December 15th, 2011 § § 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.
April 1st, 2011 § § permalink
In May, I will begin selling my work on Etsy.
All my wares are “refashioned” from high-quality cast-off fabric, curtains, clothing and notions—things that would otherwise be destined for garbage landfills. Unwanted wool sweaters, upholstery, wool remnants, buttons, clasps, lace—some are felted and reconstructed, some are cut and altered—all are transformed into a combination of vintage and modern designs. Everything I make is crafted with extreme care by my own hands.
Come take a peek.
And, when the shop opens, come on in.
March 23rd, 2011 § § permalink
Sometimes small fingers (and old fingers) find small projects to be tricky— tying a shoe, handling scissors, zipping a zipper, buttoning a button—they all require precision and a steady hand. As does hand sewing. Sewing not only demands dexterity, but also requires patience. On top of this, it adds the threat of a potential finger prick. Followed by little watery eyes. Yowch!
This is incredibly unfortunate, since small people frequently like playing with small friends. Dollhouse people, finger puppets, Lego people, tiny wooden animals—they are all good company and don’t seem to eat much. My small people have been captivated by my friend Charlotte’s small friends for quite some time now. This has been a challenge for both them and me since Charlotte’s small friends, remarkably sweet and delicate, are very very small. They are hand-sewn mice—reflective, contemplative furry friends with strikingly large personalities. As well, they have microscopic eyes and noses, giving them extra bonus points.
Tortured by the opposing forces of teeny, wild fingers and the love of all things small, my design team and I made futile attempts at replicating Charlotte’s mice. In the end, we designed a simple, slightly larger pattern with exposed stitching that is just perfect for small fingers.
For this project, you will need a small collection of 100% wool sweater scraps. Solid, striped or patterned. As with the Tiny Birdhouse and Swittens projects, add your wool sweater to the laundry batch and wash and dry on normal. This project also requires a needle, thread and some stuffing like organic cotton stuffing, hemp fibers or wool. We are renowned for borrowing (well, stealing, really) synthetic filling from retired threadbare elderly friends. Those of you who are fancy may opt to insert a small rice or bean-filled fabric bag in the base of the mouse to provide some weight.
Pattern: Size is up to you. I recommend that you size your first mouse on a slightly-larger-than-life size (dare I say, rat size?). As with the Swittens project, I have found that there is a significant positive correlation between successful project outcome and project size, when measured by various indicators, such as big smiles. Don’t start out too teeny.
Cut the sweater as below. In addition, you will need a tail. It should be a long, skinny rectangular piece (that will later be folded and sewn).
Sewing Instructions: Fold the tail in half and secure with a blanket stitch. (Just a note: Futuregirl has a fantastic photo-filled tutorial on blanket stitching.) With wrong sides together, stitch down the back of the body. Stitch from the nose down, stopping about ½ inch before the end. Insert end of tail at bottom of back and secure. Finish stitching bottom of back. With wrong sides together, stitch the bottom edge of the body to the oval base, leaving approximately a 2-inch gap for stuffing.
Insert stuffing into the mouse, filling the nose first. When almost full, insert bean bag and continue stitching to close the back seam. Fold the base edge of ears in half and secure with a few central stitches. Flatten the seam and position the ears on the mouse head. Stitch. Use a felting needle and wool roving to make eyes and nose. Use strong button thread for whiskers if you are most able.
(And, “most able” sort of sounds like “vote on Babble,” which reminds me to ask for your vote, since Mossy has been nominated on Babble for an important thingy, and if you enjoy the post you’ve read or any you’ve read in the past, or if you plan to enjoy any posts you’ll read in the future, please give Mossy a “thumbs up.” It’s just a click. Here on Babble. Thank you in advance. I will mail you a hug.)
Now you have a new small friend. And you and your family will love your friend more than you ever thought was possible. I mean love. More than anyone should.
March 18th, 2011 § § permalink
Several folks have expressed interest in the actual felting process—Geez, Mossy, how does it all work?
Here’s what I know. Felt is a mass of dense wool and/or fur. It is not woven, but rather pressed and manipulated in a centuries-old process using heat, moisture and pressure or agitation. The result is the strongest, smoothest, most water-resistant natural fabric known. Soap helps in the felting process. Heat and moisture cause the outer overlapping scales along the wool fiber to open, and the soap allows the fibers to slide easily over one another, thereby causing them to become entangled. Wool fibers are made up of a protein called keratin. The keratin in the fibers becomes chemically bound to the protein of the other fibers resulting in a permanent bond between the fibers. The felting process is irreversible. Sometimes this is unfortunate if you are like me and have several unintentional child-sized sweater casualties on hand as silent reminders.
Since wool felt is not woven and doesn’t require a loom for its production, it can be made rather easily. Because of this, felt is the earliest known form of fabric. The true origin of felt is unknown, though I am aware of several cultures that take credit for the discovery of felt. One Sumerian legend tells of Saint Clement, a wandering monk, who cleverly wrapped flax fibers between his shoes and feet to prevent blisters. Upon arrival at his destination, he removed his shoes and discovered that the flax had, in fact, felted due to the heat, pressure and perspiration. Saint Clement became the patron saint for hat makers.
The steps included in making felt have changed little over time. Felted fabric is produced using heat, moisture and pressure to mat and interlock the fibers. While machinery can be used today to accomplish many of these tasks, the processing requirements remain unchanged. One exception is that until the late nineteenth century mercury was used in the processing of felt for hatmaking. Mercury was discovered to have debilitating effects on the hatter, causing a type of poisoning that led to tremors, hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms—hence the term “mad hatter.”
What makes a good sweater to felt? When looking for a thrifted sweater or two to upcycle for a felting project, I usually choose 100% wool. Other animal fibers will work as well—mohair, cashmere, alpaca, etc. Be sure the tag is not labeled “superwash,” since this “washable wool” will have been chemically treated to avoid shrinkage (felting). Remove all buttons, ribbons, labels, etc. from the sweater, cut it apart at the seams (completely cutting away the seams), and throw it in the hot-water wash and cold-water rinse with the (relentless) laundry pile. Often, I wash and dry twice.
Felt made with a thrifted sweater has all the benefits of wool—stability, durability, earthy texture—and has the eco-friendly attributes of being natural and second-hand. Hurrah!