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Welcome to my blog. You can read about my adventures in different types of needlework, and I also offer some free
cross stitch patterns. Please, come back often. :)

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PLEASE, NOTE: The designs on this site are copyrighted to Agnes Palko. They are for your personal use only. They may not be distributed or reproduced without permission.
If you wish to use my patterns to stitch for charity, please, let me know.

29/07/2016

Dyeing fabric with plants - the results


Slow dyeing with plants

Last time I showed you some jars on my balcony. I experimented with spices from the kitchen as fabric dyes. A few days after I also collected some flowers and made more experiments. I used some garden flowers and also picked two wild plants, both yellow because they grow just outside my door. :D
For mordant I used alum. It was either put in the jas with the fabric and the dye material, as in the case of spices. Or I used fabric that had been cooked in water with alum for about an hour, then dried. I mostly used white cotton fabric, but also a piece of green linen. I also added some embroidery thread to some of the jars: in ecru, beige and soft lavender colours. Don't know the numbers, these were some threads I inherited after my aunt, and have no idea what they are. I read somewhere that you can change the original colours of the thread to something more soft, muted.

I had guests last week and we were travelling round a bit so I had no time to look at my experiments. The spices were outside for 17 days, the plants for 15 days. During this time there was some very hot weather, 25-28 degrees, lots of sun, and some not so warm, not so much sun. Swedish summer :D This is what I mean when I say slow dyeing: not putting and cooking the fabric in the dye, but leave it in it for a few days or weeks.

Here is the description of each piece. The colours in the photos are mostly true, except one or two faint ones. I write the English name of the plant (except the roses and peonies collected from my neighbour's garden), then in brackets you can find the Latin, the Swedish and the Hungarian name, too.



Lady's bedstraw, or yellow bedstraw (Galium verum, gulmåra, tejoltófű vagy tejoltó galaj)


It was put in the freezer for a few days. Then I cooked it in water, together with the stems, for an hour. (It would have been impossible to separate the flowers from the stem after being frozen. Might want to try again, and separate them before freezing.) Took out the plants and poured the liquid on some fabric (alum) in a jar. It was outside for 15 days. Nice light green color. Love it.





Garden or yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris, videört/strandlysning, közönséges lizinka)


"Tea"-method: put the flower heads in a jar, poured hot water on them, added the fabric. Almost no colour, only a very faint yellowish tint.



Roll-up method: the fabric had been cooked in alum. I wetted it, and put only the flower heads on the right side piece, and the flower together with the stems and leaves on the left side piece. Rolled them up, put them in a plastic bag. They were outside for 15 days.

I used a piece of twig for rolling up, which might have affected the colour, because the bark usually contains tannin. Should have made one with and one without, to see if it makes any difference. :/









Peonies (dark pink): A piece of fabric that had been cooked in alum. I wetted the fabric, put peony petals on it, and rolled it up. It was outside in a plastic bag for 15 days.


This is what it looks like after washing - on the right side.
The left side piece was made with peony petals that were frozen for a few days, then I poured hot water over them in a jar ("tea" method). The fabric had been washed in alum. I rolled up the fabric unevenly, hence the marble effect. I quite like it.




Roses (red): A piece of fabric that had been cooked in alum. I wetted the fabric, put rose petals on it, and rolled it up. It was outside in a plastic bag for 15 days. I was surprised to see how dark the marks are: dark brown, almost black. I want to try again for a shorter time, perhaps then I can get some rose or reddish colour.





After washing, this is how it looks: the fabric on the right side. Not pretty. :(

The left side piece was made with rose petals that were frozen for a few days, then I poured warm water over them in a jar. The fabric had been washed in alum. It became a sort of beige colour, quite nice but unexpected.



Spices:

1 tsp alum, 1 tsp paprika powder, 5 dl hot water, 17 days

Almost no colour. Very faint orange on the white pieces, nothing noticable on the green linen.



In Hungary our most common dish, the pörkölt - a stew - is made with paprika. The cookbook says that you should put the paprika in hot oil because that's how the colour is activated. I also know from experience that it is very difficult to wash out stains from tablecloths after a pörkölt dinner. I though I might try this version, too.

I heated up 2 tablespoons oil, took it off the heat and added 2 teaspoons paprika. Then added 5 dl water and 1 tsp alum. Added the fabric folded and rolled up. It stood outside in a jar for 17 days. It worked, the colour is strong, but it did not penetrate the fabric, only reached the parts that were on the outside after folding. Even though I shook it a few times. Love it! But need to wash it some more, after washing it twice (once in dishwashing liquid, once in detergent) it is still a bit oily to the touch. (I am planning to do the same with tomatoes. Have you tried washing spaghetti sauce out of your clothes?)



1,5 tsp alum, 2 tsp turmeric, 7 dl water, 17 days outside in a jar

Lovely bright yellow. The threads also dyed.





1,5 tsp alum, 4 tsp turmeric, 7 dl water, a few metal caps

Love the colour, a bit stronger than the one with less turmeric, but I can see no difference from the metal caps. They were probably aluminum, apparently that does not work. Iron or copper is supposed to change the colour.
It also dyed the green linen!




1,5 tsp alum, 7 dl water, put the rolled up fabric in it, then added yellow onion skins on the top. This one I did not shake, I was curious to see how far the colour will reach. That's why most of the fabric is not dyed, but I like it. It is a beautiful light, soft yellow.



I am quite happy with my experiments. I definitely want to continue, the only problem is I only have one week left of the summer holidays. We will see how much time I can find after that.

The most difficult thing was to keep track of each jar and plastic bag. I wrote on them but the permanent marker has disappeared from quite a few of them. Luckily I wrote in my notes which jar contained which. But it was quite an organising task not to confuse them while washing and photographing. :)


If anyone would like to join me in experimenting, please do so, it would be even more fun. I will be back with more soon. Until then


happy stitching - and happy experimenting.

15/07/2016

Spirit cloth - Serendipity I is done

I have finished it. I have to admit that I love it.



I have started the next one, haven't taken any pictures yet, but will be back soon with some. I am also experimenting with natural dyes. I have read Eco Colour by India Flint, and there is also a bit about plant dyes in my newest favourite book, Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesly Smith.


These jars contain some alum and spices, like turmeric and paprika, in different combinations. I have also picked some flowers, both wild and garden flowers (asked my landlady for the withered petals from her rose and peonybushes). Put them in the freezer for a few days, then did a few variations, e.g. used some as "tea" (poured hot water over the petals), some I simmered for about an hour before putting in the fabric, some I just put in some warm water and will let them sit for a long time, some I rolled up in a piece of fabric and put them in a ziplock bag... They are outside, theoretically the sun should warm them and help with the process but this is Sweden, we don't see much of the sun. :(

I started a book with records of all the experiments, otherwise it is difficult to remember. I will report here those methods that work. Really curious but have to wait for a while to have some results.

I have also been sewing a lot lately but my sewing machine has been acting up, and this morning it gave up totally. I need to take it to the service. :( Annoying: not only do I have a huge pile of clothes to mend, I wanted to make new curtains, and I am also planning to do some more patchwork. Not to mention the cost of the repair... let's hope it won't be too bad.


09/07/2016

Spirit cloth - or where does it become art?

I consider myself very lucky that I could go and do a two-year textile teacher course at Umeå University. I needed the qualification, but I learnt more than what I am using in my job. I feel I managed to unleash some creativity, some freedom, som kind of courage in myself. Not fully, not yet, but I am on my way. :D

Since May, when the course was over, I have been planning to finally have lots of me-time in my crafts. Don't have to do any more homework. I have lots of sewing projects planned, clothes, bags and patchwork, but I was mostly looking forward to get into my most favourite of all crafts: embroidery. Even though I was working with it all this last term.

I have been looking at works, blogs, books by many textile artists and I have been accumulating inspiration. Then quite recently I found the concept of Spirit Cloth and a video course by Jude Hill, and I could wait no longer. I had to try my hand at it. Love the way Jude explains her work process, how she does not stress over things, how she builds up her pieces organically, almost randomly, with lots of improvisation. I thought this might be the right way for me.
I was also looking a lot at Karen Ruane, and Amy Meissner's Inheritance project ( I am even sending her some of my old fabric pieces for the project). I, too, love old fabrics and want to incorporate them in my work, want to give them new life.

So a few days ago I started, as if it was a lesson plan, by sewing three pieces of fabric together, like Jude says, in a landscape format. Then I sewed them on a very thin fabric. And old bit of linen, with the badly frayed edges became the bottom, a colour catcher that came out of the washing machine with this pretty peachy colour, forms the middle. The top part, the greenish-blue piece was originally my ironing cloth, which obtained the colour when I was trying to iron a pile of tie-dyed pieces. (They were done in my school in a science experiment and obviously the colour was not fixed because it all ended up on my iron and on my ironing cloth.)
I was really lucky with these colourful accidents, wasn't I?



After this, I added one element after the other. Old embroidery, doily, selvage from a nice fabric, a machine embroidered gauze fabric, leftover tulle pieces... a bunch of linen (or perhaps hemp) thread... lots of fraying edges... I was improvising. I added some figurative elements, like the birds and the flowers, but other parts are totally abstract. I used couching and applique.


I also added some embroidery stitches to enhance the shapes, but then I stopped myself thinking that I can continue with this when doing the "quilting". This is not going to be a real quilt, but it is three (or more) layers, and the backing fabric needs to be sewn together with the top layers. For backing I chose and old kitchen towel, looks like it might be hand woven. A bit thick, and a bit battered up, but it works well in giving the whole piece some stability.

I started the quilting, but not finished yet. I also started sewing down the "binding" - that is I just folded over the edge of the backing fabric. I left one side unsewn for the time being, in case the layers shift a bit in the quilting process.


You can see the quilting in the back, so far I was echoing the shapes on the front with matching thread - so the back will have different colours. But it's all right because most of them are muted and close to each other. Have I mentioned that I am also using some vintage thread? Bought them in a second-hand shop years ago. They are lovely to sew with, roughly the same thickness as 6-stranded floss, but 4 strands, and each ball is 40 meters. And I had an exact match for the linen and the peach fabric. I wish I had more colours.



I am enjoying the process. This took me about 4 days (not doing this all day, of course) so it is not so slow as one might think, considering it is all done by hand. But I am a bit unsure. My long term dream is to create textile art of my own. But I was reasoning like this: if I am waiting to become an artist before I start making things, it will never happen. It is better to get started, even if I am using methods learnt from others, even if I am not all that very original in my theme (like birds flying in the blue sky :P ) and just keep going. Sooner or later perhaps I will develop my own style, my own technique, my own little textile world.

This is the question that perplexes me. When does a piece of work become art? When does it become all mine - even if I am using motifs, like birds and flowers, that others also do? Will I know? Or is the doubt always part of it?

Anyway, I am going to be bold and name the piece. A piece of art (original or not, good or not) should have a title. So this is going to be Serendipity I. (The number indicates that there are more coming.)

If anyone has the answer to my questions, please don't hesitate to share :D

Happy stitching, everyone.











03/07/2016

Fox cross stitch pattern - and summer holiday



As you know, I am a teacher. That means that for more than a week I have been enjoying my summer holidays now. After a few days not doing basically anything, ans celebrating midsummer, I started cleaning my little flat. I have lots of pain in my back that means that I can only do any physical activity for 30-40 minutes maximum, then I have to sit down and relax. So while the cleaning goes on very slowly, I also sew and read a lot. I have also set myself some goals for this summer, like drawing and trying to live a healthier life. Not much success yet on these fronts, but going slowly.

Cleaning the flat mostly means organising. During the spring I spent lots of time stitching for university, but I was quite stressed with time. I was also working full time, I was not feeling well, had lots of pain, had an operation, didn't sleep much - the result is a horrible messy place. And since my flat is really small, it became kind of impossible by the end of the term.

So far I managed to sort out most of my fabrics and yarn, clean the bedroom, most of the hall and most of the living room. (The kitchen and the bathroom I had managed to keep more or less OK, thank God. I should go through drawers and cupboards there, too, but that is not so urgent.) The main problem is, of course, finding place for all my craft supplies. I still have lots to do, but mostly small things.

Yesterday, while trying to fit all my yarn in containers and vacuum bags, I sorted out my old and broken knitting basket. I bought it a few years ago in a loppis, that is a typical Swedish second-hand shop. You can find them all over the place, often in the countryside, in small sheds or in barns. I love hunting for treasures in them. I should stop, because I have no place for any more stuff, but I just love it. :) And it is enviromnment-friendly to recycle old things, right?

This basket was full of wool yarn that I wanted to buy, and got the basket itself in the bargain. Unfortunately it had lots of broken parts and my yarn got always caught on them. I found a piece of thick canvas fabric in my stash (also from a loppis), and made a lining for the basket. I am very happy with it. The leftover small pieces were just enough for another smaller basket.








Now both of them are full with yarn and UFOs, and these are just the ones I am planning to work on soon. I will write a post about my knitting soon. Watch this place.


Another thing I do when I get tired is sit down with my computer and draw in my cross stitch program. The felt fox pattern I shared the other day was so popular, had lots of views in just a few days, so I thought I could draw the same little fox in cross stitch. Even though there are lots of fox patterns on the net, there might be some who like this one.

Here it is, click on the picture to get the pdf.




Happy stitching.


Fox cross stitch pattern - and summer holiday



As you know, I am a teacher. That means that for more than a week I have been enjoying my summer holidays now. After a few days not doing basically anything - apart from celebrating midsummer - I started cleaning my little flat. I have lots of pain in my back that means that I can only do any physical activity for 30-40 minutes maximum, then I have to sit down and relax. So while the cleaning goes on very slowly, I also sew and read a lot. I have also set myself some goals for this summer, like drawing and trying to live a healthier life. Not much success yet on these fronts, but going slowly.

Cleaning the flat mostly means organising. During the spring I spent lots of time stitching for university, but I was quite stressed with time. I was also working full time, I was not feeling well, had lots of pain, had an operation, didn't sleep much - the result is a horrible messy place. And since my flat is really small, it became kind of impossible by the end of the term.

So far I managed to sort out most of my fabrics and yarn, clean the bedroom, most of the hall and most of the living room. (The kitchen and the bathroom I had managed to keep more or less OK, thank God. I should go through drawers and cupboards there, too, but that is not so urgent.) The main problem is, of course, finding place for all my craft supplies. I still have lots to do, but mostly small things.

Yesterday, while trying to fit all my yarn in containers and vacuum bags, I sorted out my old and broken knitting basket. I bought it a few years ago in a loppis, that is a typical Swedish second-hand shop. You can find them all over the place, often in the countryside, in small sheds or in barns. I love hunting for treasures in them. I should stop, because I have no place for any more stuff, but I just love it. :) And it is enviromnment-friendly to recycle old things, right?

This basket was full of wool yarn that I wanted to buy, and got the basket itself in the bargain. Unfortunately it had lots of broken parts and my yarn got always caught on them. I found a piece of thick canvas fabric in my stash (also from a loppis), and made a lining for the basket. I am very happy with it. The leftover small pieces were just enough for another smaller basket.








Now both of them are full with yarn and UFOs, and these are just the ones I am planning to work on soon. I will write a post about my knitting soon. Watch this place.


Another thing I do when I get tired is sit down with my computer and draw in my cross stitch program. The felt fox pattern I shared the other day was so popular, had lots of views in just a few days, so I thought I could draw the same little fox in cross stitch. Even though there are lots of fox patterns on the net, there might be some who like this one.

Here it is, click on the picture to get the pdf.




Happy stitching.


29/06/2016

Felt fox softie - a tutorial

I posted some pictures of my foxes on Facebook, and a friend asked where I got the pattern. I made it myself, so I promised her to share it. Then I thought I might just as well share it here on the blog with everyone.



Here is the pattern. This is half an A4 page (A5, I think). As you can see on the measuring tape that I put next to it, the fox is about 9 cm (3,5") big. I am sorry I cannot help with how you should print it out to have the right size, I don't have a printer at home so I cannot try it. But if someone can figure it out, please let me - and the other readers - know. On the other hand, it does not matter too much if the final size is a bit bigger or smaller.




If you are planning to make more than one, it is better to copy the pattern on a piece of cardboard, otherwise just normal printing paper works. I usually pin the pattern to the felt, and cut next to it, to avoid having to draw on the felt itself.

Cut the fox shape out of orange felt, you will need 2 pieces. Then cut the small details from white felt: two pieces for the face, one for the tummy and two for the tail.


I usually sew the face and the tail on with white thread, and very small running stitch. The tummy I often decorate with a tiny embroidery, then sew on with blanket stitch. On these examples I used orange thread, but sometimes I just use all kinds of colours. I often use small left-over thread pieces for these projects.

You don't need to sew the details all around, only those sides that will not be sewn with the final blanket stitch. Like this:



Finish the face: use black thread to embroider the eyes and the nose.

The back side of the fox only gets one detail: the tail.

Then sew the front and back together with small blanket stitch. It is good to start in the curve between the tail and the body, and sew the tail first, and stuff it as you go. It will be difficult to stuff it later. I usually stuff the tail really hard, otherwise it does not look very nice. I also add a cord on the top of the head, but that is optional.

Here is a picture of how I make them in an assembly-line.


I hope you like this tutorial. Let me know if something is not clear.

Happy stitching.
















24/06/2016

Glad midsommar - free summer wreath pattern

Today in Sweden we celebrate midsommar, that is Midsummer. It is common that girls wear a wreath made of wild flowers.

To honour this tradition, I created a summer wreath pattern. Enjoy, and happy Midsummer to all.