Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pre-washing and ironing silk scarves for the MIT and the Celtica! commissions.

I spent the afternoon washing and ironing 40 silk scarves, getting them ready for the dyeing process. Yes, I know. Some parts of my job are so terribly glamorous, no? Well...maybe not so much. But each step is necessary. This one makes sure there is no sizing or gum or oils or anything left on the silk that might interfere with how the fabric takes the dye. I'll start on the fun part tomorrow, which is actually adding color to the silk.

40 scarves sounds like an awful lot to find ideas for...until I realize that 30 of those scarves are for a commission that I'm working on for MIT. (25 grey and 5 coral colored scarves, to be dean's gifts.) And a few more will be dyed in the blue/green colorway for the singing group Celtica!. So that actually leaves me just a handful left over for playing with new color combinations. And, it leaves me a cushion of supplies on hand in case I screw up one of the commission pieces somehow. I don't foresee any troubles, but it is nice to have back-up.

So, 40 scarves, and I'll be painting at least 32 of those over the next few weeks. I'm going to be busy!

Come to think of it...busy is good.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

New size of silk scarves for the Etsy shop

I just wanted to share a peek of what I've been up to. I got a commission a bit ago from someone looking for a head scarf for a friend who was undergoing chemo. She liked my hand painted silk scarves, but the rectangular shape I usually make didn't quite fit the bill. So we put our heads together, and I came up with a half dozen 30" x 30" hand painted scarves. The size works quite well for the head. I played around with them today a bit while I was taking pictures for the Etsy shop, and found they work quite well as neck scarves too. Want to see?

This is the one she chose for her friend. It heads out in the mail tomorrow.
The rest are still available, though. http://www.etsy.com/listing/80557838/silk-scarf-square-hand-painted-in-blue



I do so love playing with the colors!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kumihimo, 50 challenge, and the ties in action

A few years back, a challenge went around the arts community in the Society for Creative Anachronism. The group is coming up on its 50th anniversary, and so the arts folks issued a 50/50 challenge. The idea was to do 50 of something before the SCA turned 50. I chose two weaving challenges--one for narrow wares, and one for yardage. The idea was to weave 50 yards of each. I've been kind of distracted, but tonight I finished up the above kumihimo braid, and it came in at 5 1/2 yards long. I looked back at my records, and that pushes me over the top of the narrow wares challenge by 2 1/2 yards. DONE! It may take me awhile, but I keep plugging away at it. Now, to the yardage challenge....hey wait. Checking my records again... Wow!! I was at 43 yards out of 50 before I did the yardage for my Estrella entry this past February. That ended up being just over 8 yards long. So that challenge is done too! That was 50 yards of narrow wares (inkle, card woven, or kumihimo), and 50 yards of fabric from the floor loom, over the course of about 3 years.

If you're wondering about the kumihimo, I used cotton crochet thread. The finished braid was set up just like the new one you see on the disk. I used two threads of dark blue, and 6 threads of variegated light blue. The braiding pattern is the same one as in this tutorial: http://tangibledaydreams.blogspot.com/2009/06/kumihimo-braiding.html .

In other news, I went with my family to the theater today, to see a production of "Hairspray". It was an awesome performance! I do so love live theater. My husband and son both decided to wear silk ties that I had hand painted, to give them a test run. Thumbs up all around. Don't they look spiffy?

The ties do too.

Silk painting and color theory: blending complementary colors

I'm back to dyeing silk scarves again. I was asked to recreate the color scheme of one of the rectangular scarves, but in a 30" x 30" square instead. It will be a head scarf. I said yes...and then realized that I didn't remember how I got that exact scheme. However, I think I got pretty close here, don't you? It has a little more of the pink/purple than the original. The colors are all there--just in slightly different proportions.

While I was doing the square scarves (I made a half dozen of them, just to offer some variety of choice) I decided to play with color theory. I know from a class I took some years ago that colors that are across the color wheel from each other are called complementary colors. That would be red/green, blue/orange, and yellow/purple. If you mix complementary colors, you can get some awesome earthy tones.

So, I decided to play. I chose 4 colors of purple, and 3 colors of yellow dye. I put 4 eyedroppers of the yellows on my palette. (I used the canary yellow twice.)

Then I added a half an eyedropper of purple to the yellows.

The left two colors mixed into beautiful browns and oranges.

The right two however were a little more pink than I wanted.

So I added a eyedropper of saffron yellow to those two mixtures.

I painted the whole scarf with squiggles of color, then added salt in swirls and scatters.

Then I sat back, and watched the paint dry. When that got old, I went and got dinner, and came back later to see what I had. The salt pulled the dye into intricate patterns, and the dye lightened into a beautiful warm, rich scarf.

I have all 6 head scarves dyed, as well as one short rectangular scarf that is a test of coloration for another commission. That last one is currently drying on the stretcher frame. Next up, the scarves need to set for at least 24 hours. After the wait time, I can steam the scarves to set the color. After another 24 hour wait I can wash them and iron them dry, and they'll be good to go.

And yes, I took better notes this time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fulling hand woven fabric--What a Difference!

This is actually an older project, but I was talking about it briefly on Ravelry today. (I'm there as 'TangibleDaydreams'.) This was one of the first projects I wove with my hand spun yarn. The yarn is singles, from a merino wool and tencel blend roving that I picked up at the Griffin Dyeworks fiber retreat some years back. The colors were inspired by a summer family trip to the beach and ocean in Mexico. The pattern is an undulating twill design that I drafted in a workshop given by Sharon Alderman.

The interesting thing about this project to me is that I decided to see just what seriously fulling the woven fabric would do to it. So after I got it off the loom, wove in the tails, and twisted the fringe, I tossed it in the washing machine on hot and let the machine do its worst.

This is how it turned out. The fabric shrunk by at least half, and thickened up considerably. Where it had a lovely drape right off the loom (I was thinking shawl with it), it stiffened up after fulling. The pattern was partially obscured, but still showed through and gave a little bit of texture. The colors melded together.

Well, it wasn't going to be a shawl any more. But, it wasn't ruined. Instead, it turned into a seriously kick ass table runner, which I love love love. It is just the size of my dresser, so I have had it displayed there for several years now. The fabric wears like iron, and I suspect it will still be in good shape several generations from now.

(The spinning wheel in the picture is a great wheel from the 1800's that I have pressed back into service. The basket on the right comes from Prague, and has carded fleece in it that I'm gradually spinning for another project. The candle holders and the eagle sculpture were done by my father. And two of the stacked boxes on the left are hand made as well--one by a friend, and one by my grandfather.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Suggestions for fabric paint for stamping?

Hey all, I'm looking for some advice here. I need to stamp fairly fine lettering onto a silk scarf, preferably in metallic silver. The result needs to be permanent, flexible, and washable. Anyone have a favorite brand of fabric paint for stamping? I tried Lumiere applied to the stamp with a foam brush, and that didn't give a clean image. I'll head to JoAnne's or Michaels tomorrow to pick up some other options to try, but thought I'd get some advice from folks who have been down this learning curve before.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Soft grey silk ties

I've been asked to work up some silk ties that are similar in feel to the grey silk scarves that I make.

Now, I make these by using black Tinfix dye mixed with water in various strengths, and then sprinkled with silk salt while it dries. This dye is steam set and then tossed in the washing machine. The ties can't stand up to that setting treatment though, and need to be heat set and dry cleaned instead. So, I've been making ties using Setasilk dye. The black dye with silk salt comes out looking very striking and flamboyant with this dye.

However, as cool as they are, they are not the same in feel to the scarves. So, today I tried out using Dye-na-flow dye on the ties. Here's the initial results.

The lighting wasn't the best, because I'm taking the picture late at night in the studio. But I think this has a softer contrast, and is closer to what they had in mind. I'm using black and pewter grey dyes, blending them on the tie, and then adding the silk salt. I still need to iron them to heat set them, and run them through the dry cleaners to see how the dye holds, but I'm pretty pleased with the result. I like the more pronounced wave pattern still, but the all over organic is cool too, and closer in feel to the scarves.

I'll get better pictures later. But I wanted to show the initial results. The same technique with different dyes really does give different feeling results.

From left to right, here's a scarf, the new tie with Dye-na-flow, and the old tie with Setasilk.

Hmmm. Now that I look at them, the ties are a warmer grey than the scarf is. I think that is partially a result of the different silks between the scarf blanks and the tie blanks. The ties have a creamy undertone.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sewing tip: straight trim around a gentle curve

I'm making a medieval tunic for my sweetie today, and I got to the part about putting on the trim around the bottom hem for a bit of pizazz. When I started sewing costumes I had a heck of a time figuring out the trick to making flat trim nicely bend around the gentle curve of the hem. So I figured I'd share my solution, in case anyone else is in the same boat.

The issue is: hems tend to flare outward on tunics, skirts, and gowns. That makes the outside edge slightly longer around than further up the fabric. Now, if you have trim that is slightly curved to match your hem line, you're all set to go. But all the trim I've come across is straight, not curved.

So, first thing I do is sew down the edge of the trim that is closest to the hem.

That gives a nice smooth edge by the hem, but there is excess trim buckling up on the other side. Now, you can deal with the excess fabric by folding that over, making tucks as you go around. However, somewhere along the line I learned a trick.

Fire up your iron, and set it to the steam setting. Hover the iron over your trim for a little bit, giving the trim a nice good steaming. Gently press the trim, steaming as you go. (Make sure to test your trim so you don't scorch it with your iron.)

Here you can see the result. The left side is the before, and the right side is the after. The steaming and pressing shrinks up the trim, sucking in that extra fabric. Since you already sewed down the outside edge, that stays the appropriate length. You've just made curved trim.

Pin down your edge, and sew that sucker down. You may still have to take some pleats and tucks, depending on the severity of your curve, but there won't be nearly as much fiddling needed as you might have had to do without the steam trick.

See? All stitched into place, nice and neat.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Old textile equipment at a garage sale

I was very good today. Very very good. I went to an estate sale, and I didn't buy the Beka rigid heddle loom and floor stand. They wanted $75 for it, but didn't have instructions, and I think some pieces were missing.

I didn't buy the antique spinning wheel. It was a tiny thing, and rickety enough that it fell apart if you tried to actually use it. Pretty though. They said they thought it was a 'bride wheel' from Austria, used as part of a dowry, but had no real history on it.

I was very tempted by this antique tapestry loom though. I could have gotten it for $200. But again, it was too rickety to actually use, and it was missing parts. If I'm going to take up floor space in my house with fiber equipment, I rather want to be able to use it. That piece belongs in a museum, instead. I recommended they take it to the Pioneer museum, or to the antique dealers downtown.

So, instead I held myself to one little purchase. I picked up this old weaving shuttle.

I have a collection of weaving shuttles displayed on my studio walls, and didn't have one of these yet. It is a shuttle for a silk ribbon loom, like here: http://www.greatamericanweaving.com/facility.html . This one says 'Biehl & Son' inside. I haven't been able to find any Google hits on that, but I'm looking. In any case, I've rearranged my collection on the wall, and it now has a place of honor in the display.

Not a bad day!

Card woven belt

I've been working on a card woven belt this week. (See the previous post for more pictures of the process.)

So, after I got the weaving done I finished the ends by making twisted fringe. I could do that by hand, but having the proper tool for the job makes the process go much, much faster. I do appreciate my fringe twister!

The belt was 7' long (not counting fringe) after weaving. To wet finish it, I just threw it in the washing machine on hot. It ended up just over 6' long.

I'm pleased with the way this one turned out! This belt will probably end up being a gift. I think the next thing I want to try on the card weaving front will use a similar set up. I'd like to try double weave, to weave words. Now that I've got the hang of card weaving again, it is time to try something new.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Triloom weaving with Red Heart Swirl, card weaving, and project planning

I've been weaving in my studio recently, while I'm in between silk painting projects. I've finished one project, started one project, and have another one in the planning stage. Hey, at least one is finished!

This is the finished one: a new shawl on my triangle loom. I'm still hunting for just the perfect yarn to use with this loom. The pegs are kind of far apart, so the yarn needs to be super bulky. The result needs to hold together securely, drape beautifully, and be super soft against bare skin. This attempt used Red Heart Boutique 'Swirl' yarn, which is a mix of polyester, acrylic, wool, and alpaca. It certainly passes the skin test! And it drapes wonderfully. But I think it is a hair too thin to be really structurally sound. I'll need to wear it for awhile to see how it works.

I'm thinking the way to go with the yarn hunt might be to use a double thickness of yarn, instead of trying to find a really thick chunky yarn. That would give me more of an opportunity for color blending, too. The materials would cost more, since I'm using twice as much, which is why I haven't really experimented with this yet. But I think I'll try it out for the next shawl.

After I got the tri-loom put back away, I dug out my inkle loom and got it warped up for card weaving. I clamp it to the cone holder my husband made me, which makes warping much easier. In fact I just leave the loom on there for the weaving part too. It puts it at a nice height when I'm sitting here in my computer chair.

This project will be a belt, inspired by the colors in the heraldry of my local SCA group. I'm doing a card weaving pattern that relies on having two light and two dark threads in each card. I paired the white and the yellow threads for the 'light', and the blue and the purple threads for the 'dark'. They are close enough in value that the eye visually blends them at a distance, and you just see the contrast. I used the red for the border. The store didn't have 4 balls of the same shade of red, so I got two light and two dark. I set it up so the pattern subtly continues on into the border. I think I like that effect!

I'm finding I really prefer card weaving to inkle weaving. The pattern opportunities are very flexible, the resulting fabric is much sturdier, and it is easier to get a clean even selvedge.

The project that is in the planning stage was inspired by this post, by Susan of 'Thrums': http://weeverwoman.blogspot.com/2011/07/between-two-pages.html . She is a most inspiring weaver, and a very gracious lady. She was weaving book marks in very fine linen and cotton. I was particularly caught by the results of the 'tromp as writ' pattern half way down the entry. Is that not spectacular? I realized that my dobby loom had the capability to weave that pattern, and asked if she minded if I took inspiration from her work. Not only did she not mind, she sent me the pattern draft. Did I mention that she is very gracious? Lovely lady.

I can see this pattern slightly larger, made up in yardage to be turned into a Medieval tunic. I wove yardage recently in my hand spun wool yarn, and sewed it up into a super warm winter tunic. But I wanted something for summer wear too, seeing as I live in Arizona. So I went ahead and ordered dark blue and green yarn in 10/2 mercerized cotton from Webs. I'm eagerly waiting for it to get in!

If I have time in and among other (paying) projects, I'd like to get that worked up in the next few months. I've also got some sewing that I want to get done, and there is a possibility of a large scale scarf order in the works.

I do love staying busy here in the studio!