Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The last jar of jam

What a beautiful morning it is here in my little patch of the Pacific Northwest! Had my morning coffee and toast out in the garden and watched the crazy starlings splash in the fountain. The only cloud over this sunny scene is that we are on the very final jar of strawberry jam from last year. Oh, still so delicious. It wont be long though, well not too  terribly long, until this year's strawberries come on and we make the 2015 batch. Still, any length of time without homemade jam seems hard to bear. 

We shall have to find some way to carry on.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Natural Plant Dyes

from left to right: 1. Birch Bark. 2-3. Turmeric. 4-5. Beet Root. 6-7. Hibiscus Flowers. 8. Combo of 2-7.

Birch Bark

Welcome to my new addiction. Dyeing with plant and food dyes has taken over my mind and body, not to mention my kitchen. Last week I decided it was finally time to just jump in and do some dyeing as it's been on my to-do list for ages. Well, down the rabbit hole I fell!


This process is akin to mixing potions, conjuring spells and concocting surprises. Each batch of dye is unpredictable, at least for the first time for me. You never know exactly what you are going to get once you rinse the fabric after you pull it from the dye bath. It really is quite amazing!

Hibiscus Flowers

Nothing was a disappointment because it was all so interesting and exciting. With each experiment I gained more knowledge and appreciation for the art. Now I'm looking at plants and food in a whole new way. I have started a dye journal to keep track of my work; in it is a growing list of dye stuffs that I can't wait to try out. As I go for walks in my neighborhood, I'm searching out plants that I might be able to glean for my experiments.

Beet Root

For my first foray into the art of natural dyeing I kept it very simple. I used a lightweight unbleached cotton muslin for all of the dyes. I used what is considered the safest mordant (what helps fix the dye to the fiber/fabric) of Alum and Cream of Tartar in water. I simmered the fabric in the mordant for an hour. 

For the dye baths I went with some research along with some intuition. Some were simmered in water for an hour, others simmered for less time. I did feel that I should have soaked the Birch Bark for a couple of days, but I was just a little impatient. Then I left the fabric in the dye baths for different amounts of time to see what would happen.

I am so looking forward to gaining more knowledge and dyeing more stuff. It really is such a joyous (if time consuming) process. I do suspect the household chores might suffer quite a bit. That's alright, it's all for art and science!

I want to thank Annie Cholewa for her encouragement and cheering me on to give this a go!

So, what have y'all been up to?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Inch by Inch, Row by Row

Oh I know I said there was going to be a tutorial today...

However, there was a little problem with the photos (operator error I'm afraid). 

And it's an absolutely gorgeous day outside and I ended up at the garden store and these little beauties came home with me. Time to plant!

Tutorial will follow at some other date, indeed it will!

Happy Weekend all!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

No Pattern, No Problem: The making of a T-shirt

I have a frightful confession. I don't sew with knits. Oh I do hope you didn't bump your noggin when you fainted from the shock of it. Now that you've recovered I can tell you that I can happily revise that confession to: For years I did not sew with knits. 

It was not always so. When I was a teen I sewed knits with impunity, I had no fear and I couldn't for the life of me understand why people were hesitant to sew with knit fabrics. Ok, I do admit a slight aversion to pure polyester knits, but that's a story for another day.

Somewhere along the way I stopped sewing with knits, and with this lack of knit sewing I too began to have doubts, fears even. Silly me.

On the practical side, one of my excuses was that good quality knit fabrics are expensive. Well, the other day I was taking a long overdue peruse through my local thrift shop, and though I did not find the perfect v neck sweater I was searching for, I did find a few very large men's T-shirts in white. The perfect lead in to playing around with knits without breaking the bank while at the same time upcycling some formerly unloved clothing.

I didn't have a pattern so I made one. This is true of some knits, they can be forgiving of the hastily self drafted pattern. I created a Dolman sleeve t-shirt, one of the easiest things to sew, really! I then went about making a couple with various sleeve lengths. In the photos above I used some gorgeous knit that my friend Nancy sent me ages ago and added the contrasting bands from another shirt that happened to be the perfect shade of green.

This one was made using one of the white thrift store t-shirts, dyed black and stenciled with a horse of course.

There are some tricky things about sewing with knits, but honestly it's just like anything else... it takes practice and there is no reason to fear sewing with knits. Not that you're afraid, of course not, you are very brave and have no idea what I'm talking about. It was probably just me. Silly me.

I also whipped up a pair of yoga pants made from t-shirts that suffered from an unfortunate dye job. (Note to self: Order some good quality fiber reactive dyes!)

Well, I'm so glad I now sew with knits. 

Oh! And coming up on Friday I will be posting a quick tutorial on how to make a Dolman Sleeve T-Shirt of your very own! Hooray!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Dye and Stitch

Tobacco, Tea, Coffee Grounds, Rusty Nail

I like to experiment with dyeing and "aging" fabric with simple processes and household mediums. I've been playing with it for a few years now and I'm hoping to teach myself how to use plant dyes and even plant myself a small dyers garden. Some day.

I was messing around with some of my dye sample pieces and there was some watercolor paper 3 x 5 cards I had cut up for whatever reason and then... well things just sort of happened.

My machine has many stitch options, but the truth is I only use a very small portion of the stitches on a regular basis. I thought I might dare to use some of the fancy cross stitch options. Taking one of my bits of dyed fabric I stitched it directly onto the paper card. I was so enamored of the result I did a tiny series of them.

On the back of the cards I wrote down the fabric, dye, and stitch information.

I may just be playing with these little pieces and tiny series for a while.

Happy weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

DIY Paper Party Chandelier - Tutorial

Let's go back a bit, oh say a couple of weeks... it was a Friday and I was busy to-doing, getting things together for a party in BLUE. I was fluffing blue paper pom-poms (not my favorite task it turns out), hanging blue paper lanterns, draping blue beaded curtains, and dangling sparkling silver stars. My girl had asked for blue, but had not specified which hue of blue she preferred. There are rather a lot of shades of blue you know?  So, I just got as many shades as I could find.

At the bottom of my bag of tricks there was one little roll of $1.50 blue crepe paper. At the moment I could not for the life of me remember what my intentions had been regarding this roll of crepe paper when I purchased it. I looked around and noticed the large pendant light hanging from the center of the ceiling and it irked me, as it often does, but it was particularly clashing with the blue extravaganza I had in play. 

I decided right then and there that something must be done, some remedy must be found! So with my one roll of blue crepe paper in hand and about an hour or so left on my timeline, I set about upon a path of easy peasy cheesy DIY righteousness! 

I was not certain how this was all going to end up, but took some photos just in case I might stumble upon a kind of clever idea. In the end I was well enough pleased with my super thrifty endeavor and thought I'd share it with you here in brief. Perfect for parties and festivities of all sorts.

The DIY Crepe Paper Chandelier:

One roll of crepe paper
Piece of cardboard about 12"x 12"
Marker Pen
Masking Tape
Paint (optional)
Roll of curling ribbon or other ribbon
Push pins
(I had all of the materials at home already but for the crepe paper, chances are you will have most of these items too. Which makes this a very cheap project)

To Start:
click on the pictures to enlarge if needed

I traced around a large dinner plate onto my cardboard, I then centered a smaller salad plate inside the larger circle and traced around that to create two circles. Using scissors, cut out the large circle, then cut out the center circle. (It's ok to cut through the outer circle to get to the center, in fact, for me it was necessary to be able to open it up to get it to fit around my wide pendant light shade.) I then applied a quick coat of blue paint to one side of the circle just to make sure the cardboard wouldn't show through, but it isn't critical to the project. Let dry. 

Side Note: If the base of your light (the part attached to the ceiling) is larger than 8" you may need a larger piece of cardboard and then trace a large enough circle to fit around it.

 Next, cut even lengths of crepe paper: how long you cut them depends on how far you want them to hang down below the light (my lengths were about 34"). begin taping your strips around the wrong side of the cardboard circle as shown in the upper left photo above. Continue all the way around (upper right photo). Cut a second set of strips from the crepe paper a bit shorter than the first and tape each one between/overlapping the the first strips all the way around the circle as before. Next, cut lengths of curling ribbon (the kind used for wrapping presents) and tape them in even spacing around the circle. You can use more crepe paper and ribbon if you like. I used the entire roll of crepe paper I had and what was left of a roll of curling ribbon so that was my gauge of how much to use.

Next I used my scissors to curl the ends of the ribbon. I carefully centered my finished chandelier around the base of the light at the ceiling and used a couple of push pins pressed through the cardboard into the ceiling to keep it in place. Ta Da! 

Now that was seriously easy right? And thrifty! For all that last minute throw it together and hope for the best business, it was a big hit at the party and has me thinking of making some fancy ones with sheer fabrics and silk ribbons and... oh you know how I like to say: possibilities are endless!

Important Note: Make sure that your crepe paper is not touching a bare light bulb, you want to make sure you have a few inches between the paper and a hot bulb as this could possibly be a fire hazard. You wouldn't even have to use these with a light, they would make a pretty decoration on their own. Or use a safe LED light inside instead if you are worried. The glow does make it extra special.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, it's not my usual sort of thing, but it is great fun and would be a perfect project to do with kids. And who can resist a chandelier? If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments and I will do my best to respond to them there.

Happy crafting!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Promises, Promises

Best laid plans and good intentions are subject to complete obliteration from time to time. So it was last week and well into the weekend. I am just now returning to the routine on wobbly legs and hoping to do what I had set out to do last week. By that, I mean spending some quality time here and in my studio. I am however, not making any promises. Because, well you know, life happens.

I do hope that you are all well and happy this Monday and hope to see more of you soon!