Monday, 3 October 2011
I know I've not been very visible in the last week or so, but I'm still here! With fairs starting in under 2 weeks I've been busy sorting my stock boxes, making up shortfalls and juggling life, the day job, family et al as well..
These scarves will soon be ready for sale. Let me tell you how they are made.
Very early Saturday morning I started by cutting the high quality black silk velvet into usable pieces. This takes several hours.
Time for coffee!
Silk screens are retrieved from their cupboard and decorated with the designs I'll be using today. I then make up a batch of (disgustingly named) discharge paste from a shelf of noxious chemicals - this will be applied to the fabric to remove the colour, before the fabric is re-coloured.
By now it is time for lunch. By now it is very hot both in my garden and my studio so I'd rather like to spend the afternoon snoozing on my sun lounger but that would mean upsetting my 2 cats who got there first and also missing the excellent drying conditions for newly printed scarves. Rain is forecast for Monday, time to crack on!
I lay my first piece of fabric on my work table, secure it with tape and prepare to screen my first design with the new ready discharge paste and already prepared screen. The scarf is then carefully wrapped in newspaper, nicely absorbent and a perfectly adequate free by-product of my lounge, and steamed so that the paste will be activated and remove the colour from the black velvet in readiness for later hand painting.
Once the scarves are steamed they are then hand washed to remove all residue of the discharge paste. Fortunately it is still very hot so the scarves quickly dry on my washing line. By now it is late afternoon and I am also well steamed, so time to call it a day - there are cats and family to be fed before I settle down to Downton Abbey and glass of chilled white wine.
Sunday morning dawns as hot as the day before. Another ideal drying day. Today I will be hand painting the scarves so my first task is to hand blend the dyes and mix with fixative to make them colour and light fast. I try to have a wide palette of colours and make up over 10 colours throughout the day.
The first scarf, now dry from the day before, is fastened to the work table in readiness for dyeing. Using a small paintbrush I hand paint the decoration over the coloured removed design. I've tried using several processes in the past including using thickened dye but this left a 'painting by numbers' effect with hard lines which I didn't like; now I just apply the dye and let it blend and bleed with adjoining colours where it wants. Once the scarf has been fully painted it then needs to dry. Because it is so hot the scarf can be left on the washing line, the colours will not run because they are drying so fast. Often when I make these scarves I have to leave them to dry horizontally so the colour doesn't run, then I can only make one scarf a day - or more likely one an evening so I can leave overnight.
One all the scarves are hand painted and dry, they are washed in a special detergent which removes excess dye and once again left to dry on the line. The hot weather is still holding so I manage to get them all dry by the end of Sunday.
Monday morning doesn't look quite as good ... the weather is changing. Secretly, I am delighted, I don't want 30c in October, I'd rather it were not so hot but for longer. I realise I am alone in wanting this. Today's task is to sew up the scarves and start work on making devore (burnt out) velvet scarves. it's 7.45am and I'm already on my 2nd cup of coffee, there's a lot to do today. I have a couple of devore scarves all ready for dying and have decided to 'double dye' these, using 2 dyes in the same dye pot, one for the silk background fabric, the other for the viscose velvet pile. As I reach into my under sink cupboard to get out my 2 ring electric hob, I realise the whole cupboard is under water! I have to empty the cupboard onto the table to work out what has happened. It turns out that the connection between the water inlet and the tap head has failed so when I turn on the pull out spray tap (vital for cleaning silk screens) water pours along the hose into the cupboard below. So my first job is to order a new tap - thank heavens for Google. But meanwhile I have a tap I can only use if left dangling in the sink and a cupboardful of things that will have to live on the table for now. Devore printing will have to wait for another day.
I settle down to Radio 2, and dyeing the couple of scarves I have ready. Again I use the commercial dyes to blend my own colours. Dyeing the 3 scarves, washing out the excess dye and hanging on the line takes the next couple of hours.
An early lunch - the flour and yeast I threw into the bread maker at the crack of dawn have now turned into a tasty sunflower seed loaf. Just about cooled enough to slice, bread and Stilton cheese - fit for a Queen.
The afternoon sees me using my sewing machine, double folding my velvet scarves and sewing up, remembering to leave a small hole to turn them inside out - I've been known to forget that bit, which makes finishing a tad difficult. Armed with a stack of scarves, I head for the sunshine with needle and thread to turn the scarves the right way out and close up the holes. By now it is mid afternoon and the warm spell in the middle of the day has gone, to be replaced by a cold wind. The cats have woken to find the sun they were bathing in has gone so this must mean it's time for dinner. It's always dinner o'clock in their lives.
So the pile of scarves you see above has taken me the best part of 3 days to make, the finishing will be done in front of the TV over the next couple of evenings. They will then be hand pressed, priced, labelled, entered onto my stock database before being listed for sale. This will take another couple of evenings. I hope to have some of them for sale in my Etsy, Artfire and Folksy shops by the weekend. The rest will be offered for sale at my craft fairs, starting in Salisbury on 15 October.
I'm sure these scarves could be made by a machine far faster than I can work. But then they'd not be individually hand made products from an English artisan.
Whilst you are waiting for these scarves to appear in my shops, do have a look at the other things I have hand made and listed for sale, from lampwork beads for other artisans and collectors, to sea glass, lampwork glass and sterling silver jewellery as well as other scarves and a few supplies.