Age Fabric for Steampunk Softies

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Your softies will look more authentically steampunk with some judicious aging — and it’s easily done with very few props. This section shows you a wide range of simple ways to make your materials look as though they’ve lived longer and harder lives. Brand-new fabrics from your local fabric shop will acquire a vintage patina in minutes.
Adapted from "Steampunk Softies: Scientifically-Minded Dolls from a Past That Never Was" by Sarah Skeate and Nicola Tedman, published by Andrews McMeel Publishing. Images by Sara Skeate.

Source: , Steampunk Softies: Scientifically-Minded Dolls...

Step 1

Aging with Wax
Materials and equipment
• Fabric or leather to be distressed
• Plain candle
• Greaseproof paper (wax or parchment)
• Electric iron
• Scissors
1 / Lay the fabric down on a protected surface (a few layers of newspaper will do), light the candle, and drip wax, drop by drop, over the whole area you want to age.
2 / Cut six pieces of greaseproof paper, each the same size or slightly larger than your fabric piece. Sandwich the waxed fabric between the paper, three layers on top and three underneath.
3 / Heat the iron to a medium heat, lay plenty of newspaper on your ironing board, put the fabric/paper sandwich on top, and iron firmly but quickly over all the layers so that the wax melts (any overspill will be caught by the greaseproof paper). Go over the layers with the iron several times. Leave to cool.
4 / Peel the paper off the fabric sandwich. Bend and fold the fabric with your hands to crack the wax. Finally, rub the surface down with the smooth handles of a pair of scissors — this will give your fabric a truly aged looking patina and texture.

Step 2

Toothpaste Timeworn Fabrics
This makes a very effective spot-stain, for areas that you want to look particularly worn. It works best on thick, dark fabrics. Simply squeeze a tiny amount of white toothpaste directly onto your fabric (a spot not larger than a peppercorn to start with), rub well in with your fingers, then rinse the fabric and leave to dry.
Result: material that appears whitened with age and wear!

Step 3

Aging Fabric with Chalk
Chalk dirties fabrics very effectively, but it works best on materials with some texture. For the subtlest effect, choose two chalk crayons, each one shade off the fabric you’re aging. Rub the paler one lightly over the fabric first, then smudge it with your fingers. Repeat with the darker crayon. Work the chalk into the fabric gently but thoroughly; if it isn’t rubbed in, it will rub off on anyone who touches your softie.

Step 4

Aging Fabric with Scratches
This works best on leather, to give the look of heavy use. Use a sharp point (a bradawl works best, but one blade of a pair of sharp scissors will do) to make a series of crisscross scratches over the surface. Don’t go too deep, just enough to penetrate the surface of the leather. To get an authentically aged look, rub some chalk or a very little soil into the scratches with your fingers, then wipe the leather with a damp cloth.

Step 5

Using Bleach to Age Fabric
This technique is good for felt that looks too fresh and new. Fill a plastic bowl with water to a depth of about four inches (ten centimeters). Add a tablespoon of bleach, using a stainless-steel spoon as bleach will corrode silver or plastic. Add your fabric, stir well, and leave for a couple of hours. Rinse the fabric in clean water and leave to dry. This proportion will give a subtle effect. If you want something more dramatic you can add more bleach, but don’t overdo it or you will weaken your fabric.

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