Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dyeing Day

I've been a member of the Aurora Colony Handspinners' Guild for over a year now. Every July they have a picnic/dye day, where everyone gets together to eat, dye, and spin. I missed it last year, but was able to get the day off this year!

The best part was that the guild had pots, burners, and dye for members to use if they didn't have their own. It was a great introduction to the processes of dying fiber, and now I want to get my own! 

When you're dyeing fiber, the best kind to use is white fiber. It allows for more predictable and bright colors. However, I didn't have much white fiber - just a white silk scarf blank, a skein of light brown wool yarn that I spun, and a large bump of light brown wool roving. It was actually a lot of fun to overdye the brown wool with different colors.

First up is the silk scarf. I dipped it in a vat of moss green, but only for about thirty seconds. I wanted to keep it fairly light, so I had more options for overdyeing. I picked my colors for the next step - bright aqua, peacock blue, and bright iris. The dyes come in powdered form, and they're not exactly the color they will turn the fabric, so it was a bit of a guess. I wanted to go for a sort of ocean look. I spread the wet scarf out on plastic wrap (and weighted the edges down to keep the wind from flipping it off the table). Then I took small amounts of the blue and purple dyes in tiny plastic cups, and sprinkled them randomly over the scarf. After each application of powder, I spritzed the area with a mixture of water and citric acid to help force the dye into the fabric. When I thought I had done enough, I rolled the scarf up in the plastic wrap and steamed it to set the dye.

After cooling, unwrapping, rinsing, and drying:

It actually turned out really neat, if not exactly what I was expecting. A little dye goes a long way, and it's hard to tell how dark it's going to be until after the steam bath. I'm really happy with it, and thinking about ordering more silk scarf blanks to dye :)

Next up is a skein of yarn that I didn't entirely choose the color on. I hadn't figured out what color I wanted to do, and the woman who was using the dye pot before me hadn't used up all her dye. I wanted the water clear to start my roving, so I decided to use the yarn to absorb the rest of her orange dye. It actually turned out really wonderful over the natural brown of the wool.

Next was a large amount of light brown roving. One of the other dye-ers had put three skeins of yarn in a green/blue vat of dye, but the first one soaked up most of the dye, leaving the third one a pale green. So she took some peacock blue dye, and poured a little in directly on top of the yarn, creating a section of darker blue. She did this multiple times, coming out with a beautifully mottled yarn. 

So, I decided to try something similar with my roving. I started by placing it all in a vat of chocolate brown to slightly darken the natural color of the wool. Then I played around with small bits of dye in assorted colors, adding splotches of greens, browns, yellows, and orange. I know there's also a bit of dark blue in there, but I'm really not sure where it came from. I'm thinking it probably came from an interaction between one of the greens and a brown dye I used.

I can't wait to spin this all up - I have another bump of the same roving that I left undyed, so I'm planning to ply them together, and hopefully have a lot of lightweight yarn for a nifty shawl.

Here's some more eye candy shots :)

Feel free to ask me any questions about the process! I'm not an expert by any means, but I'm happy to share what I learned.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Skirt to dress

A while ago I went to the thrift store and bought several linen skirts. I love linen for clothes, but it can get fairly expensive. 100% linen clothing can be difficult to find in stores, and linen fabric is expensive to buy. Luckily, some thrift store hunting can turn up linen skirts and dresses (usually ankle-length and elastic waisted) for less than $10 each.

I finally had a chance to redo this skirt, made out of a well-worn and extremely soft linen in a light grey-brown. I didn't get a photo of the skirt before, but it was floor length, and basically a rectangle gathered at the waist with a tiny elastic band.

I also don't have any photos of the process, so I'm going to just give descriptions. (I want to be better about getting in-progress pictures, but I just get so caught up in doing things that I forget until I'm done)

First step was cutting off the elastic band and ironing the gathers out. Then I grabbed a sleeveless tunic that I mostly like the shape of (it covers my bra straps) and laid it out on top of the skirt. I cut out around it, mostly following the lines and trying to give myself some seam allowance. Pretty straight forward so far.

Then it got messy. I stitched up the tops of the straps, and the sides under the arms where I had cut away, angling that seam to meet the already existing side seam of the skirt. Through the process of repeatedly trying it on, and cutting, pinning, and sewing little bits, I finally got the dress to fit better. This included cutting armholes, hemming one armhole (poorly), cutting it out, cutting the other armhole to match, and deciding that I wouldn't be hemming them, but I also couldn't be bothered to make matching bias tape (probably didn't have enough extra fabric for it anyway). So I decided I would leave the edges raw, and sew a decorative holding stitch to keep them from fraying too much.

It was at this point that I realized the dress got wider way too fast under the arms. I wanted a loose dress, but it was bulging in a rather strange way. So I had to redo the side seams, and somehow the straps became too narrow/situated too far in. Luckily I still had a few scraps left over, so I made little cap sleeve/extensions out of them. I actually really like how they turned out!

The hem of the dress is actually the original hem of the skirt - yay for not having to hem!! Although I kind of lost that advantage by deciding to use the same decorative stitch in a border near the hem. It's not very bold, but I like the little details that it adds.

The sash is a scrap of fabric from another thrifted linen skirt, two layers sewn together with the same decorative stitch, leaving the ends to fray (I actually hand-frayed them to begin with, because otherwise it was looking a little too much like a martial arts belt). The pin is one that I got in Copenhagen, at the National Museum a few years ago. I absolutely adore it - it's a viking knotwork beast, and one of my favorite pins. I don't get many chances to wear it, so I'm glad it goes so well with this dress.

The sash helps to make the dress more fitted, and a little fancier. I can also wear it without the sash, for lounging or running to the store (though it does look a bit tent-like!) The blue skirt that the sash came from I didn't alter much. It had pockets (!!!) and the elastic waist actually fit me, so I just shortened it. I may have cut off too much, so I'll probably be adding a hem in a different color. I have another thrifted skirt that is partially a dress. The fitting is proving to be more difficult on this one, but hopefully will be done soon. I have a couple more skirts and dresses that still need to be altered or completely redone, and some of them will need dying. I'm very excited to have all this wonderful fabric to play with!