Pelmet Vilene bowls

I was going to write about this last week but had a bit of a technical disaster (think tea + keyboard). Plus I had a sudden rush of paid work, which rather sapped my creative energies. Still, I shouldn’t complain – it pays the bills and will run out soon.

Back to the point. During the second half of last term at Morley College we were experimenting with textiles and heat. One of the most popular pieces of equipment was the heat press, which we used to transfer dyes from pre-printed papers onto thick Vilene (pelmet or craft Vilene), polyester and fleece. Apparently synthetics are much better than natural fabrics for this. Some students also used dye to paint their own patterns onto paper, which they transferred to fabric using the heat press. Colours that looked quite sober on paper came out much brighter on the fabric, so the results were always unpredictable!

Our tutor provided a handout with diagrams of how to make 3D hats out of Vilene, by scoring it and folding along the score lines. I have to say I found it very difficult to see how to get from a flat semi-circle to an amazing sculptural 3D form – I just don’t have that sort of mind! So I decided to stick to a simple bowl.

First I cut out a circle of Vilene and then removed a slice before dyeing one side purple, using pre-printed paper, in the heat press.

I dyed the other side red, then scattered a few sunflower seeds on top before dyeing again with blue.

(The first time I did this I put too many seeds on top. As a result, despite the pressure, the dye paper didn’t touch the Vilene, and I just ended up with a pile of sunflower seeds that were blue on one side!)

As expected, sunflower seeds prevented the blue dye from reaching the Vilene, so the area around them remained red. More unexpectedly, the red areas seemed to be linked, so they look a bit like a matrix of neurons. The seeds also left small indentations, adding texture as well.

The final stage was to score two circles into the Vilene on different sides, fold along the scores and stitch the edges together to form a bowl.

Finished bowl - inside
Finished bowl - outside

It was a bit tricky trying to sew the bowl together with the folds – as you can see from the picture above, the stitching isn’t quite straight! But I made a better job of the second bowl (below), which I dyed re-using the blue dye paper from the first bowl, to get a positive print where the sunflower seeds had been rather than a negative print.

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Flextiles uses shibori, ecoprinting and felting to create original, one-off upcycled pieces. Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

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