Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sewing group project -- Holiday!

These rectangles have been waiting for completion since mid-2013.  It's another project from my fabulous and crazy sewing group.  Many of us have chosen the holidays as the theme of one of our projects.  I decided to do trees.  It could have been a single branch or even just the top, but everyone chose to do a complete tree.  The background is hand-dyed (by me) wool.  The thin black is velvet ribbon and the wider black is black wool.
Here are some close-ups.  Mine is in the upper left.  I used some rug-hooking techniques and various shades of green wool.  The tree is proddy using small strips of the wool.  I cut the ends at a point to mimic pine needles on branches.  The bottom is some glitter-infused velvet that I cut using a wool cutter and hooked just as you would wool in a rug.  The strands of metallic pop out randomly -- a nice bonus I didn't expect.  As usual, mine is one of the heaviest pieces!  An occupational hazard of using wool as your medium, I guess.
Next across is Anne.  Anne of the amazing embroidery and strategic use of sequins.  This design has great swirls and crystal and sequin accents.  I'd know it was Anne's a mile away.  Each year at the stocking contest, Anne's stocking is silk with fantastic appliqué and embroidery.  When her oldest daughter was dancing ballet, Anne did headpieces for the Akron Ballet.  Her attention to detail is unmatched.  I've learned many things from her over the years.
Heinke's is next.  Heinke is the master of never settling for the same old techniques.  Over the years I've seen her try almost anything to get the result she wants.  This piece uses wash-away stabilizer as a backing.  She free stitched using various green and metallic threads, loosely in the shape of a tree.  Once the stabilizer is washed away, all you have is the thread.  Pretty cool.  The red background is hand-dyed wool and she used some metallic thread to do a running stitch frame on the blue background.
Katie is another artist whose work I can instantly recognize.  She is a master of collage using found objects, odd bits of sewing supplies, and vintage materials.  This piece is classic Katie.  I love feather trees and this is certainly a great example.  Each tier of branches has a slightly smaller size of ornaments as you move up the tree.  Katie owns a fantastic clothing store in Hudson.  I wonder how many of these little bits started out as trim on clothing that Katie kept for her personal use?  Her house is full of eye candy.  Mini collections of embroidery thread and religious icons;  small framed bits of art from friends, textile fabulousness.  
On to the bottom row!  This one is Barb's.  Barb and Anne are sisters and our sewing group meetings always have an interesting depth thanks to having sisters in the mix.  Watching the two of them makes me miss my own sister who lives much too far away.  Barb is also a master of embroidery.  Our first year as a group, Barb did squares of silk with the most beautiful bird on a branch.  Each one exactly the same and so precise it would make you cry.  My embroidery skills will never come close to Barb's.  Her tree is airy and light and lovely.  The tiny beads look just like lights and I love how the trunk curves.
Beth is next.  Beth and Heinke are the two in the group most likely to use fabric.  Beth quilts and does massive amounts of sewing for her daughter and son-in-law.  Mark Cesarik is a fabric designer with great talent and Beth definitely makes the most of his creativity with her creations.  But, this tree uses new and vintage Christmas fabrics, probably bark cloth.  Beth hoards bark cloth of all types.  One year we used her bark cloth in a project.  On this tree, I love the second tier up from the bottom.  The large ornaments add so much movement to the tree.  Oh, and Beth is Jewish!  Pretty great stuff from someone that doesn't even celebrate Christmas.
Two more!!  Next is Angela.  You'll have to look closely at this tree.  The tiers are made up of ribbon and on that ribbon is printed pictorial instructions for knitting!!  How perfect for me!  When she gave this to me, I immediately found out where to get that ribbon and I ordered some for myself.  The creamy white and the black printing are the perfect foil for the red stitching.  This also shows why I chose that muddy blue for the background.  Almost every color looks great against it.  It's neutral without being boring and I love it so.
Last but definitely not least is Kathy.  I will take a tiny bit of credit for Kathy using wool in many of her designs.  But, beyond encouraging wool as a material, I obviously cannot help Kathy with anything else.  She is a master needlewoman.  This piece is wool appliqué plus embroidery.  Look at the little bird hitching a ride on the tree as Santa drags it away.  Look at the laces on his shoes!  Seriously fun and fantastic.  I put this piece at the lower right so it would lead the eye off the work.  
The entire piece hangs above the French doors in my house.  I normally hang my sheep there but now I will switch out the sheep in December in favor of my fabulous Christmas tree hanging.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ugly Christmas Sweater Ornaments.

I needed another project for my ornament party.  My go-to source for ideas is Pinterest and I kept seeing very cute miniature sweater ornaments.  Lots of them were hand-knit but I knew I would never have time to make 20 hand-knit little sweaters.  But, I had a bin of ivory wool from old sweaters.  Coming up with a pattern was super easy.  I just drew a little sweater on cardstock and cut it out.  I stitched 2 pieces of wool together using the pattern and then cut the shape out, leaving a space at the neck and leaving the bottom open.  Very fast.  I think each one only took about 2 minutes to sew.  Now the fun begins!  I took my wool felt and my embroidery supplies and created a couple of very cute options.

The holly leaves are my favorite, I think.  Tiny pieces of green wool felt plus some red beads.  So quick but really adorable.  The leaves could even be a little bigger.  The star is outlined with pearl beads using blanket stitch to line them up right along the edge.

I love the string of lights!  This is just multi-colored sequins sewn randomly along a strand of thicker black embroidery thread.  There's a bead holding each sequin on.  And the tree was easy as well.  Hand-drawn using a chalk pen.  There's a little brown wool trunk and then sequins for ornaments and a star sequin for the tree topper.

These would also be cute in red wool or green wool.  I can't wait to see what my party invitees come up with.  These four sweaters are going into the sale I have tomorrow night at my boys' school.  To appeal to the moms, I also made a couple of sweaters in maroon wool appliquéd with the logo of the school.  These will sell very quickly, I think.

Now, my favorite part of these ornaments is the little hanger.  It looks just like a real clothes hanger and is made of 17-guage wire.  I made a couple of them by hand using a needle-nosed pliers but I knew this would not work for the 20 I needed to make.  So, I made a jig.  This is just a hunk of scrap 2X4 that I found in the workshop.  I hammered in nails about 2 1/4 inch apart.  The rest was super easy.  10 inches of wire wrapped around the nails and then crossed slightly off center to allow for the wrap to bring the cross section to the center.

The nails are bent slightly to the center so I could get the shape off.  You could also use finish nails which don't have a head on them.  My dad would be proud that I know what a finish nail is.  After getting the shape off the nails, I used a pliers to wrap one wire around the other and cut off the excess.  Then, I took the other end and made a hook at the top, also cutting off the excess.  These went so quickly!  I think I made 20 little hangers in about 10 minutes.  Now I have a whole pile ready for my party.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ornaments -- I can't stop myself!

I'm having an Ornament-making Party in a few weeks.  I don't know why I've never thought of this before given that I make ornaments every year for teacher gifts, present toppers, and for my own enjoyment.  I'll post about all the party projects eventually but here are a few ornaments that I've made in anticipation of the Ladies Night Out shopping event that I'm participating in later this week.

These are tiny trees made from scraps of cashmere.  The base is a vintage thimble.  To make them, I first secured a wire in the bottom of the thimble.  Then, I filled in the thimble with some beads to act as a kind of tree skirt.  Once all that was dry, making these was a snap.  I cut some of my varied green cashmere scraps into 6 different sizes of squares.  I used a muffin tin to keep them all separated and then sat there stacking up the squares and threading them onto the wire.  A loop at the top and a little circle of gold wool to act as a star -- super cute and super easy once the gluing is done.  I also made some of these in shades of ivory but I'm using a white tree so the green looks better.  I'm actually using these as the party favor for my ornament party but I had a few extra so I'm putting them in my sale.  I know they're going to sell.  So cute.  Vintage thimbles can be found for about $1 each on Ebay.  I love the little brass-colored ones.

Next up is owls.  I have a giant stash of plaid wool from thrifted skirts.  As you remember from my penguin stocking, I like to mix and match and these little owls are so cute!  I modified a design I had seen on Pinterest and made myself a pattern.  It's all hand-sewn and stuffed with a little bit of my cashmere and wool scraps.  I can't bear to throw even a little bit of cashmere away...  I really love the black and white owl with the contrast red stitching.  The earth-toned owls look just like some of the color variations you find in nature, don't they?  These owls are one of the projects for the ornament party.

 Some of the women coming to my party don't sew.  Not even a button.  So, this will be a little bit of a stretch for them.  It's all done in one long thread.  First you sew on the belly, then continue up and around the outside.  When you reach the point, you add some extra stitches to act as a beak before continuing down the other side.  Just before finishing, you stuff a bit inside.  You don't use much stuffing because the final step is to fold down the point and secure it with 2 buttons.  I think the stitching on the buttons really makes it look like eyes.  I used twine as a hanging cord on these so they had a more rustic feel.  Super cute.

Finally, today, I'll showcase the cupcakes.  I had hoped to use this as a project for the party but there's just too many steps and too much glue.  Using Pinterest as a resource, I saw lots of options for these.  I ended up using a cut-up toilet paper tube as my interior structure.  I would have never thought of that.  Naturally, the ribbing from some cashmere sweaters makes the perfect "wrapper."  I glued a cashmere circle on the bottom of the tube and then hand stitched the ribbing onto the tube and around the circle.  After the glue dried, I cut out 5" circles of cashmere, ran a running stitch around the outside, and pulled to make a kind of yo-yo.  I stuffed that and the tube with cashmere/wool scraps and then glued the muffin top to the bottom.  Again, I let the glue dry.

After drying, I threaded a long doll-making needle with my cord and ran the cord all the way up from the bottom, through the top, and back down.  Knot and loop at the top and a knot at the bottom.  This also served to secure the entire structure top to bottom.  On some, I ran some trim around the join between top and bottom because I didn't love the way it looked.  After all of this, I got out my beads and sequins and embellished the top of the muffin.  Way more involved than I had hoped this project would be.  I scrapped the idea of using it for the party because we just can't be bothered with waiting for glue.

Next post I'll tell you all about my little Christmas sweaters.  I came up with a great way of making little tiny hangers for them!

Friday, November 7, 2014

It's all about the Penguins this year!

It all started with the little guy on the left.  I bought him last Christmas in a great artsy shop here in my town.  There's definitely some wool content in the black part and it's almost 1/2 an inch thick.  I just love how the nose sticks out over the scarf.  The eyes are embroidered but everything else is glued.

So, I made the one on the right.  You all remember my obsession with black and white woven fabrics, right?  Well, I have an entire bin of them and I thought these penguins would be adorable with a woven patterned belly. 

I decided the penguin was a little fubsy, though.  In this new version, I slimmed him down and removed the little hand bits (for easier sewing and cutting).  Now I had a pattern I liked and I went to town.  I've made about 15 of these to use for holiday gifts.  I don't plan to sell them so I had no moral dilemma about copying the original design.  Plus, mine have some distinct differences.  100% wool.  I bought some 5mm wool felt (which is fantastic stuff, BTW) to use as a stiffener in the middle.  The black parts on the outside come from a black wool thrifted skirt.  The black and white woven patterns are all upcycled as are the scarves.  As is the nose!!  So, no new material at all except the cord hanger and the embroidery floss used to French knot the eyes.

I think the whole colony is adorable.  I had so much fun choosing just the right plaid for the scarves.  I hope my friends and teachers love them as much as I.

Now, moving past the ornaments, I began to think about my Christmas stocking entry for The Grey Colt Stocking Contest.  I'm pretty sure I've talked about this before.  This will be the 14th year and I am a founding contributor and have made a stocking (or a pillow or a wreath) every year.  I took my little penguin and shrunk him down quite a bit.  Here is this year's stocking:
 The penguins are about 2 1/2 inches tall.  The scarves are teeny little strips of wool -- super cute!  I did some beading on the outside so the ivory wool looked like slopes.  They almost look like they're at a sledding party, don't you think?  At the top, I took some raw edge wool and fringed it to add some detail that would pick up the patterns in the penguins.  The blue background is hand-dyed by me.  It sparkles in the light thanks to the tiny beads.  I'm so happy with the final result and can't wait for the Stocking Party on December 3rd.  The workmanship of all the participants is inspiring.  All stockings are donated and then raffled off after they are displayed for a week or so.  I've won a few stockings over the years and I cherish them.  The proceeds this year are going to the Kent State School of Fashion to help fund a scholarship.  Very fitting since The Grey Colt is my favorite clothing store ever.  Happy Holidays!!