Summer has unofficially become fall here, though the calendar says it's still over a week away. It's 54 F this morning, and I'll have a cool studio today. I confess that sweltering heat does not bring out my creativity, and also that I've taken a little hiatus while coming to terms with my art and craft. Both points have made it more difficult to return to the studio daily, though I'm in and out. It's not an excuse, and there's no reason for me to apologize. It just is. You know, I'm finding that makes more sense to me recently.
I have spent the summer working on hand stitching, and it continues with more than a dozen hours this past week invested in this piece.
The fabric is Tokyo Train Ride by Sarah Watts, and I mixed it with some fun, but more traditional prints and design. I love using modern and traditional fabrics together for an up close surprise!
The center and first brown connecting border are nearly finished. I've kept the Perle cotton a low contrast with a rust color around the spiderwebs, and pale green in the brown. The dots are the same mint color so it blends rather that stands out. Hand quilting soothes my soul.
Along with stitching, I've been working with wool for most of the month now. Let me clarify a bit. Working with meaning preparing. First I've scoured the racks at second hand shops, Goodwill, Hospice, and so on. My kids are a great help, and love a scavenger hunt, too. Things go into my trunk via a garbage bag, and sit for several weeks outside in the sun to heat up nicely. (I always avoid any chance of bringing unwanted 'guests' into my house or studio!)
At first I picked seams open, and was very careful deconstructing the suit coats, pants, and skirts. Now I work a little quicker, and most things are made usable by cutting off the seams. I don't find that I lose a great deal of valuable fabric, and it's a huge time savings. From cutting outside, the wool fabric goes straight into a warm water wash cycle, and then into the dryer. After that, it's stored until I need it.
The woolen knits stash has grown considerably, too, but this seems to be the season to find wool as people go through closets. Can you see the great variety of color someone's found for me? I love the orange! Some of these will turn into lined mittens early this winter, and others are destined for hats and purses, but I'm not ruling out a pieced blanket.
Unlike woven wool, I don't deconstruct the sweaters before washing. They go in the washer after a few weeks in the sun, and are washed and dried the same way. I do monitor the shrinkage closely, and dry them far less as I don't want boiled wool. Just a nice felting to them.
The latest wool project involves Kool-Aid, food dyes, and store bought 'wool felt'. You may know that wool and silk--animal based origins so we call them 'protein based fiber', take dye differently that plant based fibers. Plant fibers would be cotton, linen, hemp, etc. Wool and silk need to have the ph lowered while plant fibers need the ph raised. Acids lower ph therefore we use something called an acid dye. It's not a nasty dye at all, and in fact is safer than most dyes requiring a higher ph.
My starting point for all the research I've done was at the Paula Burch site. I can't say enough what a fantastic resource this is. I popped in there intended to begin by using some Jacquard Acid Dyes I was given, but considering it was already late in the evening I tried this method instead.
This was a trial project using about 1/4 yard of wool felt. Wool felt is already fairly dense when purchased. I would tell you to imagine the density of a good wool blanket for comparison. I was paying attention to how the process would affect the density further.
I soaked my swatches in vinegar and water. I added drops of food coloring to a bowl mixed with a tiny bit of water. I only had red, blue and green here to play with so my palette was limited. The wool swatch and dye went into a sandwich baggie, were squished around to disperse the dye, and I sealed it. I microwaved it for 20 seconds or so at a time while I stood watching. Out to the counter to cool a bit, then back in a few times for another round. The heat was required to set the dye.
I had one package of Kool Aid in a flavor that used Red #40 as the dye. That powder was mixed with water, and processed the same way.
a.k.a. The Lab Report
*I started by making some of the colors too weak. I was adding just a few drops of food dye, and the color was quite pale. The pink is an example of 1 single drop mixed with water. One or two drops gives a nice pastel.
*A few swatches have dark spots where they absorbed more of the color. This could be to a higher concentration of vinegar there, perhaps, or that I pushed it into the bowl there with tongs. I think it could be remedied by a stronger solution with more water. Adding it to a flat pan instead of a bowl might help too.
*Many colors were made by mixing 2 or 3 dyes. While they mixed in the bowl, they separated when they hit the wool! I wasn't expecting that at all.
The brown tone made with red, blue and green has areas of pink and violet. The grey made with red and green has areas of blue and violet.
*When a dye came out too pale after rinsing, I just redyed it. I dipped it in the vinegar solution again, and reworked the same process. It was very forgiving.
*Kool-Aid is an awesome dye! See that vibrant red? The color was saturated and intense, and like the others had no dye wash out. I had only used a partial packet on the swatch. Prepared drink mixes contain citric or malic acid so vinegar is unnecessary. I imagine the high acid along with a lot of dye was the reason.
Are they perfect? Heck, no! Is it exciting. Heck, yeah! Anytime I make headway into a new process, and understand how things are made helps me move along in the right direction. I've had the book "Wild Blooms and Colorful Creatures" beside my chair for months, but now I have the materials to make a project using Wendy William's wool felt method. NOW, the book makes sense! I'll be working on other ways to dye and over dye wool this week, and hope you stick around.
Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.