Introduction: Mudcloth Pumpkin Pincushion

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This mudcloth pincushion is the start of an odyssey. Today I’m showing you a technique to create your own custom mudcloth-style fabric – using cotton fabric, gel school glue and dye!

You should end up with a mudcloth fabric of sorts. I say ‘should’ because projects don’t always turn out as expected. As you’ll see in the reveal, my project didn’t go exactly to plan :). But I still ended up with something pretty and functional!

Check out the video above if you want the lowdown on how to dye your own DIY mudcloth!


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Step 1: Prep Work

Wash and launder your cotton fabric. I also ironed it. Also lay plastic down on your work surface to protect from splatters from the dye. If you're lucky enough to live in a warm climate, do the dye work outside.

Step 2: Apply Glue to Fabric

I did free form patterns by squeezing the glue onto the fabric. Google 'mudcloth' to use as inspiration for your patterns. I also tried applying the glue with a stencil but had less success. I much prefer hand drawn patterns for this project; it looks more rustic.

Notice how the wet glue is applied thickly? That's what you want. You need to be heavy handed with the glue!

Let the glue dry flat overnight. A drying rack that you can sacrifice for crafts can be helpful (like the kind to bake cookies). Lay the fabric on that to get better air flow. If you don't have a rack, lift the piece off the work surface occasionally so it doesn't stick to the plastic. I made the mistake of hanging one of my test pieces to dry, but the glue ran (second picture)! Boo :(

Step 3: Prepare Dylon Dye

Weigh your fabric. One 50 g package of Dylon will dye 250 grams of fabric. Because mine weighs 119 grams, I'm only going to use half the package of Dylon for this project.

Weigh 25 grams of Dylon.

For this technique only use room temperature water. This is important because warm water could melt the glue. With that exception, prepare according to package directions (I'm using half the amount of water and salt indicated on the package because of the fabric weight).

Once the dye bath is prepared, dampen your fabric. Then place it in the dye bath and stir for 15 minutes. At first I used a stainless steel spoon, but then I donned gloves and got in there with my hands. If you do this, keep paper towels handy to catch the drips when you're done! You want the dye to have contact with the entire surface of the fabric so don't allow it to stay folded in any one position for too long.

After the first 15 minutes, let the fabric soak but stir occasionally for another 45 minutes.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry

When time is up, rinse the fabric until the water runs clean. In this photo you can clearly see the glue patterns.

But you can also see that much of the dye came out of my fabric. My supposedly 100% cotton fabric was actually not as advertised (I'll show you how I know that later)! What a disappointment to go through all that work only to to discover that! I'm certain this project would have worked as I expected if the fabric I bought wasn't mislabeled 100% cotton!

Step 5: Remove School Glue

The beauty of Elmer's gel glue for this project is that it washes out! Toss the fabric into a warm/hot soapy wash cycle to remove the glue. Or you can do this by hand instead.

But because of the fabric not properly absorbing the dye due (probably due to mixed fibres), this is what I actually got (3rd picture). On closer inspection, you can see that the warp threads on the top and bottom edges of the fabric are dyed black, as they should be. But the weft threads are still perfectly white (right hand edge). That to me suggests that the fabric is not 100% cotton as indicated on the label.

Step 6: Sewing

I don't have access to my sewing machine right now, so I'm hand sewing!

For this project, I cut a piece of fabric approximately 11" x 20", but just about any proportion could work (short and plump, tall and skinny). Fold right sides together.

Use a short running stitch to hand sew a 1/4" seam - or use a sewing machine if you have one. Here I'm using unwaxed dental floss for the seam (because if you iron waxed dental floss, it can stain your fabric). If you have heavy thread, use that. Iron the seam flat to one side.

On the wrong side, at the top and bottom of the tube, sew a long running stitch as shown in the 3rd pic.

On what will be the bottom of the pumpkin, gather the stitches tightly, Then stitch back and forth all around the gathers to secure (4th pic). Knot and cut thread.

Turn inside out.

Step 7: Stuff It!

Stuff the pumpkin with fibrefill. If you need additional filler, you can also upcycle a clean old dishtowel, socks or t-shirt (but not an Instructables one of course!) to use as stuffing.

If you choose to use various fillers, be sure to encase it in the fibrefill to fill-in all the voids. That will ensure a smooth outer surface.

Gather the top. I saved the top of a delicata squash for the stem. That'll be glued on later with hot glue.

Step 8: Add Sections

To define the pumpkin sections, I'm using this Patons yarn. Any white yarn you have on hand will do.

Secure at the top, then wind it around the bottom, weaving the yarn underneath the previous section and changing direction to keep it secure. I created 6 sections. The 3rd pic shows how the sections will look on the sides.

Step 9:

Tuck ends in at the top, knot and cut all threads. Then glue on the stem with a dollop of hot glue.

I would've loved if the pattern on the dyed fabric was more defined. Even though the pattern is subtle, I think it still looks pretty. It actually looks like the reverse side of denim quite a bit.

I can't wait to experiment with this technique more! If you enjoyed this 'Ible, consider voting for us in the Halloween contest :)

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