Sunday, November 13, 2011

Q&A and Progress

In a comment on the previous post, Treena asked what type and strength of alcohol to use when extracting color from wood chips. Any clear alcohol will work: cheap vodka, everclear, moonshine, rubbing alcohol, or denatured alcohol (called methylated spirits in the UK and elsewhere, I believe). I find the latter is the least expensive, especially when purchased in big jerrycans from the big-box do-it-yourself stores like Home Depot and Lowe's.

If you haven't already done so, go to this page on my website and download the PDF about extracting color from wood chips.

To find wood chips, locate your local woodturners' club or a woodworker or furniture maker who specializes in exotic woods. These guys just throw the sawdust and chips away, so feel free to use it on its way to the green waste facility or its new life as mulch. Any wood that has a deep, rich color will make color on yarn or cloth. Usually it is a hue similar to the wood chips themselves, but there are enough surprises to make life interesting.

As for progress in the studio... I've been procrastinating about finishing Margreet's woven portrait. It's always a challenge to attach iron-on interfacing to a large piece of cloth and have the cloth hang really straight, and I kept putting it off until "later."

Today, I gathered my courage and a beautiful plaid wool blanket from New Zealand (which I brought home from a visit many years ago). I needed a large work surface on which to lay out the woven piece, and a gridded background would help to ensure the cloth was straight. I didn't want to use a hot iron directly on my big work table, but I thought that a wool blanked folded into quarters would protect the table from the heat and would give me grid marks for lining things up. Okay, just to be sure, I used a T-square from DH's workshop so the blanket itself was actually straight; it's cloth, too, right? and we know that cloth has elasticity :-)

With some degree of confidence, I used the iron to spot-attach the interfacing to the woven piece. I had to use two pieces, because interfacing typically only comes 16 inches wide; if you click the picture to enlarge, you might see the overlap about 1/3 in from the left side.

Then I took the woven piece plus tacked-on interfacing to the ironing board, and spent quite a long time counting off 10-second intervals, between which I moved the iron to a new place, until I had attached the interfacing firmly all the way down to about the top step in the image (you can see the piece just off the loom here). I've left it hanging from a rod overnight, and tomorrow I'll finish attaching the interfacing to the lower portion of the piece.

By the way, the cones of yarn in the upper left of the photo were all dyed with color from wood chips - the range of possible colors is amazing, and very washfast and lightfast. I've dyed silk, wool, and tencel very successfully. Have fun!


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