Tag Archives | Sara McKenzie

Vendor Spotlight: Jacquard Tie Dye Kits

Reported by Sara McKenzie

I’ll give you the punch line right up front: These kits made me feel like a teenager again – and it was the great part of being a teenager!

Given the opportunity, I volunteered to review a handful of Jacquard products because I have been impressed with their lines of paint & inks (specifically, Lumiere acrylics and Pinata alcohol inks). Recently, Jacquard came out with a new line of kits for tie dye, and these are the ones that I experimented with.

I had a chance to try out the Jewel Tone Tie Dye and Indigo Dye kits, so I invited over two gal pals: my best friend, and her 16 year old daughter, to play with me.

The Jewel Tone Tie Dye Kits come with the following:

  • two applicator bottles with powdered dye (you add the water) in two different colors that complement each other
  • Soda ash (sodium bicarbonate – which makes the dye grab onto the fabric)
  • gloves
  • rubber bands
  • instructions, including tie dye patterns to try out

The packaging indicates that it is sufficient dye for two T-shirts. You also need something to hold 2 gallons of water plus your fabric or T-shirts.

The process was pretty much as I remembered it, with the exception that you soak your fabric to be dyed in a solution of soda ash for 20 minutes before applying dye. This is a definite improvement over my old Rit dye attempts, as the soda ash prepares the fibers to hold onto the dye. After soaking, you wring out the excess water, and then use the rubber bands to tie up the fabric or garment. Also different is the application of dye with plastic bottles – I liked this part, and the control it provided.

After applying color, you put your piece in a plastic bag, and let it rest for 12-24 hours. Then you rinse, wash, dry and wear (or craft!).

Although it says it in the directions, I did not realize that each kit comes with two bottles of different colors of dye. The bottles look exactly alike, including the markings on the front, and the color of the cap. So even though the instructions talked about using a complementary color, I thought that meant you had to use a second kit! Consequently, we only ended up using one bottle of dye from the “Ruby” kit and one bottle from the “Emerald” kit.

Our work space: wet and wild!

Wringing out excess soda ash before tying and dying.

Making rosettes.

Applying Jewel Tone Dye from “Ruby” kit.

Dyed and ready to rest for 12-24 hours.

Finished fabric: 1/2 yard, 100% cotton- Using accordion pleat pattern.

Close-up of accordion pleated fabric in “Ruby” and “Emerald”.

The Indigo Dye kit is a little bit different: it uses the natural dye that has been used for ages by cultures around the world and is still used to dye blue jeans. This kit includes:

  • 20 grams of pre-reduced powdered indigo dye
  • 250 grams of reducing agent (a mixture of 60% soda ash and 40% thiourea dioxide- this latter chemical makes the mix smell faintly of ammonia)
  • gloves
  • rubber bands
  • 2 wood blocks
  • Quick Start Instructions
  • Instructions that include dye patterns and a historical look at indigo

The amount of indigo dye provided is supposed to be enough for 15 yards or 5 pounds of fabric, or 15 T-shirts.

This procedure is a little different, in that the dye itself has to be chemically prepared prior to use. You are instructed to prepare a full 4 gallons of indigo dye, using the entire bottle of dye and the entire package of reducing agent. I imagine that you might be able to use only 1/2 of the package, but I don’t know that for certain. (Make sure you locate your 5 gallon pail before you start. I had to make a quick run to the local hardware store at the last minute!! You also have to provide a long stir stick that reaches to the bottom of your pail.)

If you are interested in the chemistry: indigo dye is only soluble in water when it is in a particular chemical state (“reduced”). You have to mix the dry powder dye with the reducing agent, and keep it covered, for 30-60 minutes prior to using it. Once reduced, and kept covered, you can keep the vat for a couple of weeks if you use it and store it carefully. As soon as the dye is exposed to a lot of air, the chemical state changes (it “oxidizes”) and this makes the indigo dye molecules bind to the fibers of your fabric.

If you want a REALLY deep indigo blue, you can “dip” your fabric multiple times until you have the color you like. Each dip only takes about 5 minutes, but then you have to let your piece “rest”, exposed to air, until the color changes from a deep blue-green to indigo. It is an obvious color change!!

The indigo dye vat. Yes, you definitely need gloves.

Dyed piece, resting, so the color can “oxidize”.

Untying the bundle.
Finished T-shirt (50-50 cotton/polyester)- still wet- rosettes tied down one side.

100% cotton fabric tied in random patterns.

T-shirt tied in spiral pattern.

We had a really good time, and accomplished a lot in just a few hours. My 16-year-old friend is anxious to wear her new T-shirt to her gymnastics club!


  • As always, kits make things easy. In both types of kits, there was plenty of dye to play with.
    • Including gloves and rubber bands in the kits was a huge plus. You don’t have to hoard rubber bands for weeks in advance (or heaven forbid, buy them!).
    • The instructions are well-written, and the diagrams for tying different patterns are really helpful.
    • The Jewel Tone colors are really beautiful and vibrant. And the indigo is, well, indigo!
    • Kids can definitely enjoy this, under adult supervision.
    • The Indigo Dye Kit retails for $11.99 and each Jewel Tone kit lists for $7.99. Very reasonable prices for what you can create with them.


      • Four gallons of Indigo dye?!? Even if I wanted to, I don’t know where I would have stored it in my house to use it again. I’d suggest a smaller package size. Or instructions for how to make 1/2 the amount.
      • The Jewel Tone kits contain two different complementary colors. Although this is clearly written in the instructions, it is not written anywhere on the dye bottles themselves. So be more conscious of this than I was!!

        Have you done any tie dying lately? Did this make you want to? Leave us a comment and let us know.


        Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

        Vendor Spolight: Sculpey Keepsake Clay Kits

        Reported by Sara McKenzie

        I was happy to review one of the “Keepsake Kits” from Polyform, the maker of one of the leading polymer clays, Sculpey. Although I am a bit of a novice, I love working with polymer clay and seeing what can be achieved with it. The kit for a “Family Tree” intrigued me upon its arrival; it’s not something that I would have picked off the shelf for myself. But I am happy to say that I am delighted with the final product.

        The kit comes complete with everything you need to make the Family Tree:

        • Silver-colored metal tree. Comes in pieces, but is easily assembled. Finished, it stands about 14″ tall, and is 14″ at its widest point.
        • Enough green Sculpey to make the ornaments shown (3 oz).
        • Cookie cutter, to cut the scalloped oval shape of the ornaments.
        • A small texture mat, and a plastic roller to help make an even impression in the clay.
        • Ribbon, a large-eyed plastic needle, craft glue, and a photo template.

        All you have to do is supply the photos, and an oven in which to bake your clay. (CAUTION: You should only bake clay in an oven dedicated to crafting. Food should not come into contact with unbaked clay. Bake in a well-ventilated area per the clay manufacturer’s directions.)

        Personally, I did not like the silver color of the tree. The tree is not finely crafted, meaning that the seams on the sides of the trunk had gaps, and the leaves were not all attached exactly as they should have been. So I decided to try my hand with a faux rust kit, to change the color and texture to something more “tree-like”, and to hide some of the imperfections. Please keep in mind that this was my own personal taste driving this; the original finish is perfectly fine.

        Above: The tree, in pieces. It is easily assembled, needing only two screws.
        Below: a close up of one of the branches.

        I followed the faux-rust manufacturer’s directions to create a rusted finish on the tree, so that it ended up looking like this:

        Above and below: A “rusted” finish on the tree, and a close-up of the tree trunk.
        I like it better already!

        The ornaments are SUPER simple to make- in fact, this would be a great kit for a beginner in polymer clay. I used my pasta machine to condition the clay, but you could also knead it with your hands, and roll it out with the plastic roller provided. When it is soft enough to work with, and rolled to about 1/8″ thick, you apply the small photo template, then the texture plate, and roll again. The final ornament is then cut out with the oval cutter provided.

        Above: Green ornament, ready to bake. The photo template is a mere 1-3/16″ x 7/8″.
        You will likely have to resize all of your photos electronically to make them work. (Apologies for the background- it’s the granite in my kitchen!!)

        Above: I added some additional color
        with colored mica powder (like Perfect Pearls or PearlEx Powder).
        Above: I did not want to make an acutal family tree. Instead, I used a photo transfer
        (from Lisa Pavelka), and finished the whole ornament with a glossy enamel meant for polymer clay.

        Here’s how my diva looks hanging from the tree.

        I chose not to make more ornaments with pictures on them, and instead I made some other kinds of polymer clay “charms” to hang from the tree. To do this, I used a stamping wheel and the “StamPress” from Clearsnap. (You can see my review of the StamPress on Craft Critique by clicking here). The green clay was already conditioned, so I used it together with a wheel that created fall-themed squares of leaves, pumpkins, apples and corn on the cob. I colored these also with mica powders, and finished them with the same glossy finish as my diva (above).

        Above: One of the completed charms: a nice delicious apple!
        Above: A full view of the tree with the green charms.

        And I couldn’t stop there…. I made some additional charms with another stamping wheel and the StamPress, on white clay. After baking, I cut out the images, and painted with Jacquard Lumiere Paints. These I finished with a coat of “Armor All”.

        Above: A close-up of one of the white ornaments.
        Above: The tree decorated with white ornaments.

        Unfortunately, I did not make enough of either type of ornament, so I am going to have to go back to the pasta machine and make more of each! I’m thinking that my tree can be a seasonal decoration: the green charms are perfect for Autumn, and the white ones for Summer. I only need to create some for Winter and Spring, and I’ll be all set. And I’ll happily do so!

        Above: The finished tree, decorated with a mix of ornaments. I’ll get back into my
        studio to make more of each kind, and some to use for the winter holidays!

        Sculpey Keepsake Clay not only comes as the “Family Tree” but also in the following kits:

        • Baby hand print ornament (retail $6.99-9.99)
        • A dog pawprint ornament (retail $6.99-9.99)
        • Picture frames, in pink, blue, or white (retail $13.95-19.99)
        • Children’s growth chart (retail $10.99)

        The “Family Tree” kit has a retail price of $22.99-28.99.


        • It’s a good kit for polymer clay beginners. It has everything you need (except the oven), and uses a few different techniques to introduce you to the medium.
        • The directions are clear, complete and concise.
        • The process for making the ornaments is simple enough that you could update your Family Tree as the kids grow!
        • You can easily dress up your tree with other types of ornaments and decorations. The “branches” are pretty sturdy, and can hold some weight.


        • This may be personal preference: I wasn’t crazy about the silver color of the tree, and the less than exacting construction. I did like it MUCH better once I rusted it – the darker color and added texture hide some of the ills.
        • I also did not like the particular green color clay supplied. Again, this is personal preference. Maybe they chose something relatively dull so that it would not compete with your chosen photos?
        • The kits do not appear to be readily available. Some can be had on Amazon, but you’ll have to do a careful search to find them all.
        • Price point? I’m still deciding on that one. If you can find it closer to $20 than to $28, I think it is more of a value.

        Polyform is generously giving away one of these great Keepsake Clay kits to a lucky reader!

        To Enter
        Leave a comment on this post or any Vendor Spotlight: Sculpey Keepsake Clay Kits and answer one or all of these questions…

        What do you think? Ready to give it a try? Let us know if you’ve used any of the other kits, and what you thought about those.

        You have until Sunday, October 11th 6pm CST to enter. One entry per person, please.


        Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

        Book Review: Totally Twisted, by Kerry Bogert

        Reported by Sara McKenzie

        I am always intrigued by how-to books for fun and funky jewelry, and the title Totally Twisted had me hooked right off the bat! This is the third jewelry book from artist Kerry Bogert, and the contents do not disappoint. Kerry has the good fortune/skill/hours invested to be an inspiration for making lampwork glass beads, as well as fun and unique ways to turn them into wearable art. As the subtitle states, this book is all about how to create innovative wirework and art glass jewelry.

        As with all good how-to books, this one starts off with a series of pages on Materials, Tools, Techniques, and even how to use the Color Wheel in your own designs. The close-up photos are beautifully lit and most definitely enhance the instruction. Below is an example of the page which describes how to make a “wrapped loop”.

        She also includes excellent instructions for making simple headpins, eye pins, clasps, spirals, and even your own jump rings (it really is easy!!). And not only does she use sterling silver wire, and inform us how to do it, she also incorporates color-coated copper wire for fun and added pizzazz.

        What follows in the book are detailed instructions for 24 projects with catchy names like “Squiggle Wiggle,” “Chunky Monkey,” and “Flying Trapeze.” The projects include simple drop earrings, pendants, myriad bracelets and all manner of necklaces.

        Here is her first page layout for the “Delightful” necklace, which is intended to provide a design that can use all of those leftover beads and chain from other projects.

        My own take on”Delightful” is below. I had purchased all of these beads in three or four individual sets a “few” years ago (ahem), and this design gave me the perfect way to combine them altogether in what I think is a great look! For my design, I used 20 gauge soft gold-filled wire. And the coiled pieces were made with the “Coiling Gizmo” – you can find my review of that nifty (and inexpensive tool!) here on Craft Critique.

        My “Delightful” Necklace of lampwork glass beads and gold-filled wire.
        Close-up of a large wrapped-loop link, with a bead incorporated.
        Close-up of the double-wrapped loop chain. You have to connect them as you go,
        which is a bit of a challenge!

        Close-up of the S-link chain. Mine is far from perfect, but it still works!!

        I also made matching earrings by copying the large wrapped loop, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale.

        Matching earrings with a large wrapped loop. The hardest part on these was
        getting the large loops to be the same size, because I did not have a good
        mandrel handy. Again, not perfect, but I won’t be ashamed to wear them.

        Here are some examples of “BANG Gals” that the author provided. These were incredibly simple, with a large gauge wire used as the base, and then covered in coiled wire.

        For my own piece, I simplified just a teeny bit. And again, the beads were from my own stash and I was thrilled to be able to put them to this design!

        My own “BANG Gal” using both sterling silver wire and color-coated copper wire.
        Definitely wearable art!!

        Totally Twisted is just that, in very fun and inspiring way! The author gives clear instruction which is accompanied by many excellent close-up photos. She even recommends that you tumble your finished works in a tumbler to give them a final polish- yes, even a kid’s rock tumbler will do. I have to admit that I have not been brave enough to do that yet…. Although I don’t know what is really stopping me, because she is the pro!!

        Totally Twisted
        Interweave Press
        List price: $22.95 ( but on SALE now for $13.77 – a bargain!)
        143 pages
        24 projects plus instructions


        • Really lovely and truly unique ways to combine lampwork glass beads with wire work
        • Excellent instructions for even basic elements that you can use in all of your jewelry projects
        • You don’t have to use expensive beads and wire to make great looking jewelry.


        • Not exactly a con, but the elements do require practice. But that’s what is great about the price of copper wire!
        • You really do need the right tools: a tapered mandrel, a bench block, chasing hammer and the right sets of pliers.
        • The author makes her own lampwork beads, some of which are quite unusual. So you might be disappointed that the styles are not easy to reproduce exactly as shown.
        • You do need to have the book next to you and be working on the wire to make some of the instructions make sense (but I have the same problem with some sewing patterns, so maybe that’s just life!).

         Totally Twisted: Innovative Wirework & Art Glass Jewelry is available at

        Are you a jewelry buff? Have you tried any of Kerry’s other books? Let us know!


        Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!