Monday, 25 November 2013

Dye Project

One of the most intriguing projects we've done at the craft group is to work with Procion dyes.  Our first assignment was to gather natural fibres and stitch them together.  Many of the ladies just used strips and made fancy stitches between the them.  I say 'just'; some of the outcomes were spectacular. I don't have photos, but just imagine really vibrant layers of colour, shading from green for the ground into a multi-coloured flaming-sunset sky.  

One lady made a lovely lacy piece which she added to her current art project, a winding 'road' as part of a fairly-land scene.  Silly of me not to have taken photos...

I can however show you mine and Lucy's.  This is Lucy's:  

She put her collection of laces and fabrics into rows and squares that made me think of an allotment garden (where one grows fruit & veg), but of course you can see it is a lovely flower garden! She spent a lot more time than I did doing interesting embroidery on it, before and after the dyeing.

This is how her dye-job came out:

We both found the whole process quite addictive. 

Please pardon some of my blurry photos -
I'm still learning how to use my Samsung camera.

For example, adding bits onto the background is really fun; it's almost hard to stop!  

If you like hand-sewing, this is really fun and relaxing. Coming up with ideas about what else to add and where feels like a creative adventure. Many of the crafting ladies are members of the local embroiderer's guild, but they still use fancy machine stitches as well as handwork.

Then comes the dyeing part, which was a complete unknown for us.  We both erred in that we used water to dilute soak the fabrics in order to help the dye spread more easily. This made the dye more pastel than vibrant and we were both a bit disappointed by that.  

The water changes the chemistry of the dye...we should have soaked them in one or other of the two mixes that are used to make up the dye, the details of which I didn't catch.  

I have put a Procion dye starter kit onto my Christmas wish list, so I hope to learn more about it. You can do 'bucket dyeing' with this just like Dylon. I've no idea about the difference between the two products, except that with Procion you can mix up your own colours.  

Lucy lined her cloth with simple pockets and covered a wide elastic band with matching fabric to make a roll up bag.

This is my 'natural' colours project as it began.  I quite liked mine in its natural state before we did the dyeing.

I took an old linen napkin and stitched bits of cotton, burlap, broderie anglaise, lace, silk, velvet and various ribbons to it. 

We were given only basic primary colours to work with and had to figure out how to mix to get other shades.  I found purple amazingly difficult to nail down! The real adventure of the dyeing part is that different fabrics take up the dyes differently. Velvet soaks it up and concentrates the colour beautifully. Silk doesn't seem to need as much dye, but it travels along the fibres for quite a long time, revealing a lot about the weave that you might never otherwise see.  The most vivid colours on my project are the velvet patches.

Part of the £3 fee we pay each week goes to rent for the room, but a large part is to buy craft supplies and bring in the occasional instructor.  

People often have large stashes of useful material which they bring in a share.  

I had no idea what to do with this square bit of linen when it was done and I prefer to have useful outcomes rather than another thing I don't know what to do with.  

Others crafted theirs into pictures, a wide belt, book covers and zippered bags.  

Initially I backed the napkin with the stiff canvas you use to make latch-hook rugs (or proddy mats as they do here in the NorthEast of England).  

That may or may not have worked otherwise, but once it all got wet with the dyes and it all went through the laundry, it went completely shapeless. Bill came to the rescue, cutting me a piece of board to fit and I stitched my linen napkin with pockets (which limited what else I could do with it) and pieces of lace and you can see what it is used for. This is maybe 1% of my jewellery stash, thanks to my Aunt Rita. 

I didn't have a plan and in hindsight I might have used fewer pockets, put it on the board later and done more fancy embroidery post-dye. I did do a little bit of very rough gold thread stitching here and there but figured the 'bling' would be from the jewellery itself.

I got a lot of compliments on this from the crafting ladies...then again, it's one of the few projects I've actually finished. I definitely would do another project along these lines!  

Monday, 18 November 2013

Alive and Well, Busy!

Cousin Sandra got in touch via Facebook to ask if we were OK, it having been a couple of weeks since my last post. Given that I did the Halloween post in advance, it has been even longer since I actually wrote a post. It's easy to lose your confidence once the habit of posting is dropped. What have I been doing instead?

Trying to get the running habit again. I try to get out four days a week:  a long run, a track session and a couple of short runs. I'm taking baby steps with this as it is easy do too much and get discouraged. So far, so good.

Crafting - The Thursday night craft group does a wide variety of things, but often the projects can't be completed in a couple of hours. Even when several sessions are devoted to a project, there is sometimes preparation or finishing off work in between. Two of my favourite things from recent sessions are a pumpkin pin cushion and a jewellery holder. More about that last item later.

The large one at the front is mine!

Knitting - I've moved on from knitting little hats for bottles. I know it sounds mental, but it's part of an advertising campaign and the company that sells smoothies gives 25p to Age UK for every hatted bottle sold. I made forty of the things when we were in France this summer. 

I'm now knitting sweaters for children at a hospital in Nigeria, with a knitting group that meets at Age UK. I think it worries Bill that I associate with so many older ladies; but they teach me cool things and they make me laugh. The local Rotary club collects donated yarn and we knit or crochet the stuff into sweaters, hats, blankets, socks and sometimes toys. This has been a great way to improve my skills. I'm now doing the much easier Continental style of knitting and getting better at correcting mistakes. 

A dead simple pattern, kindly shared by Vivien.

I'm not very fast, but it doesn't really matter;  and knitting a sweater that will be matched to a child that it fits is so much easier than knitting one for a certain person.

Dressmaking - Lucy and I have taken on a dressmaking course that meets once a week. I've been making a shirt with princess seams from a Butterick pattern (5526). 

Pattern selection inspired by Goodbye Valentino.

I've started with  a trial garment first, which is probably just as well, as I've made tons of stupid mistakes. Can't say I've learned a great deal I didn't already mostly know, but I desperately need to practice!  The class forces me to make time for sewing as well as provides some protected time within the class. It is a long time dream to develop my sewing skills, something I can imagine regretting on my death bed if I didn't ever give it a go. Sounds a bit weird perhaps but given the excellent sewing my Mom and my Aunt Rita did, I feel that I'm supposed to try to do this. I'm not sure if I'm going to like the shirt when it's done, but I'll show it to you all the same.

Thanksgiving - We are having 20 people so far (might be as many as 32, RSVPs not due for a few days) for our Thanksgiving party on the 30th. We've been doing some extra cleaning in preparation for this. I've got to get my sewing room sorted back into a guest room in case one of Bill's kids wants to stay over. Sarah and/or Simon generally do this when they come.

More Sewing and Crafting - As usual I've managed to leave my gift-making til late and am frantically working on two main projects to give as gifts. Can't say more about those just now of course but one of them involved working out my own pattern and did my head in, but I found a solution that I can live with. Luckily I have plenty of practice fabric - old sheets and curtain linings - and lots of ideas for using discarded scraps. My gifts for folks in the US are actually ready to go to the post office. It's so early for me to have them ready I can almost worry there is something wrong!

Our WI craft group is going well and though it only meets once a month, the few of us who run the thing still have to make sure there is a presenter ready to lead a project each time. We made felted ornaments last time and will be tackling origami Christmas cards next time.  

Champagne Sub-Group - This is just a small group of friends who all happen to be in the WI. When Vivien kept winning the raffles that included bottles of champagne she insisted that we get together and enjoy them together. Jules dubbed us the Champagne Sub-group. We get together a few times a year for days out, evenings in, visiting other WI groups and just generally having a laugh (with or without champagne). It's lovely to finally have re-built my social life.  We're going to Blyth this Friday to check out a couple of sewing and consignment shops as well as charity shops and probably have lunch somewhere.

I do plan to keep blogging, I just need to figure out where to fit that in...