A useful bit of kit

I haven’t talked much on this blog about equipment for sewing. For much of what I do, and probably for what you do, basic things like needle, thread and some cloth are pretty much the sum total of what you need. When I go to stitching shows these days I try to avoid buying a lot of stuff that I’ll just have to find space for. However, sometimes you do come across a useful bit of kit, and today’s blog post is about one such example: a plastic thing for holding your sewing machine bobbins. Here’s a photo:Plastic bobbin ring

It’s made out of a tough but flexible plastic. As you see, it’s simple; you just push the bobbins into the ring. The really clever aspects of the design are that the bobbins don’t fall out, and that the loose ends are secure and the bobbins don’t unravel all over the place. You can hold it upside down – the bobbins stay in place. You can drop it – the bobbins stay in place. You can roll it around the desk or the floor – the bobbins stay in place. You’re getting the idea: the bobbins don’t come out until you pull them out. Simple but brilliant.

I liked it so much I bought two. Here they are:Plastic bobbin holder

They’re available in red, blue or, as shown here, lavender. I bought mine from Barnyarns.

Good, eh? Incidentally, in case you’re wondering, I’m not on commission. I just like the product.



Basic equipment for natural dyeing

I’ve blogged about some of the results of my experiments in natural dyeing, but haven’t said anything much about the basic equipment that I use. So here’s a brief post about dyeing equipment, where I sourced it, and how much it cost. When I started doing this I had two principal objectives: to keep the equipment down to a minimum (it all takes up space) and to keep the costs down. A really important health and safety point about all this is that you have to keep the dyeing process and equipment completely separate from your domestic cooking. This means keeping separate vessels for dyeing and having a source of heat away from the domestic cooker. Equipment for natural dyeIn the photograph below you can see the equipment I’ve assembled. The pan on the left has been on the top shelf in the pantry for years, never used, so was an obvious candidate for this purpose. This is the pan I use for the dyeing process itself, scrubbing it out between colours. The pan on the right was used by my son at university but has remained unused since he left, and he has kindly donated it for use in dyeing. I use this pan for mordanting (I’ll write about the mordanting process in a future post).

The rubber gloves are useful for keeping the dye powder away from your skin and for using when rinsing through dyed fabrics. Underneath the pan on the left is my electric hotplate, and my main investment in equipment. It cost around £19 from Amazon plus postage. Other investments are two wooden spoons (around £1 each), one used for mordanting and one for dyeing, a silicon mat to put the hot pan on, and a couple of plastic measuring spoons. Total investment a bit over £25. This is really about all I need. If you don’t have any old pans lying unused around the house or a helpful relative to donate them, you could try sourcing them from charity shops.

The array of equipment is minimal compared to some of the illustrations you get in textbooks, but it’s not worth spending a fortune on new stuff, especially if you’re not sure that you’re going to take to natural dyeing. This is pretty much all I need, although at some stage I might invest in a cheap sieve which would be useful for straining liquid off when I’m using natural materials. So far I’ve mostly used dye extracts, although I did experiment last summer with rhubarb leaves and will shortly have a go with onion skins which I’ve been collecting for several months. More on that experiment in due course.


Acquiring a bodkin

BodkinI’ve been wanting a bodkin for quite some time, or at least I thought that was the name for the object I required to make holes in linen and cotton to produce broderie anglaise. Anyhow, I knew when I saw it that this is what I wanted. In essence, it’s a pointy thing with an ornamental handle, and I’ve placed it near a measuring tape so you can see how big it is. I found this at Ludlow (Shropshire)  Sunday market which I can recommend for anyone who likes old stuff and bric-à-brac. (On the whole I don’t, but I make an exception for old items of sewing equipment).

Mine for two pounds, which I thought was a very fair price, especially as they were asking 50p per bobbin for old Sylko bobbins (just the bobbin, no thread).

So, next time I do some broderie anglaise I will have the perfect tool. Which brings me back to the question of what it’s called. I looked up bodkins on Google Images and there are several tools there that don’t look like this one – they’re more like big tweezers for pulling elastic through waistbands, or alternatively big needles with eyes. However, looking further I can see the word has several different definitions, one of which is ‘A small, sharply pointed instrument for making holes in fabric or leather’. So that’s alright then. Whatever it’s called I’m very pleased with it.

PS That rather lovely raspberry-coloured background is a piece of recycled linen dyed with cochineal. I’ll be talking more about cochineal in a future post.