Friday, September 30, 2011

Basketry supplies, and Pinterest

Now this is going to be fun! This is a haul I got through Craigslist. There was a basket maker who had to move suddenly, and didn't want her stash of weaving supplies to go to the dump. I took them off her hands for $50. I think I won! That is 7 laundry baskets and 2 moving boxes full of reed, most of it already dyed. In addition, there is one basket full of basket bases, and some handles. One box alone is worth more than I paid for the whole treasure trove. I foresee teaching some basketry classes in the near future.

Now, I only have to figure out where to store this all. Um....hmmm. That might take some work. The shed is still stuffed full of gourds, leather, and fleeces.

In other news, I've started playing on Pinterest just in the past few days. It is like my own digital bulletin board, except that I can share it with other folks too. I had looked at the site now and again, but didn't see a use for it for myself...until I realized that I could use it to draw together images when I'm researching a topic. To start with, I've begun a board for my Medieval felt research. Anyone know of any pictures of actual Medieval artifacts made of felt scattered around the internet? I'd like to add them to my board.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The finished gourd

I finished up the gourd I've been working on. Take a look here to see the process:
Cleaning a gourd:
Dyeing a gourd:
Weaving on the gourd:

And here's how it turned out!

I'm pretty pleased with this one. The weaving especially was fun to do. I started with a color scheme, and with the beads in place, but improvised everything from there. I was aiming for an organic feel that was still fairly balanced. So if I used a color or technique on one side, I used it across the way in a slightly different form. It holds the design together without being rigid symmetry. Not bad!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Teneriffe weaving on the gourd lid

I've been busy modeling for life drawing classes this week, so I haven't made as much progress on the gourd as I wanted to. But here's what I've been up to. (Check out the previous steps in this project here:
Cleaning a gourd:
Dyeing a gourd: )

My first step was to find a handy circular guide, and with a pencil lightly mark out where I wanted to drill holes.

Then I drilled two rows of holes with my little hand drill.

I pulled out some waxed linen that was similar in color to the gourd lid, and measured out about 5 yards. I tied a knot in one end that was too big to slip through the holes...

...and then threaded it through one of the holes from the backside of the lid. (I glued that hairline crack, so it wouldn't be a structural issue. The crack doesn't go through to the front anyway--looks much worse than it is. But I'm careful.)
I took a moment, and strung a few beads onto the waxed linen. My needle was too big to fit through the holes, but luckily I could take the needle off and just pop them over the end of the thread.
I rethreaded my needle, and took the thread down into the hole directly across the way.
I came up in the next door hole, and went directly across the center again to the other side.

I repeated this step, building a web across the gourd lid. I had put an odd number of holes in the circle, so the last thread went just halfway across, and came up just beyond the center junction.

The warp is now in place, and I'm ready to weave. I started weaving over under, going around the center junction.

I snugged the thread down tight, making a circle.

If you'll notice, that circle is a little off center. To work around that, I went back and forth now and again in addition to round and round, until I had a nicely centered circle.

It doesn't look exactly perfect, but I wasn't worried since my next step was to sew down the knob that allows me to pick up the lid.

Now I buried the end of the gourd colored thread, and added in a contrasting circle of grey to make the handle pop visually.

Now, the fun part begins. I weave under/over, back and forth with the waxed linen, just kind of doodling on the web. I have no real plan charted out. You can chart out lovely patterns, but I'm just playing here with a free-form design.

I decided that my design might change depending on what the rim treatment was going to look like, so I added grey linen for a visual pop. It is whip stitched going around one direction all around. Then I reversed direction and whip stitched going the other direction all around, letting the stitches cross at the rim to make a neat V pattern.

And that is as far as I've gotten tonight. Next up is more doodling with the waxed linen in a free-form design. And maybe another row of gray V's on the rim of the bowl in addition to the ones of the lid. Still deciding on that. I'll probably wait to decide until I get the lid done, and see what it needs from there.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dyeing the gourd

In my previous blog entry ( I showed you how I cleaned up a dried gourd to get it ready for turning into one of my decorated bowls. Today I took the next step, and colored the gourd.

First, I used some sandpaper and smoothed down the rim of the bowl and the lid.

Then I gathered my materials. I used several colors of leather dye, and a smidge of gold acrylic paint.

First thing I did was to dye the inside of the bowl and the lid a yellow, and let it dry. I decided that was a little bright, and put a layer of white dye over it to tone it down.

Then I used the leather dye on the gourd. I started with darker colors at the base of the bowl, and built up to lighter and lighter colors. I encouraged each color to drip down into the previous layer. I tried thinning the gold acrylic paint out with some leather dye for a glittery layer, but it just clumped up and looked icky. So I wiped that off, and tried a layer of acrylic paint thinned with water. That worked better, but the texture was still kind of thick. I got a hint of glitter gold, but I think I'll skip that experiment next time around.

When I had the color pretty much how I wanted it, I turned the gourd over a canister to dry.

After it was dry, I took a rag to it and buffed it up to smooth out the texture, and remove excess dye.

Because the acrylic paint was in there, the buffing stripped up some of the color where it was a little thick right at the rim. So, I took some sand paper and turned that into a feature.  It actually added a cool texture. No mistakes!

I checked to make sure the lid was colored in such a way that it coordinated with the bowl.

Then, I took the bowl and lid outside and gave them 4 light coats of sealant.

Next will be the fun part! I do weaving on top of these bowls to decorate the lid. I had a request for a weaving in light neutral colors: white, grey, tan, silver, and gold. I think I've figured out the accent beads and handle I want to use, and I've ordered some grey waxed linen to go along with the white and warm tan that I already have.

OK, mail, get here with my linen! I want to keep playing...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cleaning a dried gourd

I'm just about done with the scarf project, and so I'm moving on to my next requested work: a decorated gourd. My first step was to head out to the stash in my shed, and pick out a dried gourd. I brought it inside a couple of days ago, to give it time to adjust  from the baking desert heat out in the shed to the cool and somewhat more humid air in the house.

A raw gourd has a waxy coating on the outside of it, which needs to be removed so the dye can get to the rind of the gourd. I scrub the coating off with a copper kitchen scrubbie and some water. Sometimes you need to soak the gourd for a bit to loosen the coating. But you need to be careful not to soak too long, as the dry rind will swell and perhaps crack. And, a wet rind is softer and more fragile. But in this case, the waxy coating came off in about 20 minutes worth of scrubbing. (Sorry about the focus on the picture--I was paying more attention to the work than the documentation.)

I let the gourd sit for 24 hours after removing the waxy coating, to make sure it dried back out again. Because, again, wet gourd = more fragile gourd. Then I took it out to the garage, put my dust mask on (very important!! No mold spores in my lungs, thank you very much.) and used my little craft saw to carve open the top.

Inside is a mess of seeds and dried pulp.

I took my handy dandy scraper, and had at it. The insides went into a bucket, and were destined for the compost pile. If you don't have a scraper, various spoons work well. I used to use a grapefruit spoon.

You can get pretty far with just the scraper.

But I like power tools. This is a specialized sanding bit for my drill. You need to be really careful to keep a good hold on the gourd, and work very patiently. I've cracked more than one gourd on this step by letting things get battered around.

But you can see how it strips the rest of the dried white pulp coating off of the walls of the hard rind.

I did the same thing to the top of the gourd, so I had a lid for my future bowl. I'll probably sand the edges of the rim just a bit, and maybe sand down the inside of the bowl. But it is pretty much ready for the decorating part now.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cave Woman costume

Just for silliness...

I'm part of a historical recreation group, that studies the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Usually. the written guidelines, they never actually put down a starting date for our recreation. So once a year my local chapter gets really really silly, and puts on a Caveman Tournament. Our warriors toss furs over their Shining Armor, scramble for weapons in a pile in the center of the ring, and beat each other with sticks and rocks. Ugh! (Rocks in this case means tennis balls that have been duct taped together.) Winners of each round are Smart Cavemen, and get to start the next round with a newly invented weapon instead of scrambling in the pile with everyone else. The spectators dress in their finest cave couture, and much silliness and fun is had by all.

I woke up this morning and realized that I wanted a New Cave Woman Dress. I've been using fake fur wound around me the past few years, and that is very very hot in September in Phoenix, AZ. We're still hitting triple digits on a daily basis. So this afternoon, between painting scarves, I trotted out to the shed and pulled out several soft leather hides from my stash of neat stuff. The hides are thin enough to fit through my sewing machine. I stitched two of them together into one long rectangle, snipped two rows of holes, and ran two leather thongs through the holes as a drawstring waistband. That made a wrap-around skirt.

Then I put my tank top down on another hide as a general pattern, and cut around it to make a halter top. I used some more leather thong to tie the straps around my neck, and to make a criss-cross lace up back.

This is how it turned out.

You know what? It was actually really secure and comfortable. Nice and cool in the desert night, and soft soft soft against the skin. I think I'll be a cave woman for Halloween, just to give myself a good excuse to wear it again!


Monday, September 5, 2011

Still working on the scarf order for MIT

I'm still working on the MIT commission. I sent this sample scarf to them on Saturday, so they can decide which font and phrase they'd like on their silk scarves. I use the stamp pad to give me the template, and then trace over that with the Sharpie paint pen. After that, the lettering stands up to the washing machine quite well. I think the easiest lettering to do was the small italic 'great ideas change the world' stamp, but we'll see what they prefer.

In the meantime, tonight I'm steaming the first dozen scarves in the order. To set the color and make it wash fast, I wait at least 24 hours after painting a scarf. Then I steam it for 3 hours. After that, I let the scarf sit for another 24 hours before I wash and iron it. This process makes the color quite permanent. (The grey scarf above has been through the wash at least a half dozen times already.)

My husband snapped this shot of me rolling up the scarves to get them ready for the steamer.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Sharpie Paint Pen Wins!: Adding silver lettering to the grey silk scarves.

I've been working on a commission for MIT recently. They ordered a batch of hand painted silk scarves to use as dean's gifts. Most of the scarves are to be in this grey and black color scheme, which I have down pat. (The 13th scarf is currently drying on the stretcher frame.)

However, they also asked if I could add their name in a metallic silver lettering. I said yes, of course I could...and since then I've been figuring out how to do it. They sent me an assortment of stamps to use. The trick has been finding the right ink or paint to use with them. I wasn't having much luck, so today I went out and bought a bunch of possibilities to test out.

I've tried: Lumiere metallic silver, Lumiere black, acrylic paint with fabric medium, Color Box stamp pad, Clearly Better stamp pad, A La Mode stamp pad, a Pen Touch silver pen, and a Sharpie silver Paint pen.

Results: The Lumiere silver paint and the acrylic paint didn't show up against the grey of the fabric, unless I got them rather thick. If I got them thick, they blobbed on the stamps and didn't give a crisp, clear lettering. The Lumiere black had a thicker consistency and worked decently with the stamp, but it didn't show up well on the darker parts of the scarf. And of course, it wasn't silver.

The stamp pads gave a crisp clear lettering, and the A La Mode stood out the most against the fabric. I ironed everything I tried to heat set them all, and then tossed the scarf in the wash. All of the stamp pads washed right out, which I kind of expected as they are formulated for paper and not fabric.

The Pen Touch silver pen kind of bled a dark halo around the lettering, and then washed mostly out of the fabric.

However, I found a winner in the Sharpie paint pen. I used the Extra Fine Point silver pen. It is billed as an oil-based opaque paint marker. I used the stamp pad and the A La Mode ink to give me a template, and then traced over it with the Sharpie. You can see that it came through the wash with flying colors. 

MIT gave me a handful of stamps to try out. I'll be working with them some more tomorrow, and then I'll ship this sample scarf off to them so they can choose which stamp they prefer for the finished scarves. I do have one more dye to try out tomorrow, but as it stands I have a viable option for adding the silver lettering to the grey scarves. Here's to experimentation!