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.

 

Felted Hairbands

February 16th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Felted HairbandWhen the snow is fresh and giant feathery snowflakes twist and twirl and can be caught or rolled into snowballs or snow forts or snow people, it’s time to bundle up and head out the door and get some pink cheeks.  But if it’s coming up on March and the effects of the first season’s storm are still visible and you’re facing the third morning of what they call a “wintry mix,” and you’re wondering if Lordy, is it too early for a drink? it may be time to regroup.  Inside.

We’ve had a zillion snow days since the end of December.  (Really, that’s the actual number.)  Because of this, we’ve been forced to be resourceful.  During this special bonding time (I suppose some might call it that), my design team and I have become really good at a few things, including completely dismantling the house.

Not to brag, but we’ve also gotten to be experts at making these Felted Hairbands.  It turns out that, once we got the Felted Wool Ball thingy down, we were itching for some sort of practical application of our newfound skill and Voila!  Note: we don’t attempt perfection.  As with all our other projects, we prefer quirky outcomes over conventional.  That said, we remind ourselves that, in nature, some flowers are more delicate, some are plumper, some grow to the right, some to the left, and some even lose a few petals.  Of course, this uniqueness should be celebrated.

This project requires a Felted Wool Ball, needle and thread, an elastic hair tie, remnant wool felt, and a small collection of felted sweaters.

Zigzaggy Strips

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 or monster collars.  More on that later.


Hairband Sewing 1

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.

Hairband Sewing 2Stitch 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.

Hairband Sewing 3Next, and this is optional, use a felting needle, felting pad and wool roving to embellish the wool ball, adding spirals or dots (see previous post on Dry Felting).

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

Attach a hair tie on the leaf bottom with needle and thread.  Ta da!  Project complete.

Now you are ready to fill fields with felted flowers.  Or to, at least, wear one proudly.

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.

Wet Felting: The Wool Bead Bracelet

January 23rd, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Felted wool bead braceletIf you have perfected the felted wool ball and have a collection of them gawking at you (that are still wet), and now have a somewhat unhealthy confidence in your felting abilities, you and your design team may feel the sudden urge to transform the balls into useful beads.  Now is the time.  Measure a wrist.  To make a bracelet, you will need just enough wool balls to go around it.

You will need the following: your cherished collection of (still damp) felted wool balls, a sharp sewing needle, a large needle with a large eye (a doll-maker’s needle is perfect for this job), and a thin elastic cord.  Pierce a hole through the ball with the sharp needle and insert a toothpick through the hole.  Allow the bead to air dry with the toothpick inside it (rusty old radiators are advantageous for drying).  After completely dry (this will take a day or two), the beads are ready to be assembled into a bracelet.  Thread the thin elastic cord on the long big-eyed needle.  String the beads on the needle, and then onto the elastic cord.  Tie several square knots in the elastic cord and conceal the knot in the hole of a bead.  C’est fini!  Feel free to incorporate smaller beads, buttons, ribbon, etc. into your design to make it flashy.

Felted wool caterpillar

In the end, your innovative design team may have its own ideas concerning final products.  This is fine.

Wet Felting: The Wool Ball

January 19th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Felted Wool BallsMaking a felted wool ball is incredibly easy.  This project requires no more than dishwashing liquidwarm waterwarm hands and carded wool.  Often called “wool roving,” carded wool can be purchased at local farms, craft stores or online through local or national distributors.  Wool is either carded by machine or by hand—the fibers are cleaned, separated and prepared for spinning or felting.  To find a local farm or folks who card wool, plug your zip code into LocalHarvest or search Etsy.  Remnant wool roving may be purchased online from Peace Fleece and  Halcyon Yarn—check out their “Bagettes” and “Babooshka Soup”—a random mix of remnant wool batts and pencil (thin) roving.

With carded wool in hand, pull off (don’t cut it with scissors) a small length of wool (maybe 8 inches) and divide it into four thin strips.  Wrap one strip as you would wind a ball of string.  Wrap the remaining strips around the first, winding the ball of wool until it is at least 1/3 larger than you’d like the finished product to be (don’t bite off more than you can chew—start fairly small).  Place a drop of dish detergent in your hands.  Dip your wool ball into a bowl of hot water until it is thoroughly wet.  Gently (very gently at first) roll the ball into shape with your hands.  When the fibers become entangled and the ball becomes firmer (you will notice this within a few minutes), rub and press harder, rewetting and adding a drop or two of soap as necessary.  When the ball is very firm, rinse it in cold water to remove the soap. Remove excess water by rolling the ball on a towel, and roll it tightly in your hands to make the final shape (but don’t squeeze).  If you are like me and your hands are perpetual icicles, you will find this project somewhat challenging—warm temperature is the key.

At this point, you must make a decision.  If you’d like to enjoy as is, that is fine.   Some folks may be content with that.  Allow to air dry for a few days until dry.  If you are unusually ambitious and would like to refine your abilities, feel free to polish your talents and build on this foundation.

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