Bulldog clip resist

The basic idea of a resist is simple. Use something to stop the dye getting to the fabric, and it will make a pattern. That something can be string tied round the fabric, or a paste painted on, or just scrunching it up so the dye can’t get through.

The exact effect can be difficult to predict. Sometimes you can get a lovely marbled effect just by scrunching up wet fabric before putting it in the dye bath. Once I didn’t scrunch enough, and it came out a nice even colour all over. Because of that, I try to make sure I scrunch firmly, and often I get over enthusiatic and end up with more of the original colour than I expected.

Anything that holds the fabric together works, like a bulldog clip. As you can see from the pictures above, I tried four methods of creating resist recently for my indigo experiments, with the result of the bulldog clip in the bottom right corner of the results picture. I wasn’t surprised that the dye didn’t get to the fabric in the middle of the folded piece, but I thought the outer layer would have a line across the corner where the clip touched, rather than leaving the area under the clip the original colour.

I thought I would try using bulldog clips on a scarf, placing them reasonably far apart, so that the dye could get through to the inner layers, as I wanted a blue scarf with a white pattern. I tried one scarf as it came out of the packet, with just one extra fold, and another with a concertina fold, making it a quarter of the original width.

I folded down the handles of the clips, because my indigo vat is a large kilner jar, so it has a relatively narrow neck. Originally, this jar was supposed to be for mixing only, and I was going to transfer it to a lidded bucket for its permanent home. I didn’t do the transfer at first, so that I could see what was going on. Now I have decided to carry on using the jar. The reason for using a larger dye bath is so that the fabric can move around easily, giving a more even result.  That is good if you want a nice plain blue. I’m after interesting patterns, so a bit of variation is a good thing.

When I undid the scarves, I was surprised to find that the handles are big enough to create a resist, giving an interesting pattern.

Two more experiments need to follow on from this:

  1.  Is the undyed area under the clip only there because of the short time the fabric is in the indigo vat? About 10 minutes does the trick for indigo, but other dyes need longer, for example simmering for half an hour, or 3 hours in a slow cooker. In that time, and with the extra movement that occurs due to the heat, the dye might find its way under the clip.
  2. If the clip is moved and a second dye is applied, logically there could be a range of colours made by a mix of the two colours and the original. It might even be possible to get a rainbow.

But not just yet…

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Woolly Spires

Woolly Spires is an exhibition at of knitted churches at the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford, Lincolnshire. Several of Lincolnshire’s beautiful gothic churches in wool, mainly knitting, with some crochet, for example on the roof of Stow Minster, a little felt, and details in chain stitch and back stitch. The exhibition runs until the 22nd April 2019.

Most knitters know that with a bit of planning you can go a long way with squares and rectangles, especially if you are prepared to use a needle and thread to get some form in there. And stuffing helps make an illusion too. Any knitter who has tried to branch out into toys and sculpture will have found that sometimes that is not enough.

Knitting by its nature is floppy and stretchy, which normally is a good thing, because it is just what we need when we make clothes. Once stuffing comes into the equation, the stretch can get out of hand, and the shape can start to distort the fabric. The way round this is some sort of framework to give support. Sometimes a stuffed fabric shape does the trick. Just a basic easy to sew fabric base can give a really good anchor for needle sculpting.

In some of these models, this has been well understood. Unfortunately, in others, it has not, resulting in sloping walls and bulging windows. And some of the architectural details lurch at alarming angles that would never have been tolerated in the originals. Some key features have not been sewn on straight, and the porch of Sleaford looks as though it has been made from melting ice cream.

One of the best is Louth, which is nicely balanced, nicely stretched on its frame, and quite rightly occupies a prominent position in the gift shop and tea room. The pinnacles are beautifully done, and as upright and parallel as you can expect without a ridiculously heavy framework. And the west doorway shows just what you can achieve with ribbing and a cable needle. But even on this one, there is a loose end dangling.

Some of the models would benefit from a firmer fabric, knitted on smaller needles, so the support doesn’t show through. alternatively, the framework of … should have been made from a less intrusive colour.

Architectural knitting is harder than it looks, as I found when I knitted a castle for my City and Guilds knitting course. There is some lovely stuff in this exhibition, but I kept hearing the voice of my junior school head “Yes dear, it is good work, spoilt by carelessness. Slow down!”

Here is my favourite, Louth:

Grantham has some clever embroidered windows, showing what can be done with a few simple stitches:

Spalding has been given some stained glass and gargoyles:

Stow Minster is a plainer, earlier construction in Anglo-Saxon times:

In this collage, you can get an idea of the accuracy of the model, as it includes a picture of the real Sleaford church taken out of the window of the Centre.

Boston’s distinctive tower has been well captured:

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Knitting an easy Easter bunny

Now here is a really simple idea. Knit a square in good old garter stitch, and follow these instructions to make it into a rabbit.

Just cast on 30 or so stitches and keep knitting until you have 30 ridges on each side. At this point, check it is square by picking up one of the bottom corners (say bottom left) and hold it against the opposite top corner (in this example the to right). If the side of your piece is the same as the bottom, you have a square. If not, add a little more or undo a bit until it is. Yes, I know that is obvious once you have thought of it, but you would be amazed how many people haven’t.

Then make a running stitch triangle, as shown in this post, gather it up and stuff it to make the head, stuff the body and sew up the back seam, and you are done, apart from adding a fluffy tail. How simple is that?

There are some variations on the post, and I think using moss stitch could be a good idea as well. Mine needs a few stitches on his ears to finish him off, but I need to be in the right mood for that kind of fiddly job. The key thing for making him stand up is a nice little pompom tail, just at the right angle, so check he stands up before finishing off his tail.

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Making velvet in Venice

Ohhhh, you just have to look at this picture gallery about making velvet. Not only are the fabrics (and garments) fabulous, but there are also wonderful pictures of the workshops and the looms.

I just had to share!

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Sewing lightweight fabric

Sewing lightweight fabric can be a pain. It slips about, the machine doesn’t grip as it normally does, and any glitches tend to show up. So these 18 tips for sewing lightweight fabric will be useful.

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How to hem lace

Now here is a useful post. I must say, faced with the job myself, I don’t think I would have thought of all these options.

So I though I would share it here, in case it is useful. How to hem lace.

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In search of forgotten colours

This is a fascinating video posted by the V&A about a family business in Japan that has used only natural dyes since 1988. It is beautiful and informative, and is a very pleasant way to spend 18 minutes.

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Knowing your sewing machine needle

I have to admit I’m a bit slack here.

I know the importance of using a needle that is sharp and straight.

And I always make sure I’ve got a ball needle when I’m sewing jersey.

Apart from that, I don’t tend to pay a lot of attention.

I think I might be changing my ways after reading this post about using the correct needle.

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An indigo vat

Scarves drying

After my woad experiment in the summer, I intended to have another go with a different recipe. But the woad crop wasn’t good enough.

So now I’m trying with powdered indigo from Tamil Nadu. I’m using the 123 method, because not only is it more environmentally friendly, but also it doesn’t involve the cooker, which means there is a lower chance of smelling the house out.

The method is simple. 1 part indigo to 2 parts  calcium hydroxide (lime, an alkali), and  3 parts fructose sugar, all mixed in warm water and combined. I’m amazed to read that sugar is one of the most acidic foodstuffs! Some people use a big bucket, but I used a big glass jar. Not only can you see what is going on, but also the narrower neck lessens the chance that extra oxygen will get in.

If you are thinking of giving it a try, it is important to hydrate the dye powder by shaking it in a lidded jar, with water and some pebbles first. If you don’t do this, you 90% of the colour is lost. It is also important to add powder to warm water at each stage, not the other way round.

The glass jar turned out to be a good move. The vat is supposed to separate out, so the sludge is at the bottom, with some reddish dye liquid above it, with a “bloom” of coppery blueish froth on the top. when I checked the following day, it looked just the same as when I mixed it, except the surface looked slightly bronze. I checked the instructions, and found that although it said leave it at room temperature, a bit later it said to keep it above 16°C. I had mixed it in the studio and left it in there overnight. On a frosty night in February, in a large room with a big window and one radiator.

So I moved it into the kitchen, where there is under floor heating. But of course, by now the liquid was cold, so it took time to get going again. But I got there. I tried 4 different tie dye techniques on scrap cotton, and two silk scarves. To act as a resist, I used a mixture of rubber bands, bulldog clips, and gathered stitching.

Here are the results!


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Hanging paintings without damaging walls

Now I haven’t tried this, but it does look promising. I find it hard to believe that you can get it off the wall easily afterwards (note the comment about the importance of pulling downwards in the post).

But on the other hand, if you want precise gaps between your pictures, this could definitely be the way forward. It isn’t always easy to assess the distance between the hanger and the top of the picture. Sometimes the string stretches slightly more than you expect. On more than one occasion I’ve re-jigged the arrangement rather than bother moving the nails.

So I might give hanging paintings with velcro idea a go at some point.

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