Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Making Natural Playdough

We ran out of the store-bought playdough and decided to make our own. After reading through a variety of tutorials online, we settled with the following recipe...and it worked!

1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (you can get this at www.griffindyeworks.com)

Mix together in a pot over medium heat and stir constantly until it thickens up.

Now...regarding color and smell.

We added 1 teaspoon turmeric powder to the first batch and it came out a gorgeous, mustard-gold yellow! Ricky had the idea of adding lemon essential oil to it to make it smell good. The key is to add the essential oil towards the end of the stirring so that it doesn't disappear from too much heat.

Our next batch was supposed to be lavender or pink, so we added some leftover dye water from Brazilwood and logwood. Hmm....looks kind of tan and bland. Tried adding some copper granuals which started to blue it up, but the mixture was too hard. Also, it smelled funny! So, we tossed the second batch and decided that we loved the first batch so much, we didn't need a second color. We are going to do some more research about using natural plant extracts for dyeing playdough before make more.

Joey and Wilson got out some cookie cutters and played "Restaurant" with Mommy, making all sorts of pretend yummy things out of the playdough. We are storing the playdough in a Tupperware container and we've read that it's important to keep playing with it regularly to keep it soft. I don't think we can ever go back to store-bought playdough.

Let us know if you have experience adding natural colors and scents to your playdough!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dyeing Felt and Silk Velvet

We've been a bit obsessed with natural dyeing lately...way too much fun! As we said in an earlier post, you never really know what colors you will get until you dye them.

Silk velvet generally absorbs dyes differently than other types of silk. Here are some of our little velvet purses that we dyed this past week. They are terrific for coins, shells, pearls, tooth fairy items, or even as an adult make-up bag or accessory. Joey likes the fuschia one!

Light blue = blueberries
Fuschia = copper, Brazilwood
Lemon yellow = safflowers
Peach blossom = madder root
Mustard = copper, turmeric
Mushroom taupe = walnut hulls

Finding high-quality felt is not easy! We found a farm that mills their own organic wool felt and it's SO thick (at least 1/4 in.) and beautiful. Hmmm...maybe a storyboard, or the base or background of a nature table, or a crown? We naturally dyed 18 x 18 in. pieces.

Earth Goddess = part walnut hulls, part copper/turmeric (this once could be the background of a scene!)
Peach/pink = safflowers
Sunshine yellow = turmeric
Lavender/burgundy = copper, Brazilwood

All items are available in our Etsy shop right now. We can't decide if it's more fun to dye up the items or use them!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Genista Caterpillars & Scotch Broom Plant

Genista caterpillar (Uresiphita reversalis) Pyralid Moth feeding on Scotch Broom

While trimming vines and bushes the other day in the yard, the kids noticed that one of the bushes was covered with caterpillars!

We weren't sure what type of caterpillars they were, so we found out the type of plant...Scotch broom. It grows wild throughout California, and it's a plant that we've used for dyeing. Then, we did some research to find out what caterpillars like to eat broom and ended up learning about the genista caterpillar.

Some websites claim that the genista is a "pest" and can defoliate complete bushes and trees in some parts of the US. After observing the caterpillars for a week, we realized that to us, they are not a pest, and although they have been hungrily munching away at the leaves, the bush still has a lot of leaves.

Now, the caterpillars are moving slowly and they have made some interesting-looking webs. We will continue to watch them, hoping to catch the final phase when they become moths! A wonderful person on flickr.com who had pictures of genista told us that the moths will come out of the cocoons at night.

We decided to wait and trim the bush once the caterpillars have become moths. Then, we will take the timmed branches and dye with them, as broom makes a lovely green-yellow color for our handspun yarns!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Carding Fiber Batts

Handcarding is a great experience for kids...easy, colorful, tactile and fun!

Phoenix Batt Carded by Wilson (available in our Etsy shop)

Making our own fiber batts is something that we do when we want to spin up crazy yarns, or sell them online or at shows. We also have demonstrated how to card and spin in classrooms and at conferences.

Mommy demonstrating carding to a 4th grade class at Rail Ranch Elementary in Murrieta, CA when she was the school principal -- kids loved watching the drum carder in action!

Sometimes we give them interesting names, like "Arsenic", "Phoenix", or "Hamadryad".
"Hamadryad" "Phoenix"

Once in a while, we needlefelt or wet felt with our batts.
Joey carded a batt and then needlefelted hearts for Valentine's Day pins
Joey and Mommy went to Camp Pluckyfluff a few years back and learned how to card up crazy batts, full of all sorts of fibers!

Crazy batt made by Joey at Camp Pluckyfluff -- this became a crazy yarn, and then was crocheted into a crazy scarf!
Wilson likes the tiny hand carders! He sometimes tries the larger hand carders, but they are heavy.

All of us take turns using the Fancy Kitty, hand-crank drum carder.
Joey's batts for wet felting a scarf, spinning into yarn then crocheting a Think Pink scarf donation, and spinning into a sparkle rainbow fairy yarn that sold on Etsy
If you would like to get started carding, buy some basic wool fiber from a local farm, yarn shop, or online. Practice with hand carders and then consider purchasing a drum carder. The objective is to pull the fibers apart, combing them into one direction that will be easy to pull apart and spin on a spindle or spinning wheel. Take a lesson on how to do this, or find a fiber artist to observe carding. Play around with combining colors, dyeing your own fiber before carding, or carding a variety of fibers (tencel, bamboo, tinsel, etc.). If you want to get into the business of selling batts, you can even get an electric carder! Maybe we'll get one of those someday....
"Mercury" by Ricky Wilson made this batt and is spinning it on his spindle

Monday, July 20, 2009

Natural Dyeing

Brazilwood, copper, blueberries, turmeric, broom, onion skins, madder root, logwood...Summer is such a wonderful time to do natural dyeing...everything dries quickly in the sun and it's a great activity to do outside (if you have the right equipment...camp stove, large pots...).

Here are some of our latest dyeing projects. In our opinion, the best natural dyeing supplies and info. come from Griffin Dyeworks.

We are learning that depending on the weather, the fabric, the water, and the batch of natural dye, colors can vary! For instance, dyeing with frozen blueberries works better for us than fresh blueberries, but sometimes turns more blue/gray than lavender. Very pretty, either way. Brazilwood might turn cotton peach, silk ribbon pink or burgundy, and velvet fuschia!

No matter what, dyeing with natural ingredients is always fun and easy to do as a family. Waiting to see what color appears is part of the fun!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Is....

Playing "castle" using boxes leftover from moving, naturally dyed play silks, crowns and a dragon puppet...

Gardening -- weeding, trimming, planting, harvesting...

Lessons -- fencing, guitar, clarinet, gymnastics, dance, sewing...

Camp -- computer, aquatics, Waldorf, Girl Scouts...

Learning to ride bikes at home, then by the river...

Baking -- bread, zucchini bread, muffins from scratch...

Visiting relatives...

Participating in a fairy and a nature table swap...

Enjoying our new home....