Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Craftiness - Simple Gifts

This weekend I had the pleasure of crafting with some wonderful teens at our local library. I planned three quick and easy projects that used materials I had on hand to keep costs down. We made wreath ornaments, lavender sachets and beaded choker pendants. The girls were thrilled with their creations and had friends and family in mind for each gift.

Crafting wreath ornaments was a great way to work through my giant bag of scraps. You'll also need to gather: 18 gauge galvanized steel wire (hardware store), jingle bells, scissors, pliers and wire cutters. Start by cutting the scraps into 'uniform' one inch square pieces. Fold each piece in half and clip a small slit along the fold line.

Once you've prepared enough pieces String them onto a 14" length of wire. Continue stringing until you have enough felt to encircle a wreath. String a jingle bell and/or two felt holly leaves onto one of the wires.

Bend the wires at a ninety degree angle where they meet at the top of the wreath. Coil one wire end around the other, use wire cutters to trim the coiled wire end. Use pliers to form the other end into a large open spiral hanger. Give your wreath a hair cut, use scissors to trim away stray felt ends.

This simple beaded choker pendant was a very successful group beading project. Making a beaded pendant is just like making one half of an earring set. It also allows you to showcase one of a kind beads. Rubber Silkies necklace cords are my favorite new beading supply. They're manufactured by Pepperrell and are sold at our local JoAnn's fabric store. The smooth rubber clasp is built into the cord and is very comfortable to wear.

I purchased a bulk bag of glass beads and divided them in bowls for easy selection. You'll also need small bead caps, head pins, round nose pliers, and wire cutters.

Simply string three beads onto the head pin, add a bead cap into the mix if you want to highlight a bead or narrow the opening of a large bead. Use round nose pliers to turn the end of the head pin into a loop. Open the loop laterally and then slide it onto the center of the cord. Be careful you don't pinch the rubber in your pliers as it breaks apart when squeezed with metal. Use the pliers to carefully close the loop back to it's original shape.

These sweet little lavender sachets scented the room as we crafted. You could easily substitute great smelling Balsam or make use the fabric pouch as a small gift bag. You'll need two different colors of purple fabric, straight pins, lavender buds (San Fransisco herb Company), thread, hemp cord, card stock labels (I cut my with my Sizzix Big Kick), stamps, chalk ink pad, black pen.

Cut the fabric into 4" x 7" rectangles, placing right sides together stack one color over. Pin the two layers of fabric together. Because I had a nice small group I was able to help each girl machine stitch three sides of the fabric together. For many of the girls it was the first time they'd used a sewing machine. Trim the top off the bag with pinking sheers then clip the extra fabric off the corners with regular scissors.

Turn the fabric right side out and used a pencil point to push out the corners. Pour a half cup of lavender buds into the sachet.

Stamp and write messages onto the tags before tying them around the top of the sachet with a section of hemp cord.

Fa la la la la ...Crafty girls with their creations!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Felt the Halls with Wooly Garlands!

The holidays are officially here and it's time to get your crafty self into action! Forget about stringing popcorn and cranberries this up-cycled wool garland project will add warmth and color to your home all winter long.

Over the last year I've been saving my wool and felt scraps from plushie making. I regularly use my stash for bird beaks, wings, leaves and flowers. However the bags get larger each day and I needed to find a craft that uses entire color selection in their existing shapes. I found inspiration at my neighbors home, she has gorgeous handmade wool garlands hanging around the door ways and windows of her home.

I turned up an over sized darning needle, some cording, and a collection of large wooden beads in my studio.  Then moved the bags of scraps to the floor of our television room. The first step is to tie an overhand knot at the end of your of cording. The length of the cording is dependent on where you want to hang the garland and how much time you have. The next step is to slide a wood bead on to the cord so it rests against the knot, it'll prevent the felt pieces from falling off.

Now you're ready to begin stringing the length of your garland.  Simply slide the 2" by 1" scraps onto the needle. I folded my long strips in half and drew the needle up through both layers.

I quickly discovered that felted sweater scraps effortlessly slid over the needle whereas the tight weave of the brightly colored commercial felt from Commonwealth Felt was a struggle. My solution was to fold the felt and snip a single cut into the center of the piece, then unfold and string the needle through the cuts.

I'm drawn to random color stringing when I bead, it was automatic for me to distribute colors and textures along the length of the garland. Custom stringing garlands to match your decor is as simple as sticking to a limited color pattern or grouping like colors together. To break up the monotony of the stringing I periodically added beads a felt flowers to the strand.

I had grand plans of making loads of long garlands for craft sales. The results are beautiful but they took twice the time than I estimated. I stopped at five 55" long garlands and still have piles of scraps left to use. If you don't want to commit to making a whole garland consider adapting this project to make a fun scarf. For comfort I'd suggest omitting the beads and using strong yarn as your stringing material.

My book Craftcycle features projects that use felted sweaters and other recycled fabrics. For more crafty inspiration take advantage of twenty percent off your order and free download on Cyber Monday at Mycraftivity.com!
The Castle tote and matching puppets from Soft and Simple Knits for Little Ones is one of today's free download selections.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Home Studio Chaos

This time of year can throw any professional crafter into a tailspin, but add a December book deadline and craziness abounds. Here's a behind the scenes peek at what creativity looks like in my house.

My dining room sewing set up, the chairs become portable shelving. Note the paper bag full of scraps they're test patterns that didn't make the cut. It all needs to be cleaned up and put away before dinner, a necessity that helps keep me organized.

This morning I've been working on vintage dachshund, cat and deer patterns for my upcoming book 'Stitched Whimsy'. I'm stitching the prototypes with flannel and Minky. I have some wonderful vintage prints, fuzzy eco felt and corduroy ready to use on the final versions. My sewing machine is a little Bernina, a twenty year old wedding gift from my parents. No bells and whistles but it's a workhorse that's seen me through years of Better Homes and Gardens costume making.

The Hedgehog Softie I created for Stitched Whimsy worked out so well I've been making a few extra for the weekend fairs. Jon cut out eight sets of pattern pieces and I've been assembling them production style. These finished arms are ready to meet their bodies.

I do have actual studio space upstairs over the garage but I find it's easier to work down where the kids are. When life is busy, part of the studio becomes a dumping area. It's hard to tell but underneath this chaos is a treadmill that has been seeing very little action.

I have an awesome felt selection from Commonweath felt. I've been using their 100% wool 35% wool and bamboo felt in many of the designs for my upcomming book.

I separated my fabric collection into warm and cool colors. I owe a huge debt of gratittude to my sister for filling out the selection with wonderful prints she collected in NYC.

I'm not going to lie it's a thrill to paw through prints and felt to find the right combination for a design.

Decorative top stitching finds it way into many of my designs. I can't tell you how happy I was when this designer kit arrived from my friends at DMC.

After my little one goes to sleep I'm too brain dead to work on book designs, that's when I nestle into the couch with piles of busy work. These 'Little Hoots' are awaiting hand embroidery. They sell so well it's hard to keep them in stock. I'm contemplating adding the pattern to my book...

More late night busy work these birds of a sweater first seen in Craftcycle are in need of wings and legs they're stationed by the television remote. Despite my creative stash I still make weekly runs to JoAnn's for missing items. At the top of this weeks list - more stuffing! Here's wishing you a happy holiday season filled with creativity.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Brunswick's first Indie Holiday Marketplace

 Mark your calendars spread the word and grab a friend. Thursday night is the first ever Artsy Affair at the Frontier, Fort Andross in Brunswick Maine. It's starts a five, don't bother cooking dinner plan to enjoy Frontier's delicious food and wine.

The gorgeous Frontier Cinema and Cafe.
Artsy is the brainchild of Brunswicks own Carrie Sullivan of Sheabella Tutus. She had participated at similar evening events in Boston and knew the concept would work in Brunswick. Carrie and I sat down to coffee and made the commitment to bring her idea to reality. 

One of Carrie Sullivan's beautiful tutu creations
Enlisting the help of  Amanda Smilien of Maine Street Events has been the key to creating a successful evening. She has made launching this event a pure delight! From the very inception our goal has been to create a unique handmade marketplace, filled with some of the best design talents in the area. It's amazing how quickly the planning has fallen into place. We've been overwhelmed by the response of the Frontier, artists and the community.

Here's a sampling of the twenty two vendors that are sure to make this evening a success:

Whimsy skirts feature gorgeous fabric, playful trims and a comfortable adjustable waist band!
One of my favorite vendors is Kendra Haskell's line of 'Whismy' skirts bags and accessories. I couldn't resist choosing one of her skirts at Higgins beach fair this summer.

Original wire work jewelry by Susan Bryant Caron
Susan Bryant Caron will be showcasing her amazing wire work jewelry - this is a lady I could learn some wire work tricks from!

Amazing cupcakes from Fields of Cake
I'm looking forward to meeting Carrie Fields of Fields of Cake in person. She's offering six packs of the following amazing cupcakes: Chocolate Cake filled with homemade salted caramel and toasted pecans, lemon cake filled with lemon curd, Triple Vanilla Brown Butter cake filled with wild Maine Blueberries and topped with Maine Maple Buttercream, Gingerbread stout cake filled with cheesecake and topped with Caramel Brown Sugar Buttercream ....Oh my goodness I'm salivating!

Wendy Jung of Soggy Dog Design's photography will be on hand to photograph the evening and showcase her playful portraiture.

Adorable kids in Little Planet fleece!
To take away the chill Annie Roberts is bringing her colorful fleece hats and sweaters from Little Planet Creations and Regina Kusche will displaying her elegant Akosua knitwear designs.

Lovely bird magnets from Littleputland
Casie Metcalf Hitchcock is our Maine Etsy team leader she's bringing her Littleputland scrabble tile jewelry and magnets. She introduced me to Anna Low of Purple Bean Bindery in Portland, I can't wait to get a closer look at her incredible handmade books.

Whimsical handmade book from the Purple Bean bindery.
Charlotte Agell will be signing her books and offering a chance to win a child's portrait to be painted at your home. Her very talented daughter Anna Simmons has her own creative business entitled ANNAES and will be selling her graphic narrative pieces.

Charlotte Agell's newest title, great reading for young people!
Sitting alongside Charlotte will be illustrator Lisa Bossi, who'll be selling her gorgeous prints and books.

Barbara Berry Palm's 'Warm Earth' necklace, takes my breath away!
Our very own Barbara Berry Palm (art teacher at our junior high) will be showing the elaborate polymer clay pieces she creates for her Moose Winks line.

Cool Earth Tone and Fish tone belts - completely adjustable so that you can still enjoy cupcakes!
Chake Higginson and Catherine Worthington are two more fabulous local artists. Chake and Peyton will have their very popular shirts on hand and Catherine will have her gorgeous fabric art pieces from her Earth Tone and Fish Bone line.

If you're looking for homemade preserves and jams Berts Awesome Stuff will have a great selection on hand.
We invited Spindleworks to be our guests, I'm looking forward to seeing what their artists have cooked up.

Also in the line up is Penobscot Porch Swings, Lacey Pots, Zinnia Clothing, Christine Detroy and Lily Pad Designs. They're so many talented people in this event, but if I don't stop posting links and photos I won't have time to get my own work ready.

Jon and Heidi Boyd are adding these new coat hooks to their fair wares.
If you live in the area please come join in the 'Artsy' fun. I'd love to meet you - my booth will be the one filled with birds owls and lobsters!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hometown Halloween

Our town shines especially bright at Halloween. Creativity abounds as families and friends make costumes to parade down Maine Street. Our daughter Celia loved finding her school friends and teachers in the crowd. Next year Jon and I have vowed to create costumes of our own.

Here's a shot of our pre parade party group, our little ballerina is on the left wearing her Sheabella tutu. When the junior high band walks by, we know it's time to make our way into town.

The 'mall' is our green space in the center of town. In the summertime it holds food vendors, farmers market and evening concerts in the bandstand. The junior high band leads the parade and the high school band pulls up the rear. The play a great rendition of the Adam's family theme song for this event.

Surrounded by chocolate and candy this healthy string cheese stands out from the crowd. High school students from the key club distributed glow in the dark necklaces.

This trio displayed seriously impressive techno crafting skills!

Some of my favorite creations are the stroller and wagon makeovers. Tucked inside this truck was a fireman and a dalmatian puppy.

This lovely jellyfish caught the afternoon light in it's beautiful iridescent fabric.

Who doesn't love Shrek? The teal dress is perfect.

You had to see this pup in motion the spider legs were the perfect length for his body and jiggled with every movement.

Jon calls this the money shot, the throng of parade goers getting into formation. It gives a glimpse of the tail end of our fall colors and the historic New England architecture. The police are busy blocking off traffic, once they give the all clear the junior high band starts the procession. This year many onlookers brought candy into town to fill the kids treat bags.

We spotted several men with Yellow hats carrying monkey's in the crowd.

This may just be a professionally made costume, love the Mad Hatter!

Love the brilliance of Anna's simple costume!

The parade ends at our rec department, a final chance to see friends you might have missed along the parade route. They host a fabulous costume party and give out treat bags. We always dash home to grab a quick bite to eat and then go door to door trick or treating around town.

After marching in the parade this great bunch of girls are heading out on a candy quest. Check out little miss smarty pants on the left!
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