There are certain materials that are my comfort zone – my star materials. You’ve seen them here. Felt. Paper. I even own the domain paperandfelt.com just in case I ever choose to focus and create exclusively with those two materials. I do love them. They are stars that I reference and return to over and over in my creative making.
This geometric star is inspired by traditional Finnish straw ornaments called Himmeli. (The root word “himmel” means sky or heaven in German, Swedish or Norwegian.) The foundation of the Himmeli is the triangle. Tying varying lengths of straws into triangles, and then combining the triangles into 3-dimensional structures, you can create all sorts of beautiful sculptures. Made of tightly rolled magazine paper threaded on silver floral wire, this unique wall decoration is light enough to hang on a pin. I have used it to display tillandsia (air plants) and it even was the star topper to our tree last Christmas.
Look around the internet and you’ll see a variety of traditional Himmeli made from natural straw, and contemporary Himmeli made from metal tubes or colorful, plastic straws. May you find the inspiration you need to create your own.
We recently adopted a two-year-old cat from the local shelter. And since cats need to scratch things, I decided to make a scratching post – because why buy, when you can make? So I simply wrapped the base of an 8 ft long cedar (untreated) wood post with a couple spools of sisal rope. Since sisal is a natural material, the spools were slightly different colors, which I only noticed when I started wrapping with the second one. I used poultry wire staples to secure the rope. A locking wheel is attached at the base of the post to make it easily portable to different locations in the house. Both the wood and the sisal are great scratching surfaces. But unfortunately, we have since discovered that our cat prefers to scratch leather – in particular, my husband’s antique club chairs. So this scratching post will soon be redesigned and wrapped in leather.
An 8 ft long post is taller than necessary for a cat scratcher, so I sawed 30″ off. I used this piece to make a lawn dice game and a couple candlestick holders. Thanks to a local maker space called DIYCave, I had access to all the tools I needed to cut, sand, and drill to make the dice and candlestick holders.
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.
I recently acquired an unlikely but exceptionally effective Aeropress espresso coffee maker that consists of 3 simple plastic parts. I do still miss the hum of our old Expobar espresso machine that died, but this new set up makes an awesome Americano and has the added advantage of being portable for camping or travel.
The only problem, albeit a small one, was that I needed an efficient way to transfer the coffee grounds from our grinder to the Aeropress. I wanted something reusable, easy to wash and simple to store. The idea for a fused-plastic, folded scoop was born.
I have made things using fused plastic in the past. The process for fusing plastic is very simple, although it can be a challenge these days to find plastic shopping bags. As you can see from the photos, there is only one store I frequent here in my town that still uses plastic bags. I cut off the seams and the handles of 4-5 bags and stack the flattened layers of plastic between two sheets of parchment paper. Using an iron on medium heat setting, press firmly and evenly across the pile of plastic. The plastic will quickly melt and shrink into a solid sheet of plastic. Keep ironing, turning and flipping it occasionally, until the sheet of fused plastic is no longer visibly shrinking. Once the plastic cools, you can trim off any irregular edges.
To make my scoop, I trimmed the plastic sheet into a long rectangle. Then I folded it in half in both directions as well across both diagonals. The open, creased rectangle is laid under the spout of the grinder to catch the grinds. By pinching half of the long rectangle together, a scoop is formed on the other half, making it easy to pour the grinds into the coffee press. The fused plastic is durable, easy to wash, and dry, and fold to store away.
What have you created out of necessity – the mother of invention?
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.
I’ve always considered myself to be spontaneous and flexible; a lover of change and newness. The only habit I’d claim was breaking them.
I have evolved in the last decade. And the change includes a great deal of love and appreciation for habits, structure and routine in my life. They create the mental and physical space within which creativity flourishes. Ironically, although I have been slow to adopt structure in my life, I have always appreciated structure in my making; from architecture and furniture to origami and geometric Himmeli.
Understanding the basic structure of something allows for elaboration and invention. Most Himmeli are based on the aggregation of triangles of different proportions. A 3D diamond gem-like shape is the simplest form. So creating a heart is just a matter of tying together a bunch of triangles – smaller ones on top for the humps, and longer ones for the point. For my Himmeli heart, I made tubes by rolling up old magazine pages, and then tied them together with silver floral wire. The final piece is almost 18 inches tall and is a beautiful adornment for our living room wall. I also made some smaller Himmeli with the leftover paper tubes.
For me, this Himmeli heart has become a symbol for the relationship between structure and creativity; that the spontaneity and flexibility I love and crave are best supported by a structure of routines and habits.
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!
Ever thinking of new random projects, this sachet came about as a way to use a 4″ strip of fabric cut from the bottom of a t-shirt. First, the hem and seams were removed to create two long rectangles of fabric. These were then cut in half. By cutting thin strips along the sides and bottom of the rectangle and then tying them together with square knots, a small sachet was created. The remaining fabric was cut into strips, braided, and tied to the sachet with slip knots. Given the light weight and stretch of the t-shirt material, I filled my necklace sachet with tiny flowers and a sprig of rosemary.