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 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.

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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