Saturday, January 27, 2018

Framed Cross Stitch Samplers

     I always like to begin the new year with a project or two around the house. It provides a focus for all the empty time leftover after the busy holidays. It's also the perfect time to get some inside-the-house projects done before our focus shifts to the outdoors. This year I freshened up the hall bathroom with new paint. I chose a Sherwin Williams color called "Sea Salt". It's a soft green/blue/gray color. It was the first time I used Sherwin Williams paint. My first choice in paint is always Benjamin Moore, but I thought I'd give S.W. a try. The paint was a very nice quality and went on smoothly. The only thing I didn't like was the odor of the wet paint. It was very strong and off-putting for me. It was fine after it dried.
     I was very excited to pick up my cross stitch samplers from The Frame Shop and Gallery in Buchanan, VA.  Barbara, the owner, did a fantastic job with these. First, it is so pleasing just walking into this shop. The store is old. The outside entryway is tiled in black and white and the beautiful store front windows make it feel like you are stepping back in time. The interior walls are red brick with a high ceiling and it's arranged beautifully with gifts and framing items. My only other framing experiences have been at Michaels, where it's crowded and, to me, overpriced. This time with Barbara was calm and pleasant and she gave me all the time I needed to search for just the right frames. I didn't want mats and I wanted the samplers to be 'cozy' in their frames. Her finished work is top notch. She used conservation glass and installed spacers so the stitching would not touch the glass. Opening the brown paper wrapping on each frame was like opening a Christmas gift. Having the new samplers hanging in our home will give us enjoyment for many years to come. I highly recommend The Frame Shop and Gallery for any local folks who need framing.

This is the sampler Chelsea stitched for me for Christmas. It's our house!

This is my sampler, begun in 1999 and completed in 2017. Whew!


Thursday, January 25, 2018

How To Marble Wool Without Dye

     This post will be boring to most folks unless you're into fiber arts or rug hooking. I am so excited about the success of these dyeing methods that it's hard not to share with those who might be interested.
     I've been working on Karen Kahle's "Vermont" rug for months now and I was having trouble finding just the right blues for the sky portion. I previously dyed some pretty blue wool to use for the sky, but I didn't marble it and after it was hooked it looked very 'flat'. I continued hooking the rug, but my eyes kept going back to that flat blue sky and I really didn't like it. (There's so much for me to learn and I've only had the opportunity to take one class, so my learning curve is very slow here.) I searched online for wool to purchase, but again I couldn't find the right shades of blue. I also didn't want to invest any more money into this rug. Not to be discouraged, and being a do-it-yourselfer, I ran across Karen Kahle's method for 'marrying wool' and marbelizing wool. The Website, "Folk 'n' Fiber has the step-by-step process published HERE if you would like detailed instructions. After dyeing my first batch of wool with this method with much success, I photographed the second dye batch so I could share.
     The equipment needed for this method is: Enamel pot with no chips, wool, tongs or large spoon, rubber gloves, white household vinegar, apron, powder Tide or powder Borax, rubber bands or string.
     To make the wool for my sky, I chose a dark blue wool, a green, and a white wool. These were all pieces I had from old 100% wool garments found or given to me from thrift stores.*I tore the garments into strips that were about equal in size. I layered them in alternating layers of blue, white, green, white, etc. I wanted the white wool to take on the blue and green dye.

      After layering, I rolled the stack in half, longways, and secured it in multiple places with rubber bands. Alternatively, you could tie it with string or other strips of wool.It now looks like a big sausage.  : )

      Place the wool roll into the prepared pot of water with about 1 tablespoon of detergent. You will use just enough water to cover the wool and you want the wool to just fit inside the pot. So, if you have a small batch of wool, use a smallish pot..The wool goes in dry to begin. No pre-soaking. After I put my wool into the pot, I needed to add a little more water to barely cover it. Smoosh the wool down with the tongs or spoon to mix in the detergent and wet the dry coil of wool.

     Simmer the wool coil for 30 minutes. Do not boil the water or the wool will felt which is not good to do! I continued to occasionally smoosh the coil with the spoon to work the colors in.

     After 30 minutes, add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to set the dyes back into the wool. Let it all simmer another 30 minutes or until the water has mostly cleared and the dyes have all been taken up by the wool.
     Rinse the wool in varying steps of warm then cooler water. (You don't want abrupt changes in water temperature on the wool or again, it may felt.) When it's cool enough to handle, cut the ties and rinse the pieces of wool. This is the fun part, to be amazed at how great the wool turned out.
     For the final step, I put the wool pieces in the clothes dryer with a towel and a dryer sheet set on medium heat. This fluffs it nicely for hooking.
     It's now ready to cut into strips for hooking. Note, the tied areas give the wool the most interest.

     I am in the process of  reverse hooking (aka pulling out the previously hooked wool strips) and hooking in the newly dyed marbleized wool. Below are the new sky results. No more flat sky! Yay!

*Any time used wool or wool garments are acquired, it is very important to wash the wool before ever introducing it into your home or near your stash of wool. Used wool may contain moth eggs or larvae and could potentially infest all of your good wool. I remove buttons and deconstruct used garments outside the house. Then I take the wool pieces directly to the basement and into the washing machine. I use warm water with a small amount of regular laundry detergent. Then dry on medium heat in the dryer.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Daughter #4 Goes Away to College

     I knew this time was coming months ago but, it didn't make the parting any less painful. Our last daughter has gone off to college. So, while I remind myself of all the positive things this represents, I can't help but cry (just a little) when I turn the porch light off at 6:00pm because there's no one to leave it on for. She's not coming home tonight.
     Our experience shows that once the daughters leave, they never truly come back home again. So, Steve and I are officially empty- nesters. I despise that phrase. I'm thinking of a phrase more like, "Now we are two..." We have begun dancing to records in the evening and we're having a goofy good time of it. Surely this is a sign that we'll be okay without any daughters in the house. Steve seems to be taking all of this much better than me. Typical.
     I'm counting the weeks until Spring Break.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Dyeing With Onion Skins, That Was Fun!

     Tess and I had fun this week experimenting with a couple of dye techniques from this wonderful book she gave me for Christmas. I've been saving onion skins until I had enough for dyeing. I also have a stash of white and off-white recycled wool clothing that I prepped and saved for dyeing. With these three things: book, wool, and plant products, we were ready to have some fun! Tess wanted to try the black bean dye from the book, so we made three days of simmering and soaking to see what we could create.
     This particular book is divided into four sections by season. The author creates a wonderful dye spectrum from commonly found plants during each season. For example, there is rosemary, black walnut, hibiscus, and mint to name a few. She provides specific information on the materials needed for a successful dye and takes a portion of the book to explain the techniques and materials. Tess and I went a bit rogue with our dye experiments when it came to the mordants. Mordants are used to 'set' the dye and greatly affect the outcome of color. I've commonly used vinegar as a mordant for the Cushing's dyes I use, but the plant dyes use mordants such as ferrous sulfate (iron powder), alum, and cream of tartar. Tess and I were willing to forego the iron powder in favor of the alum and cream of tartar for the black bean dye because we already had those on hand. For the onion skin dye bath, the author suggests using a stainless steel pot which in itself works as a mordant for the onion skins. We weren't too concerned if our color outcome was different than those shown in the book. We just wanted to have some fun during this first go around.
     We followed the steps to pre-soak our fabric in warm, mildly soapy water while the onion skins simmered for an hour. Then we skimmed out all the onion skins. (A lesson learned: rather than skim the onion skins out, completely strain the dye bath through a sieve to remove all the onion skins. Then return the liquid to the pot before adding your fabric. We found that any little pieces of onion skin left in the pot will stick to the fabric and leave black spots.) We rinsed our soaking fabric out in warm water, then gently immersed it into the dye pot. It's important to not subject your fabric to dramatic temperature changes, so we went from warm soak to very warm dye bath. We kept the dye bath at a very low simmer for about an hour and then pulled the fabric out and rinsed it again in warm water. We hung the pieces to dry on a drying rack. I usually like to finish drying the wool with a tumble in the warm clothes dryer to fluff it.
     If you were present in our kitchen that day, you would have heard a lot of "ooh's and ahh's" as we pulled fabric from the dye pot. There was a lot of exclaiming about how unexpected some of the color outcomes were. Tess went on to have some successes and mild failures with her black bean dyes. The color was softer and more gray than the blue we expected. We believe an iron mordant would have made her color darker and brighter on the cotton she dyed with the beans. She was still happy with her tie-dye technique on the second go around.
     Overall, I would say to use these dye techniques if you aren't counting on a very particular shade of color. For specific colors, chemical dyes may be more dependable. But, for earthy, gentle shades of color, these techniques are too fun to pass up. For rug hooking, I love the unexpected variety of shades the plants provide and all the earth tones available from plant materials. We will definitely be in the kitchen again experimenting with more plant materials as the seasons roll around.

Onion skin dye. The wet wool was pretty in front of the window. This will hook beautifully into pumpkins, bittersweet berries, or Japanese lanterns as Chelsea suggested.

Pieces of white wool from two different garments absorbed the same dye differently.

I hated to throw away all the onion skin dye that remained in the pot, so I dyed a second batch of white wool in it. This batch turned out a dusty rose color. So pretty!

A piece of white wool dyed with black beans.

Tess' cotton gauze tie-dyed with black beans