Back in the 90s

In among my silk painting supplies I found these little instruction pamphlets on how to tie scarves and wraps:

Oh, the hair! The hats!

The poses! The stylin’!

It reminded me how scarves and wraps were so trendy at the time. Not knitted scarves, however. Knitting was so 80s. I don’t remember seeing all these ways of tying scarves being popular, however. Most people I knew tied them once, loosely at the throat, then tucked the ends into the front of their jacket or coat. My favourite method is to fold the scarf in half, wrap around the neck then tuck the ends through the loop. It had the advantage that it the wind couldn’t blow it off. I don’t remember if it was called anything fancy. I call it The Noose.

What I do miss about silk scarves is that they are so light but so warm. You can stuff one into a coat pocket or a handbag and it doesn’t take up much room. Then if you needed a scarf you could whip it out, wrapping it twice if it was particularly cold. Loosely wrapped too, because the air trapped in the folds will quickly warm up from your body heat.

The 90s are supposed to be ‘back’ and hand made fabric scarves seemed as popular as knitted ones last winter. Perhaps this year I’ll bring my collection of hand painted silk scarves out of hiding.

Silk Dyeing Weekend

On Saturday my friend Margaret hosted another Quilting Day. Well, I think of them as Craft Days since I don’t quilt and a whole range of craftiness takes place at them – and sometimes a lot more conversation and laughs than crafting.

It occurred to me that this might be a good opportunity to work at one of my Projects for 2011 – using up and getting rid of all my silk painting things. So I put out an email seeing if anyone coming along would like to have a go at dyeing a silk scarf, with the lure of taking it home at the end of the day. I had plenty of takers and had lots of fun showing them my quick and dirty way of dyeing silk scarves.

(In my opinion, there are three aspects of silk painting that are too time consuming, expensive or hard to do at home. Firstly there’s the stretchers. I made my own because I couldn’t afford to buy one. Mine held two edges of the cloth in a way that didn’t let you paint them, which didn’t matter at the time because pre-hemmed scarves weren’t on the market yet, but once they were my stretcher was redundant. Secondly, the setting of the dye relied on someone nearby running a steaming service, or doing it at home. Doing it at home always resulted in water getting in, dyes running and crease marks. Thirdly, the hemming took FOREVER. You could carefully pull out threads on the edges of square scarves to make a ‘fringe’, but this took just as long because the silk is so fine, fragile and sticks to itself like spider web.

My method eliminated the first two annoyances. Forget stretchers – I scrunch up the fabric and dab it into dishes of dyes until I’m satisfied with the coverage. The colour combines in a lovely mottled way. Then I leave them to dry scrunched up, and with certain dyes this intensifies the colour on the outside folds because they dry faster. Then I steam them all scrunched up, wrapped loosely in paper towel and tied with string like little dumplings, and then protected from condensation drips within the pressure cooker within a ‘cup’ of aluminium foil, and the flaws created by water getting in and crease marks become part of the textural beauty of the dye.)

By the end of the day all of my pre-hemmed scarves and two ties were dyed, steamed and in the possession of happy crafters. That left one pre-fringed scarf and various scraps of silk. So on Sunday I got to work on my own, dyeing and experimenting all morning and then tending the pressure cooker all afternoon.

I took most of the finished fabric and some of the scarves I’d done the day before to a dinner with interstate and local friends, and found homes for three pieces. That left me with this lot to photograph today:

Experimenting produced some interesting results. The first two of these scraps were left to dry pleated in two different directions, and the third I tried dotting with gutta first to see if I’d get white spots: (I didn’t, because the gutta is water based and just dissolved.)

This one I hung by the middle as it dried, and then steamed it coiled up, which gave it a tie-dye look:

This one was the last I dyed. I tried adding silver and gold gutta to black dye. It didn’t dissolve, but fragmented enough that I got flecks of metallic paint all over the scarf, which I love:

Knowing that I’d run out of silk before I ran out of dye, I also tried dyeing silk yarn. I bought these two skeins at Morris & Sons in Sydney. They were not cheap, so I was rather dismayed to find that, outside the dimly-lit shop, what had been an intense purple was actually a bit paler than I’d thought and getting dangerously close to pink:

I dripped navy dye all over them and popped them in the pressure cooker, and to my relief the dye took:

Which made me very happy, because I have been struggling to think of what to do with this yarn for two years and the only thing stopping me from gifting it to the op shop was that it had cost me $70 for these two small skeins.

I’m also feeling pretty pleased with myself because what had filled this tub:

Now fits into this small shoe box:

Which, along with the pressure cooker, will go in with my yarn/fabric dyes. All the paint brushes, plastic lids and dishes for mixing dye, pipettes for gutta and drop sheets are now stowed with my art stuff.

Which means I can make my first tick against one of my Projects of 2011. Yippee!

Trying Something New

Yarn magazine mainly because it contained a tutorial for making baskets out of scraps of yarn and raffia. I reckon these baskets are made with the same method. I decided to give it a go, using loom ends and some thick acrylic yarn my Mum used to make a hooked rug out of in the 70s.

I didn’t like the method. The main pro was that I could use up loom ends, the main con was that the constant joining in of a new bit of yarn and the sewing was time consuming. I kept thinking that I could probably do this using crochet, with one continuous strand. Then yesterday I saw a book reviewed over at Craft Leftovers that looked like it might be about that sort of thing. As I always do, I ignored the link to Amazon and went looking for it on Fishpond.

It is there, though with a much less appealing cover. I spotted something called Google Preview and discovered that it shows you the first quarter of the book. Unfortunately for the publisher and author, that first quarter contains all of the technical instructions. I only wanted to confirm that the method was the sort of think I was thinking of. Now I don’t need to buy the book at all.


Anyway, I looked at my macrame supplies and there were two thicker kinds of rope that would work well, in natural and black. What to crochet them together with? I grabbed some linen thread from my bookbinding supplies. It was originally purchased for weaving, then turned out to be great bookbinding thread, and now it’s being used for crochet basketry:

I’m really pleased with the result. It’s faster than the sewing method and I like the look and feel of the ‘fabric’ it’s making, which is flexible enough to mould into shape and stiff enough to hold it. I’m not sure what I’ll make this into. A bowl? A matching pair of waste paper baskets for the bedroom? A trivet for the dining table? I can see potential for plenty of projects: table runners and place mats, lidded boxes, carry bags…

And there is so much potential for using other materials. I’m thinking it might look interesting to match the black rope with the leftovers from the Peri Peri Floor Rug:

I could be even more adventurous, and substitute the rope with strips of paper or card, fabric, wire, or even electrical cord. The crochet thread could be any kind of string-like thread, from yarn to thin wire to audio tape. Most of these things have been tried already, somewhere.

The book went onto my wishlist at Fishpond. Though I don’t need it, it did have some good project ideas in it. If you’re curious, follow both the link to the Fishpond page (and Google Preview) but also the Craft Leftovers review.

Projects for 2011

1. Customs House Sketch Albums
Left over from Projects of 2010. I have a huge box of line drawings done by Paul’s late father. They need sorting through, a lot of preparatory material removed (except some of the sketches, which are lovely in themselves) and the drawings to be bound together in an attractive and accessible way.

2. Mini Art
I have a box of tiny framed artworks – with many the frame is decorated and as much a part of the piece as the art it frames. They need to be hung somewhere with room to add to the collection.

3. Certificate Portfolio/s
We have a collection of certificates. Some are mine, some are Paul’s, some belonged to Paul’s parents. Since I’m an artist, Paul is a photographer, and we’re both collectors of art, photography and ephemera, there’s not much space left on our walls. Solution: a portfolio in which to keep and/or display the certificates together – much like a photo album. Which can be added to, as well.

4. Rag Rugs – DONE!
I left the number unspecified. I’ve managed to gather together quite a collection of fabric and old clothing to recycle into rag rugs, that I really need to get stuck into making them in order to make more floor space in the workroom.

5. Painted Canvas Dining Chair Covers
A project for fun, not for using up something or displaying things we already have. Using the methods in Canvas Remix, I want to paint some canvas and sew it up into seat covers for our dining chairs.

6. Use Up Macrame Supplies
A few years back I set myself a challenge to try out some crafts I hadn’t done in years. One was macrame, and I made a little pot hanger. It was fun, but macrame didn’t stick. However, I’d bought supplies for more projects. I want to either make the projects or find another use for the materials.

7. Use Up or Get Rid of Silk Painting Supplies – DONE!
There are two big plastic tubs full of leftover fabric, tools and inks from the craft I was obsessed with in my 20s. When I revisited silk painting during the same challenge, I worked out a fast, attractive scrunching method for dyeing scarves. Getting them steamed was always a problem, but I tried steaming a scarf scrunched into a ball and it only enhanced the effect. So either I’m going to spend a day using up all the ink I have then keep the resulting scarves to give as gifts, or have a craft day with friends and let them keep the scarves they make. What’s left over will be donated… somewhere.

8. Favourite Photo Gallery
Paul has always been very keen on photography and is now doing a course, and I’m a keen dabbler as well. Yet we have no photos on the walls. I want to make a space somewhere in the house and fill it with our work. Paul already has a stack of small frames that would be ideal for it. This project may get very big, actually. We have a wall that goes most of the length of our house that is covered in wood panelling which isn’t great for hanging things against, and lately I’ve been thinking we could have it replaced with plasterboard. Maybe I’ll get a quote and see how much it’ll cost…

Fob Watch Project

I’ve been exploring art journal and collage blogs and sites, and recently bought a copy of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. It’s all the different mixed media techniques for colouring and texturing paper that are fascinating me. So when the mag site offered a free eBook featuring four methods, on signing up to their newsletter, I grabbed the opportunity. One method in particular gave me one of those ‘of course!’ moments. Print with acrylic paint on watercolour paper and you can paint over it with watercolour washes without it dissolving or bleeding.

I wanted to try it straight away, of course. But I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by all the things I want to make or try lately. I’m in danger of starting too many projects and end up feeling pulled in too many directions. Then it occurred to me that maybe I can combine some ideas. I had another WIP going that this printing method might suit.

So I carved a stamp of a clock face:

Printed with acrylic on a scrap of watercolour paper, then coloured the paper with watercolour washes:

Cut them out:

Even the offcuts looked pretty:

Then I stacked some of them up inside this:

It’s an empty fob watch shell that I’d strung onto a chain with some bits and pieces, but didn’t seem like it would be a finished piece until I put something inside it:

The little circles could be like calling cards. Maybe I’ll write something like “chocolatetrudi dropped by today” on the other side, then draw in the clock hands at the time. Or maybe I’ll just leave them in the fob watch as a quirky souvenir for anyone who asks what’s inside.