Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Beginning Weaving

The weft yarn (in green) crosses over
& under the warp yarn which is held
taut by a frame or loom.

Woven cloth is created by crossing two sets of yarns perpendicular to each other. One set of the yarns are called the warp and the other set, which crosses over and under, are the weft (see diagram). When the row of the weft is pushed up against the previous row a solid woven cloth is created. This is achieved with a comb on a basic loom, and with an integrated beater and reed on more sophisticated looms. 
This basic loom has a guide to keep the threads of the warp yarn
evenly spaced.  The comb is used as the beater.

The reed is a guide used to separate the warp threads and to beat them down once they are woven.  Pictured left is a reed from a rigid heddle loom which has a heddle combined with the reed.  The warp is threaded through the holes so that when the reed is lifted within the heddle block, the warp threads separate creating a space for the shuttle with its weft yarn to pass through.  This space is known as the shed and repositioning the heddle creates different shed and therefore different patterns in the weave.  

Table looms have a frame, from which the heddles are suspended. The warp is threaded through these heddles which are then attached to one of four shafts which can be lifted together, in pairs or indepently to create a shed for the weft yarn to pass through.  Additional shafts are added for for more complex patterning.

Simple weaves can be achieved using a tapestry frame and on the mini loom and are an economical method of learning the basics of how to create cloth for table runners, clothing accessories and soft furnishings.

The Schacht Mighty Wolf floor loom, this model incorporates
eight shfts operated by treadles which lift the heddles to
create the weaving shed for complex weaves
Visit the website to see the full range of weaving tools and yarns >

Friday, 25 March 2011

Tiny Polymer Clay Dolls for your Doll's House

Polymer clay body parts about to be baked
Sue Heaser's 1:12 scale Doll
Tiny body parts created from polymer clay and a Sue Heaser Doll Making Kit; these heads and arms are the beginnings of a 1:12 scale dolls house doll.

If you want to undertake a satisfying project which requires a number of creative skills, the Doll Making Kit is a great investment.  The kits contain enough polymer clay, pipe cleaners, wadding and hair to complete three dolls.  See how Allison got along with her first doll >

Inspiration for your doll is available from many different sources including blogs such as Eileen Sedgwick's and magazines like 'Dolls House and Miniature'.

Sue has dressed her completed doll in period costume and arranged her hair in an appropriate style.  The doll can equally have been styled in contemporary clothes bringing her into the 21st century.

Visit the website to see the range of Doll Making items available from George Weil >

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

3 Ways to Make Silk Paper

Silk Paper made from Silk Carrier Rods
1) Sericin 'Glue'

The simplest method is to use fibres which still contain the sticky sericin left over from the cocoon (see our previous post).

These fibres are placed in a thin layer on baking parchment and sprayed with water, dye or silk paint and a second sheet of baking parchment placed on top.  The sandwich is then ironed with a medium heat until the fibre is dry, then allowed to cool. This process re-activates the sericin so that it glues the fibres into a flat surface.

The example top right, shows a paper made from flattened silk carrier rods which have been brushed with Jacquard Pearl-ex Powder to create a glistening effect.

Silk Papers with Inclusions
2) Silk Paper Medium or CMC

These silk papers, right, have been made using hand-dyed silk fibres.  Skeleton leaves have been added to enhance the surface.  The purple and blue paper is made from strips of paper using the same technique.

The fibres are placed in perpendicular layers to each other on a piece of nylon mesh netting (the netting should be slightly larger than the finished piece) and a second piece of netting is placed on top to create a sandwich.

Using either Silk Paper Medium (an acrylic based binder) or CMC paste (a solution of water and methyl cellulose), the solution is poured onto the netting and then worked in with a sponge until it has penetrated the fibres. The top netting is removed and the fibres are left to dry.

The acrylic based Silk Paper Medium will produce a tougher paper with a water resistant surface and can be used to shape 3d objects, while CMC will produce a soft paper, ideal for stitch.

Find out more about this technique >

Image from 'Silk Paper for Textile Artists'
by Sarah Lawrence, copyright 2008 by
Breslich & Foss Ltd
3) Solvy Vanishing Film

The silk fibres are sandwiched between two sheets of dissolvable film (see Solvy Vanishing Film), and freeform stitched through all the layers on a sewing machine. The stitching is looped and crossed over until the fibres are captured in the threads. The completed fabric is then placed in a bowl of warm water to dissolve the film. 

This vessel, made by author and textile artist Sarah Lawrence (see her blog), is made from fabric created using method 3.

Further ideas

Include items such as skeleton leaves, petals, threads, plant fibres or strips of paper and use silk paints or dyes to add colour.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Silk Fibres Containing Sericin

silk cocoons

cocoon strippings

reeled silk

silk carrier rods

throwster's waste 'paper'
Silk fibres are emitted from the glands of the silkworm and are covered with a sticky substance called sericin, this is what keeps the cocoon intact. The cocoon is soaked in hot, soapy water so that the silk fibres (still containing sericin) can be unravelled. Each strand of silk is joined with 10-15 more cocoon strands to form the glossy reeled silk fibre.

Cocoon strippings are the silk fibres that hold the cocoon in place as it changes into the silk moth and they contain the most sericin. The fibres are soft and fluffy with a matt finish.

Throwsters is a by-product of unravelling the cocoon to make the reeled silk. It is a high quality silk fibre which retains the sericin making the fibres feel coarse to the touch.

The reeled silk is processed to create the fine silk threads used for weaving silk fabric and during this process, a number of other silk variations are created.

Silk carrier rods are a ‘woven waste’ product of the silk winding process, contain sericin and have a high sheen. The image shows how the rod has been pulled apart to separate.

Any of these sericin rich silk fibres can be used to make a simple silk paper. The ‘glue’ (sericin) can be activated by spreading the fibres on baking parchment, spraying with water, covering with another sheet of parchment and then ironing on a medium setting until the fibre is dry.

This image shows hand-dyed Throwsters Waste 'paper'.

See our Fact File page, Silk Fibres for Spinning, Dyeing, Needle Felting and Silk Paper Making for more information about the silk fibres featured here, plus other silk fibres such as Mawata Caps, Tussah and Noil.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

St. Patrick's Day

A celebration of all things GREEN!
Hand dyed Silk Fibres for Paper Making & Hand Spinning
Green Silk Dyes and Fabrics Paints
Natural Dyes - deceptive as not as they seem. 
The top left, Poplar Buds make yellows through to brown,
top right Ivy Leaves make green,
bottom left Walnut Leaves make yellows through to brown,
and the bottom right, Henna, also makes brown
Handmade Lokta papers in a variety of styles & colours (not just green!)

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A Good Egg

We had a great excuse to go out and enjoy the sunshine this morning - we had tea and cake to celebrate Julie's forthcoming birthday.  We won't say how old she'll be (psst, see the candles on the cake!) but hope you will join us in wishing Julie a very happy birthday.

Jo's daughter Cara very kindly crafted this superb cream egg shaped cake.  Julie, who is a true fan of the sticky treat, was delighted.

Our colleague, who shares her birthday with St. Patrick, will be jetting off to New York tomorrow with three family members.  Have a great time Julie!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Ideas for Making Beads

Many of the materials found on the George Weil website can be used to make effective beads for use in jewellery making.


Beads by Carol Blackburn
© Quarto Publishing plc
Polymer clay is probably the most versatile material.  Colours can be blended together, placed side by side in a cane, or marbled to create a variety of effects. 

It is possible to make faux semi-precious stones by combining translucent polymer clays with the coloured polymer clays. These faux onyx earrings were made by Carol Blackburn and are featured in her book 'How to Make Polymer Clay Beads', see our other polymer clay books in the Book Shop >

Bracelet made with silver clay
& resin beads © Sherri Haab

Precious beads can also be fashioned from
Art Clay Silver clay.  The clay can be fired on a gas stove top, although larger items with a cork core need to be fired in a kiln. 

This bracelet is made from beads shaped from silver clay and decorated with coloured resin.  You can see how it was made in Sherri's book 'Metal Clay and Mixed Media Jewelry', see our other


Fabric and paper beads are also very effective.  Make strips of fabric similar in dimension to the image below.  Wrap the widest part around a plastic cocktail stick or nail, soaking it in Silk Paper Medium or a waterbased varnish. Continue to roll the paper or fabric on itself, adding more medium as required.  When completely rolled, allow the bead to dry.
Use handmade paper or patterned fabric to make the beads colourful, brush with Jacquard Pearl-Ex while still damp, or wrap wire or yarn around the finished bead to add embellishment.


A felted bead necklace made by
Kate McNaughton
Wool tops are also good for making into beads (see our
100g, Rainbow Bag).  Making a felt ball is great fun and relatively fast.  The colours can be blended or combined (in small quantities) with non-wool fibres such as Angelina fibres and silk to add interest.  Felt balls can be used for making toys as well as beads, see our page from the Fact File to learn more about this technique >

This felted bead necklace was made by Kate McNaughton.  She has combined her beads with Japanese seed beads and sells her felted accessories on her Beadycharms website.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Screen Printing

Photo of squeegee being pulled across the frame from
Claire Benn & Leslie Morgan's book 'Screen Printing'
Screen printing allows you to duplicate an image many times using a simple stencil placed on a screen printing frame. The frame has a fine mesh fabric stretched across it which allows the ink to penetrate through to the surface below, but not in the areas where the stencil has been placed.

The ink is dragged across the frame using a squeegee to ensure the ink is evenly distributed and the areas of fabric or paper masked by the stencil remain untouched.

When the print has dried, additional applications can be made using different stencils until you have a printed image of more than one colour.  Great examples of these can be seen on the
Andy Warhol website.  We offer a wide choice of screen printing supplies, ranging from the Speedball Fabric and Paper Screen Printing kits for beginners, through to the range of Selectasine binders and pigments for professionals, tutors and students.

The Speedball Screen Printing inks provide a ready-mixed solution for printing onto fabrics, card, paper, vinyl, and wall paper.  While the Selectasine range of pigments and binders allow for variations such as a puff effect, plus metallic and pearl finishes.

The Speedball Fabric Screen Printing inks, and the Selectasine binders & pigments, can all be made permanent when printed on fabric by allowing to cure and then setting with the heat from a domestic iron.  Screen printed fabrics are washable at 40°C. 

Just explore the possibilities!  You can print designs onto curtains, bedding, and cushion covers to decorate your home, or customise scarves and t-shirts with logos or icons.  Please browse our Screen Printing section for further information on these products.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Silver Clay for Beginners

Trying out Art Clay Silver clay doesn't have to be expensive.  The 7g packet of Art Clay Silver 650 contains enough silver clay to make a simple ring or a pendant.

Here a star shaped pendant has been fired and the surface is being burnished.  Burnishing compacts and smooths the surface of the silver and gives a mirror like polish once all the scratches and burr have been removed with the wire brushes and sanding pads.  If you burnish over ‘flaws’ these will become permanent.

Working with Art Clay Silver

The clay will begin to dry out the moment it is exposed to air. These tips will help to increase the working time: 
  • Plan your design before you start so that you know exactly what you want to do with the clay and how you will go about achieving the end result.
  • Keep a bowl of water near by to dip fingers and tools in.
  • Work in a cool room and try to avoid direct heat.
  • Work the clay on a smooth, non-porous surface.
  • Only break off the amount of clay you think you will need and put the remainder in an air-tight wrapper. Covering with a damp cloth or kitchen paper will help.
  • Rehydrate drying clay by wetting the surface, wrapping in cling film and kneading through the film.
  • Do not use aluminium tools or containers as this will contaminate and discolour silver clay.
  • Use the Kemper cutters for tiny shapes.
Firing the Art Clay Silver Clay

The most economical method of firing the clay is to do so on a gas hob or a gas camping stove.  Ensure the clay has thoroughly dried out before starting (allow 24-36 hours depending on the size of the item).

Before you start

The clay will shrink as it is fired. This can be used as an indication of whether the firing has been successful. Place the object on a piece of paper and draw around it. Put the paper aside so that the size can be compared with the fired item.
  1. For pieces up to 30g (no larger than 5cm x 3cm x 2cm) and up to 6 items, lay a stainless steel mesh on the burner and place the fully dried items where the flames are strongest, cover with more mesh for added safety. If you do not have a cover, wear eye protections in case the clay spits.
  2. Turn the gas burner on full and use a skewer to push the pieces into the areas of the mesh that glow red. After a few minutes, the clay will smoke a little as the binder burns away and it will take on a pale orange glow. Now time the firing for five minutes while the piece continues to glow.
  3. Turn off the gas and allow the fired pieces to cool for 20 minutes in situ.
  4. Place the fired Art Clay Silver onto the piece of paper on which you drew the outline. The item should have shrunk by 8-9%. If there is no obvious signs of shrinkage, repeat steps 3-5.
Useful Tips
  • Place items face down for firing, this will protect detailed designs from becoming damaged by overheating.
  • Fired pieces can be added to. Use Art Clay Silver paste to attach fired or unfired items. The silver will not shrink again but newly attached, unfired items will.
  • An indicator of over firing is if the item begins to melt or turn red. Stop the firing process immediately.
  • As long as an item has been fired correctly, there should be no difference between shrinkage for gas hob, blow torch and kiln fired items.
  • Full drying times and firing instructions for the Art Clay Silver clay are in the packaging or you can download this PDF to find out more.
If you wish to progress further, we recommend you check out our full range of Art Clay Silver clays and tools >

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Art Clay Silver Clay

Art Clay Silver clay consists of finely ground pure silver mixed with non-toxic binders and water.  Once fired, the binders burn away leaving pure, 99.9% silver which can be hallmarked ‘.999’.

The firing process is remarkably simple and can be achieved with the minimum of cost. Small pieces can be fired on a wire mesh laid across a gas hob or the pieces can be fired using a blow torch and a fibre brick.

Art Clay Silver clay is available in a number of forms.  The clay that comes in packets is similar to putty in consistency.  It needs to be worked quite efficiently as it begins to dry out when over worked, or exposed to the air for too long.  The key is to have a design planned in advance.  This form of the clay is available as 'Slow Dry' (allowing more time to work with it) and is therefore ideal for beginners (see our range of Art Clay Silver Clay).

The silver clay is also available as paste and in a syringe, offering a variety of effects.  The syringe type silver clay can be used to extrude lines of clay for filigree designs such as in this photograph.  A core of cork clay has been used as a former which is then burnt away during the firing process.  The silver clay pastes and syringe type need to be fired in a kiln.

Kiln firing allows more than one piece to be fired at a time and for other craft techniques such as ceramics, glass fusing and bead making, and annealing and hardening of metals. Buy our Kiln by 7th March 2011 & receive £44.00 worth goods FREE! (learn more about the Prometheus Pro-1 Kiln).

Find out more about firing Art Clay Silver clay.