"To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books.".....The Secret Teachings of All Ages

Monday, February 24, 2014

Avocado Skin Dye, Bleach Pens, and Hair Ornaments

February has been a month for new things. New techniques, new experiments, and even a new horse for my husband. The fun of all this is what finally sailed me out of the creative doldrums which had parked me dead-in-the-water for months. Here are just a few of the things I have been playing around with.

Avocado skin dye.

I saw a photo, probably on Pinterest, of a garment dyed with avocado skins. I loved the beautiful dusky rose color the dye created. Since Robert and I both love avocados, and I knew I could collect a nice stash of skins, I decided to give it a try. First I did a google search for "Dyeing cloth with avocado skins" since I had no clue how you actually created the dye. Turns out it is easy-peasy. You put the skin of one or two avocados (I used two) in about a gallon of water (I just filled a canning kettle half full), simmer the skins for 20 minutes, remove the skins and put in the cloth you intend to dye, and simmer that for another 20 minutes. I only had a small lace shrug and a tea towel I was dyeing, so didn't need a big batch of dye. For bigger garments or fabric yardage, you might want to use more water and skins, as the pieces need to be loose enough so that you can stir them a bit as they simmer.

Here is the shrug and the tea cloth simmering away in the dye.


After they had simmered, I filled the sink with cold water, pulled the shrug and tea cloth out with a pair of tongs, and dunked them in the cold water. When they were cool enough to handle, I lightly wrung them out then put them in the dryer. That was it.

Here are the shrug—one I made years ago out of an old tablecloth—and the tea cloth before I dyed them. The shrug had started to turn yellow with age. The tea cloth I dyed so I could cut it up and use on something else as maybe part of an applique.

Here are the two pieces after I dyed them. The lace on the shrug was a surprise, as I couldn't remember if it was cotton or a synthetic. Luckily, it was cotton and dyed beautifully.  Even though I am not a pink lover, I have fallen in love with this soft rose, and will try dyeing more pieces, just to see what happens. That, and it gives me an excuse to eat more avocados.

This shows the lace trim a bit better. Now that the shrug has a new lease on life, I am thinking of adding some beading to it. We'll see, but it certainly looks better than it did before its dye job.

Now on to the next experiment...

Bleach pen drawing.

Bleach pens, available in the detergent section of grocery stores, are made for spot cleaning of stains on clothing, mildew on tiles, etc. You can also write or draw on cloth with them. The nozzles are not made for detailed work, and the flow of bleach can be kinda unpredictable, but I think with practice I could get fairly accurate with it. Pictured are my first attempt, done on denim scraps. I have to confess, I put the bleach on, set them out to let it work, and....accidentally forgot about them while I was working the avocado dye bath. I think the bleach got left on the denim for about an hour before I got around to washing it out. The piece to the left was the first try, and you can see I was just playing around with it. I got big blobs of bleach in some places, and skinny lines in others. I decided that simple designs would work best with this. The sample to the right is my second attempt, and worked better. I see using this technique on denim patches that could be stitched, embroidered, or beaded, then sewn to something else. I thought they would make nice decorative pockets. 

I was also thinking of doing a bolero and making simple animal drawings on it with the bleach pen, like ancient cave pictographs. That might be fun.

On to project number three...

Hair ornaments.

I have always loved antique hair combs and pics. I spent WAY too long on Pinterest one day drooling over photos of beautiful antique and vintage hair ornaments, and it got me to thinking about making my own. I needed a new jewelry direction. The pieces I had posted on my Etsy site has stagnated and not sold. It kinda depressed me. So I temporarily closed the site, took all the old pieces apart, and started playing around with making hair ornaments out of hammered copper and aluminum wire, beads, and pieces of vintage jewelry—mostly broken brooches or clip earrings. It is a learning curve for me, since wire has a mind of its own and what I am trying to do with it can be frustrating. I especially have to learn patience with the thin wire I use almost like thread, to attach decorative pieces on the to pics. Many times I have had to just put the piece down and walk away from my work table. Otherwise the piece would probably end up flying out the front door. Of course I would then waste hours trying to find it again so I could finish it. But along with the frustration I am having fun, and got really fired up about making these hair ornaments. Once I get these up on my Etsy site, I am going to keep the prices as low as possible, postal costs considered, and see how they do. 

Along with the hair ornaments, I decided to stick mainly to bracelets and earrings. For whatever reason, the necklaces never sold on Etsy, and rarely sold at the costume events I go to. I donated several to silent auctions and raffles, just to find them a home. I don't know whether it was because the necklaces cost more, or whether the designs weren't appealing, but in any case, it didn't seem worth it to keep making them if no one was interested. However, the earrings and bracelets and the one hair pic I made, all did pretty well.

So, here is an overview of some of the pieces I have made so far.

Next project is to make a light box so I can finally take decent photos of my pieces. That has been an on-going problem ever since I opened the Etsy site. No matter what I tried, I just couldn't get nice, clear, close up photos. The light box, easy to make from a heavy cardboard box (many examples found on Pinterest), will fix all that and make the site look more professional.

So that has been my month of February. How did yours go?