#pssFridayFeature – D.I.Y. Dyed Cheesecloth with natural dyes

Julz here, I thought I would break away from our traditional Friday Features and feature a technique; this week I thought I would write a post dying your own cheesecloth to use as pretty props in Still Life, perfect for Spring. A great weekend project if you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary.

After seeing a few Facebook posts featuring your own home dyeing, I thought I might give it a try.  I have always been a bit lax in the fabric department, I don’t knit or sew or makes curtains or clothes, I certainly have never attempted dyeing fabric. But as Google is my friend I did a bit of research of using natural dyes. I seem to have no problem staining my clothes, so surely I could purposefully stain some cheesecloth? I was also a bit timid about using commercial dyes, I didn’t want to stain any of my pots, nor kitchen benches/utensils, so I wanted to use common household items and natural dyes.

Requirements:

  1. Pot. Use one as big as you need and can successfully carry. If using commercial dyes, try to find a pot that you can use exclusively for your dyeing crafts…that is if you ever attempt it again. As I was only using household materials, I used my normal cooking pots.
  2. Cloth. I used plain old Cheesecloth, this was washed and dried before proceeding
  3. Dye medium. Here I’m using Coffee, Green Tea and Pomegranate (grenadine syrup). There are so many interesting possibilities for colors, from plants, juice, spices, and teas.
  • blueberries – light purple
  • blackberries – dark plum
  • Beetroot – light pink to red
  • saffron – golden yellow
  • turmeric – bright yellow
  • Strawberries – rose pink to salmon
  • Pomegranate juice – Blush pink
  • Coffee – light brown
  • Green/Black Tea – ecru

4.Preparing the Fabric – Mordant. Before you start, you need to treat the fabric to be dyed. The term mordant (French “to bite”) making it so that the color will hold on and not wash straight out again. There are different types and methods for mordants, some are toxic (chemical dyes) – so here are 2 that you can use safely at home (and not worry about pouring down the drains):

1. Vinegar – use for plants (1 part vinegar to 4 parts cold water)
2. Salt – use for berries (1/2 cup of salt to every 8 cups of cold water)

Process

  1. Fill your pot with water and add your mordant, bring to a boil, add fabric and simmer your fabrics for 1 hour.
  2. Turn off heat and let the fabric sit in the pot until the water cools. Remove and rinse under clean water –  and then you’re ready to dye!
  3. If using plants you will need to extract the color from the plant material. Chop it up, crush it, pour or sprinkle it into your pot of water (double the amount of water to dye medium) Boil for 15 minutes to 1 hour – depending on the dye medium (some release their color quicker than others, if it’s juice it’s just a matter of heating it up). Turn off the heat and leave to cool a little before adding the fabric. If you have bits of plant material, scoop them out.
  4. Now, place your damp fabrics in the pot of what is now, your dye color. Simmer together until the fabric reaches the desired color  (even overnight if you want a deep rich color, just let it soak!) The color of the fabric will be lighter when its dries.
  5. You can repeat the dyeing process two or three times to intensify the color and improve its resistance to fading.
  6. Muslin, silk, cotton, and wool work best for natural dyes. Also, note that all dyed fabric should be laundered in cold water and washed separately.
  7. Check the color of your cloth and if it’s dark enough, remove the fibers from dye bath, rinse with cold water until water runs clear
  8. Hang to dry. Once fabric has dried, hand wash gently with a mild detergent

Now I am not sure if I didn’t soak long enough, or perhaps they needed a slightly stronger mordant, or even if I needed to repeat, but my colours were quite soft and delicate, I personally quite like them and especially use the coffee and green tea coloured cloth often, as they are so neutral. The Blush of the Pomegranate is lovely with bright flowers as well.

I purchased my cheesecloth from a local Spotlight, but I am sure you could get them at home depots or haberdashery and they are very inexpensive. Also using products you may already have at home for the dyes (tea, coffee, spices), is also a great cost saver. Do let us know if you give this a try, we would love to see your results.

~ Julz & Desley

 

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Saturday Still Life

Happy Saturday! Oh, I love the weekend, so many possibilities. Just like this image of some simple peonies, same image four slightly different edits in Lightroom. It does not have to be complex or complicated to be beautiful.

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Join us and share your #pssSaturdayStillLife…

~ Julz, xo

Feature Friday – Furbabies

Desley and I thought we might mix things up a little bit and Feature some other things on a Friday, this week – Furbabies, these are my four Munchkins, [starting at top and moving clockwise] Chloe, Buddy, Zorro and Ted E Bear

Summer breaks

These are photos I took and turned into Digital Art by hand painting the backgrounds and fur. I then took them into #Canva and created this cute little image.

Share your Furbaby with us and tag it #PssFridayFeature #PixelSistersStudio & #FurbabyFriday

~ Julz

Monday Macro & some changes to the format

Hi Everyone, Julz here, just thought we would let you know that we are making a few slight tweaks to the usual format. Desley and I are going to take it in turns to host for a whole week, as opposed to Desley doing the morning shift and myself the afternoon.

The lineup will mainly be the same, except on Friday we may still feature your images from the week, but we may also feature something else, #PssFurbabies for instance, so keep an eye out for that.

the daily lineup-4

So this week is my turn and I will kick off with today’s #PssMondayMacro

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Shot this gorgeous Wattle in bloom over the weekend, reminding us Down Under that Spring is only just around the corner.

Share your Macro shot of something that reminds you the seasons are about to change, or of a flower that only is in bloom in your favorite season, maybe even just your favorite flower. Don’t forget to tag is #PssMondayMacro & #PixelSistersStudio so we can see it too.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting something a little different for #PssTuesdayTips; Finding Inspiration.

~ Julz

 

#pssTuesdayTips – Shooting a Frame Within a Frame

Compositionally, it can be very striking to frame your shot with an actual frame around the subject. 

Most commonly, we find frames in front of our subject but it can also look great with the frames behind the subject. 

This chef at MoVida in Melbourne’s Hosier Lane is nicely framed by the graffiti-covered wall. 


The frame helps to draw your eye to the subject, while adding an interesting extra something to the shot. Try to use a narrow aperture to capture focus throughout the shot. 

In this example below, another restaurant, the framing draws the eye down the aisle of the store, conveying and enhancing the depth in the field of view. For this kind of shot, it helps to have your focus on the subject that’s within the frame. 


Another example is this sculpture in Perth, at Cottlesloe Beach. It’s an obvious choice for a frame-within-the-frame shot, but I was lucky to catch the shot at sunset. At first, I was annoyed that this gentleman decided to take a seat when I was about to shoot, but afterwards I actually really liked the way it turned out. He added another element to my shot. 

This week, try to find a frame-within-frame. It could even be a window or doorway (as shown below in this quick iPhone snap that I got at an art gallery) or something natural, such as trees or shrubs around the subject. 


Or maybe, a cheeky side-mirror-shot. From a parked car, of course! In this one, I had to pull over to capture that dark storm behind us. 


Happy shooting! 

– Desley & Julz. 

Fine Art Conceptual Portrait Workshop, August 2017

What is a Fine Art Conceptual Portrait I hear you ask? Essentially it is telling a story. A normal standard portrait is a representation of a person, but you know nothing about them, and the picture tells very little. A Fine Art Conceptual Portrait, tells a story, has a mood, backstory, an overall portrayal of an ideal. That is a lot to convey in a single image, but it can be a lot of fun too. The use of color and props, as well as scene, can often help with visual cues.

Now that that is out of the way….The Pixel Sisters Studio ran its very first Fine Art Conceptual Portrait workshop on a very cold, wet and windy Sunday afternoon in August, it was a small group of photographers and a digital artist, come to learn how to run, direct and envision such a shoot. We had created three different concepts for the days shooting and many weeks of planning had gone into selecting models, makeup and hair, costumes, props, backdrops and special FX. As the weather is very inconsistent at this time of year we had to have contingencies for bad weather; we shot in the studio all afternoon, the hope of perhaps shooting in both studio and on location at the local park, was quickly dismissed and forgotten.

 

First up was Melissa Jade and the Broken Doll, we wanted to keep things simple and manageable, but still pack a punch. So Mel spent several hours in hair and makeup to look like a broken doll. A simple set, with a couple of variations, got everyone quite excited and furiously shooting.

Next was Jess Ami and a take on Julie’s Hide and Seek, this will be turned into a composite image in photoshop and took a few different shots to get what was required. Julie’s daughter also stepped in to help for a moment, as her small stature makes her almost invisible when hiding behind someone 🙂 We were actually quite busy helping people, directing and so forth and never took many photos of Jess, how can this be?

Our Final shot was a multi shot Levitation trick image with both the girls, with Mel in a wickedly splendor Mask and cape, also an outfit change for Jess. Once that was out of the way the girls left us, we did a quick tidy up and then set up trestle tables and computers with a one hour tutorial by Julie in editing one of the images in Photoshop.

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And now…………for some behind the scenes fun! Oh and you really check it all out behind the scenes with images and videos, check out the video on Julie’s YouTube channel!

Cheers

Desley and Julie, xo

 

Floral Fantasy, July 2017 Workshop

Well, it finally happened, the day finally arrived, for our first ever workshop: Floral Fantasy Workshop. It was a fairly hectic morning with lots to still organize, picking up flowers and packing backdrops and such.

We had eight participants for our workshop, so an excellent turnout. Everyone arrived on time and there was much excitement when they saw the set up before them. We had four workstations set up: two white and bright for Desley’s Macro and two for me which was dark and moody. I actually had a whole wall for the extra-large floral arrangements which were on loan from Desflora Flowers, three very large and beautiful displays.

So we split everyone into groups of two and they got to spend approx 45 minutes on each workstation, with Desley and I standing by for helpful tips, hints and general photography discussions.

Many of the participants had never shot macro before, some had lenses but had never used them, some borrowed lenses for the workshop, some just had to do the best with what lenses they had. Macro style shots can be achieved in some cameras with some lenses, but the true macro lens does give the best result. In the end, though, there were some really beautiful images created.

Macro Gallery

I had two stations set up from Dark and Moody Still Life, none of the participants had shot Still Life, and were at first hesitant about shooting angles, direction, staging and such. But as per usual, once given a little instruction and guidance there were some ready to jump in and truly get creative. We had a small sectioned off area with a dark backdrop and a moody snoot light to really get dark and moody, small simple, elegant sets ups, plus of course the giant floral displays which were placed on a small antique table or an old rustic ladder (both brought from home). We had a whole wall right next to the very light and bright macro tables and creating a dark and moody atmosphere was both challenging, but rewarding given the badly worn and threadbare backdrop and over bright lights.

Still Life Gallery

So three hours of furious concentration, a few aching backs (I keep telling people that Still Life can be a bit of an endurance sport!), and some very happy people. It was so lovely when these wonderful ladies starting posting and tagging us with their beautiful creations. It was lovely to know that we helped them to achieve such beautiful photos.

We are certainly looking forward to the next workshop and planning some more for this year as well. We will leave you with some behind the scenes fun.

Behind the Scenes

This last group of pics was shot by Suzanne Balding, the paparazzi 🙂 and one of the participants.

~ Cheers, Desley & Julz, xo