Yes, obviously it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, but these tops were made for my European trip, where it was emphatically spring with fantastic sunny and warm weather. Travelling between the hemispheres really brings home to me how much we are influenced by the seasons in our colour choices without realising it. After a few times feeling drab and out of sync during my visits, this time I wanted to have at least a couple of garments in my suitcase that would blend in with the happy spring atmosphere at my destination.
This was my inspiration, you can’t get any more light, airy and suitable for spring than those beautiful light blue flowers on white.
But I didn’t really want a tunic, my voluminous Arthur pants demand something much shorter. Like a cropped Mandy with cuffs instead of sleeves.
It was difficult to judge how dark to make my blue dye because it always looks quite a bit lighter after it has been washed out. So I used too much dye powder and my flowers ended up much darker than intended. Never mind, there is always the next project to improve on the mistakes of the last one.
I have always found it difficult up until now to do a pattern of randomly scattered motifs. It doesn’t really work to use a stencil for a single motif over and over, the way you can do when you arrange your motifs in an orderly grid pattern.
I solved the problem with a stencil that covers the whole pattern piece of my garment. To start with I drew four slightly different flowers on scrap paper, cut them out and used them as a template for my freezer paper stencil. It was then easy to space the flowers out randomly in a pleasing manner, without awkward holes or crowding. Once I had traced around the flowers with pencil I could cut them out with a craft knife and ironed the finished stencil to my fabric. I coloured in the flowers with dye thickened very heavily with sodium alginate gel. This stops the dye from running under the edges of the stencil.
My fabric was again a repurposed cotton/viscose Ikea sheet, pre- prepared with soda ash solution and dried. The soda ash treatment is necessary because it takes a while to stencil the flowers, and if I add the soda ash solution to the dye it will weaken before I am finished, risking an uneven result. I didn’t want the flowers on the front of the top to end up paler than on the back.
Being a bit lazy I did not make white centres on my flowers, as this would have meant cutting out little circles from the freezer paper to keep the dye off. As it happens this is fortunate as with the darker blue I think a black or dark blue centre will look better.
So here is the altered version, with the freshly added dark blue centres, still on newspaper on my cutting table.
I am not sure if it really is an improvement, somehow the plain version has a charm of its own.
As a minimalist I think I have two fears, cutting off too much fabric and putting on too much paint. Not sure if I haven’t done the latter with this top.
No such doubts with the second top, which was painted freehand. I used a thick stencil brush and heavily thickened dye to prevent the dye from running. This time I added soda ash powder to my dye mix because I thought I would need less time to get my painting done. I first did the lighter blue circles and let this cure overnight, then added the darker blue accents the next day. This way the dyes don’t mix. Dye painting is not for the impatient and I hate that side of it, but the results keep me coming back for more. The colours are so much more vibrant than screen printing ink and the hand of the fabric does not change at all.
The pattern for both tops is once again the Tessuti Mandy, with the boat neck changed to a round neck and cuffs instead of the long sleeves.
- Cotton viscose fabric briefly soaked in soda ash solution and dried
- Freezer paper stencil, joined to yield required size. This is easily done by overlapping and joining with hot iron. Sticks well.
- Cut stencil with craft knife and ironed to cut-out garment pieces
- Painted flowers with stubby brush and heavily thickened dye, approx 2.5 teaspoons of sodium alginate per 250ml of water
- Cured overnight, washed out and sewed up
- Added dark blue centres later with straight dye and soda ash, no thickening
- Cotton viscose fabric
- painted circles with stubby brush, on cut-out garment pieces
- Dye heavily thickened with sodium alginate, approx 2.5 teaspoons per 250ml and soda ash added
- Painted light blue circles first and let cure/dry overnight
- Painted darker accents the next day, let cure/dry
- Washed and sewed up