tutorial :: weaving on sticks and walks in nature

"Teeny twiglet loom weaving using hand dyed silk thread"

For me, creating with my children is a natural extension of my own making and we do lots of crafting, but even I can be known to think of crafting with them as too annoying. Often we put crafting with children into the too hard basket because we think we don’t have enough time, it’s too messy, a perceived lack of skill, or it will be expensive.

I have some news to share with you – crafting with children can be as simple and beautiful as tying some yarn around a stick and hanging it in their bedroom window, or outside in a tree. Sitting beside you with your full attention is just as important as the project itself.

This is a simple weaving project which uses found and low cost or recycled materials. Children as young as three or four will enjoy being able to master the technique while older children and adults can make their designs more complex or personal. It's a great way to explore colour combinations and textural differences - it's fun to mix and match different wools, cottons, fabrics and found objects.

To start this project you’ll need:

  • some twigs or sticks :

While paddle pop sticks will work, it’s much more fun, environmental and prettier if you use twigs collected from the backyard or a walk around your neighbourhood. Choose sticks that are not too thick but are strong enough they won’t break easily (eucalypts work well). If they have a wiggly shape or interesting details this will add to your finished piece. To make the most of spending time with your kids, think of the twig gathering as an activity in itself and enjoy the walk in the Winter sunshine, exploring and taking time to stop to look at things instead of the usual school-day attitude of hurrying curious children on. Take a gathering basket with you!

For our weaving we found some sticks with a natural fork in them, and used that as the edges of the loom. If you can’t find a forked stick you can create one by tying three sticks into a triangle. Your twigs can be as long as you like; experiment with different sizes, and shapes; try four sticks to make a square weaving loom.

  • some yarn, thread, wool cotton for weaving :

I use whatever yarn I can get my hands on, though I do prefer natural fibres. Children appreciate using beautiful crafting supplies – you will all enjoy the look and feel of interesting colours and textures. At markets and op-shops keep a look out for bags of wool, cottons or yarns. You can also make your own yarn using old sheets, fabric or t-shirts. I often find great yarny supplies at my local Environment Centre as well. 

  • a sewing needle :

You can use a larger eyed embroidery needle with a blunt nose, or find some plastic needles for children, which are excellent for learning to weave.

Tie the warp thread tightly onto your twig, then wrap around and around to create your loom.

Once your warp thread is fully wrapped and tied tightly at the other end, start your weft thread (the yellow thread above) and weave under and over. Depending on the thickness of your stick, you may find this easier or harder to get a smooth finish.

  • What to do:

Tie one end of the yarn to the bottom of one of the forks of your branch. Stretch the yarn across to the other fork and wrap it around once so you have bridged the thinnest part of your triangle. Take your yarn back to the first side and wrap around about 1-2cm above the first wrap (the thickness of your yarn will determine how far you make these strings/wraps). Continue wrapping the yarn between the two sides, until you get to the top of the fork. In weaving terminology you have now created the warp. Then, taking a new length of yarn (called the weft) weave across the warp threads. Start by knotting your weft onto the bottom warp yarn and threading the yarn over one warp thread then under the next one, then over and so on. When you get to the end, reverse direction and take your weft back down going under the warp that you previously wove over and over the ones you went under.

You can change your weft colour to create patterns or a random effect. Tie each new weft colour yarn onto the previous colour or onto the warp so the whole lot won’t unravel. You might also weave in leaves, feathers, grasses or flowers you found on your walk; or ribbons, lace or other found string-like items. There are no rules. 

I used a needle as the shuttle for these tiny twiglets that I worked on. It was so much easier than pushing the weft through the warp. You can also use some flat cardboard cut into a long 'needle-ish' shape with the end of your weft yarn sticky taped to it; this helps kids have something to work over and under the warp threads, and then pull it all through. 

The more you practice, the more even your tension will be – which means that the weaving will be tight and firm, not too floppy and not pulled out of shape. My children and I are slowly filling the bare Winter branches of a special tree in our garden with hanging weavings and yarn wrapped twigs. It makes me smile each time I look at it, and I'm wondering what the kookaburras think of it all! I think one of the most important things about being creative is not if it’s perfect or neat, but if you feel joy in the making of and looking at it. And if you can share your making time with someone special you just

might multiply this joy. It's important for children to learn that mistakes in creativity aren't a bad thing, and to be able to enjoy their artworks in all their wonky amazingness!

This one, made of op-shopped wools and fabric yarn, lives outside under our tree.

I can't wait to see your tree filled with yarn wrapped wonderful-ness. Please do share! Please contact me if you need any more pictures or extra info. {the children took over my creative space so the photo session was cut short......}..

I love the shadow play that was happening on the sunny day I was a-making. This makes me think of a weedy seadragon; one of my favourite of all animals is a sea horse.

*this was originally written / published on my old Petalplum blog, July 2013. You can still read my blog there, and see sweet photos of my kids as little ones. This weaving still hangs in my studio. 

Naturally dyeing fabric with Turmeric - a how to tutorial

Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum
Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum

The smell of turmeric naturally dyed on fabric takes me straight back to when my mother made fairy costumes for my sister and me. She dyed white singlets and endless swathes of tulle in a big pot of turmeric. I can remember that we both smelled like that wonderful spice for the whole party. What sweet flower fairies we were!

Turmeric is fabulous and super easy for special events such as a party dress, to decorate a wedding or event, to show children how to make colour in a safe manner, and even great for dyeing eggs for Easter time. Turmeric is what's called a fugitive dye; this means that the colour will fade pretty quickly regardless of anything you do to it (mordanting wise). But please be aware that the colour will fade in the sunshine and run out in the wash really quickly. Despite that it's a magical colour to dye with and makes me smile every single time!

Some notes before you start: remember that natural dyeing and some natural plant based dyes can be toxic. If you intend to boil and dye in your kitchen, please only do so in a well ventilated space and use a pot you won't be using for food purposes. Do some research before you head out foraging for plant material. Wear gloves to protect your hands from any chemicals or chemical reactions.

Also, the process of natural dyeing is such that results vary with materials and quantities used. You cannot expect to achieve perfection or repeat performances; you will instead be surprised and amazed each time you unfold your fabric - and that is better than perfection any day!

Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum

You will need:

  • Some plain undyed natural fibres. You can use linen, hemp, cotton, wool or silk. Silk is often the easiest to achieve brighter colours than plant based fibres; but you'll find through experiments that different fibres give different results. Use pieces of fabric, as well as lengths of yarn.

  • Turmeric powder, from your health food shop or the spice section of your supermarket. Find the brightest freshest powder you can find. Or freshly grated turmeric root if you can get that.

  • A big saucepan, glass jars with lids, rubber bands, pegs, string.

:: 4L of water and 2 heaped tablespoons of turmeric.

To start with: Soak your material in cold water, so that it is totally wet. This allows the dye to permeate all the way through. Half fill your pot with tap water, add the turmeric powder. The amount of powder you use will depend on how much you are dyeing and how vibrant you want the colour. I don't measure. Bring the water to a gentle simmer, and add your wrung-out materials (you can strain off any un-disolved powder before adding your fabric, but I don't bother). At this stage you can either let it simmer on the stove top until the desired colour has been achieved, or you can fill your glass jars with the fabric and the dye water and place it outside in the sun to continue dyeing for a few days. This is called solar dyeing.

{I love solar dyeing as it gives you the chance of watching the colour develop over days to a week. You aren't using gas or electricity to dye your items, just harnessing the heat of the sun (you could even build a solar oven if you wanted to boil your water that way!). And those colour-filled jars sure look pretty sitting in your garden. (Just make sure the lid is tightly secured and your jars are away from children and pets). }

Once you are happy with your colour, rinse out the fabric. Hang to dry in the shade; your piece will fade in full sun.  Turmeric is a fugitive dye, which means it doesn't last as long as some other natural dyes; but I have found that some fabrics take the colour and keep it better than others, so testing your own fabrics is the best thing. The excellent thing is that it's so easy to re-dye once the colour fades, and it gives us a new appreciation of colours and dyes.

Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum
Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum
Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum
Turmeric Natural Dyeing - Petalplum

To achieve the different patterns on my fabrics I use the following techniques: Shibori folding: This is an age-old Japanese technique of folding or stitching fabric to achieve amazing patterns and shapes. This is an art-form in itself. At this stage, I have neither the time nor inclination to be stitching work just to unpick it (though I crazily admire those who do!), maybe one day I will...

For this pattern, I simply fold and continue to fold the fabric into squares onto itself, in a concertina manner. Then secure it tightly with pegs or clips along the edges, or wrap it with twine (which will also dye).

Dip dyed: An easy and beautifully effective way of allowing the natural process of the coloured water moving up the fabric. This always reminds me of the marks left on sand by waves - you know that slightly transparent line left behind. Ombre continues to be popular - so why not try your hand at making mountain peaks. Start with one end of your fabric in the dye, and the rest hanging out. Leave for at least half and hour. Then slowly move the fabric down into the water a little bit more. Do this as many times as you want, each time leaving it for about half an hour in between. The amount of time you wait before you lower the fabric in, will determine how dramatic the colour change is. Being a natural dye, this process will not be as predictable as with chemical dye.

Scrunch effect: I simply tightly scrunch and then tie (with string that will become coloured as well) or peg the fabric. Place it into the glass bottle and cover with dye. Put a stone on top to weigh it down if need be. Leave this for at least a few days, without agitating or moving it about. The dye will settle into different sections of the scrunch to create the marks; if you move it too many times it won't be as dramatic pattern.

If you're interested in doing any natural & botanical dye, be sure to check out my online natural dye course filled with natural dye love.

 

* this is my most popular blog post ever from

my old blog, Petalplum

with over 20,000 hits on the one post. Wow - you guys really love sunshine colour!

always with the crochet :: beautiful v useful

Last week I sent these small crochet doilies off to their 'owner'. I wrote about it

here

. And with that project gone, I can move onto new and different crochet works. But the strange thing is, this pattern is now (finally) stuck in my head and I want to stitch this again and again. Ah ha - the mind is a funny thing. 

Anyway, I have some important pieces I need to get made and posted, for an Instagram Swap I organised. Life took over, and I haven't been able to make the pieces I want. I'm guessing my swap partners will receive some doilies and such. 

While I love making doilies and crochet covered stones, I keep asking myself the "importance" of them. Usually I have a thought/feeling/inclination to produce.make.create practical things. I question myself on why I'm adding more and more to this world of things that aren't practical and useful. I remind myself often of this quote; which I believe rings true for myself (and probably for many of you also):

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful" William Morris

So, while my crochet stones may not be useful (except as little paper weights), they are indeed beautiful. Thank you William for your words.

Having said that - I am enjoying working on

crochet bowls

and vessels and having them become useful (and beautiful) things to hold the useless yet beautiful items.

* I gather a collection of crochet inspiration on my

Pinterest board

, if you're in need of some hookery. 

1000 crochet doilies & connections stitched

This week I am finally sending off the 30 doilies I have crocheted for

Lisa Solomon

's 1000 Doilies project. I have loved working on these for so many reasons, the main being the connection to all the other people who were making them as well. 

How wonderful for someone to put the word out, and ask for people to follow a pattern and crochet some pieces to add to an installation of her work. 

You can read a little about Lisa's

art piece here

. I love the thread colours and the 10 doilies x 100 colours = 1000.

I first "met" Lisa through Instragram, I think.. I can barely remember anymore. Does it actually matter? Nope, not really. I was immediately drawn to her use of colour in a methodical and thoughtful way (I mean, look at those colours up there - this project is about tonal gradation and hues), and to her dangly tangly threads that I saw in her work. The finished yet unfinished aspect of it really captured what I myself felt I was working on - or maybe a bit of how I work. I urge you to go and have a look through her

website

and find some lovely.

Lisa is also super-cool. And I love that. Cool in a real way. She is an art teacher and a practicing artist, and a mama. I love her instagram feed with the view points of shape and colour and line. I love

her book

. I also love the way Lisa seems to be collaborative - she has connections with other artists, and gathers people in. She shares skills and advice. 

Mostly I love that Lisa trusted me enough to be part of this amazing project with her. With everyone else who is making. All these lives that we've stitched into our doilies will be gathered together into Lisa's hands and displayed. And most people who look at the art work (in real - I'll only see it in pictures) will probably see the beauty that is there. The colours and lines and shapes. They won't know the stories of the people who made these pieces. The way that I carried a little fabric pouch with my thread and hook and pattern, the way I never fully remembered the pattern, so had to carry it with me. The way I sat at cafes with threads in front of me, and other customers asked about the teeny little work I was making - and were surprised that I was making it to send to an artwork on the other side of the world. The way my family knew it was an important thing I was working on, for an important project, and helped me along the way - let me count that one row of stitches where I couldn't talk or I'd have to start again. 

And you know what. I love the fact that two of my very special instagram friends also made doilies.

Kate

(blog) /

foxslane

(IG) and

Cyndi

(blog) /

elf_girl

(IG). We encouraged each other and enjoyed sharing where we were up to. The way I thought maybe Kate and I could sit and crochet together one day, and somehow here we are are working on one big thing together. 

You can see the doilies here on the instagram hashtag

#1000doilies

. I'm following along to see the final work with all our stitches and those colourful doilies talking together in one room. Thanks Lisa for letting me crochet with my far-away friends. xxxx

*bottom image of threads stacked is from Lisa Solomon's blog.