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Author: helenefeltzen

Customs, Challenges and Creativity

Customs, Challenges and Creativity

Happy holidays everyone!  I hope you are all getting some well deserved R & R following the hectic run up to the holiday season.

Customs:

Here in Ireland, today (December 26th) is known as St Stephen’s day but in certain rural areas, traditionally it is Wren day,  a festival day when Mummers  take to the streets in their disguises.  In my area, the Mummers perform their play every St. Stephen’s day in pubs and clubs in the county.  This tradition originated within three local families and numbers participating have increased down through the years.

The costumes are generally a mix of rags together with woven straw.  The head pieces can be very intricate and beautiful.  Here is an example of a mummer’s headpiece. (Photo: Courtesy Museum of Ireland)

 

I checked the mumming origins for this time of year and it appears to be an ancient European tradition.  If you would like to find out more it is worth checking out these links https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wren_Day  or, local to my area https://nationalinventoryich.chg.gov.ie/mummers-of-fingal/#:~:text=Mumming%20is%20a%20masking%20or,found%20in%20European%20carnival%20tradition.

Challenges

Project No: 1:

I want to extend a big thank you to Lyn and Annie whose current challenge has spurred me on to complete three unfinished projects in time for this post.  The first project is a crochet throw.  I have made a number of these, principally for family, and feedback is that they are really cosy.  So I thought it was time to make one for myself.  The problem was, that because it had no timeline for finish, it stayed on the hook!  So when I saw the challenge, the timeline materialized and I got it finished before the year end.  Happy days!

Please forgive the angle of the photograph, I was up on the ladder trying to get it!

The throw comprises of one very large granny square made with six large balls of fibre.  It fits on top of a kind sized bed and I think it will be staying there for the current cold spell!  Its making is pretty mindless and once I get into rhythm it can be made watching foreign crime series (complete with subtitles).  My favourite at the moment which has just finished is the French series Astrid.

Project No: 2:

My next  project was planted in my consciousness following a blog post by Ann in November 2021. Here is the link to her post https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2021/11/15/an-international-project-by-line-defour/ .  This international project, which was titled “Fate, Destiny and Self-determination” intrigued me but it took me a while for the seeds to bear fruit.  I contacted the Artist/Co-ordinator, Line Dufour,  last September and she confirmed that she was still accepting pieces for the on-going exhibition.  She did mention any piece should not be a regular geometric shape (square, rectangle, circle etc).

So I got to work on my piece.  I started off by making a piece of pre-felt over a rectangular resist.  Then I started randomly stitching and gathering the prefelt, my idea here was to lose total control over the shape of the piece and let the random stitches determine this.  Finally I felted it up.  The final shape was anything but regular.  I hated it because while the shape was ‘interesting’ the colour was boring and it would be lost against a white backdrop.  So it sat there, and it waited patiently for Lyn and Annie to spur me into action with the challenge. It was time to start hand-stitching!

I decided that I wanted the piece to reflect my Irish origins and what it means to be Irish in contemporary society.  To paraphrase the actor Michael Caine,  not many people know this but Ireland is one of the largest countries in Europe when our seabed territory is taken into account.  People perceive Ireland as being that little quaint island off the west of Europe but our marine territory is ten times the size of the land mass and I decided to reflect this in the piece (bottom section).  Secondly, Ireland is renowned for its agriculture and food production which it exports worldwide; this is represented by the abstract depiction of a tree to the left of the piece.  Then, there are its people, their tolerance and acceptance; the central section celebrates the fact that in 2015, Ireland became the first country to legalize same sex marriage by popular vote. (I could have included many other aspects of what it means to be Irish but it is a small piece at 12cm x 13cm.)  I purposely left a section to the right of the piece empty – this represents the future, the unknown.  I will post (mail) this off to Line in the New Year.

 

Project No: 3:

I love rummaging in haberdashery departments when I am away on holidays (I also love fabric stores but that is another story!).  It is a real treat because it can be a challenge to find interesting ‘stuff’ locally.  I came across a small square weaving loom when I was in Paris a few years ago and it has been sitting at the back of my cupboard since then.  2022 was to be the year when I rediscovered it and started the project.  All the yarns were from my stash and and I rescued the boucle from my late mother in law’s house when we were clearing it.  The small piece of weaving has been waiting for me to get my act together and finish it off.  So, no time like the present challenge to make that happen!  The finished piece measures 9cm x 9cm.  I think I might just frame it.  Has anyone any other suggestions?

 

 

Creativity

Before I sign off for 2022 I would like to share with you some of my friends’ beautiful handmade items which they have gifted to me for my tree over the years.  I cherish them not only because they are beautiful items but because they were made with love – nothing will ever come close to handmade, especially when made by gifted friends.

Here is my friend Annelien’s work.  Annelien, who is from The Netherlands, and I first met during a week long textile recycling workshop in Finland back in 2013 and we have been firm friends since then (we have even managed to meet up in person twice since then).  (Apologies, I think the felted Angel is blurred.)

 

Next, Sara’s work.  Sara started crocheting a little while ago and recently gifted me one of her angels.  I love her! (actually I love both of them!)

Next up is Kate.  Kate loves working in glass and gifted me the trees many years ago (I have taken a photo of three of them).  More recently, she made me the little houses.  They are so delicate and pretty.

 

 

Thanks for reading this post and for reading and commenting on my various posts throughout the year!

Wishing you good health, happiness and peace during 2023.  Not forgetting a whole lot of creative spurs and fun!

 

 

 

 

Experimenting with tear-away stabiliser – Part 2

Experimenting with tear-away stabiliser – Part 2

In the first part of this post I wrote about finally making the decision to buy some tear away stabilizer, using the free motion function on my sewing machine to ‘draw’ some copyright free doodles I had sourced from Shutterstock onto white linen fabric I had in my stash.  I did some slow stitch embroidery on one of the face designs.  Here is a link to Part 1, in case you might have missed it. https://wp.me/p1WEqk-dUs

I wanted to do something a little different with the bird design.  My decision is the focus of today’s post.  Here is what the bird looked like once I transferred the design across onto the linen.

 

Just to recap, I had pre-washed the linen and attached some cotton batting to the back of the fabric prior to letting loose with the free motion embroidery.

It reminded me of a hummingbird and, as a result I wanted vibrant colour to inspire its completion.  I came across a set of iridescent acrylic paints in TK Maxx before the summer.  I thought I might try to use these shiny paints on the embroidered bird.

Before doing so, I needed to play with the paints so that they would work on fabric.  I did not have a Fabric Medium in my stash so I did a bit of research online and discovered that I could make one out of a few household ingredients.  So I thought it might be worth experimenting.  The recipe, which came from Paint topics, https://painttopics.com/can-you-use-acrylic-paint-on-fabric/ called for equal parts vinegar and glycerine mixed with two parts water.  I mixed the home made ‘medium’ and added it in equal parts to the paint.

The first thing I noticed was that the paint became very easy to apply.  I was worried that the iridescence would be lost in the mix but the vibrancy returned once the paint had dried.  Also, the black thread used when at the free motion embroidery stage acted as a barrier between the colours.  The paint itself was absorbed into the top layer of the fabric – there was no soakage into the batting.  I left the paint to dry out for about 5 minutes in between layers. The different colours sat nicely on top of each other.  I then left the picture overnight to dry completely and then ironed it to heat seal it.

I am really pleased with the result.  The cotton backing adds an extra dimension to the work as does the iridescence.  The texture of the paint is similar to what might be found on T shirt prints.   The only issue is, because this is an art piece (rather than a ‘functional’ one).  I have not tried washing it but I am happy that it is suitable for art work.

My only disappointment is that I could not get all the creases out of the pre-washed linen fabric.   Next time I might opt for a cotton fabric.

Have you ever used acrylic paint on textiles?  Have you used it with or without mixing with a textile medium?  Could you let me know how it worked for you.

Experimenting with tear-away stabiliser – Part 1

Experimenting with tear-away stabiliser – Part 1

I don’t make New Year Resolutions, there’s absolutely no point as I have the attention span of a puppy at that time of year.  Instead, I opt for trying new things around my birthday.  It’s a good way for me to treat myself to supplies that I normally would not try.  There is a bit of a downside in that I soon won’t be able to open presses without an avalanche of goodies hitting me but we will push that thought aside and bury it, along with the passing years  (under the goodies at the back of the press).

This year, I decided that I wanted to try tear away stabilizer.  It’s one of those products I had heard about but it is not stocked locally.  As a result it had fallen into that category of ‘mmmm that looks interesting’.  Followed by a long period of totally forgetting it existed.  So, when I finally happened upon it on Amazon, I decided I should make the purchase before I forgot all about it again!

I opted for 8 inch square sheets which came in a packet of 100 and cost less than Stg£9.00 (less than $10.00).

I love my sewing machine!  It’s a huge heavy yoke from Janome that I bought comparatively recently.   Like many machines these days, it has the facility for free motion embroidery.  As a sewist, I have lots of coloured threads so I was ready to get to work.

Next, the design.  I opted for copyright free doodles that I sourced on Shutterstock.  I was attracted to two designs which are achieved without lifting the pen too often.  This meant that there would not be too many gaps when it came to the free motion work.

I printed off my chosen designs and then transferred them onto the tear away stabilizer using a permanent marker.  I decided to use some white linen from my stash as my background.  I washed one of these pieces and left the other two alone.

I then pinned cotton batting to the back of two of the pieces of linen – the third piece of linen was left with no backing on it.  I wanted to see if I needed the batting for extra structure.  After this I pinned the pre-traced design/stabilizer onto the fabric and used the free motion embroidery function on the sewing machine to transfer the designs across.  I worked my way slowly along the lines of the drawing going back and forward a number of times to get a thicker outline.  Here are some photos of the back and front sides of my pieces:

 

 

I was very pleased with the resulting ‘embroidery drawings’.  The tear away stabilizer came away quite easily on the ‘face’ although I did use a pin to raise the paper on some of the smaller sections of the drawing.  The ‘bird’ (more in Part 2 of this post) was a bit more of a challenge as there were a lot of small areas where the stitching crossed over the design so I needed a bit of patience to make sure these were all removed.  The back of the pictures were quite neat too.

So, I had to make a decision on what to do next.  I don’t have any embroidery thread but I have lots of cotton perle thread so I chose this.

I meant to take photos of my progress but got carried away.    I stitched the eye with the free motion embroidery function.  It is my first attempt at an eye and I am pretty pleased with the result.

Here is the finished piece.

 

So far, the second face – the one that is backed with the cotton backing, is not filled in.  I would welcome your suggestions on what approach I should take.

Thanks in advance!

I will show you how I finished the bird in Part 2 (November 20th).  Here’s a preview of what he looked like ‘naked’.

Travelling and Textiles – a perfect mix!

Travelling and Textiles – a perfect mix!

It’s summer time here in Ireland and the living is, well, slightly more laid back than the norm.  Having decided to metaphorically kick off the shoes for the month of July, I thought it might be nice just to “see and share ” rather than “do” and this forms the basis of my post.

Before I start on the main focus of this post (my holiday in Italy),   I just have to show you a beautiful piece that totally blew me away.  Before heading off, I visited Dublin’s Botanical Gardens.  Founded in 1795, it is an oasis of calm for any visitor and I would highly recommend a visit if you happen to be in the neighbourhood.  While there, I noticed that there was a patchwork exhibition happening in one of their exhibition spaces.  This piece just caught me, so I want to share it with you.  The artist is Ethelda Ellis and the piece is called ‘Aoife’s View’.  The curator told me that Ethelda is a medical doctor by profession.  If you would like to see more of Ethelda’s beautiful creations check out her blog: http://ethelda.blogspot.com/

Now, to the Italian holiday.  We headed to Como mid-July and, in spite of the heatwave, spent our time sightseeing and eating!  Our base was Como which is to the north of Italy, right beside Switzerland.  Lake Como is totally dwarfed by the Alps – a really beautiful place.

We called into the Cathedral, the Duomo which was magnificent internally and externally.  I reckon that to appreciate all its beauty would take months observing 24/7!  I want to share with you a small area of a tapestry which was made in 1610 and which underwent restoration in 1990.  It was impossible to get a good photo of the entire masterpiece as so much detail would have been lost.  So I settled for a little!

One of our tours took us to the tiny picturesque village of Orta which is situated on Lake Orta.  It was recommended that we visit the interior of the local church which was situated at the top of a steep street.

My journey was interrupted by the sound of a piano recital and when I investigated I discovered a rather special textile exhibition happening in the same building.  The works exhibited were by Sergio Cerini.  The artist merges his early experiences in the Italian high fashion industry with his current artworks, producing beautiful pieces which are in essence a mix of paper mache and textiles.  The description does not do justice to his widely exhibited pieces and he was reluctant to allow me to photograph his work.  He did, however pose in front of one of the pieces and others can be viewed on his Instagram page @sergiocerini

Since the 1800s, the city of Como was historically the main producer of Italian silk.  When ultimately production was outsourced to China, the area was in danger of losing connection with its cultural heritage.  The large factory was bought by the Hilton hotel chain.  These photos show early paintings of the factory, what it became at the height of the industry and where it is now (apologies for the reflection on the glass):

 

Rather than allow the old machinery to be lost to history, a wise decision was taken about 10 years ago to set up an Educational Silk Museum to preserve these beautiful machines.  Along with displaying the machinery, some of which dates back to the nineteenth century, the museum offers interactive videos and exhibits of high fashion clothing.  Unfortunately this section was not open during my visit but I thought it might be fun to show you some of the many machines featured.  So please, grab a cuppa, sit back and I hope you enjoy the show.  I have included captions for ease of reference.

 

Spinning Spirals and other topics.

Spinning Spirals and other topics.

A few years ago, while searching for an online textile workshop, I happened upon one that made me curious.  I was familiar with the tutor’s name, Ruth Lane, as her book “The Complete Photo Guide to Felting” was and continues to be one of my ‘go-to’ reference books.  Among its many attributes are two that I hold important, good writing and clarity.

At the time, Ruth was offering, among her courses, one titled   Nuno Felting with Paper Fabric Lamination.  This four week course is available under the heading Embellishing Felt With Surface Design Techniques – A Mixed Media Approach.

(https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/classes/embellishing-felt-with-surface-design-techniques-a-mixed-media-approach/nuno-felting-with-paper-fabric-lamination/)  Ruth lived up to expectations by providing concise instructions on her methods.  The smaller class size made the whole experience very personal and enjoyable.  It also provided a space where I, as a participant could interact easily with fellow students – it’s something personally I think important as sometimes on-line classes can leave me feeling quite remote.

I was absolutely delighted when Ruth asked me to write some posts for the Felting and Fiber Studio blog and when I finally decided to design and produce the online Spiral Workshop I was thrilled when it was accepted as one of the courses on the FFS workshop platform.  I feel so comfortable with the whole ethos of small class sizes and encouraging participants to engage with others if they so desire.

The Spiral workshop came about as a result of a challenge put to me by a fellow felter.  Once I had refined my technique I set about filming each step of the process.  I wanted clarity as, to a large extent, the videos needed to replace my physical presence in the learning space –  that said as with all courses offered by FFS, tutors are available to answer questions for the duration of the course.

Once the full course was recorded, I set about editing the material. This did not involve a lot of deletions.  Instead the videos were broken into smaller steps which would make particular elements of the process easier to locate for participants.  Each video has an accompanying PDF which again is broken into steps to match the videos.  These are available for participants to keep and the videos are available for the duration of the course (and a few extra weeks).

This will be the third run of the course which will start on 26th August.  Registration for it opens today (12th August) and numbers will be limited to make the experience more intimate.

Here are some photos of students’ work.  They are all so gorgeous and so different. I have included some of the reviews at the end of the video.

 

If you are interested in finding out a bit more, feel free to check out the following link:

HANGING FELTED SPIRAL WITH HELENE DOOLEY

 

A competition win, Downton Abbey, the Sewing Bee and a super cool party

A competition win, Downton Abbey, the Sewing Bee and a super cool party

I recently won something!  As a person who hasn’t won a raffle since I was 6 years of age this was an exciting development and might finally encourage me to buy a lottery ticket.  My prize was two tickets to a birthday party.  Fatale Events, a super cool Irish events company were celebrating their 10th birthday with a big party.  The first part was a screening of the 1970’s film Cabaret which was followed by dancing until the wee hours of the morning.  The dress code was in the period of the film (early 1930s).

Like Cinderella, I had nothing to wear and, as the Fairy Godmother is away on extended holidays, it was time to don the thinking cap and start creating.  To be perfectly honest I have been going through a really dry period creatively so I was glad of the challenge.

So it was time to head online to check out the fashions of the time.  The brief stipulated “flapper”.  Now, I will readily admit that I am no spring chicken so the gorgeous pieces I saw online would have to be toned down a bit.  Think Downton Abbey, now visualise somewhere between Cora and Violet Crawley (though to be fair,  maybe closer to Cora!).  Anyway the fashions of the time were a bit ‘matchy matchy’ which made the job a lot easier.  Flapper dresses were unstructured, sometimes with a fuller skirt.  I visualised a longer style, a bit above the ankle.

Next, a pattern.  There was no time to source a vintage one (which would have needed adjusting anyway).  I found an unstructured dress in one of my books from an early series of The Great British Sewing Bee.

Recommended fabric for this dress was silk but since this was a ‘costume’ I was ready to break rules.  As an aside, I sometimes design and make for the stage.   I felt that I could do a hacking job on this pattern so the first step was to trace it.  A bit of a challenge as, while the book offers lots of great patterns, they are all drawn on a few pages rather than individually.

I measured to just the top of my legs and made this the cut off point on the pattern as I was going to add a full skirt.  Once I traced the pattern from the book, I adjusted the front to form a deep V shape and drew a corresponding V pattern piece.  I also made the corresponding adjustments to the neck facings.

Then, having calculated my fabric requirements I headed off to make the purchase.  I chose a stretch velour because it was cheap and this dress was a one-wear costume.  The colours were chosen to tie in with a gorgeous jewelled appliqué that I bought a number of years ago.  They were also colours which fitted in with the period represented by the dress.

Then it was time to get cutting, making sure that all pieces were laid in the same direction. (The velour is like velvet in that it is different shades depending on the direction it is viewed from).

Once the bodice was cut out I sewed the two fronts together and then top stitched the seam.  I used a zigzag stitch on the seams throughout.  Then I got to work on the V front.  I was a bit nervous as this was my first godet but it worked, even though I was working with stretch material!

I then sewed the back together and also topstitched it.  The pattern top had a yoke and, as I don’t believe in making life easy for myself, I decided to insert a co-ordinating piping in the front and back shoulder seams using the gold fabric.   I felt that this would add stability to a stretchy fabric.   I cut the strips on the grain where there was no stretch and prepared the piping by sewing cord into the strips.  Then I attached to the yoke.

I then sewed the yoke to the main bodice.  Next, I added a light interlining to the neck facing and attached it to the bodice. I then cut two strips of the gold material and added it to the sleeve area to give some colour balance to the bodice.  At this point I sewed the front to the back and hemmed the sleeves.

Once this was done I was able to decide on the length I wanted the dress to be.  So, having measured this and allowing for seam and hem, I cut two widths of the green fabric which I sewed together.  I then decided to hem it before sewing it on to the bodice as I reckoned that there was enough fabric to negate any slight deviation that might occur in the hem length (plus the dress was going to be worn in a dark club).  I then gathered it having divided the skirt into four sections so that I could control the gathers a bit better when attaching the skirt to the bodice.

Once that was completed, I sewed the appliqué onto the front.  This was a bit of a challenge to get straight but I got there in the end.

 

And here it is!

The dress felt great on but I was missing accessories.  So I felted a hat.  I called upon my youngest son, Cian to pick out merino wool fibre colours which would blend with the dress.  He did not disappoint.  I made a cloche hat, then added two bands of the green and gold velour to pull the outfit together.

I had made a bag some time ago in a mustard colour Corriedale fibre which finished off this ‘matchy  matchy’ theme.

 

I popped on my brown buckled shoes, feeling very pleased that, despite not wearing them too often, I had decided to keep them rather than send them to a charity shop.

The night was tremendous and great fun.  Happy birthday Film Fatale!  I wish you many more years of cool events and spreading happiness.  Thanks for a great evening!

Rising to the second quarter challenge (I hope)

Rising to the second quarter challenge (I hope)

Following what seemed like a never-ending period in creative limbo, the second quarter challenge has gotten me thinking again.  The photos were all amazing but one in particular set me thinking:

It’s funny, loading the photo as reference now, it is not like I remember it in my mind’s eye.  I thought the pole was further over to the left side of the photo.  (Like most people, I would make a very unreliable eye witness).  Having said that, it was the inspiration for what comes next.

It is said that a picture paints a thousand words and I thought I would add to my interpretation of the challenge by posting in photos and minimising my word count.

I thought I might post up a small project that could be completed by either new or experienced felt makers – one that could act as a ‘blank canvas’ for further development if the maker wanted to do this.  Or the project could be completed just following the photos.  It really will be in the hands of the creative.  If you decide to give it a go, why not post your results to the site.  You can do this through the following link, we would love to see them: https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/community-photo-submissions/

Here is what you will need for the project:

  • Your basic felting equipment (bubble wrap, soapy water, towel, pool noodle, white vinegar (optional))
  • Pattern: 23cm square piece of cardboard.  this will act as your guide when you are laying our the fibre.
  • A little light plastic (like decorator’s plastic)
  • Smallish round shape (for example a cookie cutter 5cm diameter approximately)
  • Tops/Roving in your choice of colours.
  • Bits of fibre, silks viscose etc for embellishing your picture (optional)
  • Iron/Ironing board
  • Most of all your creativity.

So, here we go.  Just follow the photos and happy felting!

Here are some other flower pictures that I made.  I have mounted them on canvas which I covered with thermoformable felt (left over from my hat project).  The hat project was covered in one of my earlier posts  (link: https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2021/08/19/its-good-to-bend-rules-now-and-again-part-1/ )

 

Brooches, bags, booties and other stuff: in search of the elusive bamboo mat.

Brooches, bags, booties and other stuff: in search of the elusive bamboo mat.

I decided to return to basics and take an introduction to wet felting course.  I am hoping to become a training mentor with the International Feltmakers Association and thought that rather than observe the interaction within this course; I would throw myself into it.  Despite felting for the best part of 10 years I will readily admit I am learning loads – happy days!  The course involves sampling various breeds of sheep for, among other attributes shrinkage rate and required finishing the fulling by rolling the sample in a bamboo mat.

I knew I had them somewhere in my workroom – you might be familiar with the process – one puts something away safely for use in the future and then one promptly forgets where it is!  My room was a disaster area after the Christmas holidays as it had become a dumping ground.  It was quite the miracle that I could even find the work table let alone the bamboo mat.  A tidy was on the cards.

As I started tidying, I uncovered a number of unfinished projects which I reckoned would fulfil the criteria of this quarter’s challenge.  Let’s just call it as it is, repurposing something stuck in the back of a closet into something a bit more useful.  Those unfinished projects started with great enthusiasm then put by when I ran out of steam!

First up was the unfinished silk throw which I started in June 2021.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I had inherited lots of fabrics from my husband’s Aunt Kathleen.  In amongst them were small lengths of beautifully coloured wild silk which I had cut into squares and sewn together.  I had gotten as far as putting wadding and a backing on to it so I added a binding and machine stitched (diagonally)  through the layers to complete the throw.  Sorry that I forgot to take a photo of the piece before I attacked it – just one of my work in progress and the finished throw.  I have to say I just love the richness of the colours!  I took the throw out into the garden to photograph but it was so windy it was difficult to catch so this photo does not capture the sheen off it.  You can just about see the pattern from the diagonal machine stitching.

 

Back to the presses where I discovered a pile of felt that I had made up – not sure for what reason – long forgotten.  Some of it was plain and I had experimented by nuno felting various silks onto another piece.  One piece was a beautiful red and it inspired me to make a heart brooch.  I cut out my shape and then put it through the sewing machine a number of times using a zigzag stitch on the edge.  I then sewed a brooch pin on the back.  Here is the result in time for Valentine’s Day (note the bottles of champagne in the background which still have not been removed from my workroom):

I then cut a rectangular shape from the nuno felted sample and zigzag stitched around this in a similar manner to the heart.

These were quick and easy to make (once the initial felting was done) and they have potential for selling at Christmas fairs or including in cards as small gifts.

I keep my handbags in my workroom.  I have a beautiful black leather bag that I paid a fortune for in the 1990’s and have worn it to death.  The colour of the bag is now nearly grey and it’s scuffed – it is normal wear and tear – I don’t believe in using something I love only on occasion.  I had enquired about having the bag renovated but the quotation from the one place I knew who did this kind of work was way up in the hundreds so I did not want to go there.  Instead the bag greeted me forlornly every time I walked into the room.  It was like it was pleading with me to put it back to work again.  I headed off to our shoe menders who said that there were no guarantees that any leather dye would work on bags (they are apparently specifically for shoes).  I decided to take a chance as I did not want to scrap the bag.  It was time to redeploy it.  I used two coats of spray on the bag and now it is as good as new.  I am so pleased.  Unfortunately I did not take a ‘before’ photo but this is how it turned out.

Back in the day when my daughter was at college, she worked in a high end retail store.  Like her mother she fell in love with a leather bag and spent most of her week’s wages on it.  Within a month it looked worn out as it scuffed easily and the colour came away.  So she talked to the buyer and got a replacement only to find the same thing happened.  Disappointed the bag was discarded as it was not fit to be seen.  She told me to throw it out as she felt she would not insult a charity shop by donating it.  Armed with my new confidence I headed back to the shoe repair shop and purchased another dye.  This time I opted for a paint rather than a spray on dye and got to work painting on two coats.  I left it to dry thoroughly for a couple of days and then presented it for inspection.  I have to admit I fell in love with it and I was hoping she might hate the slightly changed colour so I could keep it.  She loved it (secretly I am delighted as she is a fussy lady) and she is now never without it on her shoulder when she is heading out!

 

Then I found a cheap carrier bag that I had purchased while on holidays a number of years ago.  I remember that it cost €1 (which is less than £1 and around US$1).  The handle was torn and the zip, which was used to tidy the bag when not in use was broken.

It was a bit of a sorry sight but I liked the plastic coated fabric and the challenge of repurposing it.  First of all I removed the zip to see if there was any life left in it.  When I was examining it I fell in love with the rainbow effect of the colours on the teeth and made up my mind to salvage it if I could.  I then unpicked the outer pocket that housed the folded bag  and dismantled the bag by cutting away the side and bottom seams and the handles.  This left me with two pieces of material and I cut two rectangles from these, using as much of the fabric as I could.  My intention was to double over the material so that the bag was self lined.  In effect, the bag would be half the size of the cut rectangles (less seam allowance) and I would be sewing through four layers.

Next, I removed the broken tag on the zip using a pliers and I opened the little hook on the mechanism as wide as I could so that I could fit in a fabric tag as a replacement.

I hand sewed the top and the bottom of the zip, cut the zip to size and then covered these areas with remnants  of the bag fabric. Here’s a photo of the mended zip:

I drew a line at the centre of the rectangles of fabric  and sewed through the two rectangles using a big stitch in preparation for inserting the zip (as per Teri Berry).  Then it was time to tackle the zip so I did this using the method Teri outlined in her post of 12th January (thanks Teri, it worked a treat).

I then sewed the original outer pocket back on to one side of the rectangle.

I turned the bag inside out (you might recall that the bag is self lined so the material is the same inside and outside.  I used quilters’ clamps and pins to hold the pieces together and sewed through the material rounding the corners.

I then used my sheers to neaten the seams.

So here is the finished odds and ends bag.  I hope I have added value to it and it will sell for more than its original €1 price tag when it hits the charity shop.

Did I ever find that elusive bamboo mat?  Yes I did in the very last box in the room.  It was worth the search.  I am feeling virtuous (or is that a bit smug) with my finished projects, ‘new’ leather bag, happy daughter and completed upcycling project.

Oh yes and tidy workroom.  Bets are on as to how long that lasts!

A little post script which happened since I uploaded the post.  A friend of mine asked if I could help out with a handmade gift for a new arrival.  Something small, so in the end we settled on booties.  I wanted to keep the price as reasonable as I could for her so I searched through my stash of felt samples.  In the middle of it I came across a hat which I made in my early days and which was waaaay too small for my head.  So out came the scissors and I took over the role of shoe elf (part time).  Thankfully I could work during day time when the real elves were asleep.  I found a free pattern on Pattern Bee (https://patternbee.com/_images/free_stuff/FELT%20BABY%20SHOES.pdf) and got to work.  So here is the result.  I hope my friend and the new parents like them.

I will readily admit I spent quite some time out of my comfort zone putting together this post.  Cutting into things does not come easy to me and I have fabrics that I caress every now and again, afraid that if I make that cut I will destroy it.  But it was good to let go on items where I had nothing to lose if things went wrong.  New things created from old things discarded.

Have you anything that you recently repurposed?  Perhaps this post has inspired you to finish off a project that has lingered in the back of the cupboard.  Perhaps you make do and mend.   If so, we would love to see your work.  Here is a link where you can upload a photo and write a brief description of what you have done https://wp.me/P1WEqk-cJX .  The process is quick and simple and it’s just one click away.   I would love for my next post to feature our reader’s work.  Let’s get this conversation going.  We can all inspire each other.

Christmas time is toy time!

Christmas time is toy time!

 

Now it is a long time since any of my offspring expressed an interest in soft toys.  That said, I still enjoy making them every now and then.

Back in 2013, I was very fortunate to be awarded a trip to Finland.  It was under the European Union’s Lifelong Learning Programme.  The project brought together European citizens from throughout the Union and the aim of the project centred around new skills’ acquisition and learning/appreciating other countries’ cultures.  Subjects covered included spinning, weaving, sewing and crochet and the focus was on reuse and recycling.  It was a fantastic week.  I got hooked on crochet and when I returned home I enjoyed myself crocheting with and without patterns.

I started crocheting owls, they were great fun to make, I made tiny ones and huge ones – One ended up being used as a cushion by its young recipient.  Here are some of the owl family:

 

These led to a collaboration with a Maths teacher and these three ended up at an international maths conference:

Then came my interpretations of the famous Minions.  These ended up being gifted to various households:

When my friend became a grandmother, baby added this bunny to her soft toy collection (made with pattern):

 

This little guy had to stay here with me as I used teddy eyes (choking hazard).  He stands in a corner overseeing my work:

Most recently, I made this little hare for another friend’s little girl (again made with a pattern).  He hasn’t left the house yet and our off-spring (age range 25 to 31)  reposition him regularly – I am liable to find him in various parts of the house – it is possibly best if I hand him over before he gets lost.

 

Here’s a few of the toys I have sewed in recent years.  The patterns came from a website Bustle and Sew (https://bustleandsew.com/free-patterns/) and are worth checking out.

I made a number of the elephants.  Here are a couple of them.  The brown material was sourced from the inherited stash – the floral (orange/green base)  material came from the days when Debenhams used to sell dress fabric (the name was printed on the selvedge:

 

I also made a few of the little dogs.  The pattern came from the same website:

I made this little teddy (again, the pattern was free from https://www.lovecrafts.com/en-gb/c/article/teddy-bear-sewing-pattern .  I found the fabric while rummaging through my husband’s aunt’s stash which she had bequeathed me.  It was an unfinished dress and the fabric is cord.  Again this little toy was to keep due to its sentimental origins (and its teddy bear eyes):

 

A more cuddly version made from fleece suitable for an older child (again the eyes and nose were the issue):

Another friend recently asked me to make her little one a Christmas stocking.  Both she and her hubby are visually impaired (she has around 5% sight and he was born without sight).  So I thought it would be good to add a very definite colour to the stocking so that she could see it more easily. The stocking was pretty straightforward and measures 16.5 inches (42cm) by 12.5 inches (32cm).  I appliquéd the little one’s name unto the front of the stocking.  It really was a fun make.

 

So this is my last post for 2021.  I hope some content within my posts got your creative juices flowing in perhaps a different direction.  I hope you all get a chance for some R & R over the festive season and I wish each and every one of you good health and much happiness in 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Tis the season to … make a Christmas tree

‘Tis the season to … make a Christmas tree

Given that it is already nearly the end of November, I thought I would finally indulge myself with thoughts of the festive season.  As I am sitting here writing, a few thoughts came to mind including how advertising for Christmas seems to get earlier each year.  Here in Ireland I have seen ads in August which, like the vampire seeing sunrise, causes me to turn quickly away, run in the opposite direction, and bury my head.

That said, we have a local and, until recently, privately owned supermarket who sells Easter eggs on Christmas Eve.  What started as a joke one year became a tradition locally.  The supermarket owner, sadly now gone to his reward, would hold an annual Christmas dinner for his elderly customers.  Every year each customer was gifted a shopping trolley load full of groceries which they got to wheel home from the party.  This kindness was not advertised.  It was not used as a form of promotion.  This is what made it so special.  I suspect this story is not unique.  There are a lot of kind folk in our world.  If you can lighten our hearts with a story like this one please feel free to share it in the comments section.

In the spirit of sharing I thought it might be fun to make and share a felted Christmas tree with you all.  It is made around a very simple book resist (only three pages) and takes less than 50g of merino wool.  I am including full instructions for anyone new to felting or to the concept of using book resists so if you would like to give it a try, here is what you need:

  • Your usual felting equipment (bubble wrap or equivalent, soap, warm water, vinegar, your hands, towel etc)
  • 50g Merino wool
  • Enhancements (eg silk viscose etc) – optional
  • Bandage cotton (or a piece of cotton with a really loose weave)
  • Heavy plastic for resist (I use under floor insulation material) also decorator’s plastic which will act as a protector between the pages of the book resist.
  • Ruler, marker
  • Pins, needle, thread, scissors
  • Kitchen roll holder (optional but good for popping the tree on to shape and dry)

Step 1 – making the book resist:

Using the floor underlay (resist material) draw an Isosceles triangle – draw a 40cm line and mark at 20cm.  Now draw a 60cm line up from that point.  Join the top to both sides of the 40cm line as in the photo:

Now cut out two of these triangles from the resist material and join them together along the central line using a needle and thread.  Also put a little stitch through the two resists (see the arrow in the picture).  This will create a three page book resist:

Step 2 the layout:

Next, cut out three triangles, the same size as the resist, from the bandage cotton.  Place the first one on the first page of the resist.  Since it is white on white it is hard to see in the photo.   Spray it with water to keep it in place.

Weigh out 3 x 15g of the merino wool.  Using approximately 10g, lay down the first layer of the fibre in a “criss cross” manner.  Now lay out the additional 5g and then add on embellishments.

 

Wet down and cover with a sheet of light plastic protector.  Wet the protector and rub the fibre through the protector:

Once the fibre is wet through, lift up the bottom of the protector.  Place a thin roll of fibre along the fibre just at the base of the resist.  Now fold over the excess of the laid out fibre over this roll.  Wet down and add a little embellishment to the base.  This will tidy off the base.  Cover with the protector.

Then turn the page to page 2 of the resist:

Next lay out the second triangle of bandage cotton and spray it to keep it in place.  Then, fold over the edge of the fibre onto the second page of the resist (see arrows):

Repeat the laying out process in the same manner as before.  Once this is complete, cover with another sheet of the protector and continue on to page three of the book resist.  Tidy in all the loose fibres around the edges:

Step 3 felting and fulling the tree:

Start the felting process, gently rubbing the fibres through the protector.  Take special care of the edges of the pages.  Once the fibres are secure, it’s time to roll.  Using the bubble wrap pool noodle and towel  and leaving the protectors in place roll approximately 60 times in each direction (north, south, east and west) on each page:

Once the tree has started to shrink, set aside the pool noodle and the bubble wrap and roll using the protector (leave the resist in place) 60 times in each direction on each page:

Then remove the book resist and the protectors:

Turn the tree inside out and continue fulling with the bandage cotton on the outside.  Check every now and again to make sure the tree surface is not felting together:

Work the bottom edge by rolling the edges (see arrow in photo):

Keep shrinking the tree until there’s 40% shrinkage (the tree’s height reduces from 60cm to about 36cm.  During this process, I warmed the felt up in the microwave (40 to 50 seconds on high each time being watchful not to burn the wool):

 

Step 4 – Getting scissor happy and finishing off:

Measure out spaces for slits and cut into each space at an angle so that the flaps are shaped like a V.  I graded these so that the bottom layer is 3cm deep, next layer up is 2.5cm etc.  In total there are 6 columns of flaps.  (Just be aware that the first and third photos here  show just one of three sides of the tree – I still have it shaped like the book resist is inside). Tidy up the bottom of the tree and seal all the cuts.

 

Rinse using some vinegar in the final rinse and roll in a towel to remove excess water.  Shape the tree pulling out the flaps along the way.  Leave to dry:

 

Looking slightly wonky when wet!

Here’s a view from the top of the tree to show how I chose to shape mine.

Here is the finished tree.  The 40% shrinkage has helped with stability despite its height.  I popped a set of fairy lights inside it to finish it off.  With the benefit of hindsight, I should have added contrasting embellishment to the tree as I found the ‘green viscose on green merino quite flat, especially when the light is turned off.  Examining the surface closely the sheen of the viscose has been lost, especially given the amount I used.  I think white would have been a lot more impressive.  Having said that, this will give me the opportunity to take fabric paint to the piece.  Gold or silver, what do you think?

Here are alternatives I made a few years ago.  These little trees were felted on ordinary resists using small, medium and large triangles.  Sorry the photos are not better but the trees are still in storage.  I embroidered silver stars on the red tree, inserted lights in the green one and sewed little baubles onto the white one:

I love hand made Christmas decorations.  It doesn’t really matter what they are made of – it could be fabric or felt or perhaps paper. Maybe crochet or knit.  I believe that the one thing they all share is that they are made out of love.  What do you think?  Do you have some favourite pieces that you would like to share?  Or perhaps this piece has spurred you on to making something – perhaps even a Christmas tree.  I would love for you to share them here.

Wishing you joy, peace, health and happiness this Christmas!

sending a virtual hug to each and every one of you,

Helene

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