Sunday, September 4, 2011

Black Walnut and Indigo Dyeing

Last week my copy of Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess arrived in the mail.  It is a fantastic book about dyeing fabric and yarn using plants.  Not only does the book tell you how to create different colors of dye from different plants, it has great information about keeping colors from fading using mordants.  I wanted to get started right away, so I chose two kinds of dye that did not require treating the yarn with a mordant before dyeing: Black Walnut, and Powdered Indigo.  As an added bonus, my internship already had those dyes cooked up so they were ready to go.

First I tackled Black Walnut dye.  To make this dye from scratch you collect black walnuts (with gloves on, because they really will turn your hands black), put them in a pot of water for a few weeks to ferment, and then boil.  Since my dye was already prepared, all I needed to do was heat the dye in a pot until almost boiling.

Then I soaked my yarn in warm water until all the air bubbles were out, and put it in the pot to cook for an hour or two.  After cooking the fibers I took them out of the dye pot and rinsed them until the water ran clear.

The result was a beautiful light brown yarn.  If the dye had been fresh and never used, the color probably would have been darker.

Next I used the powdered Indigo dye bath that was already mixed up.  The indigo dye is very messy, and very sensitive to oxygen.  So please, WEAR GLOVES if you do any kind of dyeing.  The powdered indigo is mixed with water, soda ash, and a chemical called Thiox.

You can also make indigo dye from the leaves of the indigo plant, but indigo does not grow around here and the seeds need to be ordered special from overseas.

Once the dye bath is prepared and the yarn is wet, dip the yarn into the dye bath and hold under for around 3 minutes.  Gently squeeze the yarn and slowly swish it around in the dye.  Then lift the yarn out of the dye and put it in a bucket for the color to develop.

After about 15 minutes rinse out the dye until the color runs clear.  If you want a darker color, dip the yarn again and repeat the process until the yarn is the desired color.  Mine came out a lovely medium blue.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dress Refashion

I got this pink jersey dress from Target earlier this summer.  I love the ease of jersey dresses, but this one was a little on the plain side.  So I pulled out my trusty freezer paper to jazz it up a little bit!

I decided to add a stenciled border along the neckline and the bottom of the dress.  After measuring how long my stencil needed to be I cut two pieces of freezer paper and taped them down to my cutting mat.  I always cut two stencils at once, even if I don't need both right away.  Then I used a pen to draw a floral design for my stencil, and went at it with an x-acto knife.
Several hours of cutting (and numerous Netflix tv episodes) later I had four completed stencils!  The next step was ironing the freezer paper to my dress.  If you have never done freezer paper stencils before, this is a link to a great step-by-step tutorial.
I attempted to mix up some pink and purple fabric paint... But it ended up more as a nice brown, blue, and gray.  After the ink dried I peeled off the freezer paper and heat set the ink with an iron.  Now the pattern is permenant, washable, and ready to wear!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Christmas in July

I'm having a Christmas in July sale over on Etsy!  That means 10% off everything between July 21st and July 31st.  Just enter the coupon code CHRISTMASINJULY at checkout.

Check out my selection of handmade books.  From Japanese Stab style to Coptic both large and small.  I even have some mini books!  (I am Minimeg after all.)

I also have fine art photographs ranging from animals to architectural details.

 And don't forget about accessories!  Recycled purses and pouches featured in previous blog posts along with eclectic jewelry made from found objects.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

T-Shirt Shorts

This week I found a great tutorial about making your own shorts pattern based on measurements.  The weather has been so hot lately that I have been planning on making myself another pair of pajama shorts.  So I pulled out some newspaper for pattern making, and a couple old t-shirts from my fabric bin.  I took some measurements and whipped up a pattern on yesterday's newspaper.  After seeing the size of the pattern I pulled out two standard t-shirts (think Jerzees, event t-shirts, not baby doll tees) and I happened to have two of the exact same shade of goldenrod yellow.  I made a second pair using two red t-shirts and remembered to take some pictures of the process!
The shorts were really easy to make and took maybe a half hour of sewing.  I used a three step zig-zag stitch instead of a straight stitch.  This stitch uses three straight stitches for every zig and zag, and is excellent for stretchy fabrics like t-shirts.  When I cut the fabric I lined up the finished shirt edge with the bottom of the pattern.  This meant I didn't need to hem the legs, and the final shorts kept a professional detail.  Instead of adding elastic to the waist I folded over the top edge about two inches to make a channel for a drawstring.  I made a drawstring out of a strip of the t-shirt, stretched so it rolled over on itself.
The yellow shorts turned out great BUT the shorts were a couple sizes too big.  They have a drawstring, so not unwearable...  However, for the red shorts I cut about an inch off the side seam of each pattern piece and a little off the top edge.  This made a world of difference!  The shorts fit perfectly.
 I am helping a friend make a t-shirt quilt, so I am sure to have plenty of scraps once the logos have been cut out of all 22 shirts!  Possibilities for next time include cutting each pattern piece out of a different color shirt, using shirt logos instead of blank shirt material, and freezer paper stenciling on the finished product.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hardcover Books

Recently I made my first hardcover books!  It was an adventure into the Coptic style of binding.  Coptic binding leaves an exposed book spine and allows the book to open flat for easy drawing and writing.
The first step to making a hardcover book is creating the covers.  The base of the covers are pieces of mat board leftover from cutting windows out of mats.  After cutting the mat board down to size I chose strips of paper that overlapped the mat board by around an inch on each side.  Then, apply a thin coat of PVA glue to the front of the cover and apply the paper.  Trim the corners, apply glue to the other side of the board, and fold over the paper edges.  Then glue a piece of decorative paper over the back of the board to cover up the folded edges.  Repeat for the back cover!

The next step is punching holes in the covers.  Then fold all the pages in half and line up with the covers.  Mark the pages and punch holes that line up with the holes on the cover.  Then it is a matter of sewing the pages to each other and assembling the book.  The groups of pages (called signatures) are attached one at a time to the book, making it easy to create large books.  This site has a good tutorial on Coptic binding with lots of photographs of the sewing process.  This is one of those processes that seems very difficult when writing the instructions, but turns out to be very easy once you actually do it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mary's Necklace

Recently I was given another batch of old jewelry from a friend.  Naturally I immediately got to work reinventing some of these pieces.  This is a necklace I made using a clip-on earring that was missing its mate.  The earring had a plastic cabachon with a floral pattern.  I started by attaching a bezel on a copper disc, stamping a design around the edges, and putting loops on the top and bottom.  The final step was setting the cab in the bezel and attaching three swarovski crystal beads to the bottom in coordinating colors.

Before I could properly photograph the piece, my friend Mary bought it.  So here she is modelling her new necklace.  Work it, Mary, work it!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ring Repair

A good friend of mine had a little mishap with her favorite ring.  It went down the garbage disposal.  (Need I say more?)  So she sent it to me for repairs.

The ring is a sterling silver band shaped like a crown of thorns with black lowered areas accentuating the branches.  It was pretty beat up but made for an easy fix.  The first step was annealing the ring (heating it with a torch until glowing.)  This softened the ring enough to be able to hammer it back into shape on a ring mandrel.  After the ring was round again, it was a matter of filing away the majority of the nicks and scratches and sanding it to a smooth finish.  The last step was applying a patina to settle in the lower areas, and cleaning up the raised areas with a polishing cloth.

Repairing jewelry can be tricky.  The presence of set stones complicates the process and limits what can be done without completely re-setting the stone.  "Mystery metals" complicate things as well.  Solder can easily be applied to silver, copper, and brass.  Many other metals (like pewter) melt at a much lower temperature.  Repairing jewelry made from "mystery metal" risks melting the piece entirely.  This ring was the best case scenario when it comes to repairing jewelry.  A plain silver band that just needed some TLC.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dutch Necklace

One of my recent jewelry projects was a pair of Dutch Boy and Girl necklaces.  The necklaces were created by repurposing a pair of sterling silver clip on earrings.  The kissing Dutch boy and girl earrings were a little weird to wear as earrings, but are adorable when worn in moderation!  The earrings were old jewelry given to me by a relative, so these necklaces are two of a kind.  Get one while you still can!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Handmade Books

 The last couple weeks I have been learning how to make books as part of my internship at the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory.  One of the most basic sewn bookbinding structures is called Japanese Stab Binding.  It involves lining up the pages and covers of the soon-to-be book, making a series of holes, and sewing along the edge of the stack.

 These books are all made using scraps of leftover and recycled paper.  The covers include handmade papers, maps from an old atlas, and an old field guide for identifying trees.

The smaller books are made using lined notebook paper, pieces of scrapbook paper leftover from making cards, and empty Kleenex boxes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stacked Rocks

Another project I finished recently is this group of stacked rocks.  You might be asking yourself How does she get the rocks to balance so perfectly?  There is actually a brass rod through the middle of the stack.
 But how did you drill holes in the rocks???  Easy.  The "rocks" are actually ceramic and painted to look like rocks.  Gotcha.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tea Cup Ring

This next jewelry project is a real head-turner!  I give you: the Tea Cup.  The cup and saucer are made of copper, the tea bag and ring are sterling silver, the water is resin, and the spoon is a sterling silver salt cellar spoon from an antique shop.  I think this one pretty much speaks for itself.

 And for everyone that has asked about purchasing the ring, this is one I'm keeping.  However, if you come across another salt cellar spoon I will gladly make you a ring of your own...

Special thanks go to my lovely hand model Alisha!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

BW Student Art Exhibition

After the Senior Art Exhibition came down from the gallery, it was time for the Annual Student Art Exhibition.  Any student on campus is allowed to enter up to 5 pieces in the show, with a juror selecting the pieces to be displayed.  The juror also selects awards including 5 Honorable Mentions, first, second, and third prize, along with a Best in Show.  Additional awards are also given by the Academic Dean's Office and other groups.  The show ran from April 11-29 with a reception and awards ceremony on Friday, April 15th.

This year I had all 5 of my submissions selected to be in the show.  I entered two framed monoprints, an oil painting, a necklace, and a metal container.  My painting, titled Enter, was awarded an Honorable Mention.  Additionally, one of my prints and my necklace were purchased later in the month.

The necklace is a one of a kind piece created using a Euro coin and a gold toned pocket knife purchased at an antique store.  The coin is riveted between two pieces of copper and hangs from a handmade sterling silver chain.

My metal container is actually a Knitting Needle Case made from square brass tubing.  The lid of the box features a ceramic cash register found at an antique store.  The front of the box has glass cabachons set in silver and arranged to mimic the floral motif on the cash register.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

To all the moms out there, happy Mother's Day!  This year, Mother's Day happens to fall on the same day as my college graduation (or perhaps I should say that my graduation happens to fall on Mother's Day...)  Either way, it will be a very special day and I am fortunate to be able to spend the day with my mother and both of my grandmothers.  To celebrate the occasion, I made some cards using some pretty pink paper from the DCWV 12x12 Lace and Linen Stack.  Enjoy the pictures!