Dying/staining these silver tinsel pipe cleaners brings about a total transformation. They look amazingly Edwardian. You know those early 20th century postcards with the tarnished silver glass glitter?? That's what these pipe cleaners remind me of. Some years ago I did a tutorial on the Joli Paquet blog which outlined how I stained the pipe cleaners with Tim Holtz alcohol inks. Because of Pinterest, I became aware that clever people had come up with a way to make DIY alcohol inks. 91% isopropyl alcohol and RIT dye. One of those why didn't I think of that moments. So, I set about deciding which RIT dye colors would make the proper formula for tarnish. It was a messy business, but, not too difficult since RIT doesn't really make very many colors. You need something brownish/blackish. In RIT dye terms it's DARK BROWN + PEARL GREY = TARNISH. The hard and messy part was figuring out how much of each. Took me the better part of an afternoon to figure out that it's 50/50! It took some trial and error to figure out the best way to dye a large quantity of pipe cleaners and I almost bailed several times, but I persevered and was able to do 800 pipe cleaners for around $12.00. After all that the drawbacks became apparent and I almost bailed again. The primary reason I stayed the course is that these 800 pipe cleaners ARE THE PERFECT TARNISHED COLOR. They look exactly like 80 to 100 year old tarnished tinsel garland. As I began crafting with these DIY-inked pipe cleaners, I began to notice they were staining my fingers:--( Dammit. I imagined the pretty ladies in my classes getting their fingers dirty and decided that real crafters aren't afraid to get messy! As I crafted on, my rationalizations about the stained fingers grew weaker and weaker. With the Tim Holtz inks there is absolutely no residue transferred to your fingers. Still, this is such a much more cost effective way to dye large amounts of pipe cleaners and, even more important, the color is perfect. So, I began to brainstorm as to how I could decrease the staining. I rinsed some with cold water which worked great, but it was super messy and aggravating. Next, I took a good, stiff brush to them which cuts down the finger-staining considerably. However, it is still not perfectly clean crafting. Although, I think the good outweighs the bad. I am considering spraying them with a clear sealer. It may or may not be worth the trouble. I don't want them to get so labor intensive that it's no longer worth the savings.
Here is my latest pipe cleaner craft:
This one has pearl-head straight pins as ornaments, but I'm kinda partial to the tree without the ornaments:
I like them both. I found some all silver pearl-head pins on ebay and I'm thinking I might like that better than the multi-color. I wish I could find all red. The only thing I can get locally is multi-color. I could paint the pearl tips, but that would complicate the craft too much for my taste. I like the simplicity. I'll be making a few of these to sell at Glitter Market. I've settled on this top....it's simple and I like it better than the ribbon on top of the larger tree:
So, tell me what you think. Do you like them? Should I do a class on these next year? FYI, this craft came into existence because I was trying to come up with small, table-top Christmas decor for my mother-in-law who has recently moved to assisted living and won't have room for a large tree. It seems necessity is always the mother of invention.