Friday 19 July 2019

Secret Valentine Exchange Part VI

It's time for the July instalment of my year of crafty gift giving that is the Secret Valentine exchange 2019*

I loved the brief for this one....

Back in January when I put out a call for suggestions I was flattered, to great effect, by Kathleen.

She said, and I quote: "I really admire your style Shelley, so here's my idea: I have a new house that I'm struggling to decorate as it's so much bigger than the old one (also because I have no talent for that kind of thing). If you wanted to make some sort of furnishing/accessory/ornament for my living room somewhere in a cream/wood/teal/gold colour scheme that would be lovely."

That kind of open brief and lovely compliment will get you everywhere!!

When I got thinking about a wall hanging that would be fun to make I decided it was time to make those macramé feathers that were all the rage (possibly last year, but shhh, some of us may only just be catching up now)

I have plenty of three ply cotton macramé rope but I'd seen an image of what happens when you use that. It's a bit like unplaiting your daughter's hair - it goes all crimpy! This project needed single twist cotton string and it just happened that String Harvest had a partial reel on sale. Done! (and now I've realised I can't recall what size it was. Maybe 7mm?)

Sitting in the car at lacrosse training one night I made a miniature version in the leftover chunky cotton. The technique is well described in this blog post: Honestly WTF macramé feathers 

I wanted to make a series of three for Kathleen and try to match her colour brief. I did think about using natural dyes and did a bit of research as to how I could get wood tones or a nice gold from onion skins. But it seemed that apart from needing to get through a few kilos of onions in one week to save all the skins, I would also need to buy a couple of different metallic mordants. I figured it would be just as easy to buy some fabric dye.  

I used some Procion dyes from my local art shop along with soda ash. The instructions on the bottle were brief, but then I found the online instructions and threw some salt in the mix as well and suddenly the colour was setting more deeply. I used the Teal and a combination of Rust Orange and Chocolate Brown.

Of course, because of the tight twist of the cotton cord, the dye was never going to penetrate completely. I stirred and steeped for ages, but it was clear it wasn't going to be a homogenous colour as if I'd purchased coloured macramé cord. But perhaps this funny variegated effect would actually be better?

Once the feather is knotted and roughly trimmed, it's brushed out and here's where the variation in dyeing became most apparent. Short of redyeing the feather after brushing it, there was nothing for it but to embrace the result I had!

The Honestly WTF tutorial suggesting using a fabric stiffening spray to "set" the feather. But I found Peanut Butter and Jelly Bean on Instagram with a tutorial for making feathers that was a bit different. Her knotting technique has the cord on only one side with each attached loop which gives a sparser feather. But her giant feathers have such exquisite shape - the key is a felt backing. Follow the tutorial button in her Instagram feed for more info.

So I cut some felt backing shapes and got out the hot glue gun!

The felt backing allows the use of a map pin to help hold the feather flat against the wall when hung. Once the pin is in place, a little grooming with the mini cat comb and the pin is neatly covered up.

I delivered the feathers on Wednesday only to discover my giftee had a nice high, secure front fence with a gate lock and a standard letter sized slot for mail. I'd found an enormous, novelty sized gift box at the local $2 shop and short of climbing the fence with it on my head I was stuck...

Luckily a neighbour came out as I was standing on the street and I convinced her to play cupid for me and take delivery of the package. That was an added bonus of the whole Secret Valentine Exchange in that I forced a bit of friendly new neighbour interactions! :)

Kathleen sent me a lovely thank you email with a photos that showed the feathers perfectly matching her teal lamp, wooden side board and painting. Hopefully they'll fill a little space on the wall until she decides they're weirdly naff and so 2018. Rofl.

* The real Secret Valentine Exchange is in hiatus. It normally takes place in February of each year. I'm creating something every month for someone else until February 2010 in the hope that that I can keep the torch alive.


  1. What an wonderful gift and I love the variation of the dying. They match perfectly in their new home.

  2. All this and macramé too?! Amazing...and the dying is lovely. They look great in their new home!


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