Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Inspiration - Drops Yarn Free Patterns

I might be the last crocheter to discover this, but I just realized that the Drops yarn free patterns published quarterly by Garn Studios are not just for knitters!  There are quite a few fun looking crochet patterns, too.  While I am beginning to knit, I'm nowhere near accomplished enough to begin any of the knit projects, but did spend a morning bookmarking and drooling over the sweaters I hope have the skills for soon!  And in the meantime added to my crochet bookmarks.  If you go in through the home page, you can choose your language - very nice!  The English (American instructions) index starts here.

I spent yesterday shopping and looking at spring fashions and my overall impression is lace, lace, lace - especially crocheted!  This vest is perfect.  It uses the Drops cotton/viscose blend, however there is a nice alternate yarn chart here in case you want to use another fiber.  The American English instructions are here.

I love this circular cardigan - there are so many variegated yarns that would look great in this pattern!  Instructions are given, using the Drops Baby Alpaca Silk, on how to blend in single colors to give that variegated look.  Pattern is here.

After spending too much time trying to organize the serving baskets I have and trying to think of a storage method that doesn't take up so much room, I'm about ready to bag them all and go for crochet baskets.  I'm definitely making up a few of these to try out.  It looks like a great way to use up leftover skeins of cotton yarn.  Patterns are here.

Right now, the site has an Easter Workshop Gallery of spring knit and crochet patterns.  The placemats remind me of daffodils - these'll be on my table next spring!  And I'm not sure what to do with the little chick yet, but it's so cute I'll have to come up with something.  The placemat patterns are here and the chick here.

There are so many patterns and pattern booklets to look at on this site, I'm sure it'll take me a few more mornings to get through!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday Sewing - My Dye Sample Scroll

The past few weeks, I've been working fairly non-stop on my version of a dye book.  As part of the fibers class I'm taking this semester, everyone in the class chose a natural dye to work with.  I made up a packet of various fabrics and yarns for each person in the class and ended up with a ton of samples - like a chain letter that actually works!  The next step was to make a dye book of some sort, with the challenge being to incorporate fiber arts in a creative way.  Since I was working with the old ways of dyeing, it made sense to me to use an old way of dealing with knowledge - scrolls. 

Working with osnaburg, I embroidered a botanical drawing of each plant and attached the samples.  For fabrics, I used wool felt, quilting weight kona cotton, habotai silk, and linen.  The yarns are alpaca, silk, merino wool, silk ribbon, and cotton embroidery thread.  I mordanted the animal fibers in alum.  I used two samples each of the plant fibers - one mordanted in tannic acid and one in aluminum acetate.  The two samples turned out about the same in almost all the dyes - some of the aluminum acetate pieces turned out quite a bit better - these are the circles with a notch cut out of the side.  I did some post-dye experimenting with a few of the samples and labeled them.

When one sees drawings of people in the past, they always seem to be wearing dull brown clothing - after seeing all the yellows from the natural dyes, it seems more likely that we should think of them wearing yellow!

I'm planning on working with each of these plants myself and will post those results as I finish them.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Project - Indigo Dyeing

I've been playing around with using freeze dried indigo crystals to set up an indigo vat.  Very easy and very nice results!  Using the crystals, you skip the mashing and fermenting steps - something I definitely want to try doing, but out of the question now.  While I live in Phoenix and it gets very hot here, it's not tropical, so the main indigo bearing plants won't grow here.  I've had pretty good luck growing temperate vegetables by planting them in September, though, which might work with Japanese indigo or woad.

*pre-reduced indigo crystals - I bought mine from Dharma Trading Co.
*thiourea dioxide (usually just called thiox )- again, Dharma was my source
*soda ash - available from Dharma or a pool supply store
instead of the three above ingredients, you can order a pre-measured indigo dye kit
*5 gallon bucket with lid (very important to have the lid)
*long stick or dowel 
*face mask (I use a rubber respirator mask with gas/vapor cartridges, which is a necessity if you have allergies or asthma and recommended otherwise)
*rubber gloves 
*natural fiber fabric or yarn

I follow the instructions on Dharma's website - measurements are given in both grams (if you have a gram scale) or ounces.  For a 5 gallon bucket, you need 50 grams or 3/4 ounce indigo crystals, 160 grams or 2.3 ounces thiourea dioxide, and 240 grams or 3.5 ounces soda ash.  Measure these out ahead of time with a face mask on.  Dissolve as much as you can of the soda ash in a little boiling water.

Put 3 gallons of cool tap water into the bucket and add the indigo.   Now I put on my vapor cartridge mask!  It gets stinky - did I mention this should be done outside or in a well-ventilated area?!  Add the thiox to the bucket and then the soda ash.  Stir gently with the stick/dowel in one direction - your goal here is to mix up the ingredients with the least amount of oxygen introduced.  Don't make bubbles or be vigorous.  A foam will start forming - this is known by different names, like the "flower."  This helps keep oxygen out of the indigo vat.  Put the lid on and let it settle for at least one hour.  I usually mix up a vat in the morning and wait until after lunch to begin dyeing.

When you take off the lid, you'll see the foam/flower on top.  Gently scoop this off and save it - I use a small kitchen sieve with a handle and put it into a tub.  You'll be putting it back on after your dyeing session.

This is about what your indigo vat will look like - a clearish, yellow liquid with a coppery film on top.  There'll be blue in the places where the dye is interacting with oxygen.

Thoroughly wet the fabric you want to dye - I let it soak an hour or so.  When you put the fabric in the dye, you want to do it in a way that introduces the least amount of oxygen into the dye vat.  Hold the fabric under the water, squeeze, and then lift from the soaking tub.  Still squeezing, submerge it in the indigo vat, staying above the sediment on the bottom.  Now you can quit squeezing and move the fabric around the vat.  How long you keep the fabric in will determine how blue it becomes.  You can always dye the fabric again to get a darker blue.  When you take the fabric out, squeeze the fabric while it is still in the dye and then remove, trying not to have lots of dripping going back into the vat.  

Don't die of shock when you see the color of your fabric!  It will come out a spring green color, change to a greenish teal, and then keep oxidizing until you get indigo blue!  When you're done dyeing, put gently put the foam/flower back on top of the vat and put the lid tightly on.

I dyed a chiffon scarf for little c and a piece of eyelet in this session and also did a clamped, resist cotton scarf.  This is the long, skinny type of scarf.  I folded it lengthwise into eighths ...

... folded the sides in to form a triangle...

... cut enough triangles from old plastic lids so that I had one to fit in each layer plus the front and back - on each side ...

tied the whole bundle tightly with waxed linen ...

... clamped the triangle on each side ...

... and submerged it in the indigo vat for about a minute.  After it's done dripping, undo the bundle and open the scarf up to let oxygen reach everywhere.  The results are the blue and white scarf in the top photo.  It was still oxidizing, so it's a bit green in places.

I also dyed those free form crochet shapes I made by submerging some for differing amounts of time and dribbling dye over the mesh piece.

I'm still working on more indigo dyeing - you'll be seeing results in the coming weeks!

Happy Creating - Deborah

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Inspiration - Indigo

I've always been fascinated with indigo - there's a certain amount of magic to taking a plant, manipulating and fermenting it, coming up with a yellowish liquid that dyes fabric a green that then turns to blue!  Different cultures around the world and through time have also seen indigo dyeing as something with varying degrees of magic attached to it.  The people, often women, who knew how to make this transformation actually happen were sometimes viewed as possessing knowledge from a spiritual or magical realm.

The tropical plants from the genus Indigofera have historically been the source of indigo dye.  Ancient civilizations from Asia, Europe, Africa, and the New World had indigo dyeing traditions - sometimes from native grown plants, sometimes from trade with other cultures.  In Europe, blue from the indigo containing plant woad (Isatis tinctoria) was used and Japanese dyers still use what is commonly called Japanese Indigo (Polygonum tinctorium) as these plants grow in cooler climates.

Indigo has some interesting properties that make it both a wonderful, easy plant to dye with and also a very challenging one.  It does not require a mordant - you just dip fabric in and you get a beautiful, long lasting blue.  However .... indigo is not soluble in water.  And it doesn't adhere well to fabric.  The motivation to have blue fabric must've been great to overcome these two problems!  To get around the first, the plant is usually fermented and then dissolved in an alkali solution, such as lye, urine, or ash.  To get around the second, the oxygen needs to be removed to produce what is known as "indigo white."  Without oxygen, there is no blue color.  Sometimes this was done with minerals or bacteria (urine also helped with this) - as the mixture fermented, the oxygen was depleted.  When the fabric is dipped into the solution, the indigo white will adhere to it.  The fabric is then taken out and turns blue when it hits the oxygen in the air.  

Some of the greatest fabric traditions used (and still use) indigo dyeing as part of the process.  In Africa, adire fabric is made by painting a resist onto the fabric, dyeing it in an indigo vat, and then scraping off the paste to leave a white or lighter blue area.  The piece below is Yoruba and can be seen at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

And this clip from a movie on Yoruba adire shows how the dye is traditionally prepared.

Shinsui Ito, Cotton Kimono, 1922.

In Japan, the tied and sewn shibori resist method used indigo dye.  This early 1900s woodcut print features a woman in a shibori indigo dyed kimono.

And the modern fabric tradition of denim has its beginnings in indigo dye (now synthetic dyes are often used).  This Discovery +1 video shows how a pair of jeans is made from the cotton field to weaving and dyeing the fabric to the sewing and final "distressing."  Very interesting!

I've been working on some indigo dyeing with freeze dried indigo crystals - very easy and lots of fun!  And still very magical.  I'll be sharing my results and some how-tos in coming posts.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday Sewing - Silk Fabrics

Okay - I've decided on the dress I'm making for my niece's wedding.  A few weeks ago, I wrote about the candidates from my vintage pattern collection here.  While I love the 50's vintage look, I'm going with the Belinda Bellville 1970s wrap dress.  And I've decided to make it from silk - so my next choice is what type of silk fabric?  I'm not sure if I'm going to dye it myself, but I ordered the silk sample pack from Dharma to get a feel for the different weaves.  Mmmm - it's heaven to thumb through all the different silks!  I cut several out of the running for being too sheer or for being velvet.  I love velvet, but not for this dress!  That left seven possibilities.

Silk Habotai 16 mm - This is the basic "China Silk" in a heavy weight.  It's very soft, lightweight, and lustrous.  This could have a nice drape for a wrap dress, but I'm a little worried about the "cling factor."  I'm not fond of having a fabric hug my body!

Heavy Crepe de Chine 30mm -  This has a soft sheen and a soft drape that seems perfect for this dress.  It's known to be a forgivable silk when it comes to sewing and it doesn't fray - big pluses.  Crepe de Chine has a slightly wavy texture from reverse twisted weft threads (one's twisted one way and one's twisted the other way).  I also got a sample of stonewashed Crepe de Chine that I really like the texture of, but it's thinner (16.5mm) - a little too thin.  If I could find a heavier stone washed one, it might work.

Silk Noil - This is thicker than the other silks and still has a good drape.  Silk noil is woven from the short fibers that are leftover after carding and spinning silk.  It's not supposed to be as durable as other silk, but I don't think that would be a problem in this case.  It's supposed to sew easily and resist wrinkling.  The texture is great - there are little nubs all over it.  On the down side, it doesn't look a lot like silk!  More like cotton - but it does feel wonderfully soft like silk.

Silk Dupion 19mm - This is shimmery silk with lots of texture - raised silk slubs and intermittent shiny threads. It's crisp, though - a little like taffeta.  I'm not sure this is the best choice for a wrap dress ... but it is gorgeous.  It also seems to ravel a lot, which would make for tough cutting and sewing.

Silk Satin - 12mm - This is a yummy, shiny, silky fabric.  Probably too much cling factor, though.

Sand Washed (sueded) Charmeuse 19.5mm - Another shiny, sensuous silk.  Probably great for lingerie, not for this.  Cling factor again! 

Silk Twill 12mm - This fabric has a smooth texture, but you can still see a diagonal twill weave.  I think that twill weave would make it a little too stiff for a wrap dress.

Hmmm .... right now I'm thinking a heavy Crepe de Chine.  But I am intrigued by the texture of silk noil.  And after savoring all these silk samples, I'm coming up with more silk sewing projects for the future!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Project - Knit Dish Cloths

Knitting's going well!  I can't believe I'm saying that .... I finished the first two dish cloths I'm working on for practice.  I'm thinking I'll like knit dish cloths even better than crocheted ones.  They're less bulky and easier to wash with.  One thing I don't like, though, is the funky edges I have after casting off.  But that's taken care of easily with a little crochet!

The yellow and cream cloth is just a mix of the first two stitches I learned.  I used Knit Pick's Cotlin yarn - it's a blend of cotton and linen that holds up well to repeated washings.  I cast 44 stitches onto size 6 needles and knit six rows, followed by six rows of stockinette stitch beginning with a row of knit, and repeated that pattern four times.  I added one last set of six knit rows and cast off.  To add an edging, I switched to crochet.  With an E hook, I joined the cream yarn at a corner and did *one single crochet, one half double crochet, and one single crochet* in a knit stitch, skipped the next stitch, and repeated.  On the edges where it was hard to tell where the stitches were, I did enough that it didn't ruffle up. And I just carried both yarns on the side.

The blue and white cloth is the Chinese Waves dish cloth pattern I found at Maggie's Rags.  It's an easy pattern that's definitely within the reach of beginning knitters - like me!  Again, I used Knit Pick's Cotlin and size 6 needles.  After I finished and cast off, I added a row of single crochet in blue around the outside (with a size E hook), putting three sc in each corner.  I then added a row of sc in cream and one last row in blue.

 I'm itching to try something like a .... sweater?  Right!  I think I'll keep practicing on a few smaller items first!

Happy Creating!  Deborah