Latest batch of upcycled scarves

Increasingly I’m sourcing more of my scarves from charity shops, vintage markets and car boot sales.

I love the thrill of the hunt, and there’s a real sense of achievement in taking a slightly tired cast-off, cleaning it, and transforming it back into a desirable item by stitching, clamping or wrapping it in the indigo vat. And it feels more sustainable than ordering cheap silk scarves from China.

So here’s a sneak preview of my latest transformations. First, a couple of raw silk scarves.

upcycled scarf2 upcycled scarf6

This was a multicoloured silk scarf that was a little gaudy for my taste, so I thought I would try to tone it down with some arashi shibori. I think the jury is still out on whether I succeeded. 😉

upcycled scarf5

And with winter fast approaching, I’m starting to work on thicker scarves. This one is a mix of wool and silk.

upcycled scarf1

And this is a knitted cashmere scarf with ori-nui shibori.

upcycled scarf3 upcycled scarf4

Ironically, we seem to be having another hot spell, but I’m sure that will soon change!

More shibori paper

I’ve been doing some more experiments with shibori paper. This time I used a much heavier paper. I’m not exactly sure what weight it is, but it’s thick enough not to buckle when it gets wet.

First I tried wrapping pleated fabric on top. The example below was cotton poplin. It wasn’t very successful, partly because the length of the fabric meant I had to make the pleats quite large to fit it on the pole.  (You can see that it worked better on the left-hand side, where the pleats were narrower with more space between them.) I also thought that the weave might have been too close to allow much indigo to reach the paper beneath.

So next I tried a finer cotton muslin, with narrower pleats. This was more successful

Then I wondered whether I needed to use fabric at all – whether I could dip the paper directly into the indigo vat. So I went back to binding, dipping and rebinding with paper only.

I found that even with quite a concentrated vat, the first couple of layers are very pale, and it’s difficult to brush of the foam (hana) without rubbing off the indigo. But with repeated dipping, I achieved quite satisfactory results.

Finally, here’s a tiny stitched sample (on fabric) that was inspired by the markings on a whale shark. Could be the start of a (much) bigger project!

Shibori paper

I’ve blogged previously about the marks left on masking tape when it’s used as a resist for shibori dyeing.

When I was at Cally’s summer school, I sometimes taped bits of paper onto the arashi tubes to prevent old indigo stains from marking the clean fabric. When removing the fabric after dyeing, I was again struck by the patterns left on the paper and tape, some of which I collected for my sketchbook:

So I taped a whole sheet of paper to an arashi pole before securing the fabric on top, wrapping and dipping. I used indigo vats of two different concentrations, and added extra wrapping between dips. I didn’t scrunch the fabric.

Here are the results on the fabric and the paper, side by side, with the fabric on the left and the paper on the right:

Obviously, the paper is paler, as the fabric on top acted as a resist. But it also has some interesting crinkle marks, which are quite mokune-like.

I think there is plenty of scope for more experiments here, with different fabrics and papers. However, if I want to make larger pieces in this way without pleating or scrunching the fabric, I definitely need some deeper vats and fatter pipes!

Electrical cable duct arashi


Last year, when Brixton Windmill was being restored, I salvaged a ridged plastic pipe that was left over from electrical cable ducting. I thought it might be interesting to use it to create some arashi shibori.

So this week I washed it down, pressed some cotton poplin into irregular triangular pleats, and wrapped it around the pipe.  The ridges made it very easy to keep the string in place, though of course I couldn’t vary the distance between the wraps.

And although the height of the fabric was considerably shortened by the ridges, the vat still wasn’t quite deep enough, so I had to tilt it slightly and roll the pipe from side to side while dipping to ensure all the fabric was dyed.

Here’s the result.


The frog is still watching with interest.

Summer school report

The full summer school ran for five days, but I could only attend three, as I had to get back to London to pack up my Morley exhibition on Friday morning. So it was pretty intensive, and I ended up stitching frantically at my godmother’s house in the evenings as well!

The first day we made up the vat in the greenhouse and then returned to the studio, where we were introduced to the infamous Cally knot, which is very quick to do and a great way to avoid your thread slipping through the fabric when you pull up! We worked on binding, using mung beans and bits of tubing, and stitching. Cally’s stencils came in very handy here. As I’ve previously stitched circles, I had a go at the chain pattern.

We didn’t actually start dipping until the second day. Cally leaves pieces to oxidise much longer between dips than I have been used to – ideally until they dry out completely, or at least for several hours, turning them regularly. However, in a workshop this is clearly not possible, so we usually left them for 15-30 minutes, or overnight. Then after several dips, she leaves the work to dry completely before washing out. Then it dries again before you untie or unbind. Of course, it can be frustrating when you just want to see the final results, but she says that this process makes the indigo more fast and gives a better depth and evenness of colour.

On the second day we moved onto itajime and I also wrapped a stitched piece I’d done on an arashi pole. So it wasn’t until the third day that we started actually seeing the results of our labours. It was a real shame I had to leave early, as I felt I was just getting into my stride – but I certainly left buzzing with ideas for combining different techniques and fabrics!

It also meant that my godmother never got to see any of the finished pieces, as I returned to London directly after the course on Thursday! So Maria – this post is specially for you. 🙂

This is my attempt at a stitched chain pattern – not a patch on the beautiful version that Cally had on display (see last post).

I also made a piece by stitching straight lines, pulling up, then wrapping it around an arashi pole:


On the third day I experimented with pleating the fabric before wrapping it on the arashi pole. The results from this were probably my favourites, and this is something I want to explore further at home, possibly in combination with stitching. However, I will need a deeper vat!

As the day went on, the washing line gradually filled with more and more interesting pieces – here are some lovely stitched pieces by Isabelle (centre) and Marilyn (right), and a clamped piece by Jennifer (left) that she described as “a kitchen floor”!

And a great piece by Marilyn (below) combining itajime and stitch on silk muslin:

Marilyn makes wedding dresses for her day job and brought with her a whole box of silk offcuts. Some of these were in different colours, and it was very interesting to see how the indigo dyed these. By using different resists, such as plastic, and dipping into the different strength vats, she achieved some interesting effects. You can see a piece of fuschia silk that she dyed using binding and stitch in the photo below:

I also have to mention the food, which was plentiful and tasty, especially the afternoon cakes. And of course, it was served on a shibori tablecloth – even the plates fit the colour scheme!

Finally – my godmother’s front garden. It’s not blue and white, but it does contain some beautiful forms and colour combinations!