About a month ago, I went to a craft show, and one of the things I saw that made me curious was a handmade basket. I think handmade baskets are beautiful all in themselves, but what got me interested in this particular basket was that it had been covered in paper and given a “finish”. The artisan said she had used art medium as the binding material to secure the paper to the basket and to give it a matte finish.
Well, I really liked the idea… Generally I like baskets on their own merit, and don’t think they need any extra embellishment, but this one looked pretty nice, and it got me thinking about old neglected baskets that might not be particularly strong on their own, might have been painted a horrendous color, or were just generally unloved. So I decided to experiment with the technique using an unloved basket.
I don’t think I’ve perfected the technique yet, but I do like the result. This basket did start out particularly ugly… it was painted a deep green on part, white on another part, and then someone had glued (or mod-podged?) some ugly fabric flowers in a couple of exterior locations. No one was going to love this basket as it was.
So, I applied one layer of semi-white paper to tone down the green, and then added a second layer as well, using a more decorative paper. The exterior is now a textured paper in a different shade of green that I like a lot better. The interior is a faint green textured paper, with what appear to be real leaf pieces embedded in the paper. On the interior, I also added a few precut leaf shapes that also were available as precut shapes. Also a textured paper. I didn’t know that textured paper came in such choices.
I think it came out pretty well. What do you think? I will sure enjoy using this basket now!
My mother has been gardening all of her life. She was raised on a farm by resourceful German parents, so I guess it’s in her blood. Even though her entire adult life has been spent living on a city-sized lot in Portland, in her retirement years she has found a way to extend her garden onto the adjacent property. What this means is that it is a very large garden! Too large to till by hand, and now that she is 77, it is not something she can handle by herself without help.
That is where us kids (and our kids) come into the picture, because it has become an annual event to spend a day each spring prepping the garden. This year is tough, however, because even though many Portlanders might have already gotten their garden established, when your garden is this size, you really need to wait until the weather determines that it is “dry enough” to till. This spring, though, we are faced with some family events that are requiring we try to work around the weather and get the tilling done, ready or not. And as any of you Portlanders might know, this spring has been cool and wet, wet, and more wet!
Finally, we got a week where it didn’t rain as much, two weekend days of dry weather, and we have GOT to till the ground – ready or not – in fact, it rained all night the night before. But, we decided to go ahead and make way for the tractor guy…
This is noontime on Memorial day… the ground doesn’t even look all that wet (it really was), and the sun actually came out later in the day.
Once the ground is tilled, per Mom’s requirements, we lay down wood chips around the perimeter, and mark the rows. Each row is 5ft wide, and there are 12 of them. Then, we lay the row markers and dig a row trench for each row, throwing the dirt into the bed area, and creating a raised bed. This was the most difficult part this time because of how wet the earth was. Normally, once the earth is tilled, it is relatively manageable to dig the trenches… not this time. Anyway, after the trenches are dug, they are covered in straw to keep the weeds down, and make them walkable without dealing with mud. Note that we are only talking about the tilled area of Mom’s garden. She actually has another full garden on the other side of the house where she plants her early crops. *whew* This is certainly more than I would try to keep up with!
Once the trenches are dug, and the straw is down, the next step is to pound the stakes into the ground, which is a bit of work since these are 8ft stakes. We put in about 2 dozen of these, per where she wants to put certain plants that year. Again, a bit of work, and it helps to be tall. (sorry, no picture). And, depending on how late in the planting season we are, we would also put down the drip hoses, since it can be easier to place them before the plants and seeds are in the ground. This year, since the spring is so wet, we are saving the hose installation for later…
In any case, job well done, although the planting will be a bit more difficult this year due to the clumpiness of the soil…
I want to share an inspirational book I’ve found… I don’t recall how I first ran across this title, perhaps on someone’s blog? In any case, I thought it was worth sharing as a potential source of project inspiration. It is called Tile Quilt Revival by Bobby Finley and Carol Gilham Jones. Since hearing about this quilting technique, I am intrigued with the idea. It incorporates the concept of mosaics and tilework, both of which I like so much.
According to the book, this type of quilting was popular for a relatively short period of time in the later half of the 19th century, and not many of them are in existence.
The idea behind this technique is that a tilework or stained glass window effect is gained by appliqueing the pieces in place with little open space between them where the background fabric shows through.
I am not actually a quilter, and have completed exactly one blanket-tied quilt with heavy expert assistance from my sewing sister. However, this technique seems like it is beginner tolerant in that some very nice quilts might be made with inexpert sewing skills. I also like that it could be a way to use T-Shirt fabric scraps.
To try this technique you could either use some of the very beautiful patterns in the book; the Lotus Quilt above is one example, but here is the approach suggested in the book for creating your own designs.
- Draw a simple pattern on paper. The size of the paper would be determined by the size of the quilt blocks you might like to make. Personally, I would try to avoid smaller pieces with my inexpert abilities.
- Cut out the shapes of the pattern. You will need some method of remembering what goes where, so you can reconstruct your square.
- Cut out fabric pieces that are the same size and shape as the paper pattern template (see picture).
- Layout your fabric pieces on your backing fabric to reconstruct the original shape and pin in place
- Applique the pieces in place with a small hem. Gradually, you will be exposing the background fabric as the pieces are sewn in place. Below is an example of the spacing that you are trying to achieve.
I love the look of this technique… mosaics catch my interest every time. I probably won’t be able to try this out anytime soon, but you never know…
Now that I have set aside embroidery for the moment, it has been time to return to one of my unfinished projects… This is a hooked rug (my first) that I started last summer. It is probably more than halfway done now, and now that I’ve had a break, I am feeling re-inspired to finish it.
This is the first rug hooking project that I am actually happy about. Previously I had attempted to teach myself this craft using burlap and yarn, but without a proper frame, I was constantly feeling frustrated. I even tried using an embroidery frame to get good tension, but I didn’t feel successful. I also tried using a punch needle… again without success. It seemed like I was always fighting getting the yarn loops in the right place, and at the right height.
So, one day when I had a vacation day from work, I made a trip to Rug Art Supply, a local rug hooking business, which although it is primarily an online business, also sells materials from their home. We are actually fortunate to have this business in our area. Surprise! I happened to drop in on their open rug hooking gathering, where I found many encouraging and supportive spirits. There, I discovered that I just needed a little guidance… I was so close. I had already decided that I needed a fresh start with a fresh project, so while I was there, I was able to choose the materials – real wool, that I cut into strips using their strip cutter, and monks cloth for the backing that I found to be much more stable for my beginning hands. I was even able to start this project using my embroidery frame, but I’ve since found that a real rug hooking frame is better when the hooked portions of the rug no longer fit within the embroidery frame… so I found an inexpensive one on ebay.
And look how far I’ve come! I haven’t taken a picture of the full size of the rug yet, which when finished will be about 3ft x 2ft… so come back some time in the future to check it out…
Well, things are back to normal since vacation… and back to work with only small snippets of time available for Crafting. I do have two finished objects to share with you though.
The first project is my Knifty-Knitted rug! This rug measures 20in. x 31in. Just right for a kitchen or bathroom rug. It does have crochet that I’ve done around the edge of the rug. I thought about leaving it off, but the crochet does tend to give it a more finished look. All of the materials in this rug are T-shirts, except for the navy blue heather color, which is from a knit sheet. I find that the knit sheets work particularly well for these projects, and I appreciate that I can have more of one color than I might otherwise get with a T-shirt. As usual, all of each T-shirt was used in this project except the neckline and the seams. I really love how the color combination turned out on this one.
The second project is another embroidery I started while on vacation. I actually did most of it on the plane ride home, but there was more that remained to be done at home… It turned out really cute, and my embroidery skills definitely had improved by the time I completed this one.
And I didn’t think about this when I started this, but look how cute they are together!
Now that I’ve actually completed a few projects lately, I’ll have to see what other UFO’s I can pull out of the closet… That is assuming I don’t get distracted with a plain vanilla sock that I might actually pick up knitting needles and be inspired to try. But, I don’t think I want to commit myself just yet… I actually have a couple of other rugs I need to finish. Stay tuned!
This weekend we are hosting a backyard picnic for my sister’s 50th birthday. My family and I chipped in on a gift for my sister. However, I wanted to come up with a really creative way to wrap the gift that would be fun, and also be some work to unwrap. I think it is fun to have the pleasure of opening a gift be a prolonged event. And, I also didn’t want the gift shape itself to be something predictable.
So, here is what I came up with…
Step 1: Insert the gift into a balloon. This can be tricky depending on the size of the gift and the size of the balloon. I also inserted some packing peanuts to give the gift a little protection. Blow up the balloon and tie it off.
Step 2: Cover the balloon with several layers of paper mache. I ended up adding a layer each day, because it dries faster that way, and also so I could rotate the gift and apply paper mache on different sides.
Step 3: Tissue paper and Mod-Podge – This is an easy technique… paint on some mod-podge, add a piece of tissue paper, and paint mod-podge over it. In the past, I’ve normally just used glue and water. This time I decided to try Mod-Podge, and I did find it very easy to work with.
Here it is all completed and dry. Notice that it is very shiny… Next time I think I will try the matte finish version of Mod-Podge.
Step 4: Wrap the gift with many layers of T-Shirt “yarn”, which are basically the leftover pieces – the seams – from the rug-making I’ve done. I do hope to get the “yarn” back after the gift is unwrapped though!
Finally, as a card, I am going to use a label shaped stamp that I have to create tags… all of the people who chipped in for the gift will tie their tags onto this creation so she will know who it is from. I think the final wrapped gift is really fun and pretty!
Hello! I am back from our Spring Break, where I didn’t have much time for crafting. This year, we made the pilgrimage to Disney World, which is not a place I ever expected to spend a family vacation. However, I think my husband has it in his head that a childhood experience is not complete without it (even though we had been to Disneyland about four years ago).
I have to say that going to Disney is a lot of WORK! It is not the particularly relaxing vacation I would like, although the quantity of walking that you do can make it good exercise. Even though I am not particularly a Disney fan, I do enjoy Disney movies, and have to acknowledge that Disney does the theme park experience very, very well. It is actually fun to explore areas like Frontierland or Adventureland without ever getting on a ride. Also, even though I know the theme park has many, many shopping opportunities it is possible to walk around the park and not feel like they are being overly pushy. When getting off a major attraction ride however, they are fairly sneaky, because you will find that the ride exits within the shop that bears souvenir items particularly associated with that ride.
I am not an advocate of Disney commercialism and stay as far away as I can get from the merchandise. For example, I would be the last person to ever purchase the Snow White T-shirt for any young people I know. To that end, although I sometimes would step into a shop, it is surprisingly easy to avoid the commercialism and purchasing of more junk. This time, my only souvenirs are the mini-characters of Micky and Minnie that I got for my curio cabinet, and photos of the topiary exhibits of Disney characters that were displayed in a special exhibit throughout Epcot.
On to my craftiness, I did think ahead, and brought something particularly mobile… embroidery. It has been a long, long time since I have done any embroidery, cross stitch more than 20 years ago or more recently repairing a vintage wool crazy quilt blanket is the closest I can think of. However, I’ve always admired the vintage embroidery I’ve seen, and I noticed in the last couple of years some of the “new” embroidery – it has become popular again. So I have been keeping my eyes open for patterns. About five years ago, it wasn’t so easy to find “embroidery ready” dish towels or patterns, but in the past few years it has become more available. So, I did have a small quantity of materials ready on hand and brought them along. Here is one towel I finished, and I have another in the works…
And, I did read a nonfiction book! (not typical for me) This book, Three Cups of Tea, tells the story of mountain climber Greg Mortenson, who started building schools in Pakistan. How this came to be is somewhat of an accident of fate, but I believe his childhood experiences growing up as the son of African missionary parents probably contributed. The other more direct explanation is that after an attempt to climb the mountain K2, he took a wrong turn, and found himself in the village of Korphe, where they cared for him after his particularly difficult climb. In return, he found himself promising to return and build a school. I found this book to be not only inspirational, but insightful given the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
To me, it is a story that demonstrates the importance of getting to know a people through ongoing continued relationships. If the US wants to make a difference in that part of the world, it will take focus and dedication. It is more complicated than entering a country, fixing something, and then leaving, yet that is how Americans typically want to do things.
OK, first off… just so you know… there is an end to this four part story. Second, I realized that in trying to get my story right, or to seem polished on what I was writing, I have avoided writing. This isn’t what I really intended to do when I created this blog. What I wanted was just to share my adventures, and hopefully by doing so encourage others on their own journey. So, I’m going to try harder at not being so perfect. Also, I was wanting to show finished work. Again, it really isn’t possible for a process oriented crafter like me to be so results oriented, so I will work harder at showing my works in progress.
… and in light of that, part III of my crafty story is that somewhere along the line my mother started crocheting rugs with T-shirt scraps. I enjoyed watching her color choices, but have not particularly liked the crocheted rug look. I did like that the T-shirts she was using lent themselves particularly well to rug-making. That having been said, I didn’t think anything more of it until I walked into the local big box craft store where they were demonstrating the Knifty-Knitter. It occurred to me that it might be interesting to try this technique with T-Shirt strips. So I did – I just followed the instructions that came with the knitting loom. Even though I have said I don’t knit, I have to admit this is my one exception. To show you what this looks like, I have started a new small rug – appropriate for a bathroom or kitchen sink area. This first picture doesn’t really do justice to the colors, and you will notice that it’s a bit wider where it is still attached to the frame…
To create a rug like this, I deconstruct T-shirts or other light-weight knits – I use everything but the seams and the T-shirt necklines. (I save the scraps for other projects.) I even use a seam-ripper on the hems so I have more base material and less waste. Depending on the weight of the knit, I will cut the knits into strips that are about 3/4 inch wide. I tried to find a reference that shows the simple “no sew” method I use to join strips, but it looks like I will need to create my own diagram and show it in a future post. In general, if you hunt for the joins, you can find them, but quite frankly, they aren’t really noticeable. In the picture below, the green section is actually about three shorter strips that I joined, and unless you know what you’re looking for, you probably wouldn’t see the joins.
I have found that rugs and mats that I’ve created with this technique are incredibly durable – They lay nicely and have a good “weight” to them. They also don’t seem to need frequent washing to look nice – however if they are used in one of those heavy traffic or dirt areas you may find it desirable to do so. Smaller versions of these make fantastic trivets. If someone gives this a try, I would love to see your results, and feel free to comment or send me an email if you have questions.
And finally… come back soon and I’ll show you the finished result. I haven’t decided whether I will crochet an edging on this one, but it’s something I’ve done in the past…
So… How did I migrate from collecting items for my “Barney Bag” to really re-introducing craftiness into my life? Well, even though my son wasn’t particularly interested, I started looking for opportunities to use all of the gizmos and gadgets I was starting to collect….
One of my first projects was to use a number of plastic lids that I had salvaged to create a yard art mobile. I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at how many of them are thrown out, but they come in many, many colors. I had collected a small tote of plastic lids, broken toys, etc. I decided to do this project as a Christmas present for my Mom (I guess I’ve got a bit of a theme going here, given the sweater I posted about previously). But she had been doing things with plastic milk jugs – such as painting faces on them and building a yard art totem pole. So I knew this was something she would enjoy.
So, basically the project just involved poking holes in all of the plastic pieces and stringing them on twine to create a visually pleasing piece. It was fun to recycle the pieces in my collection and incorporate all the different shapes. Even though I don’t have a photo of that original project Here are some examples of pieces that can be used for a project:
Now when I try a project like this, I’ve learned that poking holes in plastic lids can be very hard on the fingers, and I would definitely recommend using a drill. Also, what I haven’t shown here is that small lids and plastic straws can function as spacers when stacking lids. Or, that brightly colored plastic bottles can be cut into pieces. Plastic pony beads from the craft store would also be good addition because they come in bright colors consistent with plastic packaging.
Although I started doing this nearly 10 years ago, I have since found that there is quite a “movement” happening in the use of recycled plastic pieces. One of my relatively recent discoveries is the book Fantastic Recycled Plastic. I had no idea that other people had started creating plastic pieces like this with far more creative insight. Check out the Plastiquarium gallery to see some of David Edgars creations.
Through his book, I’ve discovered that the labels on plastic that can be so difficult to remove, should perhaps be left on as decorative features. And, there are ways to join plastic pieces that I hadn’t even considered!
However, I’m still looking for a good way to remove that very sticky glue… Does anyone have any ideas?
This last week I encountered a story about my Grandmother, Helen, that I had not heard before. She was born in 1896 in Oregon. She was number four of eight children, and two years after she was born, her father died. It was five years before her mother married again, and I can’t begin to imagine how hard life must have been for a single mother with four children in Portland, Oregon at that time.
I have to believe that many of the skills my Grandmother had, particularly sewing were learned from her mother. The specific story I am thinking of however, is that my Grandmother became an expert seamstress – and when she needed coats for one of her eight children (eight is a recurring number in my family), she would make them out of her brother-in-law’s old overcoats….
“… The old coat was cut apart at the seams, the material reversed, and the pattern for the smaller jacket/coat was cut… even cutting the fabric so she could use the button holes which were already completed!” (from a family history)
The period in which this probably took place, considering the ages of her children, would have been during the Depression. During that time, resourcefulness was necessary when it came to making your pennies last. According to Time Magazine, at that time, people spent about 25% of every dollar on food, as compared to now, when we are currently spending about 10%. In 2010, have more disposable income to make our purchases, but in 1929, it would have been difficult to buy new coats for 8 children.
Having said all of that, I recently came across a blog post from Rae (Made By Rae), where she showed us how to make a new shirt using a used larger shirt. It was too much of a coincidence! Here were two people doing the same thing in very different times. Rae was showing us how we could avoid throwing something away, and make something really unique by using this technique. But, I do wonder… is this important to us now because we are again needing to be resourceful, or is it a crafty desire to be innovative? Or, are we simply realizing that there is so much that we are throwing away and it’s time to be more thoughtful of our planet’s resources?
To read more about this technique, go to the tutorial on Rae’s blog.
What do you think? Resourceful, Crafty, or Environmentally Responsible?