More on Dyeing Wool with Wool

In the last several posts I shared my new fiber love, which is using pieces of wool to dye other pieces of wool.  I’ve named it “Wool on wool dyeing”.  To date I’ve only dyed lightweight pieces of wool which were in turn made into scarves and the donor pieces have been wool flannel or wool crepe.

For this, the third experiment, I had a grey, off-white and reddish wool gauze scarf that I accidentally felted and afterward the colors looked dull.  My hypothesis was that a piece of royal blue wool would donate enough color to the scarf to revitalize the it.  Here’s the grey scarf.IMG_0816  To dye the scarf I used the same process as in the previous experiments, although this time I only used a single piece of donor wool, log rolling the scarf along with the blue as below.  Of note, the piece of blue wool was tainted by moth holes so there was nothing to lose by using it for dyeing.  My friend Martha suggested the “donor” terminology, which seemed quite appropriate for this process.  Thank you, Martha.

IMG_0819

As with the previous wool dyeing I tied it (though not too tightly as I think the ties stress the fabric and releases excess amounts of color from the donor).

IMG_0820

The next step was to dip the wrapped fabric into a slow cooker  (this one is reserved for dyeing fabric) 2/3 full of near boiling water.  After about 30 minutes I unplugged the cooker, turned the wrapped fabric upside-down and left it in the slow cooker for another 30 minutes.

After the hour in the slow cooker I removed the fabric and allowed it to cool.  The last step was to rinse the scarf in cold water (1 cup of vinegar per gallon of water).  Now I have a lovely blue scarf.

IMG_0839

My sense is that there’s a lot more to learn about wool on wool dyeing, and I can’t wait to take the journey while searching second-hand stores for more wool.

Here are some of the questions I have:

  1. How frequently can a piece of wool be used as a donor?
  2. What is the largest piece of fabric that can be dyed in this manner?
  3. Does water need to be boiling hot or just very hot?
  4. Would a shorter period of time in the hot water be sufficient?
  5. What types of wool can act as the recipient?
  6. What about wool blends – do they work the same as 100% wool?
  7. How about dyeing silk with wool?

What questions do you have?

Advertisements

It’s Snow Dyeing Season

When the snow falls I get the itch to do some snow dyeing.  The colors are so vibrant, the patterns fascinating and the result always a surprise.

This year I had two fabrics set aside for dyeing, though I’m sure I could find more in my stash.  This a piece of brown rayon jersey I previously put in vat of spent indigo.  I’m not sure what I did, but it turned out green and streaky but beautifully soft.  Because the fabric had such a nice hand, it was worthy of another “dye job”.  You have to admit, it looks barely salvageable.

IMG_0138

Now, after snow dyeing, I can’t wait to use it for a t-shirt or sweater.

IMG_0160 2

What are the steps for Snow Dyeing?

  1. Prepare fabric as for any other dyeing project.  In a plastic bin or container, scrunch the dampened fabric.
  2. Add a layer of snow, approximately 2″ high, making sure that all of the fabric is covered.

IMG_0141

3.  After the fabric is covered with snow, begin to sprinkle with dye powder (my choice is Dharma Procion dye).

4. Use a tea or other small strainer to assist in spreading the powder evenly and to avoid clumps which would cause spotting on the fabric.  Spread one color at a time, trying to have spots of dye in similar sizes.  (Note: I use 3 or 4 colors).

5.  Prop up one end of the bin so melted snow will drain away from the fabric.

 

6.  Place the cover on the bin and wait 8-24 hours.  Obviously, more time is better if you want deep colors.

7.  Rinse and final wash the fabric as with any other dyeing project.

8.  Enjoy your creation – or if it’s not to your liking, dye it again.

 

A Visit to the Bruge Lace Museum

image

Several days ago we were in Bruges. Not only is it a beautiful medieval city, I learned that at one time this city was the center of the European cloth industry. An outgrowth of that industry was the art of making lace.

image

Unfortunately this art form is hanging on by a thread. However at the Lace Museum in Bruges There are a handful of women trying to keep lace-making alive. They have a display of exquisite pieces of lace, provide lessons and demo for visitors.

During our visit there were about 20 students from North Carolina who learned basic lace-making, and I was able to sit in with them for a one hour lesson. Wisely, their college professor/tour guide thought it would be good for this group of technology-competent students to learn traditional lace-making. All we did was a 4-thread weave, hardly lace. As with any group, some learned very quickly and others struggled. I was at the midpoint on the learning curve.

As you can see, here some photos of the gorgeous pieces in the museum, and a pix of me fumbling around trying to learn to make lace.

20140126-214015.jpg

20140127-195200.jpg

What Happened to All the Wool

If like me, you’re a lover of fine fabrics, you likely are noticing that wool fabric (and other natural fabrics for that matter) gradually are leaving the fashion scene. When available, the price is outrageous but really, when is the last time you purchased a garment or piece of fabric made fro100% silk or wool?

While I can’t say I’m studying this phenomenon, naively I have assumed the declining availability of wool ready-to-wear and fabric is due to exactly that – it’s not available , as in there are fewer sheep in the world.

Then came my trip to Paris where I’m a duck out of water in my new stylish ski-type jacket. Nearly every woman in Paris wears a (fashionable) wool coat, even on a rainy winter day. Young children wear gorgeous wool coats – the kind you absolutely can’t find in the US. Admittedly these garment are far more costly than the inexpensive and poorly constructed garments we tolerate but they look soooo much better.

What’s more, going into fast fashion stores in Paris, there are tons of partial or 100% wool garments. With this new information in hand, I can only assume that we In N. America aren’t fighting for what we really want to sew with or wear. What a sad state of affairs. The next time I’m in a fabric store and pick up a piece of wool, instead of thinking about the high cost, I am going to thank the proprietor for carrying such wonderfully durable fabric. Then I’m going to purchase it.

(Now my rant is over).

Hemming a Tulle Skirt

It’s prom time and one of my dear nieces asked me to hem and alter her dress and to sew a really puffy petticoat for under the dress.    Absolutely beautiful and a skirt of yards of tulle.

IMG_0248

IMG_0253

The first and most time consuming step was to remove and replace about half of the lace applique and bead-sequin trim.  While this took time, it was straight forward.  On the other hand, I knew that hemming the tulle was a once and done affair.  If not done correctly the first time, removing stitches would result in damaged tulle.  Here’s what the hem looked like originally – a narrow turned over hem.

IMG_0246

As you can see, it wasn’t sewed all that well when the garment was manufactured.  It was turned over twice and sewed close to the edge.  Originally my plan was to repeat that process after the dress was cut to the desired length.  Fate changed that plan.

On the day that I was finishing the dress alterations, one of my sewing friends came to my house to see how a serger works.  One of the finishes I showed her was a rolled hem. Immediately I realized that’s what I should use for the hem.  Why hadn’t I previously thought of this?  The result was a beautifully finished rolled hem.

IMG_0250

How to Serge a Rolled Hem

While this process will vary slightly by serger, the general process is the same.

1. Remove the left needle.

2. Thread the right needle and the upper and lower looper with thread that matches the fabric.

Note: Because of the limited serger thread color selection, I used one spool of regular sewing thread and wound 2 bobbins in the same color. 

3. Set to a very narrow stitch width.

4. Set stitch length to a very short stitch – some sergers have rolled hem settings.

5.  Disengage the cutting blade.

6.  Place cut edge ~1/16″ to the right of the right needle.  This part will turn under and will disappear into the rolled hem

7.  Sew a sample one the fabric you’re hemming.

Note: The fabric should not pull or ruffle the edge. 

8.  Adjust tension as needed.

Note: This is the part that varies by machine so it’s difficult to provide specific directions.

IMG_0247

The result is an amazingly beautiful hem and it takes only minutes to complete.  I was so thankful that I remembered to use this finishing method, which would work equally well for chiffon, crepe or many other fabrics.

Settings for a Baby Lock Evolve (or similar serger)

  • Remove left or Overlock 1 needle
  • Disengage cutting knife
  • Stitch width 3.5
  • Stitch Length 1.5R (Rolled hem setting)
  • Stitch Selector  – D
  • Upper Looper Selector – Up position
  • Tension – no settings as this is automatic on an Evolve

Wedding Dress Alteration: It’s too Small

Altering a wedding dress isn’t something I do regularly, but I’ve muttled through on several wedding or formal dresses.  So in case you’re tackling this project, I’d like to share some “how to’s”.  Of note, these same directions are applicable to any formal dress or bridesmaid dress.

Recently when I altered EB’s wedding dress, I needed to find 3″ of extra circumference in for a well-fitted dress.  While that seemed like a lot of fabric gain, it was very manageable and yet it was nearly the maximum alteration I could get without adding additional fabric to the sides (not an option for this dress because of the pleating).  Yes, and then there were the leftover stitching marks – how were they eliminated?

Here are the steps I went through to get this lovely result.

Great dress
Altering the sides of a wedding or formal dress that’s too small:

1.  Start by taking a peak at the side seam and zipper allowances, which for most dresses is where you’ll find the extra fabric.  (This dress had 1″ side seam allowances and 3/4″ seams for the back zipper). 

2.  Establish the amount of additional fabric needed in order for the dress to fit. (3″ for this alteration).  Do this by measuring the gap at the zipper.  In other words, with the zipper open, use a seam gauge to measure the exact amount of space between the zipper teeth. This is the moment of truth and it’s basic math.  If the amount you need to alter (i.e. let out) is more than what is available in the seams, it’s likely not possible to do this alteration.

3.  Determine how much can be obtained from the side seams.  (I could steal 2-1/2″ from the side seams and 1/2″ from the zipper).

4.  Carefully remove the side seam stitches from the outer layer and the lining of the dress – all the way from top to bottom or for the area where the alteration is needed. This means “cut”, not “rip” the seam as ripping can increase the size of the thread hole.  Sometimes this can include the seams of the skirt.  If the seams aren’t finished or are susceptible to fraying, you may want to finish the edges before manipulating the fabric.

5.  Sew the dress and lining seam back together. ( I was lucky here – the dress and the lining had a thick fusible lining which made the seams very stable and there was no fraying).

Old seam-line and new seam close to the edge.

6. From the inside, press the seams open.  A sleeve board or clapper covered with silk organza works well for this step.

That’s it for sewing the side seams.  While it seems easy, manipulating such a large amount of fabric is what takes the most time.

Altering the zipper or (usually the back) of a wedding or formal dress that’s too small:

1. Remove the old zipper.

2.  Press out the old seamline.

3.  Re-sew the zipper – you may wish to use a new zipper just in case.  My preferred method is to hand-pick the zipper.  The look is beautiful and for my level of experience it’s easier than machine sewing a replacement zipper when you’re trying to handle yards of fabric.  (I was able to get an additional 1/2″  of the required alteration from the zipper.  Also, I modified the zipper from a lapped to a centered zipper placement).

Pressing the alterations – and removing those pesky stitch marks which are tiny holes in the fabric.

Admittedly, this is the most difficult part of the process.  Here are some tips to help you:

  • Use a good pressing cloth such as silk organza.
  • Use lots of steam.
  • Place a sleeve board or clapper under the seam while pressing.
  • While pressing, apply pressure from the edge of the iron directly on the old stitch-line.
  • If you aren’t getting the desired result and you think it will never look good, dab a small amount of diluted vinegar (1:1 with water) on the original seam or the stitch line.  Brush lightly with a new toothbrush to reduce the size of the stitch marks and then press the fabric, again using a pressing cloth.