Egghead Learns to Sew, Part VI

Today I start applying machine-sewing to the material I intend to work with, namely, felt! This involves learning about types of thread, needle sizes, and a few key machine settings.



Fabric, Thread and Needle -- Combining Heaviness, Strength and Size

Felt doesn't appear in the Fabric, Thread, Needle Chart in my Instruction Manual but I'm approximating to be somewhere in the neighborhood of jersey and tweed in terms of heaviness. I used my outfit of denim and jersey (jeans and a t-shirt) to make this determination. Felt is thicker than jersey but not as dense as denim, so... best guess.


My Chart describes thread in terms of cotton, fiber and silk. None of the thread I own states these as its components; it's all just polyester, if it even says what it is (a lot of it is inherited). Hmmm. This is the point at which I had to go beyond the Instruction Manual for information. I learned that the important thing is to match the type of thread to the type of fabric, not just in terms of color but also strength and stretchiness. Although the best source I found (Tying it All Together: All You Need to Know About Thread) didn't specifically mention felt, I gleaned from the wide range of fabrics it included in its more extensive fabric-thread-needle chart that polyester would work just fine with felt.

On to needle size. My Chart said to use a needle sized between 11 and 14. I wasn't sure what size needle was already in the machine, though I deduced from the sizes of the needles included in my little box of sewing machine accessories that it was probably an 11. But what a problem it could be if I was wrong, so I decided to take the needle out and with a magnifying glass and a lot of light, read the teeny-tiny number engraved on the rounded side of the base of the needle. To get the needle out, I followed the directions for "Changing Needle" in the Instruction Manual. Using the little screwdriver that came with the machine, I loosened the needle clamp screw. Then I gently pulled down on the needle until it was free.




I couldn't make any sense of what the teeny-tiny engraved text said for the longest time, until I realized I was looking at it upside-down. That's how tiny it was! Probably the glare from the additional light I had shining on it didn't help. 


In any case, the needle turned out to be a size 11, as I suspected. According to my Chart, it would likely work fine with felt (it recommended size 11-14). 


Pressure of Presser Foot and Length of Stitches -- Setting the Settings

For heavy fabric such as I determined felt to be, my Chart said to use heavy pressure, so I pushed the pressure regulator all the way down.


As for the stitch settings, I set the selector dial to straight stitch (versus a zigzag stitch). For this type of stitch my Chart recommended a stitch length of between 0.5 and 3. I set this dial to 3.


I turned the machine on, depressed the foot control, and clickety-clack, off I went a-sewing on felt! I planned to make a little pillow, in part to test how much stuffing I could stuff into something and still be able to sew it up on the machine. Stuff it too full and there's not enough fabric to get under the presser foot.



Considering that in any given project I'll probably be combining machine-sewing with hand-sewing, I'll probably opt for a longer stitch so that they match, setting the dial to 4 instead of 3. I did try this, not on the pillow but on a scrap of felt, and it worked fine. For decorative purposes I may also want to use a thicker thread than the multi-purpose polyester I used today, requiring further machine settings to be investigated and duly adjusted. More on that to follow.

Until then --


Linda
Purty Bird

What to Do With Scraps of Felt, Part VIII: Make a Mobile

Today's How-To is an expansion of my What to Do With Scraps of Felt Part VII: Make a Festive Garland. It starts with strands of felt shapes weighted by jingle bells and attaches them to a simple frame to create a mobile.

Materials


  • Scraps of felt
  • Fishing line
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Jingle bells
  • 20 gauge brass wire
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Wire cutter (most needle-nose pliers are also wire-cutters)
  • Flat-nose pliers

Steps

Follow the directions in my previous post to create three or four strands of felt shapes weighted at one of their ends with large jingle bells, but make them shorter than you would a garland; for example, 3-4 shapes per strand.

Next, cut a length of brass wire about 9 inches long for each strand of felt shapes. Gather them together in a bunch and twist them together at one end using the flat-nose pliers to hold the bunch still and the needle-nose pliers to do the twisting. Twist the bunch enough times for a length of twisted wire long enough to create a hook or loop. 




Straighten out the individual pieces of wire and loop them at their ends.


Attach the strands of felt shapes to the loops. Set your brass-wire frame on a level surface so it isn't swinging around while you work. 

Hang your frame from something stable and adjust the top hook/loop and individual arms of the frame to balance the strands of felt out. (Clearly, my mobile still needs a bit of balancing!)


Stand back and admire your work. Wait for a breeze and watch it come to life.

A few tips
Leave yourself enough length at the top of your strands of felt shapes so as to be able tie them onto the brass-wire frame with ease. 


Enjoy!

Until next time,

Linda

What to Do With Scraps of Felt, Part VII: Make a Festive Garland

I confess: I have a thing for dangly art. I like making it, and I like looking at it. I like the variously gentle and energetic movement in the free-hanging kind, and I like the potential variability of the of the attached-to-something-but-not stationary kind.
In terms of design elements, I also like simple shapes and bold colors. These proclivities lend themselves well to the scraps-of-felt project---number seven in the series, by the by---that I present to you today. I think it's kind of fun and I hope you do too. Yay!

Materials


  • Scraps of felt
  • Straight pins
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Four-pound fishing line
  • A large jingle bell or other decorative doo-dad with a little weight to it (optional)

Steps

Cut a length of fishing line and tie a loop in one end. With a small piece of tape (fold one end over sticky sides together aid removal) secure that end to a table or the like.

Cut shapes from scraps of felt. I like to stack shapes on top of each other for a dimensional look so I cut several different sizes of shapes. 

Regardless of whether you decide to stack or not, start by cutting shapes of the same size to sandwich the fishing line between. Pin two pieces of felt together with their back (less fuzzy) sides facing each other and snip away.

Separate your pieces. Apply a line of glue to the back side of one of the shapes and align it with the fishing line. Set the line in the glue. Affix the other shape, fuzzy side up, to the first shape. Gently press together. 

Glue smaller shapes to the base shapes until you're happy with the result. Do this to both sides or just on one, depending on how you intend to display the result (if against the wall, one side; if free-hanging, both sides).

Display suggestions and tips: If you're going to hang your work vertically, say, in a doorway, tie a jingle bell or similarly weighted object to the loose end to stabilize it a bit. 

If you're going to hang your work horizontally, more akin to a garland, skip the jingle bell in favor of another loop. 

And there you go---a festive garland for everyday or party use. Enjoy!

Until next time,


Linda
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Warm Fuzzy Valentine

Here's a quick little Valentine's decoration with a twist: It holds chocolate!


Materials
  1. Felt
  2. Fabric glue
  3. Needle and thread
  4. Embroidery floss
  5. Pins
  6. Scissors
  7. Ribbon
  8. Chocolate!
Steps
Cut heart shapes out of felt. I cut two sizes, one for the front sides of the pockets that will hold the chocolate, to decorate the pockets with. Glue (or sew, if you prefer) the smaller decorative hearts to the larger (pocket) hearts (you can also do this second step later; I just happened to do it at this point).


Pin large hearts onto another piece of felt and cut around it to create the back sides of the pockets.



Set front sides of pockets aside and lay the back sides out in a line. 



Measure out a piece of ribbon and position lay it on top of your row of pocket-backs. Pin in place



Sew (or glue, if you prefer) the ribbon to the pocket-backs.


Pin the front sides of the pockets to their corresponding backs. Using embroidery floss, sew most of the way around, leaving the top open (pic below is out of sequence).

Fill the pockets with chocolate and hang (use push-pins, magnets, or sew a ring to the top of the ribbon -- I used magnets to attach my chocolate-pocket heart garland to a lamp).

Happy Valentine's Day!

Linda
Purty Bird

What to Do with Scraps of Felt, Part IV: Make Finger Puppets!

Here's a quick and easy project using scraps of felt that you can do just about anywhere. I started the one I'm about to document while selling my wares at the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market this past weekend, for instance.

Now, before I start I just want to say that there are some really nicely-made finger puppets out there (check out this post by NewNew blogger, Karina, for a great tutorial), and these ones I made aren't them. No. Mine are, shall we say, a bit rough around the edges? But they're fun and easy and that's at least half the point.

Materials
All you need is felt pieces long and wide enough to cover your (or someone else's, say, a child's) finger, plus some smaller bits for details; embroidery floss or thread; a needle or two large enough to accommodate said embroidery floss or thread; pins to hold things together while you sew, and perhaps a bit of fabric glue and fabric paint if you don't want to sew every little detail.

The piece of felt I started with.

Steps
First, Find yourself a piece of felt as described above and wrap it around your finger. Pin the ends together where they overlap, making a tube.


Next, sew up the open side and top of your tube.

Snip off the pointy edges if you like, and begin adding details. I started with a pair of eyes and a pair of pants. I sewed the pants to the bottom of the tube and let the legs extend beyond it. For fun I used a contrasting color of embroidery floss and continued stitching beyond the point where they attached to the felt.
First details: Eyes and pants.

Back at home from the market, I added a hat. I did the same as with the pants and stitched all the way around the perimeter of the hat with a contrasting color of embroidery floss.
Then I stitched my little hat-and-pants-wearing guy a mouth and glued him on a nose.
I finished with a couple of dabs of fabric paint for eyeballs. And my first-ever, rough but cute in an ugly sort of way finger puppet was complete!

But, all the while I was making my first-ever finger puppet I was wondering if I was doing it the best way, starting with an already sewn-up tube instead of a flat piece of felt. So, being constitutionally unable to leave well-enough a lone, I made a second-ever finger puppet in this alternative way. Feeling less restricted in terms of sewing on the details, I got a bit ambitious and gave this second finger puppet arms.
Second puppet, different method, different details.

Although the sewing-on of details was certainly easier, it was harder to tell where to put them. I used the eyes to as a point of reference, remembering that the area I had to work with was small. Even so, the arms ended up way on the sides of the tube, pretty much out of view.
Where'd the arms go?

It was easy enough to reposition them, but only by so much. And I got the right arm wrong again.
Better, but still not quite right.

So even though it was easier to sew on the details using the second method, I'd go with the first method and close the open side and top of the felt first. It's easy enough to hide the ends of your thread/embroidery floss in-between where you sew the sides of the felt together.

Hiding a knot in-between the sewn-together sides of the felt tube.

In short, keep it simple and have fun!

Until next time --

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What to Do with Scraps of Felt, Part III: Make a Cute Bracelet

This one is super-easy and perfect for Spring (which I trust will arrive any day now). Keep it simple and unrestrained or bump it up a notch with a few extra steps for a more sophisticated look.

Materials


  • Scraps of felt cut up into squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, or what-have-you
  • Elastic stringing material such as Stretch Magic or Elonga; I used 5 mm but 7 mm would also probably work, depending on the size of your felt bits
  • Scissors
  • Needle
  • Beads (optional)
  • Fabric glue (optional)
  • Thread (optional)

Steps
Decide whether you want a more or less restrained final piece. If you go the less restrained route, simply thread your needle with about one-and-a-half to two-times the amount of stringing material you need to go around your wist, tie a knot in one end, and begin stringing the bits of felt onto it. When you've got enough to go around your wrist, pull the knotted end of the stringing material away from the felt so that you have enough loose material on either end to make a knot (I used a modified square knot; click on the Elonga link above for a great illustration). Wear it as-is, or trim away some of the shagginess with a scissor.


If you want a slightly more restrained (but no less festive)-looking final product, select bits of felt that are of roughly equal size and alternate their colors. Add some beads at regular intervals for even more variation. I used felted beads in the sample above but most 7-10 mm glass, stone or plastic beads would also work well. Just be sure the hole is large and smooth enough to fit your stringing material without shredding it.

Finally, if you're feeling really ambitious, or if you want an even more polished final product, you can stack your bits of felt in different color combinations and either glue or sew them together to make your own beads. String them alone or with a few accent beads in-between.


Easy-breezy Springtime fun, both to make and to wear!

Until next time -

Enjoy!


Linda

What to do with Scraps of Felt, Part I: Make a Snazzy Brooch



I work with felt a lot, and being my mother's daughter, I save the scraps. Almost every scrap. Consequently, I have bags and bags of scraps that I've been trying to figure out how I might use creatively. One thing I came up with, quite by accident while sewing other things this past weekend, is to make brooches. I'm still experimenting a little with technique, so the following how-to will include a a couple of different ones, broadly identified as "glue" and "sew."

Materials


You will need:
  • Scraps of felt
  • Needle and thread (or embroidery floss---I've got lots of scraps of that, too)
  • Scissors
  • Fabric glue
  • Pin-backs

Steps

Find a piece of felt big enough to cut into two equal pieces of the size brooch you want. These will serve as the front and back of your brooch. Lay the two pieces out with the "right" (fuzzier-softer) side facing up. Pick one to use as the front side of the brooch.


Decorate this base piece of felt with additional pieces of felt. Maybe throw on a few beads is you have them. Have fun! One of the fun things about using felt for this is the ability to layer it to dimensional effect. The more layers of felt (and whatever else you put on), the more dimension your brooch will have.

For these first few brooches I just used different sizes, shapes and colors of felt. In the first brooch (below), I glued the shapes on, and in the second one I sewed them.

If you're sewing your decorative bits, you might try using contrasting colors of thread or embroidery floss for additional pizzaz.


If you're gluing your decorative bits, be careful not to press them onto the base piece with too much pressure at first. Felt is porous so the wet glue will seep through and dampen the fuzzy-softness of the surface. As the glue dries you can give them another pat or two to ensure they stick well.

Now for the back side of the brooch. If you're sewing, position an open pin back in the center of the back piece of felt. Hold onto it tightly and sew. The kind of pin-back I used has holes on it like a button, and I sewed it like a button, pulling the thread in-between the holes down the length of the pin-back. I also sewed around each hole on either end of the pin-back. I've found that with this kind of pin-back, you can't sew it on too securely. If it's not firmly affixed to the felt, it's hard to open and close the pin. (If you're gluing, I suggest putting the pin-back on last, after the following step.)


Now, either sew or glue the front and back sides of the brooch together. If you're sewing, you might still want to squirt a bit of glue in-between the sides (first photo below), both to give the brooch some structure, and to keep it together in case your stitches come undone. It would stink to lose the front of your brooch and be left wearing just the back, especially after all that dimensional layering!


If you're using the "glue" method, now attach the pin-back. Squirt a line of glue onto the back of the brooch and set the pin-back in it.


Allow to dry, affix to a sweater, hat, bag, or what-have-you, and ta-da! A neat accessory---and a few pieces of scrap felt used up!

Until next time --


Linda


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TUTORIAL: Re-purposed recycled felt helping your garden grow: now that's what I call ECO!

It is pretty safe to say that the Alexandra Ferguson studio generates a LOT of felt scraps in the process of manufacturing her collection of applique pillows. So when a local Master Gardener told Charlotte Ferguson (Alexandra's mom, and the brand's Roving Ambassador) about a clever trick to keep her spring seedlings well watered while depleting Alexandra's ever growing stash of scraps....well, it was too good to keep to ourselves.

Follow these easy steps to create your own low-maintenance indoor greenhouse:

1. You will need a panel of felt about 24" x 16". We pieced two smaller panels together to get the right size. I thought it would be fun to use up all the tiny scraps in rainbow colors to create a patchwork, but Charlotte was in a hurry. One quick seam did the trick. You won't see the felt once all the plants are on top of it, so don't worry about making it look beautiful.
2. Using a medium sized waterproof container (we used clear storage bins), place the black trays your plants often come with upside down (shown on left side of photo). The idea is that you need to get about 3" height, so anything you have around the house that would serve that purpose would work as well. Place your felt panel on top of your riser, making sure that the edges of the felt go all the way to the bottom.
3. Pour water into your waterproof container. Soak the felt thoroughly, with about 2" height of water in your tub.
4. Place your trays of seedlings on top of the soaking felt, and you are done! The felt will draw water up from the bottom as the seeds drink, so your seeds will always be perfectly watered and you don't need to do a thing!
Your greenhouse should be placed in a sunny spot indoors. We added a grow light, easily found at Home Depot or your local gardening store for extra oomph.

Two weeks later

To celebrate spring, Alexandra is giving away one of her botanical-themed pillows. Don't have a garden with windows full of seedlings? The 16" "Tulip" pillow in cocoa that she is giving away should more than make up for it! The best part? This flower blooms all year long.


Check out the rest of the alexandra ferguson collection on her etsy site,
www.alexandraferguson.etsy.com
including many other floral styles as well as her popular "Pillow Talk" line of sassy words and phrases. Alexandra works exclusively with recycled felt made from plastic water bottles. Every applique shape is meticulously cut by hand and stitched down in her studio based in Westchester County, NY. Just like everything in nature, no two are ever the same!

TO ENTER TO WIN:
You must be a FOLLOWER of this blog. Visit Alex's store HERE. Come back and leave a comment on this post and let us know what your favorite item in her shop was. One entry per person BUT if you twitter, blog, or facebook about this giveaway and leave a link it will give you extra entries.

This giveaway is the last on our series of March Madness giveaways-- It ends Tuesday, April 6th- winner announced on the April 6th blog post. Please scroll for two additional giveaways from the team that will also end April 6.

Bring the Fun of the Fall Cavalcade Home

It’s Sunday and you’ve enjoyed a beautiful day in Beacon, New York snatching up handmade wares from the {NewNew}. The feeling was so good, you want it to last forever. What to do? Make yourself some decorative {NewNew} Fall Handmade Cavalcade trees to enjoy all year long. These would make great wall decorations and can easily be hung anywhere. The steps in this project can also be applied to lots of other shapes - such as pumpkins for Halloween or turkeys for Thanksgiving. Maybe even tiny ones to hang on the Christmas tree?

For this project you need:
Card Stock
Newsprint paper or even an old copy of the NY Times Double-sided tape
Fabric Glue
Scissors/ Rotary blade
Cutting Mat
Colorful Quilting Fabric
Felt to compliment the fabric
Ribbon (we used 1/4" grosgrain)
Awl
Pins
Pencil
Ruler
Cookies and Milk (optional)

Create Your Pattern We made three sizes trees that were 28 inches, 22 inches and 16 inches tall. You can make whatever size suits your needs just keep in mind the final project will be hanging off a ribbon and will add a few inches in length. To make a pattern for the base tree start with the card stock. Take your ruler and measure out the length of your tree and mark the line with a pencil. This is the center axis of your tree. On either the left or right side of this line, draw a 1/2 tree. Cut this shape out. Now trace this shape on another piece of card stock. Flip the 1/2 tree pattern over, align the center axis with the shape you have traced, and trace the other half of the tree. This makes sure that your shape is symmetrical left and right. Once your symmetrical whole tree shape has been cut out, set it aside as this is the base.
Now roll out a section of newsprint paper. Trace your 1/2 tree shape onto the newsprint. Then inside that shape, draw a 1/2 arc that starts and ends along the center axis. It is helpful to do this within a tracing of your base tree so that you don't have to guess size and proportion. Now fold the newsprint along the center axis and cut out your center shape along the line you drew.
One pattern left, the felt trunk pattern. On newsprint again, take your 1/2 tree cardstock and trace just the bottom truck. Flip it over along the center axis to trace the other 1/2 of the trunk. Using a ruler, extend these lines up so that the length is about half of the total height of your tree. Extend branches from this trunk. Cut out your trunk shape and now all the patterns are complete! Take a moment for a pattern happy dance.
Fabric Time! Take the whole tree cardstock base that you cut out and apply double sided tape all along the edges. Stick this to the backside of one of your printed quilting fabrics. Using the edge of the cardstock as a guide, cut out the fabric so that it is the same size as your base.

Select a second printed quilting fabric, pin the paper pattern to it, and cut the shape out. Repeat this step to create your felty awesome tree trunk. Make sure your fabric is ironed and wrinkle free before you cut. Wrinkles ruin trees (or maybe you would call it character.) With your fabric glue (we prefer Beacon Magna-Tac 809 permanent adhesive), glue down the printed center of the tree to your printed base. Try to make sure you get the top points aligned and centered. Then glue your felt tree trunk on top.
Let it all dry for about 30 minutes while you admire your work and enjoy yummy cookies and milk. (Optional but recommended)

Alexandra and Virginia enjoy a not to vintage 2% and amazing chocolate chip cookie.
Finishing Touches Once your magical Fall Cavalcade tree is dry, carefully use your awl to poke a hole through and through about 3 inches from the top of your tree. From the good side of the tree, center your length ribbon on the whole and push it through. We used dull tweezers to push through as much as possible, and then pulled from the underside with a needle. You now have a loop coming out the back and two loose ends coming through the front. Tie these loose ends into a pretty bow.

Conceived by Jody and Alexandra Ferguson

With lots of help from Lauren, Virginia and Kelly

Reported by Kelly

Felted Memories


Every time we come home from the beach, we return with at least a handful of rocks scavenged from the sea. I recently saw some felted rocks at a museum store and decided to try this technique to decorate our rocks instead of painting them. My research led me to two blogs that discussed the manufacturing process in some detail:

Julie of Crafting A Green World explains her process, in which she felts a rock by hand. Margaret of resurrection fern had enough of handwashing and decided to use her washing machine to do the job. I tried both methods and these are my findings:


Materials


For this project you need
  • Rocks, mine were about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter
  • Wool roving, you can find it on Etsy
  • Dish soap
  • Pantyhose, if you want to try the machine method



  • Take a bit of wool roving and wrap it around your rock. I didn't want to fully cover my rocks so my layer is somewhat thin.


    Using the dish soap and hot water, soap up your rock. If you decide to follow Julie's hand felting method, continue to wash the rock, move it around, squeeze out a bit of soap, and continue to rub it until it is felted to your liking. If you are hand felting, squeeze out as much of the soap as you can making sure that the rock is covered with the felt and let it dry.


    If you want to felt your rock in the machine, cut off a pantyhose leg, and begin to fill it with your soapy rocks tying off each rock separately so they don't felt against one another.

    I live in an apartment building that just got new machines. Because I didn't want to incur my neighbors' wrath, I limited myself to two rocks, tied those into my pajama pants, and washed everything together with a heavy blanket on hot. Margaret is much more courageous. She made a string of 19-plus rocks. Whether you follow her example depends on your living situation.


    So here is the outcome. This is the hand felted rock. Not as smooth and somewhat fuzzy.


    These are the machine washed rocks. They are very smooth and quite perfect looking. All of them are beautiful, I think. It just depends what your personal preference is.

    Just one thing, if your super gets upset when you felt your vacation souvenirs in the machine, don't refer him or her to this blog.

    Thanks

    Simone
    groundsel.etsy.com
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