need to find the center of your fabric. I typically fold my fabric in half in both directions and I press it with an iron to get my center. However, since I already had my vinyl in place and since my fabric is black, it seemed easier to just mark off the center using a ruler and some white chalk.

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Alright so now for the printing part…I’m using Super Opaque White Ink by Versatex. I put the ink onto a piece of plexi that I picked up at Home Depot (you can use glass or any other hard, flat surface) and I rolled it out with my brayer. Please note that this ink is quite thick and the open time is short so it’s best to work quickly.

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Next, I rolled my ink onto my block with my brayer as smoothly and evenly as possible.

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I then lined up the top left corner of my block with the center of my pillow case and I carefully laid my inked block down. Be sure to press smoothly and evenly on the back side of your block. I have found that my fingers work just fine but some people use rollers or burnishers to get firmer pressure on their blocks. You can lift up a corner and take a peek at your print to make sure that your ink is transferring well. If it’s not, simply place it back down and apply more pressure.

When I got about seven blocks in, I started to notice a decline in my print quality. I think that the ink was starting to dry on the block so I cleaned it off before continuing.

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Once you have finished printing let your piece dry completely and heat set it for 1-3 minutes with an iron.

Here it is, what do you think? I like the white on black combo and I think that the design is cool but for a minute the lotus flowers looked like pot leaves…yikes! PLEASE tell me that I’m imagining things because that is NOT what I was going for!!!

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