Craft a wall hanging for your friends or family!
I try to keep gifts handmade as much as possible, but I always fall short of my ambitious gift-giving goals due to lack of time. Fortunately, here's a handmade gift idea that doesn't take much longer than an afternoon.
Make your own work of art using any dye method - stitch resist shibori, batik, marbled, there are endless possibilities.
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What you need - a 25 inch square of fabric (cotton, linen, or muslin works well - I used a linen/cotton blend), dowel rod or curtain rod measuring 25 inches or thereabouts, and some braided cord measuring around 30 inches. You can change the size to your liking. Also - fabric dye, smooth river rocks (you can find them at a home improvement store if there are no rivers handy), and rubber bands.
If you'd rather buy a pre-made wall hanging to save on time, Dharma Trading Company sells inexpensive wall hangings for all your dyeing needs.
Take your dowel rod and saw two small half-inch slits into each side to slip the cord through. Knot your cord on each end so it slips through the dowel ends and remains secure. You can also tie the ropes to the ends of the dowel rod if you have something to stop the rope from slipping off, for example end-balls like the ones Dharma Trading Co. offers.
Measure your rod's width and sew a casing at the top of the square of fabric to slip the rod through. Then, trim the edges of your fabric with pinking shears (or serge the edges) to prevent fraying while in the wash. You can also neatly finish the edges by sewing a simple rolled hem.
I used a kumo shibori technique in dyeing my hanging, which involves binding small rocks into the fabric with rubber bands. It's simple - take river rocks (look for smooth rocks, as jagged rocks can create holes in the fabric) and one at a time, fold fabric around the rock and enclose it with a rubber band. I covered my whole hanging with rocks, which creates a circular pattern throughout.
Dye your fabric. I dyed mine in alkanet, a process that involves several steps with mordanting, soaking the alkanet roots prior to dyeing, etc., but you can easily use another dye that requires less steps (I suggest indigo, it's fun and fast). After soaking the alkanet roots in vodka for two days and letting the fabric rest in the dye solution overnight, the dye produced a lavender hue on the linen cotton blend. I also dyed silk crepe de chine in the same dyebath, and it turned a dark maroon hue.
Once your fabric is dyed, rinse it in cold water, wash it with textile detergent, then dry and iron out. Clip any fraying ends and hang.