This week’s guest post comes to us from Sarah Warburton, who previously brought us the hand-knitted Tardis socks. She’s been at it again, this time incorporating poetry into her clothes. I’m totally stealing this idea, just as soon as she teaches me how to do it myself!
Making and Inscribing Linen Scarves
“Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.” Joss Whedon
While I was putting together a swap package for a Joss Whedon swap, I became obsessed with the idea of making a scarf with writing on it. I found some very pretty ones on Etsy with a single quote at one end and how-to’s on the internet for ones with extremely thick lettering done horizontally, but I had something else in mind. Here’s what I put together.
Since I live in Texas, I knew I wanted to go with a linen scarf. I like that linen gets softer and softer the more you wear and wash it, that it’s very strong and durable, and that it allows excellent air flow. As a Classics major, I also have a soft spot for linen, since the flax plant is one of the oldest plants found in Egypt, Greece, and ancient Rome, and linen’s been around for ages. Also, when I walk the kids to school, I like to have something not too hot to keep the sun off my neck. Linen’s just perfect.
Would it be easier to just buy a scarf and write on it? Of course. But part of the fun of a swap is stretching your dollars and putting time and creativity into a craft. I did look at some commercially-available scarves to get a sense of the measurements I’d need. For the first project, I bought two yards of natural linen at the width found on the bolt at Joann’s. I dyed this with black tea and fruit punch Kool-aid (no sugar added!). This is where I learned that black tea is not a very effective dye for plant-based fabrics, but ultimately I did get the pinkish sepia color I wanted. For the second project, I used i-dye fabric dye specifically for linen (and cotton and hemp, etc). In both cases, I used an old pasta pot I use only for dyeing and boiled the fabric on the stove. Feel free to simply follow the directions on the packet…if you’re brave enough to use your washer. I wasn’t. Once I had the color I wanted, I let the fabric drip dry. Taking a tip from the nice woman at the Joann’s counter, I divided the scarf into three strips by measuring, then tearing the length of the fabric. She was right, it made nice straight lines (a word the etymology of which leads right back to the Latin linum).
Before sewing, there must be ironing. I folded over the long side of my scarves-to-be 1/2 an inch, then 1/2 an inch again and ironed those folds for the hems (iron the whole scarf while you’re doing this). Then for the first round of scarves (the pinkish ones) I used the sewing machine to sew the hems down to within two inches from the bottom of scarf, because I was planning a fringe. For the second round (the blue ones), I was in Virginia and my mother suggested using a blind hem stitch to hand-sew the edges. If you need instructions on this, I’m going to defer to the internet: http://makezine.com/craft/howto_hand_sew_a_blind_hem/
Now for the short edges of the scarf. For the first round I made a fringe by removing the weft or the short pieces of the threads of the fabric, leaving the only the long pieces for those last two inches.
The pros of this method are that it makes a thick, silky fringe…and it’s fun to pull out bits of the fabric. The con would be that it’s extremely time-consuming to pick out and remove so many fine threads (and your family members may complain if they find bits of thread lying around).
For the second round of scarves I cut a thick fringe. It’s much faster and is a different look. I do wonder how it will wear over the long haul.
Confession: I also tried scorching the bottom of my scarf intentionally. I knew linen would burn quickly (really really really quickly) and I thought a scorched edge might be attractive, but since it burns so completely and so quickly, there really wasn’t enough of a scorched edge left to enjoy. So I cut a fringe. My recommendation would be not to light your scarf on fire…not that you would have done that anyway.)
Now the fun part! Originally I bought fabric markers, but through trial and error I found I got a finer point and smoother lines with a Sharpie. And since I’m still washing shirts for my six-year-old with my nine-year-old son’s name permanent markered onto them, I was confident they’d hold up. For the first round of scarves I used a dark brown Sharpie. For my own scarf and my swap scarf, I inscribed Joss Whedon quotes. My mother requested “Be Thou My Vision” on hers. There’s no right or wrong way to do this part, but I chose to do a slow cursive, separating the words, and writing horizontally. For the blue scarves, I used a black sharpie and inscribed one scarf with e.e.cummings’ “maggie and milly and molly and may” for my sister, one for my swap partner with Doctor Who quotes, and another for myself with “maggie and milly and molly and may” and also “Sea Fever” by John Masefield.
As a writer, I love wearing text, knowing that only bits of it are legible to others. It’s meaningful, decorative, and also a bit of secret.
Dimensions of hemmed, finished scarves (on average): 62”X14”
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