Friday, 30 September 2016

Painting with Derwent Inktense Blocks & Pencils

These water soluble drawing blocks and pencils can be use in countless different ways to create colourful artwork. Just add water to Derwent Inktense Blocks or Pencils to produce deep and vibrant permanent, waterproof ink colours on paper or fabric. If you choose to draw on fabric, your designs on cotton or silk will be hand washable at 30°C.

Different Ways of Colouring with Inktense Blocks & Pencils

Inktense can be used "dry on dry". When used on textured paper, the soft creamy consistency tends to grab at the peaks while leaving lower areas without colour. To improve coverage, build up the colour in layers and blend with a tortillion, paper stump or blender pencil.Derwent Inktense Blocks

Transform the dappled effect of the dry drawing by painting over with a brush and water. This will dissolve the pencil marks and turn them into permanent ink. Subsequently the colours can be moved around with the brush to blend and completely cover the surface. When the ink is dry it will become waterproof so that further layers of colour can be added.

For permanent lines, use the Inktense Outliner pencil. It is made from non-soluble graphite and can be used with Inktense to provide permanent shading or outlines. In fact, this useful pencil can be utilised with any water-soluble media.

Used in the same way as a watercolour pan, ink colours can also be lifted directly from the Inktense Block or Pencil with a wetted paintbrush. Altenatively, the paper or fabric can be brushed or sprayed with water and Inktense applied directly onto the wet surface. Rubbing an Inktense Block with sandpaper creates fine dust which immediately dissolves into puddles of colour on the wet surface.

Painting with Powdered Derwent Inktense Blocks

The Derwent XL Sprinkler makes light work of grating a little powdered colour from an Inktense Block. Place the sprinkler over a palette dish or saucer to collect the powder and gently rub the Inktense Block over the grid.

Either add water to the powder and mix to make a solution or wet a brush to dissolve a little of the powder from the palette. Remember, the powder only becomes permanent ink once it is has been made completely soluble by the water.

The smooth cartridge paper below has buckled from the water. Choose a good quality watercolour paper for the best results.

Visit the George Weil website to browse the full range of colours from Derwent Inktense

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Natural Dyeing & Felt Making Courses in Scotland

Wild Rose Escapes run craft, wild cookery and relaxation holidays and courses in the heart of the Highlands of Scotland. Their courses include natural dyeing and felt making. We invited owner Rosie to tell us a little more about their craft holidays.

"I have been running craft courses in the Highlands of Scotland for over 7 years now and since the very beginning I have been buying materials from Fibrecrafts (George Weil & Sons Ltd). I started off running felting and natural dyeing courses and after buying my own small flock of Shetland sheep, we started running our Fleece to Felt weeks and Dye to Hand Spin courses. We teach the whole process - guests watch Alex hand-shear our Shetland sheep, they learn how to wash the fleece, make natural dyes, and learn how to felt a final piece. We also teach spinning and eco-printing using flowers and leaves."

"I always use Fibrecrafts and always recommend the site to participants on my courses and holidays. They do a great natural dye starter kit, which is a real help to beginners, with a little bit of everything in it. Living where we do, a lot of retailers will add an extra cost if they are sending goods to the Highlands - Fibrecrafts never do, which I so appreciate."

"Although we do order ancient dyes in, such as Indigo, Madder and Logwood, it is also fun to forage for dye plants and make our own dyes. Each season has something to offer. We are lucky living in the Highlands as we have so many dye plants on our door step. In the Spring we forage for Gorse and Broom flowers, and Bracken fronds, then Meadowsweet, Birch leaves and many more in the summer, moving onto berries, bark and fungi in the Autumn. Like dyers from earlier times I like to mix foraged plants alongside ancient imported dyes creating a rainbow of colours."

"Working outside is such a joy and because we live in a woodland I am lucky enough to be able to dye outside over fires, as we have a never ending supply of wood. However, although this is the way I love to dye it is not the only way and it is easy enough to set up a little dye workshop in a garage space or patio, all you really need is the enthusiasm to experiment."

"You can see from our photographs some of the stunning colours that can be created from nature." Visit Rosie's website to find out more about Wild Rose Escapes. If you would like to have a go at any of the crafts mentioned by Rosie, you can browse the George Weil website for Natural Dyeing, Felt Making and Spinning.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Speedball Speedy Carve Block for Printing & Texture

The Speedy Carve block is made from smooth and flexible rubber. It cuts easily with lino cutter blades and does not crumble, making it ideal for creating detailed prints. The latex free rubber also stops the block from slipping around while it is being cut.

The wavy lines on this Speedy Carve block were cut freehand using the Speedball No 37 Linozips Safety Cutter. The safety cutter blades are angled and cutting is achieved by pulling the blade towards the body, much like the action of peeling a potato.

More about the Speedy Carve block

The blocks are available in a choice of 3 sizes; 3" x 4", 4" x 6" and a large 6" x 12". They can be used as they are or easily cut to the required size with a craft knife.

Speedball recommend that the Speedy Carve is used with water soluble paints and block printing inks. We suggest using either Speedball Block Printing Inks or Daler Rowney Block Printing Inks. Alternatively, an acrylic based paint thickened with Daler Rowney System 3 Block Printing Medium will work equally well.

The rubber is so flexible that it can be used to print onto cylindrical objects such as plant pots, tin cans or cardboard tubes.

Uses for the cut Speedy Carve block

The print below was created using Jacquard Lumiere paints. These thick acrylic paints are water soluble and available in a large choice of shimmering colours for a variety of surfaces, including fabric. The paint has pooled slightly in the recesses of the cut block and thickening the paint would produce a finer print.

Block printing inks have are formulated specifically for printing and applied to the block using a brayer roller. The brayer is used to cover the block with a uniform coating of ink helping to ensure a clear transfer. If you prevent the paint or ink from drying on the block, it is easy to wash off with soap and warm water.

We used the same cut Speedy Carve block as a texture sheet or stamp for polymer clay. Polymer clay is a smooth modelling clay which can be low temperature heat hardened in a domestic oven.

The 6mm deep block can also be cut to make a mould for fine modelling materials such as Art Clay Silver clays. Use a little petroleum jelly in the mould and release the item while gently flexing the block.

Browse our selection of Block Printing inks & tools or visit the Model Making section to view the types of clay on available from George Weil

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Help in choosing the right Artist Brushes for Painting

A selection of artist brushes made by Winsor & Newton
There are a huge range of artist brushes available from the George Weil website and showroom. When choosing a brush you need to consider the type of paint you will be using, plus the amount of 'spring' required. The spring of the hairs/bristles is determined by how quickly and easily they can revert to their original shape.

Watercolour Paints

Watercolour paints are made from finely ground pigments and water soluble binders such as synthetic glycol or natural gum arabic. They are available in block form as pans, or as a paste in tubes.  The water soluble binders mean they will wash out of artist brushes quite easily with soap and water.

Acrylic Paints

Whilst acrylic paints are also water soluble, their acrylic binder dries very quickly and will cause the brush hairs to stick together. The speed of drying plus the opacity and brightness of the colours make acrylic paints popular as an alternative to watercolours and oil paints. It is important not to allow acrylics to dry on the brush hair or the ferrule as they are very difficult to clean off. It helps to remove excess paint on a paper towel before washing with soap and thoroughly rinsing in water.

Oil Paints

The particles of pigment in oil paints are suspended in a drying oil such as linseed. Although the paints are relatively slow to dry, they are not water soluble and do need a solvent such as white spirit or turpentine to both thin the paint and to clean brushes after use. Oil paint will spoil the brush hairs if not cleaned before the paint dries. The best method is to remove excess paint on a paper towel and use a solvent-based cleaner or Zest It solvent-free cleaner. After the brush has been cleaned it is a good idea to rinse it in soap and water to remove any solvent that has remained in the ferrule so that it does not dissolve any adhesive used to glue in the bristles.

Drying and Storing Artist Brushes

Run the brush over a sheet of paper towel to remove excess moisture and reshape the brush hairs or bristles while they are still damp. You may notice some staining from the pigment but this will not effect the performance of the brush. Brushes should be laid flat until they have dried thoroughly. With all artist brushes, lay the brush flat to dry and either store in a brush roll or in a jar, handles down and heads-up.

Brushes suitable for painting in Watercolours

Artist brushes for watercolours need to be able to take a good load of colour and natural hairs such as goat, squirrel and sable perform better than most synthetic hairs.
  • Goat Hair - this tapering hair is boiled to straighten it. The scale-like surface of the hair allows high absorbency of water based media and the hairs are often used in Oriental brush making for Chinese painting, silk painting, calligraphy and wash techniques. The hairs have no spring (Hake, Graduate & own brand Chinese brushes)
  • Sable - hair (or fur) from carnivorous mammals of Mustelidae family which include weasel and mink. The hair is narrow at the root, widens in the middle and then tapers off to a fine point at the end. It is the wide midlength of the hair that gives it its excellent spring (Daler Rowney Diana Kolinsky, Winsor & Newton Kolinsky, P34B Pure Sable,
  • Sable/Synthetic Blend - synthetic hairs (made from nylon filaments) have been designed to simulate natural hairs and have a good spring but poor absorbency. These blends bring together the absorbency of natural hair and the spring of synthetic hairs (Sapphire, some Sceptre Gold II)
  • Squirrel Hair - a fine absorbent hair with a pointed tip making the brush hairs come to a fine point when wetted. The hairs have little spring (Isabey Squirrel Mop & Sky Wash brushes, Terry Harrison Dagger & Sword)
  • Some Synthetic - synthetic hairs (made from nylon filaments) have been designed to simulate natural hairs and have a good spring but poor absorbency. (Prolene Sword Liners, Gold Taper, Dalon, Graduate & Mini Majestic)

Brushes suitable for painting in Acrylics

Artist brushes for acrylic paints need to be hard wearing with a 'good spring'.
  • Artisan Brushes (perform like hog hair for water-mixable oils or acrylics)
  • Azanta Black Brushes (hog hair bristles for oils, alkyds or acrylics)
  • Colour Shapers Hard Grey (silicone tips for acrylics & modelling mediums)
  • Colour Shapers Soft White (silicone tips for acrylics & modelling mediums)
  • Cryla Brushes (synthetic hair for acrylics)
  • Dalon Brushes (imitation sable for watercolours & acrylics)
  • Graduate Brushes (economic synthetic brushes ideal for beginners)
  • Monarch Brushes (synthetic mongoose hair for acrylics, water-mixable oils & oils)
  • Raphael Mixacryl Brushes (hog bristle blended with synthetic hair for acrylics)
  • Royal & Langnickel Brushes (tiny brushes for detail work)
  • Sceptre Gold II Brushes (available in a mix of hair types including synthetic & sable)
  • Series 101 Sable Brushes (long handled, fine brushes made from Kolinsky sable hair)
  • Terry Harrison Brushes (natural hair for watercolours, acrylics & oils)
  • Palette Knives (for full bodied acrylics & oils)

Brushes suitable for painting in Oils

Artist brushes for oil paints need to be hard wearing with a 'good spring'. Bristles are made from boiled hog, boar or pig hair. The hairs are very coarse and stiff, have a natural taper and split ends. These artist brushes are hard wearing and ideal for use with solvent based paints.
  • Artisan Brushes (water-mixable oils or acrylics)
  • Artists Hog Brushes (Chunking hog bristles for oils)
  • Azanta Black Brushes (hog hair bristles for oils, alkyds or acrylics)
  • Bristlewhite Oil Brushes (hog hair for oils)
  • Graduate Brushes (economic synthetic brushes ideal for beginners)
  • Monarch Brushes (synthetic mongoose hair for acrylics, water-mixable oils & oils)
  • Royal & Langnickel Brushes (tiny brushes for detail work)
  • Sceptre Gold II Brushes (available in a mix of hair types including synthetic & sable)
  • Series 101 Sable Brushes (long handled, fine brushes made from Kolinsky sable hair)
  • Palette Knives (for full bodied acrylics & oils)

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Tie-dyed Onesies using Jacquard Procion MX dyes

Professional Nannies Cara and Kim arranged this fun Summer Holiday activity to entertain the children they look after. These cotton onesies were dyed by the children using the tie-dye technique.

Tie-dye is a resist dyeing method. The dye is prevented from reaching the areas of fabric which are tightly bound with either elastic bands or string, or by tying the fabric in a knot.

Tie dyed cotton onesies

Four onsies tie-dyed by their wearers

Colourful tye-dyed cotton onesies

A kaleidoscopic explosion of colour!

Fancy getting the rubber gloves out? You will need:

  • Cotton T-shirts / Pillow cases / Onesies - to dye
  • String or elastic bands
  • Rubber gloves - to wear during each stage of the process
  • A bucket
  • Soda ash
  • 2-4 colours of Procion dye
  • 240ml plastic squeeze bottles (1 for each colour of dye)
  • Air-tight plastic bags or cling film

Here's how to tie-dye:

1. Make a solution of soda ash dissolved in warm tap water. This is what will set the dye on the fabric and is an essential step. You will need 20g soda ash per litre of water and approximately 2 litres of water for every 100g of dry fabric.

2. Soak the fabric in the bucket of soda ash solution until saturated. Remove, squeeze out excess liquid and allow to dry.

3. Prepare the fabric to be dyed by making sections of the material impermeable to the dye solution. Bind string or wrap elastic bands tightly around the fabric. Ensure the ties are as tight and secure as possible. Here are examples of simple methods for tying the fabric:

A simple method of binding fabric for tie-dyeing
Tying this t-shirt above will create a pattern similar to the one below
Example of how tie-dyed t-shirt may look
Creating a radial pattern using tie-dye
To make a radial pattern (below), pick up a section of material between your thumb and forefinger and lift into a peak. Smooth the 'peak' with your other hand and bind at intervals along its length. 
Colourful tie-dyed t-shirt
Experiment with different ways of binding the fabric. Try twisting it, folding it or crumpling it before binding to create different patterning.

4. Prepare the dyes. Pour 150ml of hot tap water into a squeeze bottle and add 2-4 teaspoons of dye powder. Shake the bottle until fully dissolved. Repeat for each colour of dye.

5. Protect work surfaces with plastic sheets or bin bags. Apply the dye colours with the plastic squeeze bottle to the exposed areas of fabric. 

6. Wrap the fabric in a plastic bag or cling film and leave to stand for 12-24 hours in a warm area.

7. Rinse the fabric to remove excess dye. Wearing rubber gloves, rinse first in cold water, increasing the heat of the water with each rinse. To help remove the last traces of dye residue, prepare a bucket of very warm water with 1/2 teaspoon Synthrapol per 5 litres of water and soak for 5-10 minutes, before rinsing in clean water a further 2-3 times and until the rinse water is clear.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Sun Prints with Transparent Fabric Paints - Tried & Tested

Transparent fabric paints are very effective when used to create prints from the sun. Here we demonstrate prints made using Jacquard Dye-na-flow and Deka Silk paints in the evening sunshine using leaves as the mask.

Creating the Print

First make the fabric wet by spraying or brushing water across the surface and then apply the paint in the same way. Place your opaque objects onto the fabric while it is still wet. The best prints are achieved by using items such as leaves, petals and cardboard cut-outs, as these will lay flat across the surface and cause less shadow. 

Place the prepared fabric in bright sunshine. As the sun begins to dry areas of the fabric that are not covered, the wet paint from beneath the mask is drawn to the dry fabric surrounding it.

Varying Results

The sharpness of the print is determined by how close the mask is to the fabric. The image below shows a slightly blurred image on the left which is the result of the leaf not laying flat, and a much clearer image on the right where the leaf was laid closer to the fabric.

The quicker the painted fabric dries, the whiter the image below the mask.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Sun Prints with Cyanotype Chemicals - Tried & Tested

The glorious sunshine has given me a chance to use the Fibrecrafts Cyanotype Blue Printing Kit which contains enough chemicals to make up to 1 litre of solution, a 1/2 metre each of silk and cotton fabric, and a step-by-step instruction leaflet.

The chemical solution of the iron salts (ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide) is sensitive to ultra violet (UV) light and will change colour to a greyish blue when exposed to direct sunlight or another UV light source.

A substrate, such as paper or finely woven cotton or silk fabric, is coated with the solution and left to dry naturally in a dark area. The dried coating turns to a greeny-yellow in colour.

Cyanotype printing is a negative process - where light cannot reach the sensitised areas the colour does not develop. Items such as leaves, petals or feathers can be used as a mask, as can an acetate sheet with an image drawn on it in permanent ink, or large photographic negatives.

When the print has fully exposed (times will vary depending on the intensity of UV light), the print is then rinsed in running water until the undeveloped chemical is removed.  As the material dries, the print will oxidise and turn into the Prussian blue associated with the cyanotype blue printing process.

The photograph below shows a print I created using an acetate sheet with a design drawn in black fibre-tip pen.  To get a clear print it is necessary to keep the acetate sheet stencil as flat and close to the fabric as possible. Clear adhesive tape, or the weight of a sheet of glass or empty picture frame can be used to help maintain contact with the surface. The less clear areas of my print (down the right hand side and bottom) are where my acetate sheet was slightly curled away from the fabric.

The next photo shows a print on silk fabric using the same technique as above.

A close-up shows a number of things to watch out for! The contrast of the print is not brilliant and I think this is where the lightweight silk fabric was exposed to the light for a short time before placing my stencil over it, hence the pale blue sun which should have remained white. The lettering although printed well is spoiled slightly because I smudged it on the acetate film. Below the image of the sun is an area that has not developed and this is probably where I did not cover the fabric evenly with the solution, or it may be where it made contact with another surface while drying which leached the wet solution away from the silk.

These final images show a cyanotype image created using inkjet printable acetate film. I used a negative image which I created from a positive image in Adobe Photoshop. I made the mistake of printing the image using full colour, instead of printing it in just black ink, so the stencil was not quite opaque enough. However, I am pleased with the subtle effect caused by some of the UV light being able to transmit through the masked areas.

I hope that my errors will help you to avoid making the same mistakes, but don't worry the contents of the kit provide you with enough chemicals to make 4 batches of 250ml - plenty for experimentation and a number of successful prints! ~ Allison Holland

Monday, 25 April 2016

Learning Basic Weaving Techniques

For many people the idea of buying a loom, then weaving on it sounds complicated and confusing, something best left to professionals and textile artists. This is how I felt whenever I contemplated the practical use of ‘heddles’, ‘warp and weft’ and many other weaving terms. However this week I found myself surrounded by opportunity, we had decided to offer customers the chance to buy 5 of our Mini Looms for the price of 4. The extra stock and extra interest lead me to having a go myself, a test to see how fool proof these starter looms really are.

Understanding the Warp

The Mini Loom is small and compact, whilst still having enough strength to cope with the kind of tensions that weaving creates. I was pleased to discover the loom comes already warped (this is yarn which is tied onto the loom for weaving under and over to create the cloth), so I could get started right away. The front beam and the back beam have slots cut along their length approximately 50mm apart so that the lengths of warp can be tied on securely. The beams are attached to the frame with butterfly nuts which when loosened allows them to rotate. This means that the warp threads can be longer than the length of the frame and wound onto the back beam until they are secured at the correct tension.

Starting to Weave on the Mini Loom

Inside the box were also 2 stick shuttles, and a comb for beating down the woven yarn. I decided to use doubled yarn for my weaving, it gives a great multi-coloured effect and I felt the thickness of the two yarns would mean faster progress. I loaded up my shuttle by winding yarn onto it and began to weave.

At first I was confused as to how to separate alternate warp threads and assumed I would be at it for hours, until I discovered the simple ‘rocking’ motion of the heddle that smoothly lifted and lowered alternate warp threads allowing me to pass the shuttle through the now open shed (space between the warp threads). My weaving started to build quickly and easily, under and over, beating the yarn down, and I believe that even when using the finest yarn you would see rapid growth in a very short time.

Basic weaving with double yarn
The edges (or the selvedge) of my weaving is a little wavy. This is because I pulled the weft through too tightly. A trick to control the tension on the weft is to push the shuttle through the warp at a slight angle, making the length of yarn a little longer between the edges. This technique helps prevent the warp threads from being pulled together. Practice makes perfect.

Multiple colours woven onto the Mini Loom

Reloading the Shuttle and Changing Yarn Colour

Changing colour in weaving turned out not to be as hard as I expected, it just takes some nimble fingers and patience to get a seamless colour swap. Weave the last row of your colour up to a point where you have around 6-8cm of yarn left, and ensure you stop at a point where the yarn should be going under the warp thread. Leave this hanging out the back of your weaving. Select a new colour/thickness/type of yarn and wind it onto your shuttle. Leaving a tail the same length as the end of the last colour, begin weaving from where you left off. Ensure that you continue onward going over and under the alternative warp threads of the previous row of colour - don’t make the mistake I did with my first yarn change or you will end up with a row of double stitches! Continue to weave for several more rows until you have a strong, compact weaving that will not slip around on the warp threads.

Winding On

As my weaving grew, and the length of the warp shortened, it began to get difficult to move the heddle smoothly to create a shed for the shuttle. Luckily, this versatile little loom has a solution to that very problem, rolling on. I loosened the front beam (this is the front edge nearest to your body when weaving) and the back beam, and rolled them towards me. This allowed extra warp thread to be released from the back beam and a length of my weaving to be rolled on to the front beam, creating lots more space to weave freely.

Winding on allows you to weave a much longer continuous length of material

What to do with Yarn Ends

This next step can be done during or after finishing weaving - how to hide the end and start of the change in colour without knots and to help prevent holes.

Make sure to leave enough excess yarn when you start/finish with a colour
Thread the yarn end onto a tapesty needle and locate the very last warp thread that this yarn is woven around. Using your needle, thread the yarn end through at least 4-5 rows. Make sure you are doing this on the side of the correct colour, this way it will be camouflaged by the rest of the weaving.

Follow your warp thread when threading beneath rows
The yarn should now be firmly squeezed into your weaving and will be held in place without the need to tie it. Caution, a very non-compacted weaving will result in the yarn being held very loosely, which can lead to your weaving unravelling, make sure to use that comb beater!

Pulling the end through
A finished example before trimming
Do the same for the end of the other colour, again ensuring you thread it into the area of the same colour. Carefully trim any excess yarn that remains. You should end up with a seamless change in yarns/colour that leaves no ugly bumps or knots in your finished piece. Not too bad for a newbie!

Liam Farlow

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Lampshade Decorated with Skeleton Leaves

Here's a quick fix for boring, plain lampshades. These lampshades were bought from a well-known bargain value high street store, and we have made them more interesting by decorating them with skeleton leaves.

The skeleton leaves are available from the George Weil website as are the PVA glue, glue spreader and paint brushes needed to complete this project.

The leaves are very delicate and will crumble if not handled carefully.  The best way to apply the leaves is to put a dab of PVA glue in the centre of the leaf and then gently press it into place.  Repeat this process until all the leaves are glued to the shade. 

The next stage is to dilute some PVA with the same amount of water and stir the mixture until the glue has dissolved in the water.  Using a large, soft brush (an artists wash brush is ideal for this) paint over the leaf outwards from where it is glued and then over the fabric of the shade until you reach the next leaf.  You do not need to overload the brush and soak the fabric because the delicate skeleton of the leaf will stick readily.

It is important to paint the entire outside of lampshade because the dried glue solution will leave a slightly shiny coating.

The delicate paper lampshade below looks very effective when lit.