As a maker, you would think that I never buy commercial Valentine cards. In a perfect world, I would make all holiday and event gifts, cards, and decor by hand. Now just imagine that. Not happening. I buy things like most everyone else, and for the same reasons. Time, resources, personal tastes, etc. So this year I bought Valentines with cute erasers for my 6yr old to give to her classmates. And then I felt guilty. How many cards are actually saved? What is the real lasting value? I bet all of these end up in the trash or recycle bin. In our home, we have amassed quite a collection of (unused) erasers and pencils from every holiday and birthday. Too much stuff.
So I returned the Valentines and erasers to the store, then sat down with my daughters to create special hand made hearts using supplies we already had at home.
The first is a transparent heart filled with glitter and iridescent paper hearts inscribed with sweet phrases. The plastic for the heart was cut from packaging for a bed linen set. We used a sewing machine to stitch the edge in pink thread, but handstitching would be extra special.
Next, we made a 3D heart ornament using a hot pink paper that we had collected from a recycling bin. Using a paper punch, we cut 14 hearts, folded them in half, and glued them together. We added the ribbon before gluing the final sides.
Finally we cut up an old, dark pink, wool sweater that we first felted by washing and drying hot. Felted wool can be cut without unraveling. We used a sewing machine to stitch around the edge with pink thread, filling the heart with polyester fill that we had saved from an old stuffed animal. “Love” was handstitched onto the heart with cream wool yarn.
I can never assume that these handmade Valentines will be saved or cherished any longer than a storebought one. But I’m OK with that since the resources we used were either on-hand, or upcycled. The real value is the experience of making them and giving them away. That is a lasting, joyful memory.
There are many ways to cope with mistakes or the unexpected. Sometimes you just have to plow through, even if the end product is disappointing. Like a batch of sugar cookies that are just slightly misshapen or a little too brown on the edges. It’s OK. They will still taste good. Sometimes, you have to back up a bit and fix the error because a crooked seam means a misfitted garment. In rare moments, a total do over is the only choice. And still other times you find a way to create something totally new from a bad moment.
I had a favorite pair of flannel pajama bottoms. I wore them often. And one day as I was shoveling snow from our driveway, the rear seam ripped. I was so disappointed. And grateful there was no one, but the cold wind, to witness my exposed behind. Back inside the house, I discovered the fabric itself had failed, leaving me no easy option to restitch the seam. I did not want to just toss my favorite pajamas bottoms. In an instant, I had an idea – to make an infinity scarf.
I cut off the waistband, leg hems, and side seams and salvaged two long pieces of flannel. I further cut the irregular edges to create two even rectangles. Then I stitched them together along the short edges to create a loop of fabric. So simple.
What can you imagine and make from the unexpected?
Jeans are a staple in almost everyone’s wardrobe. I have about 8 pairs – all different styles and colors. Denim is versatile and rugged, outlasting many other fabrics. But when it is time to say goodbye to a pair of jeans, do you repurpose them? Send them to thrift? or toss them away? Hopefully not the latter. If repurposing is not within your means, then consider donating to thrift. Even if they are damaged beyond repair, most thrift stores send clothing elsewhere for recycling or reuse. (But always ask to make sure they don’t just send it to the landfill.)
I pick up bags of unwanted thrifted jeans from a local thrift store for 20¢/lb. I’ve made denim yarn for weaving, and used bits for patching other jeans. There are literally hundreds of ideas online for how to repurpose jeans. My projects tend to be a modern or minimalist interpretation of a traditional design idea. Most recently, I was inspired to make floor pillows. Modern, durable, easy to clean – they will be perfect for using outside this summer at SouLodge Medicine Gathering
Cutting off all seams, cuffs, zippers, and pockets, I used the best denim pieces to create a 20″x20″ pattern. I incorporated a scrap of orange upholstery as a complementary color accent to the modern design. Stuffed with a 24×24 thrift pillow, the jeans case is removable via a hidden orange zipper. Since the inner pillow was rather soft for a floor pillow, I open the seam and added leftover jeans scraps to the inner pillow to create a more dense fill.
Have you repurposed jeans? What has been your favorite project? Feel free to share ideas in comments below. Maybe your project will be inspiration for my next modern, minimalist project.
Using leftover pieces of leather from the wall hanging I created for a school auction, I fashioned a small pouch to carry the essentials like an ID and credit card. The body of the pouch is one long piece folded onto itself and handstitched with artificial sinew. The tri-color macrame that adorns and lengthens the front flap uses two colors of natural alpaca wool yarn and a dark brown cotton embroidery floss.
But that is not how I first envisioned this project, of course. This is another blog post about working with frustration, changing or releasing expectations, and, in the end, not giving up. Because creativity is finding the work around when you think you have failed.
The macrame was an idea that came to me in a moment one day after seeing some modern macrame images online. I’ve done a little bit of macrame before, but never anything like a friendship bracelet – which is what this most resembles. Eight year olds make friendship bracelets all the time. I actually thought it would be easy.
I found a pattern I liked, but decided to double it to 36 strings to fit the width of my pouch. My first mistake. Not drawing the wider pattern on paper – second mistake. I tied all the strings onto the short leather flap and just charged ahead, thinking I’d be able to figure it out as I went along.
I spent as much time undoing knots as I did tying them. I almost gave up on the project. I definitely put it aside for many days. Then yesterday, I decided to undo everything. I considered maybe starting over using different strings since the natural alpaca yarn was irregular in thickness and would sometimes unravel or fray in the process of tying knots. But in the process of undoing, I slowly worked back to a row of dark brown and stopped. The simple chevron seemed just right, imperfections and all. I trimmed the strings as tassels to match the length of the pouch. The thin leather strap was attached by threading the ends through two small slits cut in the crease of the leather flap and simply gluing the ends to the inside of the pouch.
I am pleased, relieved actually, to have completed this project rather than tossed it aside. Giving up or quitting lingers on as regret. Creativity is the bridge between the vision and the actual execution; between giving up and trying again – and finishing.
Collaboration, like solo creation, usually starts with an idea, vision, or concept, that is then altered as the process unfolds. But unlike solo creation, collaboration affords many more opportunities for unexpected outcomes. When collaborating with young children, I like to set parameters for success by limiting color choices, size, and shape. In this class art project for the school auction, each Pre-K student made a circle-ish piece of flat felt using three colors of alpaca roving donated by Flying Dutchman Alpacas. A dinner plate set the size limit as they laid out the layers of roving in one main color. Two other colors of roving were added in the final layer in whatever design they chose.
After the student’s felt pieces were finished, I spent about a week just exploring different wall hanging ideas. I even worked with the children a second time to create felted wool balls that I thought would be a part of the final piece. My original wall hanging concept just didn’t seem right anymore. Then a conversation with a friend sparked the idea of using leather as a backdrop for the felt.
Although I had never worked with leather before, I was up for the challenge. The leather was generously donated by Maverick Leather, and Warpony Saddlery punch all the holes for stitching, saving me countless hours. Each piece of leather was hand cut in an irregular circle to highlight the raw, organic shape of felt. A hand sewn saddle stitch in artificial sinew creates a contrasting border. Unseen are dozens of holes that I hand punched into each circle of leather so the children could easily hand stitch their felt piece onto the leather using wool yarn and a large eye needle. Their unique, individual stitches add more texture and personality to the wall hanging. Finally, a juniper branch was cleaned and sanded by a friend with all the right power tools.
The culmination was a large, colorful felt and leather wall hanging – a collaborative creation, made with love for the school auction.
With cooler weather finally arriving in Central Oregon, I was motivated to finish some sweater alterations. Both were originally large men’s wool sweaters from thrift that I felted by washing in hot water and drying at the highest temperature.
The gray sweater had a zipper and mock turtleneck collar that I simply trimmed off, leaving a scoop neck with a u-shaped cutout. The beauty of working with felted wool is that you can cut it without the edges fraying or unraveling. With my sewing machine, I narrowed the sleeves by a couple inches so they are fitted. Then I cut the bottom hem on an angle. Hi-low hems may be passé but I like the look of this sweater.
The mustard color sweater was first altered a few years ago; the modern flower pattern added by needle felting. But the original turtleneck collar and rolled sleeve hems never seemed quite right, so the sweater was forgotten in my closet I simply cut off the turtle neck and sleeve hems, and added a small notch to open the neckline. The end result is a simple sweater with three quarter length sleeves and a scoop neck collar.
Are there unworn wool sweaters in your wardrobe? Consider simple alterations by felting and cutting to create a new look!
These modern felted necklaces are an experiment in simplicity and purity of shape. The circle is symbolic of renewal and regeneration and continuity. In my creative work, I am focused on trying to create closed loop products; locally sourced, renewable, recyclable, reusable. These necklaces use locally sourced alpaca wool roving, natural deerskin lacing, and recyclable steel washers.
Inspired by the DIY necklaces found in Urban Scandinavian Sewing by Kirstyn Cogan, these necklaces are relatively simple to make. Working with circles in various sizes, materials and colors creates a near infinite number of combinations. Using handmade wet felted sheets cut into circles of various sizes, I created layered combinations. using the opposite colors on either side. The edges are hand stitched with a blanket stitch, and a washer reinforces the hole for threading the deerskin lacing. I searched for used washers with a naturally aged patina but was unable to find any. I also think it would be interesting to use heavy jewelry wire hammered into a spiral as an alternative to the standard hardware store washer.
Why not make your own version of this necklace? A simpler alternative would be to use store-bought felt which comes in all sorts of colors. Since the typical polyester felt is quite thin, I suggest gluing two layers together so each circle is thick enough to hold its shape. It makes a perfect handmade gift.
This simple, modern necklace uses leftover scraps from various wet-felting projects. I cut three circles in different sizes and blanket stitched their edges with a matching color thread. The circles were then layered and affixed with fabric glue. Stainless steel washers on both sides provide contrast and reinforce the hole for the leather lacing. This item is for sale on Etsy.
I updated the lining of my favorite (really only) Lucky Brand hobo purse a year or so ago because the dark brown interior made it impossible to find anything. I love the retro pattern and how easy it is to seek and find things in this bottomless pit of personal items. But then I got the new iPhone 6 Plus and the phone pocket was too small. Way too small – like the phone was sticking up and interfering with the magnet closure. It was ridiculous and annoying. So for months I’ve just been dealing with it. To avoid redoing the lining, I made a separate felted wallet (check an earlier post) that wasn’t quite practical for quick access. So I finally took out the lining and made a new pocket. I even added a fabric loop for hanging my keys. It is so satisfying to have things function well. The new pocket is perfect. My phone does not have to get any bigger. Are you listening Apple?