Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Being thankful / being thoughtful pt. 4 - Textiles

The best thing about the things that I made for Luka is that he's quite aware that they were handmade, and whenever playing with or wearing said item, likes to say "Mama made it." This is adorable, and makes the making worth it, if that makes any sense.

Play silks
These took a lot of time but not a particular lot of work, and I'm very happy with the results. I found 35" square plain white china silks online, and used some Procion dye that I've had around for ages, and created a rainbow selection for the kid.

The process is simple, and sort of meditative, and only smelly during those last ten minutes. I used some stuff that I had in my stash from ages ago, but would be up for experimenting with more natural dyes, too, just need to read more about non-poisonous fixatives for them. These steps will work well for any fiber reactive dye, for wool or for silk (though you'll want to agitate at a minimum for the wool, so as to prevent felting).

1. Put anywhere from 1 to 5 teaspoons of dye in a 1 quart Pyrex (or other glass) cup. I achieved a very rich dye color, but also probably could have dyed a LOT of more fabric, by using just over 5 teaspoons. A silk can probably end up with a lovely but less bombastic color by using only one teaspoon.

2. Mix in a small amount of cold water with your dye powder, and blend with a spoon (stainless steel or plastic are just fine) until smooth. Add one cup of hot, not boiling, water, to your dye paste. Stir well to dissolve the dye, and then pour into your dye bath container (a large stainless steel or glass pot would be best - but make sure that it's not copper or aluminum).

3. Using the same Pyrex dish (will probably have a bit of dye liquid left in it - don't rinse that out), measure 2 cups of very warm water and add at least 5 tablespoons of uniodized salt. (If you used a much lighter concentration of dye to water, then you can likely use less salt - the salt's purpose is to make the dye particles leave their solution and "drive" themselves into your fabric, so if you want a more lightly dyed piece, less salt will do. However, the salt also helps the end product dye more evenly - something that I'd definitely corroborate, as I played with the salt concentration some in each batch, and certainly came out with more a slightly more streaky silk when I used less salt.) Stir the salt until it dissolves (a good reason for using fine crystals, but even large kosher salt flakes will eventually dissolve) and pour into your dyebath.

4. Add your silk(s). If you plan on making these for more than one child, or want to make more than one silk the same color, this recipe should have enough power for several silks. The general directions are for a pound of fabric, and one 35" square silk at 8mm weighs approximately 1/15 of a pound.

5. Add enough water so that the silk(s) is(are) covered, and can still move around a bit, too. Take tongs (not aluminum; the kind either made out of or covered with silicon are great for this) and stir the fabric in the dye bath, making sure that all of the water gets mixed with the dye solution. Completely cover the silk with the dye liquid.

6. Place your container on the stove, and heat it gradually to a simmer (this will be a different heat setting depending on your stove - you don't want to boil the dye bath all at once, so being a bit conservative is just fine, too). Once your liquid is simmering, set a timer for 10 minutes. Hold it at the simmer for that time, and stir frequently.

7. As your timer goes off, measure out 2/3 of a cup of white vinegar. Pour this into your dye bath. I moved the scarf to the side and then poured the vinegar onto the bath itself, but that was probably not particularly necessary. Stir your dye bath (this is the stinky part), and let it simmer for another 10 minutes. Stir only infrequently.

8. Remove your container from the stove, and rinse your silk(s) in hot water. If you have it, something like Synthrapol works really well, but I didn't use this and my scarves haven't seemed to bleed any dye. Rinse, rinse, rinse - first with hot water, then with medium-hot water, then with warm water, and finally with cold. This takes a while - if you progress too quickly to cold, your water will run clean but there will likely still be excess dye particles in the silk, leading to bleeding down the line. I used the tongs when rinsing in hot water, and sort of swirled the silk back and forth around the tongs - seemed to do the trick and avoid burned fingers.

9. Air dry.

10. Play. We're still learning how to play with them; currently, his favorite use is putting them directly over his head and walking around. Capes are still a no-go.

Magic wands
I wish that I could credit myself with coming up with this wonderful idea, but nope: I got it from here (which is, incidentally, an awesome repository of great ideas).  I made one of these for my niece (her brother seemed to like it more), two for the daughters of friends, and a couple for L*, too. He calls them "flags" and (so far) refrains from any bonking with them.

I don't have any necessary points to add to the tutorial, since she does a great job showing you how. I found some reasonably priced 100% wool felt sheets at Hobby Lobby in really great colors, but also made some of my embellishments out of felted sweaters that I've been using for other projects. The thicker the felt, the more substantial the wand (and I wanted these to be able to withstand some vigorous play). I was able to find virgin wool for a reasonable price through Local Harvest, which feels luxurious and seems to fill better than the old polyester or cotton batting stuff I was otherwise used to.

Baby scarves and hats 

Kangaroo + joey "ornament"

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