Sometimes, We Dye Things That Around Here That Aren’t Yarn

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This week, I needed a quick fix of color.  But I didn't have the energy for a dyeing session.  So I did these pillow cases, in roughly half an hour, using some dye that had been sitting around in my studio for almost too long (anything over six weeks starts to show its age).

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These pillowcases start life as a nice, undyed charmeuse silk (you can buy them here).  I dyed them using a quick version of the method outlined in more detail here to get a faux tie-dye effect.  I soaked the pillowcases in hot water with a bit of vinegar so the dye would strike immediately.  I made a weak solution of a base color and swished the cases around for it to take.  Then, after squeezing out the excess water, I scrunched them (as the linked article details) and poured the dye onto them.  Instead of a more traditional steamed dye bath, I nuked them in a microwave reserved just for dyeing for two minutes, let them cool, and repeated for two and one-half minutes.  The liquid ran clear after that, and I let them cool and gently laundered them.  You could also do them solid or in a much more muted crackle dye, but we needed a little bit of color around here, so I went bright.

This is the perfect easy pick me up or a great idea for a quick DIY holiday present.


Changing Things Up At The Elliebelly Knitting Blog

As several of you have noticed, thanks to the lovely Kelly at Seventeen Stone, I have a cool new blog design.  Kelly was incredibly patient and seemed to intuitively understand what I wanted.  She was so easy to work with!  Thank you Kelly.

I hope you all like it as much as I do!

To celebrate, I'm going to do several giveaways between now and the end of July.  Yes, there will be yarn.  Possibly some of the Elliebelly "Melted Crayon" on Naiad Organic Merino I'm in the middle of dyeing for myself.  Certainly some crackle-dyed Elliebelly Playsilks.  I'm also planning to write up my Cabled Afghan pattern, and will offer it for free at some point during this time period.  And any other cool stuff I decide to share with my friends.  Maybe some art.  So click the orange RSS feed bottom on the left side of the blog to add me to your reader, or remember to check back in a couple of times a week.  Because of my crazy schedule, there is no predicting when or for how long I'll do this.  Just a little bit of summer fun for y'all and a great way, in fact, the only way to score some Elliebelly this summer.


Easy Play Silk Gift Wrap — Naturally Dyed


Who knew it could be this easy?  I decided to do a quick experiment with Tumeric, a big piece of silk, and a little bit of time.  Ignoring all of the directions I found on the web, which suggested I boil the Tumeric in my pot, let it sit for hours, then carefully strain the dye bath before immersing my silk, I dumped a 1/4 of a cup of Tumeric into my big boiling pot.  I took some care to whisk it in until all was thoroughly dissolved.  While all this was going on, my big square of silk was soaking in some water (to open up the fibers to accept the dye more readily and evenly).  I plunged it in.


I spent several minutes gently stirring for even dye distribution.  I pushed down the air pockets that formed.  And then I left it to sit, walking by to stir it every few minutes while keeping the pot just below a simmer for 45 minutes.  I turned off the pot and let it sit for a couple of hours to cool.


That lovely golden color is brighter than it will be when the silk is dry, but I had no runoff issues while rinsing it off (although my pot does seem to have taken on a permanent tinge of Tumeric, which is fine by me since it is one of those herbs that is medically beneficial).  I did rinse carefully to get off the fine Tumeric powder I saw here and there on the silk, but the color is very even across the piece.

The possibilities from here on are unlimited:

  • overdye it with another color for a crackle effect
  • stamp holiday motifs on it with paint
  • sew on some beads or ribbon
  • applique
  • print out fabric gift tags on the computer and sew onto the silk

I haven't quite decided where I'm going from here, but I'm really happy to have an easy, naturally dyed gift wrap that can be used again and again (if the kids don't swipe it for a superhero cape or butterfly wings).  Please let me know if the comments if you do your own reuseable gift wrap and have any ideas to share!



Eco Friendy Gift Wrapping Option For The Holidays – Hand Dyed Silk

As the holidays approach, I wanted to share a great idea for green gift wrap with everyone. 

For years, I dyed large squares of habotai silk that were used as children's toys.  The are called playsilks.


They're beautiful and great for kids to play with.  It's easy to make a do-it-yourself version for an inexpensive and completely reusable gift wrap, that has the fringe benefit of being one of the best children's toys around.

You can buy a silk blank for less than the cost of one of those cute little gift bags at World Market.  Dharma Trading, a long time purveryor of tie-dye supplies, has them in 35 and 44" squares, as well as a host of other sizes.  And although they're plenty pretty on their own, you can sizzle them up with just a little bit of effort.  Dharma has a washing machine dye packet (this silk does just fine in a gentle wash cycle and a low temp dryer run) that looks interesting here.  But you could just as easily swish them around in a bowl of koolaid — Paula Burch has great directions for silk tie-dye, but you could just as easily do solid, in your microwave.  Best of all, it's quick and easy.  And, you can use a big chunky rubber stamp dipped in paint (I like Lumiere's for stamping on silk — the gold and silver are the perfect holiday touch) for some extra holiday decoration.

If I was a really good blogger, I would have pictures lined up for you showing you the steps, but I've never been one of those good do-the-holidays-in-advance kind of people.  We're strictly a last minute sort of operation around here.  But having spent the better part of the last week in bed with what may be the worst and longest lasting virus ever, I've been reduced to web surfing on my laptop in bed in between long naps, which actually got me thinking about wrapping gifts in advance.  I ordered some silks last night so that they would be ready to dye when I was ready to wrap, and I suddenly thought what a great idea it would be to share our tradition of playsilk gift wrap.  So, get your supplies ready, and I'll make sure to post as I work on mine.  And keep in mind it's both incredibly easy, and something your children will love doing with you.

You could even use natural dyes.  One caveat here — because most plant dyes require the use of a chemical mordant, alum is a common one, to set the dyes, "natural" dyeing can be much more difficult and also involve greater environmental impact than some commercially produced dyes.  But, you can achieve a nice range of semi-permanent color with powdered tumeric, which won't require a mordant.  Or you could spring for this interesting looking but rather pricey kit for new natural dyers (let me know how this one turns out if you get it!)


If you become addicted to the process of dyeing silk (and it really is addictive; it's so easy and the results are so beautiful), I have an old tutorial on the crackle dye process pictured above.

And, if you need inspiration for more environmentally friendly, recycleable holiday wrapping options, take a look at this video.