Mad In Pursuit Notebook

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Fiber Adventure: Making a "Thread Scarf"

4.21.2014 With my bent for complicated projects, I keep an eye out for no-brainers as a change of pace. This one -- "Thread Scarf" -- came from artist Carol Ann Waugh, who teaches Stupendous Stitching and Stitch & Slash on Craftsy.com.

The idea is to lay out a carnival of fibers between two layers of Solvy Water Soluable Stabilizer. In weaving terms, this forms your warp. You pin it all down, then jam the fiber sandwich under the darning foot of your sewing machine. Sewing back and forth across the length of the fibers provides the weft. When you're done, you dunk your product in water, et voilĂ  -- a scarf! (See Carol's full instructions.)

My sister Ellen had given me a bag of pretty fibers from her stash. On impulse I'd also bought a variety of recycled sari silk yarns from Darn Good Yarn (via Amazon). So... perfect project!

On the living room floor I stretched out a scarf to get a length I liked. On top of that, the Solvy. Then Jim and I spent less than an hour laying fibers on top. I pinned it together (without the scarf, of course).

Gently, I transported the ribbon sandwich to my sewing machine. Here's where the trouble started. I didn't realize that sewing on Solvy would be like sewing on a double layer of plastic dry cleaner bags. And the fibers inside wanted to go every which way -- unwieldy! Had to use both hands to press down hard and keep it all flat and moving under the presser foot -- and as they say on "Project Runway," to make it work.

The second problem was that some of the fibers were too tough for the sewing machine needle, even my heavy duty #14 top-stitching needle. A couple times -- thunk -- the needle jammed a thick fiber down into the feed dogs and everything got stuck. Not good.

So I slooooooowed down -- didn't try to finish before bed. Finally, the next morning I was done. The stitching probably didn't take more than an hour all-told, but that hour turned out to be one of those intense full-body athletic events. NEXT TIME, I will use flat ribbons and soft yarns, not fibers best left for couching projects.

It took me two tries to get out the Solvy. The directions said dip the project in water for 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Since I was dealing with silk, I did only a quick rinse. It dried too stiff. So I dunked it again, this time with a dash of Woolite. Success!

Interesting observation: while it was drying in my bathroom, I was knocked over by the aroma of the silk, reclaimed from sari manufacturing waste materials by women in small Indian villages. The fiber smelled like India -- that intoxicating fragrance of spices and sandlewood (?) when you walk into an Indian import shop or restaurant. It was disconcerting at first, till I realized what it was and that a little bit of India had come to visit.

Anyway, I have my pretty scarf now, modeled in the photos here by a Fang reliquary-guardian head from the country of Gabon, Africa.

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