Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Birch Bark Faux Finish Tutorial

If you can believe it, it's near impossible to find a birch bark tutorial online. Yes, I was going to be lazy and look for one because I didn't have a lot of time or resources to spend experimenting. There were a few, but not with the end result I was going for, so I ended up coming up with my own. Which, I'm happy to say, I'm pretty pleased with.

You need:

An item to turn into "birch" -I used wooden purse handles
white flat acrylic gesso
black acrylic paint
brown acrylic paint
white school glue

(note I will be adding pictures)

1) Paint your item black. If you are starting with plain unfinished wood you don't need to be overly thorough with this, it can be a little sloppy. Allow paint to dry.

2. Paint item with a thick coat of school glue. Allow the glue to dry slightly so it's not overly goopy.

3. Dab your brush with white gesso and a bit of black and paint across your item in long strokes without overlapping as much as you can. This will create a nice cracking. If you want less of a crackled look go ahead and overlap a bit more. Try to apply it in a bark like effect (parallel horizontal stripes). Allow to dry (you can carefully use a heat gun to speed this up).

4. Add a very small amount of brown paint on your brush-wipe most of it off and using a dry brush technique, add a little brown over the white. This gives a cream color with a bit of brown. Allow to dry.

5. Highlight some areas where you want smooth unblemished white bark. Allow to dry.

6. Cover with a protective sealer.

7. If you want a more matte finish spray the sealed piece with a coat of matte clear coat.

Now you've got a birch look without flaying some poor tree!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Natural Dye Lab 1 - Creating Dark Brown/ Black from Acorns

I love using nature to create my different types of artwork. Of course I could go to the store and buy a box of Rit dye, but where is the fun in that?  I'm going to show you how you can make a gorgeous brown dye from acorns and a few household items.

You need:
50-100 acorns
white vinegar
steel wool
cheesecloth for straining
gloves or you'll get dark brown fingernails (like I got :P )

I have a project I'm working on that requires a very dark brown, almost black dye so I first need to have a mixture of rusty vinegar. For best results make this up a few days before you need it.  You can measure about 2 cups of white vinegar and place about a cotton ball sized piece of steel wool. Let this sit for a few days until a rusty color begins to develop.

Next gather about 50-100 acorns. I used live oak acorns which are a gorgeous dark brown.
As you can see I've included some green acorns and some turkey oak acorns. I don't believe it really matters how dark or light the acorns are.  Put them in a pot and cover with water, then bring to a boil. Keep an eye on the pot, you may need to add more water if it gets low. The water will turn a very dark brown, a little darker than coffee. 

I added a strip of muslin to the  mix to see how dark it was getting.  When it turned a deep caramel shade quickly I felt it was ready to strain. The acorns release a powder, which if you use unstrained  it can add a mottled effect which may not be desired.  Strain with dampened cheesecloth (I used coffee filters).

For items that you want a nice nut brown: place in the "vat" of the strained acorn "juice" until you get the shade you desire.  The longer you leave it the darker it gets.  The heat setting process will depend on what you are dying.  For silk chiffon, removed the cloth from the dye bath and gently squeezed most of the liquid out and placed in a microwave safe bowl. I heated it in the microwave for 30 seconds, checked the fabric and then nuked it for another 30 seconds. I did this because I wanted to try and preserve as much of the dark color as I could.  It is not necessary to do this.

I had separated my brown dye into 2 containers, 1 to remain brown, the other to take one step further.  *Note this step does cause a chemical reaction so it is best to do in a well-ventilated area away from small children.  I added some of the "rusty water" to the 2nd container of brown dye. Almost instantly you can see it turning black.  It does bubble a bit so be careful not to add too much at once.  This becomes a very dark blackish dye. For quick dyeing you will get a gray shade, for darker colors leave longer.

These dyes can be used for a variety of natural items: bone or shell beads, quills,leather, gourds, fibers, wool, silk, cotton, rayon. They will not be as effective on man-made materials.

After dyeing I rinsed my silk until the water stayed clean. Then I hung it up to dry.

The silk scarf was first dyed in the "black" then I went back and gave it a dip in the "brown". It is a very deep chocolate shade.

The above sample pieces are wool, and two strips of muslin. These were dipped very quickly (less than 30 seconds) and maintained this shade of brown.

So imagine how fun it would be on your next Etsy listing, to say "I dyed this______ myself, with dyes extracted from real acorns!".  Definitely a plus for any acorn loving prospective buyer!

Stay tuned for the next Natural Dye Lab experiment! Will be researching a way to create my favorite green!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hello October

'Hello October!' by rebornasart

My favorite month!

SALE Bauble Cowl Ne...

Fall Leaf Beach/Sum...

5X7 Art Print - Lov...

Wise Owl Felted Goa...

Autumn Tree 6x6 ori...

Set of 4 vintage mu...

Hand Sewn Notebook ...

Autumn harvest... ...

Felt Owl Cozy for i...

Misty Morning Weddi...

Upcycled Recycled D...

Tweed and leather p...

Golden Bird Earring...

Mushi Recycled Leat...

Gumballs, Bakelite ...

petal coat rack

I love October! In Florida it's when we usually get our first taste of fall. It's not cold, mind you, but cooler, and the light is softer.  Although I'm a Florida native, my ancestry is pretty much Scottish, English, and Irish with a touch of German thrown in, basically cold weather types of people.  I think it's so deeply rooted that even  all these generations away I still long for woolen knits, changing leaves, and log fires.

As I made my Friday treasury on Etsy I decided to celebrate the beginning of my favorite month with a collection of beautiful items:

Nastershum's scarf, adorably modeled by this little one, perfectly sets the mood. The colors have inspired me.
Fosterbk's  photo of a leaf on a sandy beach absolutely glows with warmth, capturing that autumn light.
Twopoodleprints modern leaf print has a softer palette which softens the brightness of the collection a bit, the statement "love" captures my sentiment completely.
Engelfelt's  owl has been a favorite of mine. I love the shade of gold in his eyes. Owls become more active around here in the fall, even last night I heard several hooting to each other.
RedTileStudios has so many beautiful bits of fall inspired art. It was really hard to pick just one.  I'm in love with this beautiful tree.
BirdTrouble's coasters are simple and elegant. I love pieces that have a story behind them.  The colors are absolutely perfect.
WeeBindery's little books hold so much magic for me.  They are exquisitely made and come in so many beautiful colors. I love the warm honey shade of this one!
LeapingGazelle's photos have this beautiful dreamlike quality to them, I especially love way they have a vintage appearance.
FrauleinSchmidt's adorable owl iphone cozy is so whimsical yet functional. I love the muted yellow and gray and the wink is the perfect touch!
Krissy167's gorgeous bouquets really make me wish that Etsy was around when I was getting married. They are so elegant.  This color scheme is unusual and stunning!
ljbe's whimsical art pieces and upcycled jewelry have long been favorites of mine. She creates pieces that touch a part of your heart.
Yellowbugboutique has a pillow for every occasion, including the beginning of October. She has a knack for creating fun and whimsical pillows that can suit any mood!
TheApple can always be counted on for fun and quirky jewelry! These adorable little birds just had that perfect autumn glow.
Mainichi's pin completely drew me in with the soft, yet striking composition. Of course I'm always excited about upcycled pieces and this one has such a modern look.
PetitOiseau's gumball necklace has such clean modern look, yet has been made from vintage bakelite beads.  Simple, elegant, and with that amazing pop of gold.
thecrosbie's petal coat rack, is would be a beautiful addition to any home with it's warm, soft palette.

Every single piece in this treasury says "Hello October" to me and has completely brightened my day!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Give a Hoot About Old Sweaters!

Here is my newest little creation:

He started life as a wool sweater that I found at my local Goodwill Shop Thrift Shop.  If you have ever accidently washed a wool sweater in hot water, you've probably made felt! Once a sweater has been felted, it won't unravel if you cut it, and it has this incredible strength (after all, it IS hair).  For best results try to find a fabric that is 70% natural animal hair. I say "animal hair" because you can felt cashmere, angora, and alpaca as well.  One thing, however, don't put in more than one sweater at a time unless they are like colors or weave.  The fuzz transfer is unbearable!

I have only just begun experimenting with this fun recycled fabric. You can make so many neat things with it including slippers, toys, pillows, coats for children, the options are really endless!