Just an update on recent crafts activity to show I’ve been doing something towards my market stall. So a post about painting fabric pictures with dyes, machine embroidering them afterwards, and also the last three felted scarves I made with my hand dyed muslin. I feel I could get quite a cottage industry going here if I could stick to a more structured routine, stopped going to bed late, and could somehow switch off the stress (that has crept back in since a few months ago).
I’m still experimenting with my Procion MX dye kit, and painting with dye, which is different from painting with fabric paint. I like the idea that it bonds with the fabric rather than just sitting on top of the fabric. A small sachet of the thickener Manutex was included in the kit and is needed for the painting part, if not just dyeing cloth in a bowl. It took a while to get used to what ingredient needed to be mixed in what quantity and where. So much conflicting information on the internet too, some of it just copied from other blogs. I also didn’t get enough salt in the kit, presumably because they assume people already have this at home, so I was lucky to find some Himalayan pink salt in the cupboard and just hoped this would be ok. You don’t seem to need this for painting though, just for dye immersion of fabric.
I can see myself using dyes a lot in my textile pictures, when I feel like working with cotton rather than wool felt. I had an old cream coloured curtain that I could experiment with, and cut it up into 9×7 inch squares to be soaked in soda ash fixer. Adding it to the fabric instead of the dye means the diluted dye pots can be kept for longer, and used up to a week or two instead of only being effective for a few hours.
It’s great fun as it is easy to create a background picture for free style machine embroidery. Future pictures will also include fabric strips as part of the background too, but for now I just wanted to focus on the dyes themselves. These are my thoughts on my first experiments.
I found that even with thickener added they can bleed a bit into the fabric but I rather liked the watercolour painting effect of this. Sometimes I forgot to add the thickener. I’ve not tried using other cotton fabrics yet so I think I would get different results from each. I also used the wrong side of the curtain fabric, which had a slight herringbone weave so I should have painted on the smoother side really.
In the above picture I used gold thread for some of the sand in the foreground. A mix of white cotton and rayon for the waves. I’m not keen on using rayon but have loads of it to use up. It kept fraying and breaking and doesn’t appear to be particularly strong (despite changing my new needle from topstitch to universal and back again), so I’m switching to polyester thread once it’s all used up.
Below is another which is not yet finished.
The flowers were too small for machine embroidery so I’ll take it along to my embroidery class for suggestions. The window panes seemed to work better. These will eventually be made into journal covers after I’ve completed the embroidery.
I never made it to the last embroidery class because of feeling unwell, so it has been 2 months since I last went. The one before that, I wasn’t involved in the set project because anything that is too much like cross stitch is not my cup of tea. I’m more of a free style sort of embroiderer/sketcher so I’m not sure if that monthly class was the appropriate one for me to do, but I’ll take my own dye sketches along and see what the tutor suggests.
I’m sure there is a stitch that is perfect for the birds.
There are only three others there in the class, two women and a man, who seem to have been going there for a long time. The two women were really put out that I wasn’t interested in some of the set projects despite my having been told before joining that I didn’t have to do them. After the two women gave me a hard time at my 2nd class, and the man had already left early and gone home, the atmosphere felt so bad I wasn’t sure if I was even going back again. Last time (3rd class) I just looked through the tutors extensive library of craft books and bookmarked those stitches and styles i was interested in exploring and practising, at her request. So I don’t know what is going to happen there this Wednesday, but I still have the Embroider’s Guild classes to check out, where they have monthly classes and meetings in the building where the Embroidery exhibition was held recently.
That’s why I never got around to doing more posts on this after my 1st Embroidery Class blog post. I was hoping to make it into a series of 2nd, 3rd, 4th class etc. I’ll see how it goes and whether the tutor, who seems flexible enough, can give me things to do that I can use in my own projects. Of course, I can also get tutorials off the internet, and I learned some basic stitches when young, but I like doing things as part of a group and am trying not to isolate myself by doing everything at home.
Back to the dyes though, I will continue to work with these as they are useful if you don’t have the right colour commercial fabrics in your stash although a combination of the two would be good. I dyed up some muslin, lace and cotton fabric scraps to use in larger pictures for texture, so have some green, blue and an interesting rust effect colour. The latter went wrong because, using shallow trays, it didn’t get enough fixer when I kept adding colours to make up a brown, so is patchy but ideal for portraying something going rusty. Later on I’ll experiment with fabric paints rather than dyes but as i want my notebook covers to be washable I don’t want to use anything that will wear away easily.
So what got me into dyeing and painting cloth, when I had more than enough crafts to be getting on with? Well my first nuno felted scarves on muslin had a white background, which is fine if I want white. Now, any muslin showing through is of the right colour for the scarf and as I make my scarves in different degrees of sheerness – some thick and some more floaty, some patterned on one side and some on both – it’s good to have a background fabric that complements or matches the wool.
I alternate my crafts between wet felting, dyeing cloth/dye painting, and machine embroidery at the moment. I want to keep it to textile crafts at least, so other interests like photography and jewellery making will have to wait as I’m trying to simplify and get some kind of routine going. I’m just waiting for a dye painting of Wistman’s Wood to dry and take to my embroidery class for hand stitch suggestions, before putting away my sewing machine ready for wet felting. Ideally I’d love to have a proper craft room with a table set out for each and every craft.
Below are the last three scarves I felted.
For the pink one I tried making a fringe for the first time (at one end only in case I needed to join it and lengthen it), and used Shetland wool for the black instead of the usual merino.
Mulberry and tussah silk strands are the red, black and white squiggles.
And this is its sheerness factor, held up to the light.
The green scarf is a bit thicker. And has some kind of banana silk fibre, can’t quite recall the name but bought the thread at the exhibition, and it’s a lot thicker than using the mulberry or tussah silk fibre. I do like the effect, but it does require pinning down with many wisps of merino wool before felting in.
I also put the pattern on one side to prevent the scarf from becoming too bulky, and the other side is stripes.
And this is its sheerness factor, held up to the light.
And the thickest one is below, which has some pattern on each side.
and some hidden skeleton leaves
Even this thickest one has some muslin showing through (these are not holes).
The open weave of the muslin should also trap the warmth so I don’t think more wool equals more warmth necessarily. I also like the drape of the more sheer scarves, but prefer making a range of scarves in different thicknesses and lengths. The next ones will be longer as these shrunk a lot even though I pre-washed the muslin.
I do find crafts to be such great therapy, but I also feel guilty playing when there is work to do. Hopefully one day I’ll get paid to play. That’s the plan.