Inspired by succulents

Cactus Inspired Tie Dye Jen at theScarletDarter.com
Cactus Inspired Tie Dye

Succulents are having a moment.

Every where you turn, little cacti are showing up on reception tables, home stores, in commercials and marketing photography…(guilty!). You don’t have to live in the desert to be barraged with the little buggers. Last weekend, I left a theatre fundraiser with a couple of good sized succulents. Used as table centerpieces, I couldn’t believe my luck that a pinkish one lasted through clean-up. I got to take it home, along with another green little orphan.

I just love the way color comes through succulents. The teals and pinks and greens are so unique and specific to desert flora. I don’t have any dye powders that match the subtle hues, but I was still inspired by them as I indulged in my weekly dye session.

I tied a cotton baby tee shirt and a cotton jersey baby onesie with the classic sunburst style and experimented with procion dyes. The pinkish mottled effect was acheived with ice-dying while the rest of the colors were dipped or squirted on. I didn’t acheive quite the same colors as the potted inspiration, but I’m still very pleased with the results. (Both are now listed over at my etsy store: BlitheStarBaby, btw).

Sunny Tie Dyed Tees www.etsy.com/shop/BlitheStarBaby
Sunny Tie Dyed Tees

On Freckles and Fabric

As a natural ginger, I know a thing or two about freckles. They come with the territory. Redheadedness + freckles are a bundled plan. Freckles are to be accepted, but controlled. So, over the years I’ve gotten much better about sunscreen and hats. You learn to prevent loud spots, and accept the little sprinkles.

I have not yet acheived the same mastery of freckles on my hand-dyed fabrics.

Behold:

Dye freckles on fabric. example by thescarletdarter.com
Dye freckles on fabric.

Not cute.

The “freckles” are remnants of unincorporated flecks of dye. I don’t know if “freckles” is a technical term? Maybe I read it somewhere, but it might be something I made up. (I’m leaning towards the latter.)

As regards this abomination of a green muslin, I was experimenting with a variation on ice-dying in a container. The results were informative, in that part of the experiment worked. The part where I mixed up with powder with water first, in the bottom of the jar. That resulted in an “okay” mottled green in some parts of the muslin. It’s not exactly the kind of variegation I was hoping for, but I can see how I can tweak the technique to get a prettier result. I’m going to keep experimenting with container dyeing.

Upcycled pasta jar used for container dyeing, and the experimental results. From www.theScarletDarter.com
That’s green dye in that upcycled pasta jar.

But then I lost my head and added another technique on top and ruined the whole thing. I got greedy and put ice and more powdered dye on the top of the container. That was definitely a “here’s what not to do” lesson. I should have known better anyways, because greens are always tempermental when it comes to ice-dyeing cotton fabric with a procion dye. I should have left it to one experiemental technique at a time.

I do love ice-dyeing – it’s a relatively easy technique and the whirly-swirly results can be so luscious. But there is an art to finding the right colors, spreading the powdered dyes effectively on the ice, and using the right ratio of ice to powdered dye. It seems that the more component colors a dye has, the less lovely the ice-dyed results are. I’ve noticed it with greens and blacks especially, teals and violets fall into this category – any color that is a blend of other colors runs a risk of “breaking bad”. (That might be another of my unique, totally made-up, not technical terms.) The mixed colors sometimes separate completely and don’t blend at all – like the yellow and blue streaks on the green sample. The yellow and blue did not melt or blend, and just kind of sit loudly in opposition of each other. When ice-dyeing works well it’s because the colors fall in and out of each other, blending and swirling, waxing and waning.

Cute freckles in ice-dyed fabric. Example from www.thescarletdarter.com
Cute freckles in ice-dyed fabric.

For example, in the mermaid-y swirls above you can see some little blue and magenta freckles. Those probably came from the purple powdered dye blend. But it’s not ugly. The colors are pretty closely related to the rest of it, so I think it still works. In fact, I made some Tarot bags and Meditation mats for my Etsy store BohoQuest with this very fabric, and one of the mats sold almost immediately after listing.

Mermaid/Unicorn swirls are popular at the moment, and ice-dyeing cotton fabric with pinks and purples and teals is a great way to achieve that effect. Not that I can stick with what’s trending. I’m actually rarely “on fleek”, as the kids say. (Do the kids even say that anymore? I don’t even really know what it means. Forget I said it.)

Color variations in my Ice-dyed fabrics. www.theScarletDarter.com
Color variations in my Ice-dyed fabrics.

Anyway, I stumbled on the Mermaid thing by accident, as I was trying new color variations. Some dyes are stubborn and just don’t seem to ice-dye well. Some dyes seem to take to the technique beautifully, and sometimes it seems like maybe the right color combination can make or break a pretty swirl.

Maybe it’s not to everyone’s taste, but I like a little chaos. I like a good vibrant swirl. That’s the beauty – and pretty much the point – of ice-dyeing.

Fiery freckles - another ice-dyeing example from www.theScarletDarter.com
Fiery freckles – more dangerous.

In the fiery example above, there are blue freckles that are a bit more…aggressive? I don’t hate it. However, it is a combo that might sit in my stash for a while before the “right” project comes along.

But that green muslin sample? No bueno. Not a working composition.

A crafty "nope". Ice-dyed fabric gone wrong at www.theScarletDarter.com
That’s a nope.

The freckles are too stand-offish, too different and elemental. They just don’t go with the rest of from the mossy green. No swirl, no heart – just freckles and stains. I’ll try to cut around the freckles and use the mossy muslin to make green herbal sachets for my other etsy store (ScarletDarter), but most – if not all – of that experiment is going in the trash.

By the way, if you check out ScarletDarter on Etsy, you’ll notice the Store banner is made from an image of ice-dyed fabric.

The Scarlet Darter logo features ice-dyed fabric. www.theScarletDarter.com
Of course my logo features ice-dyed fabric.

That variation was ice-dyed with Marigold and Peony Pink – two colors that are pretty close to their primary origins. I used little powered dye and LOTS of ice. The pink did throw off some blue freckles because the Peony dye is a blue-y pink. But because there is a white background, I used a teeny bit of bleach on the blue spots to clean it up without spoiling the swirly effect.

Oh ice-dying. How I love the technique, but hate the freckles. Just like with gingers and their spots, I’m still working out how to make ice-dyed freckles work for me.

 

Until next time,
Keep it Crafty, my friends!

 

Haiku for the clumsy crafter

Haiku for the clumsy crafter by thescarletdarter.com
Haiku for the clumsy crafter

Haiku for the clumsy crafter:

It’s a lovely blue
But too bold for my fingers
Should have worn my gloves

I always start with my gloves on. That lasts for about five minutes, and then I’m dipping fabric in dyepots with my bare hands. It’s like I need my skin in the art…and the art in my skin.

Maybe you can relate?

 

 

 

 

 

There is a bee on your baby

In my last post, I hinted at my obessession with bees.

I also threatened crafts inspired by a frolic in the California poppies.

Well, here’s proof I’m a woman of my word:

Baby bee tee shirt, thescarletdarter.com
Baby bee T.

This baby tee was ombre dyed to a rich marigold with fiber reactive dye, then washed & dried gently. It also needed an ironing to be a good canvas for ink stamping. I stamp baby clothes with ink instead of painting on them. Flaky or puffy fabric paints on baby stuff just makes me anxious.

Isn’t that little bee the cutest? It’s my favorite block stamp – today, anyway. Tomorrow, I might be all about the hummingbird action. For now though, I’m really into little bees. This little bee.

But come bee-stamping time, I find that my black ink pad was totally dried out. Whoopsies. I had dyed a bunch of fabric and stuff yellow to go bee-stamping wild, only to be foiled by an old pad. Serves me right, I guess. I kind of took old blackie for granted.

Of course, that didn’t stop me from finishing this project. I had the crafting bug, pun intended, and I had to see it through. While perusing my ink stash, I was drawn to this awesome elderberry ink pad – really dark reddish purple. I gave that a go, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s for sure better than black. It doesn’t really look very purple against the yellow, it’s just more…vivacious than straight black would have been.  And that vibe really echoes the intense wildflowers at the preserve the other day.

So yay! Happy accidents!

And until next time,

Happy Crafting!

 

 

(By the way, the little tee is for sale on my Etsy store: Blithe Star Baby.)

 

There is a bee in this photo

I live in Southern California and we happen to be experiencing a “super bloom” this spring. We finally had nice and rainy winter which has caused an explosion of green… and orange… and more…

Poppies, Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

I left my comfortable Hollywood hovel for a two hour drive into the wilds of Antelope Valley to witness the floral boom. Mother Nature did not disappoint.

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

This was my first visit to see the poppies in my 20 years of California residence, I’m ashamed to say.  And aside from seeing the poppies, I was hoping to get some insect actions shots. You know, like a dragonfly (the namesake of this blog) or a butterfly daintily landing on a poppy for a little photogenic rest.

Nothing but poppies.

Nope, no dragonflies, darters or damselflies today. The poppies were left to hog the glory for themselves. Which is how poppies like it anyway.

There is a bee in this picture.

Instead, I heard some buzzing in these purple things. I followed betwixt and between, from blossom to bud but this little bee was not in the mood for posing. Can you see her in the photo above? She’s the blob in the center.

Ms. Bee is not ready for her close-up.

Even in close-up, she’s hard to see. It’s like she didn’t want Instagram fame.

Gray Butterfly

And the only butterfly I saw was gray. I didn’t even know butterflies came in gray.

Fine, maybe it’s a moth. Not to be judge-y, but I was hoping for more dazzle from the insect classes.

But then again, anyone would look drab next to this:

Poppy Trail
Poppy Hill, (c) CopperShots Photography
Poppy Hill
Poppy & Purple

If you would like to see the best shots of my poppy hunting, check out the CopperShots gallery. Now I’m off to plan some crafting projects using these great color combos. Thanks for the inspiration, Nature!

Until next time,

Happy Crafty!

Silks and fiber reactive dyes

I’m rather pleased with the silk dyeing experiments.

Yellow and Pink Silk scarf.

I was concerned about the color-fastness of fiber reactive dyes on silk, so I tried a couple of different dying methods. On the yellow and pink scarf, I used vinegar as a presoak and steamed for about a half an hour after applying the dye. Then I let the scarf cure (zipped up in a baggie to retain the moisture) for about 12 hours before washing it out.

Yellow and pink silk scarf, close-up

The colors are not exactly pastel, but they are light. The same concentration of the fiber reactive hues showed up more vibrantly on cotton dyed at the same time. But the silk has a lovely sheen so while it’s not as bright as I expected, it’s a nice – if subtle – result.

Black, purple and blue Silk scarf.

For the bluesy scarf, I quickly dipped the silk in a soda ash presoak solution. I used the same solution as I do for cotton dyeing, but for far less time – just dunked it for less than a minute. I dyed the scarf and cured it for about 14 hours before washing (there was no steaming step in this experiment).

It’s hard to tell in the photos, but it seems to me that the in first method – vinegar & steaming – the scarf retained that magical silky luminescence better. But in the second method – with soda ash – the silk absorbed more dye. Of course, the difference in depth & sheen could be in the colors chosen. Admittedly, I was not adhereing to experimental principles by switching up the colorways between the two efforts.

Silk scarves dyed with fiber reactive dyes.

Next time, I am going to try the vinegar & steaming method on the cool colors to see if that silky reflectiveness is a property of the colors or the process.

Until next time, Happy Crafting!

Shibori experiments

I’ve turned my humble studio into something of a fabric dying lab this week, as I’ve been consumed by testing shibori fabric folding techniques. I’ve found some styles I really dig and will continue to use in future projects.

But I’ve found some others that I am just not sure how to use in my work.

For example, the Triangle fold:

Shibori Experiment 1, folding technique test – Triangle fold, March 2017

I do like the pattern, it’s really neat. But I hadn’t expected for the pattern to be so very wide and there is so much white space. I’m not sure how I would use this medium weight cotton dyed like this. I typically sew little clutches and pouches, and the pattern is too “large” to translate to those projects. Maybe I could make a shoe bag or a little pillow cover?

Shibori Experiment 2, folding technique test – Triangle fold, March 2017

Same with the second test. It’s so pretty, but not a good fit for the kind of smaller projects I like to sew. In future, I’ll 1) dye the white cotton a light base color and 2) make the folds smaller to create a pattern with a tighter repeat that would work for my pouches and clutches.

Now here’s the start of something I really like:

Shibori Experiment 3, folding technique test – Mandala fold, March 2017

I was a little hestitant about how and where to put the dye on this style, but it seems that the fold really does most of the work. I can see how it would be possible to make smaller versions and use them in little bags, or make larger mandalas for wall hangings, pillow covers, even bedspreads. This is one of those experiments that was a delightful surprise. It was really gratifying to see colors dance like a prism in this technique. I forsee using this style a lot – just for the fun of seeing how it turns out.

And finally, here is one I have plans for:

Shibori Experiment 4, Pole Wrapping technique, March 2017

The way I attempted to get this look was really annoying to do – I used a million rubber bands around a cheap vase, which was easier going on than coming off. I ended up very wet and dye splattered, which was not my favorite. However, I totally dig the end result and I know how I’ll do it more easily next time. (Just use twine like the Shibori professionals do, dummy!) I plan to use this technique as a base for applique or for stamping/painting words and images. I kept the palette simple so that an image painted on top will really pop. We shall see…perhaps as soon as the next blog post!

Until next time, Happy Crafting!

 

#Pussyhat Parade!

I attended the beautiful Women’s March in Los Angeles on Saturday, one of the highest attended sister marches supporting the Women’s March on Washington. The city center of Los Angeles was overwhelmed with peaceful marchers – organizers had expected about 80,000 attendees but 750,000 of us showed up! So many of us spent hours in packed subway cars to get to downtown, by the time I arrived there were too many people for a formal march! We just spilled out and circled the blocks around the government buildings for a few hours.

Pussyhats and the Women’s March Los Angeles, Jan 21 2017

As a first time marcher, I was thunderstruck by the creativity displayed in the sign art. I didn’t know that was such a thing!  Some were outright gorgeous, some were hilarious, others thought-provoking but all were inspiring. And it sure was heart-warming to see directly how other folks were feeling as I was. In a very real and direct way, I wanted to be involved with my fellow citizens and actively participate in community-building again. (It’s been a few months since I felt plugged in.)

And those Pussyhats!

Pussyhats at the Women’s March Los Angeles, Jan 21 2017

You are probably at least somewhat aware of the #pussyhatproject by now. But if you aren’t sure of the meaning behind it, simply put: it is a visual way to show support for women’s rights. It was originally conceived in part for supporters of the Women’s March on Washington who could not make it to DC for the march but still wanted to participate in the process. Do check out their website for more info on how to support future events with crafting and/or for patterns if you haven’t yet made your own #pussyhat.

#pussyhatproject
Pussyhat at the Women’s March Los Angeles, Jan 21 2017

My crafting obsession began with crochet – for years I was a hat crocheting fiend. Ask my family, they received hand-crocheted gifts for every holiday and birthday for a few years. While I have expanded my crafty repertoire to knitting and sewing and fiber dying & stamping, crochet (and hats!) will always be my first love. So you have to know that I was beyond delighted with all the pussyhats on display on that historic day. Here, all of my interests have collided: crafting, photography, and supporting women’s rights. Please enjoy the #pussyhats of Los Angeles!

#pussyhat
Pussyhat style at the Women’s March Los Angeles; Jan 21 2017
#pussyhatproject
Pussyhats at the Women’s March Los Angeles, Jan 21 2017

 

#pussyhatproject
Pussyhats at the Women’s March Los Angeles, Jan 21 2017
Pussyhats at the Women’s March Los Angeles, Jan 21 2017
#pussyhatproject
Pussyhats at the Women’s March Los Angeles, Jan 21 2017
#pussyhat
Pussyhats at the Women’s March Los Angeles, Jan 21 2017
#pussyhat
Pussyhats at the Women’s March Los Angeles, Jan 21 2017
Pussyhat at the Women’s March Los Angeles; Jan 21, 2017
#pussyhat
Black Pussyhats at the Women’s March Los Angeles; Jan 21, 2017
Pussyhat at the Women’s March Los Angeles; Jan 21, 2017
Pussyhats at the Women’s March Los Angeles; Jan 21, 2017
Pussyhats at the Women’s March – Los Angeles, Jan 21 2017

Do you have a handmade pussyhat?

I’d love to see it!

Until next time, Happy Crafting!

Pussyhat at the Women’s March Los Angeles; Jan 21, 2017

 

 

 

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