21 August 2011

I felt like needle-felting

This summer I’ve spent a lot of time decluttering my home and getting rid of stuff that I’ve collected over the years. Yesterday I found yet another place where I’d hidden away a bunch of papers that needed to be sorted out. I’m more and more convinced that I was a squirrel in an earlier life.

While sorting out the cupboard where I mainly keep my craft supplies, I found a small box with bits of wool that were the leftovers from a rather ambitious slipover project that I knitted some years ago. The yarn was so beautiful that I hadn’t had the heart to throw it away. In the same box I also found snippets of machine embroidery thread that I had saved ‘for something’. While pondering whether to throw away or save these treasures, I decided on a third option: to make them into something right away.

A number of years ago I experimented a bit with combining yarn and machine embroidery. My first experiment was inspired by a Swedish textile artist, AnnLis Krüger, who uses yarn in her humorous art quilts. Her technique was to wind a bit of yarn around her fingers, place it on a piece of fabric and free-motion stitch it in place. I tried this method, thought it was fun, but a bit tricky, as you had to watch your fingers carefully and be on the alert for loops that got caught around the embroidery foot. Here’s little quilt I made with this technique:

My next experiment was to loosely knit a piece of  fabric, place it between two sheets of water-soluble stabiliser and free-motion stitch the surface to flatten the fabric and lock the knitted stitches in place. That was a lot safer for the fingers and there was no risk of the foot getting stuck on loops. This is what the knitted and stitched fabric looks like:

The embellishers/needle-felting machines that are on the market now open up the possibilities for combining yarn and fabric further. When I did my earlier experiments, I’d hardly even heard of needle-felting, let alone of any needle-felting machines for domestic use. I don’t think that I will invest in an embellisher, but I have bought a handy little tool that is a kind of hand-driven mini needle-felting machine:

So when I found that leftover yarn, I decided it was time to put the needle-felting gadget to the test. I used a piece of craft felt as the base, put a generous amount of fibres (yarn and machine embroidery thread) on top and started punching away. It took me a quite a while to punch the fibres in place (a machine would definitely be a lot quicker), but as long as the project is small and you are equipped with a bit of patience it’s doable. When the fibres were relatively well attached, I took the fabric over to the sewing machine and free-motioned on top to secure everything in place.

I then took my needle-felted fabric pieces and made them into these cute little hearts:

I’d be happy to post instructions on how to make these hearts if anyone is interested. Just leave a comment or e-mail me, and I’ll include the instructions in a future blog post.

14 August 2011

White Sand for Franka

It's time for another Franka update.

Since I last wrote about Franka, I've been out hunting for fabric. I needed skin tones, a background fabric (i.e. for the water) and a better green than the one I had at home. It took me two trips to the fabric shop before I had a working combination. Not surprisingly, it was the water that caused me some trouble.

My first idea was to use a very light blue, preferably marbled, fabric for the water. I didn't find a suitable blue that was as light as what I had intended, but I found a slightly darker one that went very well with the other colours, which, after all, are pretty saturated. 

At home, though, I had second thoughts. The blue fabric is beautiful, but there is a problem: I'm a red person. The colours in the room where Franka will hang are dark red, burgundy, warm yellow, warm dark brown and white. Blue would look very out of place there. I did think of this before I went to the shop, but I sort of thought I'd get away with it... Lesson learned.

So it was time to put on the old Thinking Cap. And this is what I thought.

First I thought that I could make the wall hanging even more pop art-inspired, and use black and white for everything except Franka and the flowers. That would make them pop. I decided to try out the colour schemes with the help of a photo-editing software.

The original plan

The pop art plan

Then, suddenly, I realised that I had made a very silly mistake, assuming that water is blue. Water is, as we all know, colourless and takes its colour from the things it reflects or the things that show through it. It looks blue or grey when it reflects the sky. But when you stand in a foot of water on a Thai beach, looking down at your feet, the water is clear and what you see is cream coloured sand around your toes.

The way I imagine Franka is that she's floating in about a foot of water with sand made out of coral and sea shells under her. So I realised that a cream coloured background would make sense. It fits in with the scene, and also with my room.

The third colour scheme

So off I went to the fabric shop again, and I found the perfect fabric for what I have in mind. Today I drew the background on paper-backed fusible web and ironed it onto the fabric. Now I've reached one of the most critical stages in the whole project: cutting out the background fabric in reverse appliqué, and fusing it onto a black base fabric.

The fusible web is in place and I'm getting ready for some precision cutting...

Wish me luck!

12 August 2011

Further Adventures of the Shibori Shrimp

I'm not one to give up easily, so of course I couldn't stay away from the shrimp, even though I said there would be no more shrimps until I'd renewed my dyes. (For the earlier instalments of The Adventures of the Shibori Shrimp, look here and here.)

I had one - no, as a matter of fact, two - of those famous 'What If'-moments. What if I used fabric paint instead of dye? That could be interesting. And what if I, instead of measuring my string and making lots of tedious knots, threaded the needle with uncut thread, stitched from one side to the other, then made a U-turn and stitched back before cutting the thread. Then I would only have to tie one knot with the two loose ends, instead of four separate knots. 

Pretty clever, eh? 
(I'm pretty sure, too, that I'm not the first one who's thought of this.)

Shrimp No 3

Shrimp painted with metallic fabric paint 

The result

The fabric is actually starting to look quite interesting now. Perhaps I could have added a little more paint, but I quite like it as it is. It was a successful experiment. By the way, I did remove the thread while the paint was still wet, as I wasn't sure what would happen if it dried in a crumpled state. That's for future experimentation to find out.

From the shibori shrimp to another food-related topic: I had a very nice surprise earlier in the week when 'journalist, traveler, art and music lover' Joan Walters contacted me on Flickr to tell me she'd used the 'Can't Resist Thai Food' page that I made for The Sketchbook Challenge in May on a blog entry. Please use this link to have a look at my page and the other gorgeous food-related sketchbook pages that she used on the blog. Make sure to check out more entries too while you're there, as there is a lot of great artwork to be found!

5 August 2011

Shibori Shrimp

Do you remember the little shibori shrimp that I prepared earlier? If not, please refer back to this post if you’d like to refresh your memory.

I had hoped to show you some really neat shibori-dyed fabric by now, but to be honest, things have not exactly worked out the way I planned.

It started well enough with the little shrimp, but when I applied dye to it, things started going wrong. I soaked the shrimp in soda ash solution (=fixative) according to the instructions, and started painting it with dye. As soon as I put brush to shrimp, though, I suspected that the result might not be what I had intended, because the fabric just soaked up the dye like a sponge.

Shrimp soup

I suspected that there would be very few white areas left after batching.

I was right

I’d mixed too much dye, so I used the leftovers for marbling another piece of fabric. I used the old ice cream tub method.

Marbled fabric

To return to the shrimp, I figured that the problem was a combination of moist fabric, thin dye solution, soft fabric and not tightening the strings enough. So I decided have another try with the same piece and a darker colour.

Shrimp number two

This time I didn’t soda soak the shrimp, but used thickened dye with soda ash added to the print paste instead. I figured that the dry cloth in combination with thick dye would stop the pigments from migrating too far into the fabric.

Shrimp stew

I was right, but…

This time something went wrong in the dyeing process. This is supposed to be overdyed with dark blue, so as you can see, the colour is very weak compared to the purple. The question is now: did I use too little soda ash, or are my dyes getting old? Perhaps both. It is a couple of years since I bought them, and I’ve read somewhere that they have a shelf life of approximately two years, so I think it’s probably time to use them and get new ones.

Again, I managed to mix more dye than I needed, so I did some monoprinting with the leftovers on fabrics that I’d dyed and discharged earlier, but wasn't happy with.

This one became my favourite.

There’ll be no more shrimps now until I’ve renewed my dyes. But rest assured, I’ve not given up. I will try it again, and succeed.