February 14th, 2012 § § permalink
Forget the fancy flowers. We are the dreamers of dreams. Give me a thought.
We made a valentine banner. Constructed out of felted wool sweater and cotton fabric scraps and remnant bias tape, it’s printed with thoughtful notes to each other. Simple to make.
Printing on fabric requires an ink jet printer, thin cotton fabric (I just use remnant drapery liner) and freezer paper.
Here are the steps:
- Trim the fabric slightly larger than 8 ½ x 11 inches.
- Place the fabric onto an ironing board (or thick towel).
- Place the shiny side of the freezer paper onto the fabric.
- Iron. Two will become one.
- Trim the fabricky paper to 8 ½ x 11.
- Treat it like a normal piece of paper and place it into your printer with the proper sides up and down. Print your image.
To make a banner like ours, cut the printed material into the desired shape, peel off the freezer paper and sew to a sturdy material (like wool or felt). Cut two small openings in the back of the material and carefully slip bias tape through using a safety pin as a guide.
A simple haiku can get you through the winter and then some.
February 13th, 2012 § § permalink
I’m heading out for milk
But instead find myself
Standing in this place where I
Look at you
All over you
Once, with wild hair
You carved our names into a school desk
Now you collect my secrets
Rumpled and unwound
There are at least 50 colors
In your eyes alone.
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.
November 12th, 2011 § § permalink
At risk of exposing my vulnerability, I’d like to say I miss hanging out with you more. The fact is that these days I’ve been enveloped by a certain writing assignment I’m supposed to be wrapping up. Such a shame, since this is my favorite place besides HERE where I am treated queen-like and am provided the most delectable salami Swiss apple butter sandwiches on toasted rye and HERE where I actually haven’t been yet, but dream dream dream about.
But today I am home with a small sniffly girl, and tomorrow I suspect I will be home with her too. And her sister. And then, the next day most likely the sniffler will be me. Sniffly times require small quiet fluffy places where books and ice pops are consumed and slurped, and sneezes are snuzzed. Snuggly places where I tell them sweetly that someday in the oh-so-near future there will be just a teeny tiny memory of right now.
Today we made a quiet place.
Simple instructions for cute wood-framed pup tents requiring just a cordless drill, some wood and a sheet can be found here, here and here. Irked by tragic malfunctions with these designs (not due to any design flaw, but more likely due to the destructive nature of my spirited superheroines) we opted for a slightly more rugged frame.
Inspired by research on building mini hoophouses for our school garden, we opted to use PVC pipe for the ridge pole and legs, and a repurposed king-sized duvet for the cover—costing a mere $14.26 to build.
Bent on bonus features, my cantankerous and cranky team tacked on some time to the project. Well worth it. The winning hideaway can be easily popped up and down by them and tucked away. It is our new bestest best friend.
Someday I will post a detailed PDF of the materials and sewing pattern.
Until then, gather up the following:
- An old king- or queen-sized duvet cover with contrasting colors
- Contrasting cotton fabric scraps (1 yard)
- ¼ in elastic (1/2 yard)
- Clear vinyl fabric scrap
And prepare for fun times ahead. They are coming, you know.
September 22nd, 2011 § § permalink
Yesterday we sold our wares at the local farmers market.
We were joined by local artist friends Lea, Jamie and Jennifer, a bundle of smaller people, a collection of larger people, and lots of crispy apples. Fun for all!
August 10th, 2011 § § permalink
A superhero is not simply someone who stumbles upon a crime or injustice and makes a spontaneous decision to intervene. A true superhero has a strong moral code and has vowed to actively battle, risking his or her own safety, for the betterment of humankind.
Superhero status should not be reserved for the mega rich, super-fit extra-terrestrial brilliant scientist type. Sometimes merely being at the right place at the right time may be all that is needed—due to some freak laboratory accident, the clumsy lab tech comes into contact with a secret fizzley purple formula within a flask; the mousy orphan unearths a pebble or a magical wizard who bestows upon her the godlike powers of Captain America or Supergirl, transforming her into a massive powerhouse with enhanced metabolic powers.
And, sometimes a superhero needs to look like a superhero. For, nothing motivates a pending protagonist more than a good outfit. A good outfit not only provides protection and technological advantages, it conceals the supersecret identity of the real-life superhero from revenge-seeking criminals. As well, a superhero’s secret identity protects friends and family from becoming targets of his or her archenemies.
A real-life superhero outfit must be of sufficient quality to show that some care went into its creation. Cape, mask, magical utility belt and speedy sneakers—all should incorporate the crusader’s well-considered name and theme.
This project requires the following scrap materials: 1 yard fabric (preferably two different patterns, ½ yard each) for cape; decorative fabric fringe for cape bottom (beaded or tasseled cotton, lace, tassel, cording—anything is fine as long as there is a “lip” to sew onto); Velcro bits for cape closure; small fabric scraps (we used felted wool sweaters and soft remnant velveteen) for mask and magical belt; elastic for back of mask; and ribbon or remnant seam binding ribbon for magical belt tying mechanism.
Note: for sweater felting tips, see previous Mossy tutorials on wool sweater felting (Swittens, Tiny Birdhouse or Sweater Mice).
Choose a great name. If you and your team are completely stuck, the Superhero Name Generator may be utilized to provide some direction. Use the patterns below as a guide to cut large pieces for the cape (with both fabric types). Cape pattern is similar to an enlarged baby bib pattern with offset neck closure—just worn backwards. Cape length (A) should measure from superhero shoulder to lower thigh. Use pattern as guide to cut smaller pieces for belt and mask. Belt is long (approximately 16”) and rectangular, made out of two contrasting fabrics (we used felted wool sweater as the backing, and a smaller rectangular piece of patterned cotton). We used felted wool sweaters for the outside of the mask and soft, velvety remnant velveteen for the inside of the mask. If desired, cut out fabric letters or symbols to add to cape and belt.
For cape, pin and stitch fabric letter/symbol to back center of cape. For this, a regular machine lockstitch set in 1/16 inch from the letter’s edge is perfect. The letter’s edge may then be frayed by hand, if desired. With right sides together, pin and sew cape fabrics together using ½” seam allowance, leaving an 8 “ opening on the bottom edge for turning right-side-out. Trim seam allowances and clip curves (clip valleys, notch mountains). Turn the cape right-side-out and press. Add fringe at cape bottom. Edgestitch around the entire cape. Have the potential superhero try the cape on to determine neckline Velcro placement.
For belt, pin two rectangular belt fabrics together—one slightly smaller than the other.
Sew around edge, inserting long thin ribbon at sides (remnant seam binding ribbon is ideal for this) to tie around crime fighter waist. Pin and stitch fabric letter/symbol to front center of belt.
For mask, pin right sides together and, using embroidery thread, blanket stitch all edges together (Futuregirl has a great tutorial for this). Add elastic band and, if desired, add decorative remnant fabric flowers (to cover messy elastic band stitching).
Note: Along with a good outfit, a dedicated superhero may require a cast of recurring characters (which most likely will include you), a headquarters or base of operations (usually kept hidden from the general public), and a background that explains the circumstances by which the character acquired his or her abilities.
With great power comes great responsibility!
April 14th, 2011 § § permalink
Today you will learn how to make a good listener.
For this project, you will need a 100% wool sweater and a small collection of wool sweater scraps and cotton fabric scraps. Solid, striped or patterned. As with the Tiny Birdhouse, Swittens, and Sweater Mouse projects, add your wool sweater (do not dismantle it yet) to the laundry batch and wash and dry on normal to felt. This project also requires a needle, thread, an embroidery hoop, embroidery thread, and some stuffing like organic cotton stuffing, hemp fibers or wool. We are known to borrow synthetic filling from retired threadbare elderly friends. I’ll admit, I’m kind of fancy and I opt to insert a small bean bag or pebble-filled bag in the base of the owl to provide ballast.
Final owl size is determined by the size of your sweater. Cut a sleeve off your sweater near the armpit, leaving the side seam alone. Lay the sleeve flat so the seam sits naturally at the side. Trim the armpit end (SLEEVE BOTTOM) in a semi-circle about 10” away from the wrist end of the sleeve, matching front and back. Cut a long symmetric lens-shaped piece (BASE) from the sweater fabric, matching the length of SLEEVE BOTTOM. Turn SLEEVE inside out. With right sides together, sew BASE to SLEEVE BOTTOM. Turn right side out. Place a pebble-filled fabric bag (this is simple to make) inside the sleeve. Insert stuffing into the owl, filling ¾ up to the sleeve.
Now, you and your starry-eyed design team must do a little research and envision your friend’s outcome. Things you should probably consider: curved beak, facial disk, wings and ear tufts.
All owls have a short, curved, downward-facing beak that is hooked at the end. It is designed for gripping and tearing prey. As well, the bill is curved downwards in order to keep the owl’s field of vision clear. To make the owl beak, cut a diamond shape out of lightweight wool sweater scrap material. Fold the diamond in half and sew at the edges. To provide some shape, insert a teensy bit of stuffing inside before putting in the final stitch. To provide a curve, use small internal stitches to “grab” the pointy tip and pull it down and back toward the base.
Many owl species have large parabolic facial disks called “ruffs” that focus sound—not unlike a parabolic microphone. Its shape ensures that all distant sound waves that strike the surface parallel to the central axis (the direction the owl’s face is pointed) will be focused exactly on the owl’s ears. To make the owl’s facial disk, place a lightweight contrasting sweater into an embroidery hoop. Sew on the beak. Add eye “patches” with frayed fabric scraps, stitching at the edges. Embroider curved sleepy eyes with a backstitch. Just in case you need it, Purl Bee has a fantastic backstitch tutorial. Embellish the owl’s face with frayed wool or cotton fabric scraps—add a “cere” or “operculum” at the top of the beak where the nostrils are set, add “brows” above the eyes—use your best judgment. Then, remove your sweater from the embroidery hoop. To make the owl’s facial disk., cut a large oval around the beak and eyes. Sew it to the front of the owl’s body.
An owl’s ear openings are often asymmetrically-set (one ear is placed slightly higher than the other) which increases sound reception. This is fantastic news for someone like me who finds symmetrical sewing to be somewhat challenging. Some owls have ear tufts—these are located on the top of the head and are often referred to as “horns” or “ears” but are really just clusters of long feathers and have nothing to do with the owl’s ability to hear. There are several interesting hypotheses about just why these exist (e.g. provide camouflage, threaten predators, provide intra-species recognition), but the mystery remains unsolved in the scientific world. Just a small something for you and your tiny team to think about.
To make ear tufts, you must first tuck in the SLEEVE TOP and stitch, leaving about 2 inches un-sewn on both sides. These unsewn sides will form the owl’s ear tufts. To fully form ear tufts, make indentations with stitching on outer sides. Embellish the ear tufts with frayed cotton remnants. Use lightweight contrasting sweater remnants for wings.
There. You are done. You have made a good listener.
And everybody likes a good listener.
April 8th, 2011 § § permalink
I was 19 when I found him. The boy. The sculptor. The poet. The stargazer. The fixer. The dreamer. I followed him, then he followed me, and then I followed him. And everyone else and everything else wandered and vanished. Except us. Now he is a man. This week he had a cold. And a birthday.
He made a wish.
We ate banana bread.
I am so thankful I have him.
I just love him so.
April 4th, 2011 § § permalink
One has eyes that laugh like moons, a dimple, and full lips that whistle just one single piercing note. She is sharp and lively, and ready for battle. The other one has a quietness that moves right through me. Her steps are still and steady. She is deep and contemplative, and tenderhearted.
Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, I worry. Sometimes after a challenging day, I hold a small hand and look into those wild-earth teary eyes and I am sad. Sometimes I say I’m sorry that the world is not perfect, that tragedies happen everyday, that people can be unkind, that people suffer. People we’ve never met. People we know. People we see everyday.
My girls. Mostly, I want the world to accept and appreciate them. To pay attention to them, compliment their uniqueness, listen and respond to them, encourage and help them when they struggle, laugh and cry with them, high-five them, teach them when they don’t understand, and recognize all the good they have to give. To love them.
Life moves on, and quickly, and there will be more tears. But always there is us. Our family. And we embrace this and make something out of it. Life moves on, and so we celebrate the moment. We unwrap the small, secret gift of everyday. The messy, the comical, the unexpected.
We celebrate big milestones, of course—birthdays, anniversaries, holidays—but we also celebrate small moments. The clean plate, the book read, the first crocus blossom, the last snowflake, the new friend—all have the potential to be acknowledged in some small way.
We keep banners on hand for momentous occasions, constructed out of fabric scraps and remnant bias tape. We have special hats to be worn by special friends. And a big big ribbon to wear. No four-layer cake, ice sculpture or elephant ride—a simple hand-written note placed under a pillow or in a lunchbox or in a small hand will do just fine. Or a smile. Just a smile. And so, as time flies slowly by, we will hold tight to our family and know that we are lucky. I feel lucky. I feel there is a story here so beautiful that we will someday tell. And look, we get to live it.
Hurray! Hats off to today!
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.