Thursday, February 25, 2010

Read any good books lately?

I've been scheming about making some bookends with old wool. I've amassed quite a collection of plaids, tweeds, and solids. If you've read my previous posts, you'll know I just recently organized EVERYTHING by color and fiber. The time is now for my bookends!

My first step was to pull all the old Geometry rules out of my brain. Bookends need to have a right angle somewhere to sit flat against the books and against the shelf at the same time. I knew I wanted a broad "face" so I could embellish or otherwise go crazy with texture and pattern. You'll need the Pythagorean theorem if you're going to make these at home. Shockingly, my initial sketch and calculations were dead on. No second starts on these. Amazing.

My friend, Katie, gave me some kilts recently. Beautiful, vintage wool in "Katie" colors of lavender, blue, ivory, etc. Adding to this my own collection of purples, I had at least 6 different coordinating wools. Given that I'm a fan of the patchwork, I decided to patchwork at least one face of the bookend. Patchwork maximizes texture with a minimum of material. It's a great technique when you have lots of different fabrics to use. I cut wool into squares and laid them out until I was happy with the result. I totally love the eggplant/ivory houndstooth. That was a skirt from a thrift store. It was only 70% wool, but I took a chance because the pattern was so fantastic. Totally makes the fabric pop, doesn't it?

After sewing the patchwork together and ironing it REALLY well, I trimmed it to a nice rectangle. The rest of the bookend consists of two triangular pieces for the sides, a square back, and rectangular bottom. Easy to do with a rotary cutter and a ruler. Everything was sewn and pressed with one bottom seam left open to allow for filling.

The insides required a second fabric form because I didn't want rice spilling out from any seam or corner. I used plain muslin for this liner. The sewing on that didn't have to be pristine, either, because no one will ever see the inside. After jamming the rice-filled liner into the wool form, I hand-sewed the final seam shut and stood back to admire my work.

This set (I've since made a match for the one in the pictures) is for Katie, to thank her for all the wool and the sweaters she throws my way from time to time. Future pair will vary the embellishment a bit but the basic form is a good one and I can't wait to get some made to list in my Etsy shop. Stay tuned for more photos!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Martha would be proud

Well, it took 3 days. I pulled every last bin and pile and shopping bag out of the cedar closet and arranged it in the outer area of the basement. Stuff I forgot I had. Stuff I should have never bought in the first place. And, happily, lots of really great stuff.

Everything has been reorganized by color and fiber. Labels on every bin tell me what's inside. No more opening 5 bins to find the item I need. I've got separate bins for dyeing supplies, felting supplies, out-of-season purses (lots of these), etc. And, I've put all my raw materials in separate bins.

Here's the woven wool:

The cashmere:

The cashmere scraps and the knitted wool:

Sadly, I only managed to put together a small bag of stuff for the Goodwill. I feel like I should save leftover upholstery fabric from house projects in case of a spill or tear or a needed repair. So, that's about half a bin. I also saved trims because you never know when you need some fringe. I should put that on a t-shirt, yes? "Life goes better with fringe." I like it.
I also saved lots of big pieces of recycled sweater. I started making some fingerless gloves this winter and they were a big hit. So, I want to do some more for the fall.
My favorite bin has all my purse supplies finally (FINALLY) in one place. Handles, magnetic snaps, webbing, lining material, patterns (all made by me), etc. It's going to be such a time-saver.
Next I want to tackle my dining room cupboard with all the beads, embroidery supplies, and other miscellaneous, small crafts. After that, The Yarn.
Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

4 layers, 1 slacker

My friends on Etsy (do a search for "clevelandteam" and be amazed) have asked some questions about our chickens so here's an update. If you remember, dear reader, we got 6 laying hen chicks last May. One of the "girls" started crowing in July. So...5 girls and one big, beautiful rooster. We started getting eggs in October and, as of the end of the year, we had 3 laying. Now we finally have 4 laying.

Here's a shot of our chicken coop, lovingly designed and made by my husband and my oldest son. My son used the whole project for a Boy Scout merit badge.

Right now the girls are parked in the snow just outside our living room window. From the window, we can check the water and food levels. And, the coop is close enough to a grounded outlet to run a cord out to the heated water trough.

The girls are very cold hardy. My son researched the breeds and the Ameraucana chickens are good ones for cold winters like we get here in Northeast Ohio. Some days we find them in a "chicken dogpile" as my husband calls it. All six of them bundled together against the cold.
Many of their mannerisms are almost human. When something new enters the coop (human, vegetable, new food, etc) they approach it with caution, cocking their heads and checking out the situation. I could sit and watch them all day if it wasn't so damn cold outside.
I highly recommend the backyard chicken experiment. It's been fun for our whole family. And, by spring we should be getting 5 eggs a day! That is, if the slacker ever gets moving...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

3rd graders rock!

Usually my recycling tends toward fiber. However, when cleaning out my garage last winter, I came across an entire box of 4-inch white tile. It was left over from building our house on Kelleys Island. My contractor wanted to just put it in the dumpster and I almost did. But, I just couldn't bring myself to pitch all this perfectly good tile. So, I put the box aside and thought about it for a few weeks. I did some Google time looking for projects. I got on some Etsy forums and asked about paints for tile, etc. Someone on there mentioned Pebeo Porcelain paints which become heat-proof once you bake the tiles in the oven. Eureka!!

In my "other" life outside sewing, knitting, and creating, I work with Cub Scouts and love to volunteer in my kids' classrooms. I love coming up with crafts for the kids to make and I REALLY love making those crafts inexpensive or, better yet, free. So, I ordered some cork sheets (definitely not free) and found the Pebeo paints at my local Michael's. The Scouts made trivets for Mother's Day. And, my 3rd grader's class just made these fabulous coasters for Valentine's Day. Watching the kids was an amazing experience. Even the most jaded 9-year-old can still find the time to be super careful and super thoughtful when they know they're making something for mom or dad. It's why I love that age.

I used a Pebeo outliner to make the heart shape ahead of time. It creates a raised edge so painting more neatly is much easier. A major plus for kids.

Happy Valentine's Day from McDowell School! Wait until you see what we're doing for the Valentine's Party craft!!