Topping it Off: Eco-Friendly Gift-Wrapping

December 15th, 2011 § 10 comments § permalink

It’s become clear that sometime during the next few weeks or so, you may have something to give me.   Quite possibly it will be something that doesn’t cost much.  Maybe it will be free—a shoulder massage, a ukulele tutorial, a list of trustworthy sitters, your timeshare in Antrim, Ireland—in any case, since you know I am a surprise-junkie, it will likely require some sort of superawesome wrapping to ambush and wow me.

This will be easily done, I think, since it is still fall here and I’ve recently discovered some mind-blowing tutorials HERE and HERE on transforming fall leaves into crafty decorative flowers—perfect for topping off your thoughtful gift.  I understand you may be concerned that fall is coming to a close, and leaves are becoming scarce and crinkly and delicate, and it might just take longer than expected for you to figure out just how to get those leaves folded.  Just.  Perfectly.  I am here to prepare you for alternatives.

This project requires a Felted Wool Ball, needle and thread, remnant wool felt, and a small collection of felted sweaters.  First, prepare the “petals” for the project.  With sharp sewing scissors, cut the felted sweaters into long zigzaggy strips, leaving a connection on the bottom edge—pointy or rounded tops.  Cut thin sweaters into narrow strips (for inner petals) and thick sweaters into wider strips (for outer petals).

I keep a stash of these strips handy for noteworthy projects like button bracelets and collars for small lively monster friends.

Next (and this is optional) use a felting needle, felting pad and skinny wool roving to embellish the wool ball, adding spirals or dots or anything else superfancy (see Dry Felting).

With needle and thread in hand, stitch the bottom edge of one narrow zigzaggy strip around the sides of the felted ball until you meet up with the starting point.  Cut off the extra end of the strip.  Stitch a wider zigzaggy strip around the sides of the ball, matching bottom edges and overlapping the first strip until you meet up with the starting point.  Cut off the end.  Stitch a third (the widest) zigzaggy strip over the first two.  Cut off the end.

Next, cut a large leaf-shaped piece of wool felt.  Place this piece on the bottom of your flower and sew around the edges, attaching it to your flower top and covering the rough zigzaggy strip edges.  Good job.

Gift ribbons can be easily made with light cotton fabric scrap.  Cut in about an inch from the edge.  Grab fabric edges and pull away, leaving raw-edged ribbon.

Wrap your gift with a larger fabric scrap, tying with raw-edged ribbon.

With needle and thread, secure flower onto ribbon.  Ta da!

 

Note: don’t attempt perfection with these felted flowers.  As with other projects, quirky outcomes are preferred over conventional.  That said, remind yourself that, in nature, some flowers are smaller, some are fatter, some grow to the left, some to the right, and some even lose petals.

Celebrate the uniqueness.

 

Holy Moly! A Giveaway!

February 18th, 2011 § 66 comments § permalink

Hairband giveawayI can’t remember what made me look, but I just checked behind the scenes for the first time in a while and Holy Moly! there are a lot of visitors checking in to this little blog.  But, why so quiet?  I didn’t even know you were here.

And so, I invite you to join me. You may secretly think you don’t have much to offer, but you do.  Write to me.  Say hello and help me plan my spring.  (It’s coming, you know!)  Tell me what projects interest you, what you want to hear about, what you already know or want to know about.  I want to hear from you.

So here’s the deal.  You may submit your “Hello” several ways:

1) via the Mossy Facebook page

2) via Comments to this post

3) or via Contact link with “Hello” as the subject

Submissions must be received by Friday, March 4th.   Readers will be able to “like” their favorites on Facebook if they choose, but ultimately, a team of highly qualified experts (my small, insightful design team) will decide on a winner.  The winner will be announced on Friday, March 11th.  And, get this:  The winner will walk away with two handmade Mossy hairbands (very similar to the one pictured above, but different, and carefully wrapped and tied with a bow).

Ask, tell, share.  Your comments mean so much to me.  Can’t wait to hear from you.  And good luck!

Felted Wool Finger Puppets

February 7th, 2011 § 6 comments § permalink

Felted Finger PuppetsOnce you’ve perfected the Felted Wool Ball and your design team is ready to rally, see if you have the technical adroitness to make something super crafty—The Felted Finger Puppet.

For this project, you will need bowl of hot, slightly soapy water, a bowl of cold soapless water, carded wool, scraps of 100% wool felt, a needle and thread, warm water and warm hands.  As posted previously, carded wool (or “wool roving”) can be purchased at local farms, craft stores or online (e.g. Local Harvest, Etsy, Halcyon Yarn, or Peace Fleece).  Peace Fleece offers a “Rainbow Felting Pack” that is perfect for this project.

As with the Felted Wool Ball, pull off a small length of wool and divide it into many thin longish strips.—multiple thin layers will produce the sturdiest felted material.  Wrap one strip as you would wind a ball of string—in thin layers around your index finger making sure you cover the fingertip.  Wrap the remaining wool strips around the first, adding layers until you can no longer feel your knuckle. The wool should be snug, but not too tight (about 1/8 in thick when pressed).

Dip your wooly finger into the bowl of hot, slightly soapy water.  Remove your wooly finger from the water and gently press the wool with the fingertips of your other hand, squeezing gently.  Continue to re-wet and squeeze the wool until you feel the fibers become entangled and you feel the fabric becoming firmer (you will notice this within a few minutes).  When the fabric is very firm, submerge your wooly finger into the bowl of cold (soapless) water to set the fibers and rinse.  Remove excess water by gently squeezing your wooly finger.  Like the Felted Wool Ball project, if your hands are perpetually cold like mine, you will find this project somewhat challenging.  Carefully remove the wool from your finger.

After air-drying the wool for several hours, you and your starry-eyed design team must envision the outcome— cow, wolf, librarian, martian—the brainstorming starts now.  The puppets can be embellished with needle felting (e.g. bumblebee stripes, eyes, nostrils), cut wool sweaters (e.g. lion mane, dragon wings) and embroidery thread.

These little friends, as seductive as they are, often are central to my operation.  With their cheerful banter, they lure my girls into unappealing household tasks such as eating veggies, washing dishes or brushing their teeth.  These little friends are known to appreciate clean plates and good attitudes.  As well, they provide teeny shoulders for us all to cry on after challenging days.

Wool felt is the earliest known form of fabric—therefore the process of felting has been around much longer than any of us—including supertalented felt artists Marjolen Dalinda, Renata Kraus, and Irena Rudman.  Additional tutorials and inspiration for felting projects like the ones we have made here can easily be found on many blogs and craft sites like Wee Folk Art, Rhythm of the Home, Laura Lee Burch and Martha Stuart.  For those in a hurry, finished products can be found on Chickadee Swing, and in many Waldorf catalogs.

Dry Felting

February 4th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Wet- and dry-felted wool ballsAlso called needle felting, dry felting can be used to embellish your felted work.  Needle felting is used to fuse another layer of fiber onto the felted fabric.  It is slightly magical.  Little in the way of equipment is required to needle felt by hand, though it requires a bit more concentration than wet felting.  In addition to focus, you will also need one of your dry wool balls that you’ve previously felted.  Also, you will need to purchase a felting needle (get a few extra just in case).  I purchased mine online from Paradise Fibers, a family-owned and operated farm in Spokane, WA.  A felting needle is long, barbed and extremely sharp.  Be careful, particularly if you are working with a young design team such as mine.  You will also need a felting pad.  This will allow the needle to go through the fiber and beyond without damaging the needle or the surface below.  You can purchase a fancy schmancy pad, but many experienced needle felters simply use polystyrene blocks, upholstery foam or compressed foam.  I use the head of an old floor brush—this works perfectly.  You will also need thin wool roving in various colors, wool yarn, or cut out pieces of wool felt.  I use remnant wool pencil roving (it is similar to yarn, but not as tough) for most of my dry felting embellishments.

Once you have gathered your supplies, you’re ready to take the plunge.  Start simply by adding stripes or dots to your wool ball (later, you can add an elaborate design).  No matter the design you’ve chosen, you should work in smallish sections.  Place your wool ball on the felting pad before you position the fiber where you’d like it.  The best approach for needle felting is a straight up and down motion with the needle.  This makes it less likely you’ll break the needle.  Start at one end of your design and work your way around.  When is it done?  The longer you puncture the fibers with the needle, the more fused your original work will be with the fancy new wool layer.  Really, doneness is a matter of personal preference.  Keep going until you think it’s time to stop.  Once you start needle felting on a project, it can be a challenge to quit.  There are all sorts of directions you can go with this, in fact you’ll find your brain just whirling.  You’ll be tempted to add shapes, stripes and flashy jazzy stuff just because you can.

And so, at this point you are ready to branch out on your own.  Using the dry and wet felting techniques and a bit of magic potion, you and your design team are well on your way to felting just about anything—flowers, tooth pillows, tea cozies, winter car tires, a good night sleep, etc.

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