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Recycling, upcycling…..and how one thing leads to another

Recycling, upcycling…..and how one thing leads to another

It’s that time of year when there are lots of Christmas fairs coming up & I need to make some festive items. 

Recently, I picked up some Christmas-themed small wooden blanks (for tree decorations, or maybe gift tags) very cheaply in a charity shop. I started doodling on them with acrylic pens and found I was enjoying myself – it made me think about the recent popularity of adult colouring books.  Good for mindfulness.

Some examples of the painted blanks – there was quite a variety of shapes.

I know these aren’t fibre-related but it set me off thinking about doing something similar with felt. I bought some bauble-shaped wooden blanks online and after colouring a few in (colouring in is a little addictive) …..

 Some of the painted baubles

….. I decided to make a sheet of white felt, decorated with bits of vintage lace, old tatting and shadow-work embroidery, all bought in charity shops. I have a box full of old strips of hand and machine made ‘lace’, old dressing table doilies, bits of fine crochet….anything I think might felt. I thought this was an ideal opportunity to do some creative up-cycling. 

 

As I was making the felt it struck me that I have lots of handmade felt off-cuts, test pieces and samples that I could use in a similar way. A good opportunity to recycle work and release a little studio space. To continue my recycling theme, I even used charity-shop-bought crochet cotton for the hanging strings. 

These were cut from square samples I made during Fiona Duthie’s Ink + Felt class

 

Left, some more ink + cloth samples. Right, samples I made for my ‘hippie’ bag earlier this year

Left photo: Top left a nuno sample I made using recycled linen; the others were off-cuts from other projects

Right photo – the yellow was a coaster I made with coloured yarn; the green and pink are nuno samples, the blue is an example of paper felt with some acrylic pen

Finally, I painted some of the wooden bauble-shapes white, and married them with a broad strip of black vintage lace. 

So, the chance purchase of second-hand wooden blanks led me to upcycling vintage textiles and recycling some of my own felt off-cuts and samples. I love seeking out and using second-hand materials, especially small hand made things, usually made by women, that tend to be disregarded by many people. Often they are from something that has worn out, like a pillow case, or is rarely now used, like dressing table sets or antimacassars.

I have one particular piece of embroidery on fine silk that I couldn’t bring myself to use. The work is so fine I endlessly marvel at the skills of the woman who made it. It’s so intricate and beautiful with such tiny stitches it makes me feel slightly sad.  I bought it in a charity shop for £2. To me it’s a disregarded masterpiece.

Silk and embroidery (hand / finger included for scale)

The silk is starting to disintegrate and I’m really not sure what to do with it. Any suggestions? 

Recycling and Upcycling silk kimono

Recycling and Upcycling silk kimono

A few blogs ago Welshfelters posted about upcycling/recycling a chinese lantern. That got me thinking about the project I’ve been plonking away on for ages now – recycling silk. I really love silk in almost all its forms, not too crazy about silk noil, but everything else is just lovely, the texture, the colours, the gloss, the sound. I have ASMR, so even thinking about silk gives me a case of the shivers.

When one of our guild members was down sizing and offered some used kimono for sale at an excellent price, I was first in line and happily took home a box of bright red, blue, brown, and orange silky bits. The construction of these kimono was amazing, all hand sewn, all exquisitely designed and all in deplorable condition. The fabric has deteriorated along the fold lines and has some tears, so re-purposing is one of the best options for most of the fabric. Hand washing and disassembly followed, along with a bit of ironing, just to make life a little easier when cutting time came.

A few years ago another friend had gifted me fabric cutters; Bliss and Frazer. They are both vintage models and well loved. When they first came into my care, I really had no immediate purpose for them but knew that ‘someday’ they would be put to good use. Along with recycling fabric, good tools also need to be kept in useful condition, so they went for a spa treatment to a talented gentleman who fixed a damaged bearing, sharpened the blades, retooled the wheel plate and generally got them both up and running optimally.

Silk is brutal on fabric cutters.

The wheel is starting to show signs of wear after cutting silk

The blade is showing signs of becoming dull, so I will probably switch to a rotary blade and ruler, which seems to work just fine. The rotary cutter has the added benefit of replacement blades that can be recycled and replaced as needed. I’ll save the fabric cutters for wool and cotton. Using the ruler and rotary cutter to cut width doesn’t yield consistent results, or as consistent as the fabric cutter, but with silk I don’t think that’s a significant issue. There are a couple of ways I can make the strips of cut silk into a single piece of ‘yarn’.

I can spin it together and then hold it together a little more with a ply of silk thrums thread.

I can do a splice and spin it as a single which allows for the little tails to become a design element in the yarn.

This is the tails and tops method of joining

or I can just weave it in as a rag technique and alternate with the silk thrums. In the end, I’m going to call it art yarn and who will challenge the inconsistency of the yarn!

All fabric that is used in our daily lives will wear out, but when it comes to a fiber that is so costly to make, so valuable and lovely I want to put the extra effort into keeping it out of the rag bag for as long as possible. Most, if not all fabrics can be given a second life before they can be purposed as rags. The ingenuity of our predecessors was impressive and there is no reason not to emulate them. Sheets, curtains, judo gis, towels, suits can all be remade into carpets, place-mats, cushion covers, dish rags, clothing material, blankets, quilts, scarves, the list goes on a long as your imagination permits. And yes rags, that’s a valid repurpose.

My plan for these red and orange silk kimonos and the red silk thrums is to weave material for a medium weight jacket for the winter. Something very simple in design, similar to a kimono but without any fitting or lining. My cousin in Japan is hunting an obi or two for me to use as trim. Hopefully this will be functional and attractive once I can solve the problem of the silk bleeding like crazy. But that is a challenge for another day.

Silk thrums easily dye wool and are difficult to control. Silk kimono also run their colour.

 

Not all the kimono could be cut, at least not by me.  This is going to be a project for another day.

 

Odds and Ends

Odds and Ends

This past weekend, my husband and I drove up to Wisconsin for a weekend away.  I had hoped we’d see plenty of fabulous fall colors I could share.  Unfortunately, Wisconsin is suffering from the same drought we have here in Illinois and we arrived a week earlier than the peak.  Many of their trees have lost their leaves already, like ours here. But here is one fallish pic entering Wisconsin.

I haven’t been too productive this week.  But I do have a few projects I have put finishing touches on and haven’t shared.

I signed up for Ruth’s Printing and Stenciling on Felt class, so I managed to make a couple of handmade prefelts to play with.  I have plenty of commercial.  The purple was some unknown fiber batt. I decided to use a silk hankie to give it a little sparkle, but it didn’t.

The turquoise is commercial prefelt with some throwsters waste which isn’t very evident.

I think I will be able to use both sides just to experiment. I like the sides without the silk better.

I also made a thicker light blue batt with some mulberry silk.

I have no idea what I’ll be printing on any of these and have gathered a bunch of samples and other UFOs to experiment on.

Here is a failed coaster that had gold fabric felted in that I did a little free motion practice on.

A while back I had felted a bunch of samples from scarves.  I couldn’t find the post with the original scarves. One of them had dots which I wasn’t crazy about. I had done both sides and didn’t care for the inside either.  However, after felting the dots weren’t obvious, they looked more like flowers.  I made it into a little case and did a little embroidery on with with some silver floss for a little bling.

  The back:

The front has a little bit of black organic edging.

Nothing exciting this week, but I got to re-purpose a few things.

 

Finishing the Panels

Finishing the Panels

Last week I showed you two large panels I made using scraps.  Since then I created three more.

One long panel.

20161116_145808  20161118_122459

20161118_122511Two short ones.

20161116_145815 20161118_122422

20161118_12244120161116_145808

20161118_122349 20161118_122404

Here they are laid out on the floor.

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Here’s the final project.

20161204_142831 20161204_143117 20161204_143049 20161204_143029 20161204_143002 20161204_142938 20161204_142841

 

So, whats underneath?

My Simplicity Needle Felting Machine naked.  Sorry about the lighting, this was our first snow and kind of cloudy.

Now you see it.

20161204_142455Now you don’t.

20161204_143002

I was amazed that I got the sizes right.  I purposely left the edges organic.  Its a little lopsided but the top of the machine is narrower than the bottom.  Now I can change it around for a different look when the mood strikes.

Did you see that coming?

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