Fabric Bowls

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My roommate has this set of woven nesting bowls. She keeps all sorts of interesting things in them, often her extra little bottles of things in the bathroom, hairbrushes, hair accessories etc…

fabric-nesting-bowls

I liked the idea and so I decided to make my own. It turns out they are a nice way to spruce up a boring plant pot as well (just make sure you remember to place a barrier inside to protect from water leaking from the pot).

fabric-bowls

How to

  1. This design is pretty simple. It consists of a circle of fabric for the bottom of your bowl and a strip that will form the walls.
  2. Find a round container of the size you would like to reproduce and use it for your template. Trace the bottom for your round bowl bottom and measure the outside walls of the container  to determine how long of a strip of fabric you will need to make the outside wall of the bowl. For instance, you could use a large coffee tin for your bigger bowl.
  3. Another option would be to use math. Once you decide on how big your circle needs to be for the bottom, measure the diameter of the circle (the distance across the center from one edge to the other). Using an equation that we learned in grade-school, figure out the length you will need to make the strip that goes around the perimeter of the bottom circle, to make the walls of your bowl.

Equation

C= Pi x d

“C” is circumference (the perimeter of your circle). “Pi” is 3.14, and “d” is diameter.

  1. Once you have cut your fabric, cut a second set of shapes to be the liner for your bowl. I used a raw cotton canvas material because I wanted something that would be strong and hold its shape. If you use fabric that is too soft (i.e.: silk or thin cotton) the bowl may not hold its shape as well.
  2. Once you have your pieces, sew your two circles together and sew your strips together.
  3. Sew your strip together along its short edge so that it forms a sleeve shape. This will look like a container with no bottom.
  4. Using a zig-zag stitch setting on your sewing machine attach the circle to the strip. Be patient here, this takes time. You may need to remove the front piece of your machine base (so that you are working on the sleeve arm) while attaching the bottom piece. Alternatively, you may sew this bottom circle on by hand.
  5. Once the piece is attached, you are done.

Visuals

Good luck!

Custom Fabric Tags

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patch-product

 

Making your own fabric patches

If you like to sew, fabric patches can be a nice way to customize what you make. This is a quick tutorial on how to make a batch of small patches using a simple stencil technique and silk screening ink.

I recently created some patches to customize a pile of hand-made hammocks.

What you will need

  • Fabric paint or silk screening ink (plain acrylic paint works too for a frugal option but it does not last as long. There are products you can use to turn acrylic paint into a suitable fabric paint).
  • Paint brushes (or maybe your fingers?)
  • Fabric ink pens (optional)
  • Craft knife for cutting out stencil
  • Thin plastic to make reusable stencil
  • Blank fabric patches

 

How to

1. Make your patches. I used raw canvas (100% cotton) and sewed the edges to prevent fraying.

2. Rummage through the recycling for a suitable plastic lid or container that you can safely and easily cut through to make a simple stencil.

3. Draw your image onto the lid.

4. Cut out image using craft knife.

5. Lay stencil flat to fabric, apply pressure with one hand and use other hand to apply ink through the stencil.

6. Using a fabric ink pen, clean up edges of your design where the ink may have bled through or created uneven edges. Add details to make your simple stencil design more dynamic.

7. Allow ink to dry (this may take hours, read the label on the fabric paint you are using).

8. Once the ink is dry, apply a hot iron for the time suggested on your fabric ink label. Mine says iron on highest heat setting for up to 3 to 5 minutes on each side. This takes patience. Protect each side with a sheet of paper so you don’t accidentally get ink on someone’s ironing board or iron.

Cautions

Ink runs-stencils are simple ways to create many similar images; however, the ink can bleed through under the edges of your stencil. This might require you to rinse the stencil each time you use it so that your edges can be more defined and reduce blotching of ink.

Blades cut-be careful when using knives, especially retractable blades as they are sharp and delicate. Pay attention to what you are doing and go slowly. If you are doing this with children and they intend to use blades, make sure they have proper supervision and help. Pick a plastic that will lend itself to being cut with ease rather than something unreasonably hard (i.e.: yogurt lid vs. peanut butter jar lid).

Fabric can become burned-applying a hot iron to fabric can create burn marks. Make sure you follow the directions on your fabric ink label if it requires you to apply a heat treatment to the ink. Use 100% cotton because it is less likely to burn under high heat, whereas synthetic fabrics will melt or become discoloured.

 

The sew must go on

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basket-of-goodies

Another batch of hammocks!

I’m happy to be making things with my hands, and extra happy that people are finding a use for what I’m making. This may sound like an obvious statement but you just never know if people will get as excited as you do about what you like to do.

I participated in a local art festival recently. Here are my wares on display: up-cycled table cloths and curtains which are living a second life as tea-towels, a hand-painted duvet cover, and a pile of hand-made hammocks.

wares

At the end of the day, a woman’s name was drawn and so a hand-painted duvet cover was won. She was enthusiastic and appreciative to win the hand-made item. So excited was she, that she insisted that we have our picture taken together with the prize in hand. What more could I ask for?

ra-ra-red-duvet-cover

For details on how this was made, see the previous post about duvet covers. I found this tree limb image online and added birds to it. It’s simple and bold.

I am happy to report that most hammocks went to friends and their families. How flattering it is to have their support. Also, I can be sure that whomever I visit next, I can count on them having a hammock for me to swing in.

salesman

Strung up between a street sign and a tree, my adoring boyfriend hung around for the day to model the goods. He had many visitors, including countless photos taken by passers-by and a crew from the local news who were eager to capture this relaxed festival go-er.

I had a great time surrounded by friends and was inspired by so many other local artists. I walked away having recovered the costs I invested in this project and with a mental list of more creative things I hope to make this summer.

I’m hoping to shift my focus to duvet covers this summer and work on some new designs. I would like to extend a big thank you to all of my supporters who walked away with fabric creations and those who lent this wandering seamstress a sewing machine, or basement, or kitchen table to work on.

 

 

Dyeing for a change

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My little “black” dress

little-black-dress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I see a red door and I want it painted black…

I have been dyeing clothing since I was a teenager. This is an especially handy way to renew your fading clothing, or to alter an article with great seams but it’s an unappealing colour, or to remind you “don’t fix it if it isn’t broken” after you are staring at your new creation wishing you could turn back time!

The piece I am dyeing today is made of 60% cotton and 40% polyester. 100% cotton is ideal because natural fabrics like cotton dye really well. The more synthetics you add to the mix, the trickier it gets and the less your dye wants to stain the fibers. I liked the shape of this dress I found at a thrift store, but not the pattern on it. My fingers are crossed (as usual) for pleasing results! I’m using Dylon dye in “Velvet Black”. I am a bit worried that it is not 100% cotton.

Well, despite my crossed fingers, the dye did not take this time. I am left with a brown colour instead, the pattern I didn’t like is still visible, and to top it off the threads didn’t take either. I blame the polyester content. If this were cotton it would be as black as night. I figured I should still post the pictures to show any of you who have doubts about your mixed fibers. This is a good example of what can happen despite all of your best intentions and adherence to instructions.

*Please don’t let this failed attempt scare you out of dyeing! Dyeing is fun and can yield great results. I have been dyeing my clothes for over 10 years now and every once in a while I push the envelope and try to dye a fabric whose label tells me “Don’t even think about it” and I do it anyway. Hopefully the before and after picture will be a reminder for next time.*

There are different kinds of dyes. I have only used powdered dyes  (which you dissolve into water) but there are concentrated liquid dyes as well.

How to

Most of the dyes I’ve used work the same way.

1.  Wet fabric prior to dyeing.

2.  Add dye to a hot water bath that has enough water to completely cover the article of clothing you are dyeing (check instructions on the label to account for how many packages of dye to use for how much fabric). Make sure dye powder has had time to dissolve before adding your clothing otherwise powder that hasn’t dissolved will settle and create dark spots on the fabric.

3. Some companies suggest adding detergent or salt to encourage the dye to penetrate fibers. Read the label.

4. Keep the dye bath hot (which I accomplish by dyeing in a large pot on the stove with the heat set near the lowest setting).

5. Stir/agitate the fabric to create even results for up to 45 min (depends on how saturated you want your colour to be).  I use a pair of tongs or a couple of big spoons/forks to move the fabric around (so as not to burn my hands) and tongs are also good for lifting the garment out of the bath and checking to see if the colour is evenly dispersed and if desired saturation is being achieved.

6. Rinse with cool water until water running from the fabric appears clear. Assume the wet ,dyed, version of your fabric will appear much lighter once rinsed and dried.

Some dyes are special cold-water dyes. I have used those too with some success. I say “some success” because despite dyeing according to the instructions, I realized that the fabric was synthetic and refused to take the colour. Perhaps if the shirt was cotton, I could report a happier cold-water-dye tale.

Cautions:

Dyes dye things (not just fabric). Be prepared to scrub down light coloured counter tops or kitchen appliances that get splashed with dye. Be careful not to spill dye on surfaces while stirring, or transferring the dyed garment to the sink for rinsing. Use a stainless steel pot/bowl or bucket to avoid staining everything around you. Oh, and dye will also colour your skin, so wear gloves if you have them or slip your hands inside plastic grocery bags or something to reduce your exposure to dyes. Wear something old that you don’t mind getting splashed while dyeing or you might have to sacrifice that garment to the dye gods and add it to the dye bath after!

Most dyes offer washing machine instructions. I have never used a washing machine to dye my fabric, nor would I, although there are plenty of  happy consumer reviews posted on forums that support using washing machines. I dye stuff in pots and stainless steel sinks because I don’t own a washing machine and so I wouldn’t risk running dyes through someone else’s machine, even though I have read that it doesn’t stain rubber seals or plastic components.

Dyes give off fumes, potentially harmful ones. Open windows and have a fan going while dyeing. Create a well ventilated area while you are dyeing fabrics.

Do not try to dye clothing to hide armpit stains, it may not work.  I have heard that Rit Colour Remover will help removes stains in white fabrics and using it to lighten a garment prior to dyeing might even out the tones.

I have had some success with Rit Colour Remover in an attempt to make a striped shirt lose its stripes. I ended up with a shirt so pale that you had to look closely to find the stripes, but the stripes were still there.  The fabric felt less soft and smelled funny for a few washes afterwards.

Articles of clothing that have synthetic threads holding them together (i.e. a cotton shirt might have been sewn together using polyester thread) might yield surprising results if you are not expecting it. Some threads will take the colour of the dye while other threads will remain their original colour and not take dye. I once dyed a shirt purple because I wasn’t a fan of the pink, and I ended up with a purple shirt with pink seams. I’m not a fan of contrasting stitching on my clothes, but if you are, then dye on and worry not.

Buttons and other accessories on clothing may also not dye, so if you plan to dye a button-up shirt, for instance, you may also need to be prepared to replace the buttons if you want them to match.

If you dye something a bright or saturated colour, assume that some of the dye may still come out in the first few times in the washing machine. Especially true for reds (which have a history leaving other laundry pink) wash your newly dyed article by hand, in cold water, until you are confident that it won’t run or bleed into other fabrics.

When in doubt, follow the label

Feeling adventurous?

Try dyeing naturally using naturally occurring pigments found in flowers, nuts or berries!

Beets are notorious for staining clothes, so go the extra mile and try an all-over treatment.

Teas can be used as well. I tried to use coffee once on a lace tank top but it ended up looking dirty instead. I’ve heard of people using teas to dye paper to give it an antique look.

http://www.pioneerthinking.com/crafts/crafts-basics/naturaldyes.html

Elbow Patches

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finished

Heart Shaped Elbow Patches

I recently saw some cute elbow patches that were needle-felted onto a wool sweater. I have wanted to spruce up a shirt for a while and thought the heart shape was kind of nice.

Instead of working with wool, I used a floral print in cotton (bought a hat at a garage sale and removed the inner liner made of floral fabric).

How to

  1. Find some fabric you would like to use for your elbow patches and decide on a shirt to spruce up.
  2. Cut out a paper elbow patch to use as your template for tracing onto the fabric. Maybe you would prefer to go with a more classic look with a square patch with rounded edges, or oval.
  3. Ironing the fabric you are about to work with is a good idea because fabric is easier to sew when it’s flat.
  4. Place your paper template down and trace your shape onto the fabric. Or do what I did and just cut around the edge as best you can.
  5. Sew a stitch around the edges of your patches with a sewing machine to make sure that the fabric won’t fray at the edges and fall apart in the wash
  6. Place your patch where your elbow goes and pin it in place.
  7. Sew patches on by hand (or using a machine if you are into that). I figured I would have had to open the inseam on the shirt sleeve in order to sew the patch flat, and I’m a lazy seamstress, so I chose to do it by hand and opt out of too much seam-ripping.
  8. If you find your finished product is not what you had hoped for ,(I realized after finishing that my patches are a little high on the sleeve) thankfully, these patches are super easy to remove and re-sew.

Rustic Renovation

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Mirror

This post is about a project a friend of mine just finished. She was staring at her bathroom walls and was struck by how bleakly blank they were. Although the white painted walls helped keep the bathroom bright, there was something cold about it.

She’s a frugal gal and so she decided she would need to work within a tight budget to spruce up her bathroom. She went to the local lumber yard and asked if she could rummage through their piles of discarded wooden slats (used to separate piled lumber). They gladly obliged and she scavenged all of her materials for this project for free. The slats are no thicker than 1/8″.

She took down her mirror and towel rack and simply stapled the pieces onto the wall (though she adds that if she did it again she’d use finishing nails next time). She covered one wall and then wrapped the treatment around the top of her shower (see images below for details).

The result is a warmer, natural, more textured look to her previously cold white wall. This treatment also gives her interesting mirror a chance to stand out too, whereas before it kind of blended in.

Before and After photos

How to

1. Find a wall

2. See if you can scavenge some discarded wooden slats from your local lumber mill or any other clever places you might expect to find piles of discarded construction materials. I would be tempted to check my local garbage dump because a lot of people get rid of their unwanted materials after they have finished a renovation. Some dumps will even set aside useful materials for people to come and pick up as they please. *this goes for furniture too for anyone out there looking for a thrifty patio set this spring!

3. Begin at one corner of the room, flush with the cieling or floor, and working your way around, attach your slats to the wall. Be sure to stagger them to get that interesting varied effect where the ends don’t always meet at the same point along the wall.

Bird Seed Bells

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Bird Seed Bells

After wandering through the aisles of a local hardware store and examing bird feeders I decided to try and recreate those popular rock hard birdseed bells that come ready to hang. They seemed perfectly mysterious, I didn’t know much about them; all of those seeds magically bound tightly together, a pleasing shape, I found my challenge. If I could make these bells, this could be a fun activity to do with children and help them learn about birds.

These bells make great gifts because; they can bring enjoyment to anyone who enjoys seeing birds in their yard, they are inexpensive to make, and the gift receiver doesn’t have to keep your gift forever. Sometimes fleeting gifts are nice, especially if you’ve gotten a gift before and cringed at the thought of having to keep it on display somewhere in your home. We spend our whole lives accumulating “stuff”. Don’t underestimate the gesture of a gift that has a short lifespan.

Recipe 1

Prep time: 15-20 min

Baking time: 60-90 min

What you will need

  • Small terracotta pots
  • Loose birdseed
  • Eggs
  • Oven bags, parchment paper, or tin foil (to line the pots)
  • wire/ribbon/string/hemp cord (something to use as a hanger)
  • I used a piece of a coat hanger, snipped with metal snips.

 How to

Separate the whites from the yolks.  Discard yolks.  Beat eggs until fluffy (not too stiff or the bell won’t hold together).  The ratio is roughly two egg whites per cup of bird seed.

  1. Pour bird seed into egg whites and stir until it resembles a thick paste.
  2. Line your pots and then scoop the mixture in until the pots are full and level.
  3. Loop one end of your wire (this will be what the bells hangs from).  Insert the wire into your bell (up through the little hole in the terracotta pot) and bend the straight end against the bell’s bottom so that the wire does not slide out while baking.
  4. Bake for 60-90 min at 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  Check once in a while to make sure they are hardening-Careful they’re hot.  (Press top with spoon to check for hardness).
  5. Once they are finished baking, take them out of the oven, remove bird seed bell from pot and allow the bell to cool.
  6. Once your bell is finished, you may want to decorate the wire loop by tying a piece of ribbon to it.

After trying this recipe and found that the mixture was spongy; maybe I didn’t bake it long enough for it to harden throughout? The wire insert didn’t want to stay in place, because the mixture was spongy/crumbly.

That being said, I may have not done it properly. I decided to move on and find another recipe because the idea of working with hot terra-cotta pots and children at the same time made me think of little burned hands and teary eyes.

After contacting one of the leading manufacturers of the popular bells in stores, without divulging their secret recipe, they suggested trying an animal safe binding agent like gelatin.

Recipe 2

Prep time 15-20min

Setting time: 2hrs +

What you will need

  • Loose birdseed
  • Knox Original Unflavoured gelatin
  • a mould to form the shape of your bell (I re-used the little terra-cotta flower pots)
  • wire/ribbon/string/hemp cord (something to use as a hanger)

How to

  1. mix two envelopes of Knox gelatin (approx. 4 Tbsp) to 1 cup of water
  2. simmer this mixture on low until gelatin has dissolved.
  3. Stir in 2 cups of birdseed to the mixture, stir until completely mixed
  4. Pour/scoop into molds (consider applying a non-stick baking spray or butter to molds before putting seed mixture in, for easier removal).
  5. lightly pack the mixture into your mold and allow to cool in refrigerator for at least 2 hrs.

The woman I borrowed this recipe from used a ring-shaped cake pan for her mould. This resulted in a wreath shaped feeder, which looked easier to hang using a piece of ribbon or twine.

It is worth noting that some people prefer to use animal fats or suet to bind their seeds, this is especially good for winter feeders that will stay cold and hold their shape. I decided to avoid using animal fats, worried that it might melt under the hot sun in warmer months, potentially getting soft/rancid.

These recipes might require some tweaking depending on how your mixture behaves but I hope that they are enough to get you started. I am sure you can come up with clever moulds from things in your kitchen. I liked the terra-cotta pots (dollar store) but I also made a few in muffin tins as well.

Good luck!

More info 

Here are a few links for anyone curious about how to attract birds to your yard or what kinds of feed to use to draw in certain species:

http://www.naturecanada.ca/bird_cons_involved.asp

http://www.hww.ca/en/issues-and-topics/bird-feeding.html

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/AboutBirdsandFeeding/BirdFoods.htm

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/page.aspx?pid=1138