I’ve been looking for a set of good quality watercolours but haven’t been able to find anything that doesn’t include a lot of colours I would never use. After falling down a few online watercolour rabbit holes, I found that you can make your own half-pan set from tubes.
Imagine the possibilities! I have quite a few little tubes already – probably far too many, but colour is too enticing to resist, and I will use it all eventually. I’m not a painter, but I do like to paint. Getting all the tubes out feels like too much hassle and mess for a quick sketchbook page, so making a pan set with the colours I’ve already got is the perfect solution.
You can buy empty watercolour tins quite cheaply, and many of them come with empty half pans ready to fill from tubes.
The result is a perfect set of watercolours, conveniently in a metal box that takes seconds to set up.
There’s a lot of green, but then that’s what I like. There’s a mix of brands here – mostly Daniel Smith, with some Winsor & Newton, Schmincke, and Jacksons. They all sit quite happily together and mix well. Some set harder than others, but it seems to make no difference to the paint itself. The Jacksons paints still haven’t set hard after a few days, but this palette lives in a drawer and won’t be carried around, so I don’t think it matters if it doesn’t set.
I’d like to spend a bit of each day on sketchbook work, and this convenient set-up will make it so much easier to restart a daily practice. I’ve been doing some doodles just to see what happens and already they look like possible textile/stitch samples.
This week I’ve made a notebook using some light weight cotton rag paper – somewhere to collect colour palettes, swatches, and notes about colour.
The paper signatures were easy enough – just folded pairs that could be stitched to the spine of a cover. The cover itself literally dropped through the letter box one day. I cut a corrugated cardboard mailer box to size and painted it white:
The depth of the box turned out to be exactly the right size for a spine to fit the pile of signatures:
I painted some abaca tissue paper with acrylic inks and collaged/stencilled it a bit and used that to cover the white cardboard. I’ve reinforced the spine with another layer of painted tissue.
You can still see the texture of corrugated cardboard underneath the colour but it’s functioning pretty well as a book.
Next job this week is to find a way through these, when they’re dry:
If I can get through them all (and if I can stop myself from keeping them!) they’ll be available from next week.
While I’m waiting for more thread to arrive in the post, I’m compiling for myself a thread catalogue. This is really just somewhere for me to organise and categorise the various types of thread that I will be stocking and dyeing.
Initially this was just going to be a notebook and cover, but, well, these things often get a bit out of hand, and now it’s slightly more complicated than that.
The colour palette came about by accident, after I dyed these thick cotton boucle yarns, which will wrap around the whole thing to tie it shut:
I really like the way this very thick-and-thin dimensional cotton slub yarn can be flattened when it’s couched with long stitches:
Anyway, back to over-complicating things, and now it’s a notebook in a wraparound cover, with a pocket for index cards carrying samples and information about the various threads. The pocket came from a silk shirt that I dyed.
I find it very useful to round up information for comparative purposes, so that I can see at a glance how (for instance) silk and cotton threads compare in terms of weight or thickness. Thread weights are sometimes given as an nm figure, which I don’t find particularly helpful. Broadly, this system translates as the number of meters per 1g of thread (the first number) and the number of plies or strands in the thread (the second number). So the silk thread pictured below has a nm of 8/2, which tells you it’s a 2-ply thread, and you get about 8 metres of it per gram. For comparison, standard sewing thread (the kind you would use in a machine) is usually something like 60 or 70/2, which is a lot finer. As a visual thinker, I find it much easier to picture thread weights in terms of wraps per inch – I’m not certain but I think this is a system that is more commonly seen in the knitting world, to help with substituting yarn weights in patterns. I find it much easier to understand that the silk thread below has about 23 wraps per inch (the number of times you can wrap it around a one-inch strip without leaving any gaps).
Finer silk threads, which have an nm of 16/2 and 30/2, have wraps per inch of about 29 and 44 respectively. I find this easier to visualise.
I’m using commercial cotton perle threads as controls, just to see how the weights of my various hand-dyed threads will compare. And even that isn’t as ‘standard’ as you might expect. I’ve used DMC perle 3 to 8 to count wraps per inch, but I didn’t have enough DMC perle 12 so had to use a Valdani perle 12 instead. And here’s the surprise – there isn’t a huge amount of difference between DMC perle 8 (43 wpi) and Valdani perle 12 (44 wpi). I can see by enlarging the photos that the 12 card maybe isn’t wrapped as closely as the 8, but that would only account for another 3 or 4-ish.
This is turning into quite a rabbit hole, isn’t it? I expect somebody somewhere will tell me I’ve got too much time on my hands, but I find this kind of thing really fascinating. Ultimately I suspect this will end up being a self-referencing closed system that only I will understand, and I think that’s probably ok. As soon as thread reinforcements arrive, I’ll be able to start winding skeins for dyeing again – but in the meantime I’m enjoying some quite reasonable down time.