Friday, December 31, 2010

Crafty Christmas

This Christmas was the finest so far in terms of making and receiving made gifts, as well as gifts to make things.  I am truly grateful to have people in my life who take the time to make things for me with their hands, and equally those of you who believe in me enough to give me supplies and items to help me improve.

For my girlfriends, I made these keychain pouches, a design by Anna at Noodlehead.  I also used zippers by Zipit, the only zippers I will from now on use. Anna was incredibly friendly and encouraging (as she was the last time I corresponded with her) and Zipit packaged my 10 zippers as lovingly as if I had ordered hundreds of them!

I was thrilled to learn how to make these - it gave me a lot of zipper education, and I finally learned how to make an inside out purse, a trick I can use to make a reversible bag if I want.  I think there may be a couple of ladies who haven't gotten theirs yet and if that is true - I'm sorry about giving it away!  But that doesn't mean you know which ones you are getting!

My husband has two adorable grandchildren, a 4 year old boy and 5 year old girl, and since I have never had kids, I am thrilled to make them things.  For Christmas I went all out - big or go home, right?  I had been itching to make the Belle Dress from Crafterhours for ages.  It's just such a cute dress, and I got a lot of help from Adrianna during the process.  I changed it a little - using flannel and a peasant top from Sew Liberated, but other than that retained the original design.
She ADORED it, and also immediately realized you could sleep in it, too, which was a plus.  I love that kids that age cannot yet fake happiness with a gift!

I wasn't quite sure what to make for his 4 year old grandson - I'm not any kind of an expert in 4 year old boys, and I only know broadly what boys that age think is awesome.  I remembered a rocketship from One-Yard Wonders, made it out of flannel and fleece, enlarging it by 50%.

My husband found the flag patch, which made the perfect finishing touch on the rocket pocket. Four year old boys can't fake being thrilled any more than 5 year old girls can, and he loved it!  It didn't hurt that the rocket was just about exactly his size!

I was overwhelmed by the arts & crafts gifts I received this year.  Thank you, everyone who believes enough in me to spend their hard-earned money on my crafts, and everyone who put so much effort into their handmade gifts.

Gifts to me
My first dress form. We call her "Betty."  And she's awesome.

I had one of these when I was a little girl!  From ModCloth.

Knitting supplies and two awesome books.  I can't wait to try out some of those self-made patterns out on Betty.
A beautiful hand-made eternity scarf and wristlets
Gorgeous earrings

A lovely bracelet
A pretty fabric selection!
I love notions SO MUCH.
I hope everyone's holidays were as bright and shiny as ours were.  I wish you many blessings and a very Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Home Made by Hand

by Kimberlee

One of my favorite things is seeing a creative home - I love walking into someone's living space and seeing it filled with objects that are handmade, altered or are used in unusual ways.  I am blessed to live in such a place, and to know & love so many creative people.  Today I'm focusing on some of my own objects, and in a following post, the objects from others.

If anyone wants a tutorial of anything presented here, feel free to ask via the comments section.

I love birds.  This garland is made of felt red-winged black birds.  They have bright button eyes.
Yes, it's a cow skull.  Many, many years ago, a boyfriend purchased a used car and found said skull in the trunk.  So he gave it to me, and since then it has been lovingly called, "The Room God."  He's been decorated in a variety of ways and, much like the Mannekin Pis, is sometimes dressed for the holiday season.

Currently, he is whitewashed with black horns and carries the motto "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate."

 I wishwishwish I had a "before" of this dresser.  I found it for big trash day on the side of the street in Hartford, CT.  If I recall, it was painted black (badly ) and had herringbone wrapping paper modge-podged to the top, and the knobs were the cheapest white plastic you could find.  But it was old, so it had a solid wooden back and dove-tailed all wood drawers, in short a really well-made piece of furniture.  I took it home, cleaned it up, painted it with several undercoats and this beautiful shade of red, and gave it new pulls.

Then, just a short couple of weeks later, I moved out of this house, and the dresser lived in a small storage closet in a U-Haul in the middle of nowhere in Connecticut for about a year and a half!

My wonderful father drove all the way from Southern Illinois to Connecticut, retrieved it along with several other items, then drove all the way from there to here in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota.  I cleaned it up and added beautiful golden rub-on birds found in the scrapbooking section of Michael's.  It now holds patterns and pattern pieces.

A hanger, purchased raw and painted bright blue.  The deer are fuzzy stickers!

One of my early attempts at flower-making.  ALWAYS keep the magnets from those fridge notepads (best found in the dollar section of Target) because they are great for making impromptu fancy magnets.

The bathroom can be difficult to decorate with wall art, if only that things get easily ruined in the moist environment.  Photos melt to the glass, etc.  This piece of art, which looks like hieroglyphs on papyrus, are simply acrylic-painted stamps on craft paper.  I think I am going to do another, with different stamps, but on fabric instead of paper.  I love this piece because the more the bathroom makes it look older and beaten up, the more authentic it looks!

I found this awesomely shaped branch during a fun time my husband and I had camping with friends.  I cleaned it up with linseed oil, and my father added hangers and hooks.  We have it right next to the front door, and hang our keys on it.  (The candles are from this year's Ren Faire)

This is the rug that wanted to be a bowl.  I love The Generation T books, and this is the braided rug project.  But no matter what I did, the rug desired to become a bowl - so I just let it happen.  It now sits on top of the fridge, holding onions and potatoes. 

Flower Pens.  A classic.

These chairs were part of a dining room set my wonderful husband and I found at a yard sale.  The seating cushions were predictably bad (once again, sorry for no before shot).  Many of you probably recognize this fantastic IKEA fabric - it really brought the chairs back to life!

Thank you so much for visiting me, and I'd love to hear about any of your favorite projects involving altering home objects.

Monday, December 20, 2010

No-Sew Fabric Origami Crane Ornaments - Tutorial

In my earlier post about the Chinese take-out box, I mentioned my past work creating origami cranes in fabric. It's an easy no-sew project with some stiff interfacing, fabric remnants - holiday themed, if, like me, you like to give these as ornaments - and a good steam iron. I thought I would share my FabriCrane technique, for easy last-minute gifting.

My photos begin a little after the first step, which is to select a length of fabric - fat quarters are good - and to fuse a stiff interfacing to the wrong side.

Next, you want to cut your fabric into precise squares. A rotary cutter, mat and ruler are essential for this to be exact. I've found that a 7" square is just about the bare minimum at which this technique can be successful.

So, now you have your 7" square. What next? It's time to paper-fold some fabric. It helps if you are familiar with the basic technique for folding origami cranes. If not, read through the link above, and then follow along. All will become clear.

You want to press in interfacing-together creases in the middle of all sides. This means your right-side fabric will be facing outward.

Then, press in a diagonal crease with interfacing sides in and fabric sides out.

Next, press in a diagonal crease in the opposite direction with interfacing sides out and fabric sides in.

You should see something like what appears below.

Fold the inward-facing creases on the right side in their natural direction and press again. You should get something that looks like this.

Now, starting where the points of the raw edges meet, open out the fabric to create what origami enthusiasts call the "canoe" shape.

Make the edges and corners meet as precisely as you can, and press.

Do the same on the other side of your original square. You should have something that looks like this:

Now it's time to begin forming the neck, head and tail. Take the edges of your "canoe" that are open, and fold them in to meet the prior raw edge. Press. Then do the same thing on the other side, for a result that looks like this:

Here's the tricky bit. You need to take the two sides you just pressed and fold them back on themselves, into the void between the two crane "wings" you've just created. Press one, and then the other, for this result:

From here, choose which side to form the crane's beak from, and which the tail. If you need to trim fiddly bits where too much interfacing shows, use a small pair of embroidery scissors. Press the result into place.

Now that all the folds are complete, it's time to give your crane dimension. Grasp one of the "wings" in one hand, the other in your other hand, and gently pull apart. You will see your crane begin to take shape.

Press down slightly on the "boxy" section that forms the core of the crane's body. This "inflates" it so that the whole becomes structurally stable.

Now you need to find a way to hang your crane. You could certainly do a simple fabric loop, but, as a beader, I like to add some wirework to the mix.

I start by using my jewelry tools to cut a length of wire at minimum 12" in length. Using freeform techniques or coiling tools, I make about 2/3 of it into a spiral shape. If you intend your cranes for Christmas ornaments, the looser the spiral, the better.

The next step is to use either a sharp darning needle or a tailor's awl to poke a pilot hole in the top of the "box" shape you created when forming the crane.

Insert your coiled wire through the pilot hole, coil upwards. The fold leaves a natural hole on the bottom, so there's no need for another poke.

Now you need some way to stop the crane from sliding right off the bottom of the wire. My answer? Beads!

After making sure you have a nice right-angle in your wire after the spiral, and determining that you like where the crane will end up as the beads stop its descent, add whatever beads you wish as a dangle, finishing with a coiled loop for safety to close off the work.

Behold! Your finished crane is done and ready to fly on your holiday tree!

FabriCranes can be used as more than ornaments - as decorative mobiles, or to adorn holiday wreaths. And you need not stop at just the fuse-and-press stage - you can certainly embellish finished FabriCranes with beads, trims and more.

A few helpful hints:

The pressing process is...well, steamy, especially since the maximum steam setting is most effective in setting the folds (if your iron has a shot-of-steam function, definitely use it). I have found that it's useful to prepare several FabriCranes to the initial square stage at once, so that you can move in sequence from one to another, working efficiently whilst sparing your fingers from handling too much hot fabric.

While you could indulge in Fray-Check on the edges, I've found it's largely unnecessary.

Happy FabriCraning, everyone! I hope at least a few of Magpie Shinies' readers will have a flight sailing on their trees this season, and that you'll all pass the technique and the message along in the service of Peace On Earth.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Easiest-Ever Pet Mat - Tutorial

There are three constants in my life: crafts, books and cats. Our four are as much members of the family as any of us humans, and at this time of year they're always looking for cozy places to curl up, which can't always be your lap! With one of these mats that I made years ago literally shredding away at the edges, I figured the holidays was the perfect time to replace it. Besides, they've been good and not attempted to climb or topple the tree once! Yet.

It's absolutely easy to run up one of these in under an hour, with only three fabric ingredients, plus notions.

The main layer of your pet mat is out of fake fur or bathrobe fleece. I chose a terrific holiday-themed fleece from SAS Fabric By The Pound in Tucson.

Cut it out to the desired size. I usually try to make it roughly the size of the bottom of a pet carrier, so they can serve double-duty and keep kitty comfortable on the next trip to the vet.

For the next layer, cut a length of your preferred quilt batting to exactly the same size as your fleece. (If you're using fake fur which is very dense, you may not need this extra layer, but in most cases I've found it's essential and lends stability.)

Your final layer serves both as the backing and the binding for the mat. I chose a holiday print from my stash in this case, but you'll also have good success with denim, flannel, or whatever caught your eye in the remnant bin! Cut this backing fabric to about 2.5" wider on all sides than your fleece and batting pieces.

You're ready to start assembling. Layer your fleece fabric right side down, with the batting on top of it. Stitch the whole perimeter in a standard 5/8" seam. It's best to stitch with the batting side up so that you can be sure it doesn't bunch or fold. Batting also has a tendency to clog up your feed dog and bobbin mechanism. Do not trim the seam allowance! It's what will define the shape of the binding.

Now place your backing fabric right side down with the fleece/batting layer centered on it, right side up. Pin, and then stitch through all layers again, right along your previous stitching line. (If you want to give kitty an extra-special mat, you can sprinkle a bit of catnip between the batting and the backing layer before completing this step.)

Next, press the binding into shape. First, with the project right side up, fold the backing fabric up and over so that a fold is created along the edge of the fleece/batting's seam allowance. Press in a crease along that fold on all four sides, one side at a time.

Again, one side at a time, open out the backing fabric and fold it in half, so that the raw edge meets the line you just pressed in. Press again. This will be the edge of your backing.

Fold the pressed binding up on all four sides, so that the edge covers your previous stitching. I like to fold up the longer sides first, and then the ends, but you can do it either way. Pin in place.

Finally, topstitch the binding into place around all edges. I like to backtack to the outer edge of the fabric in both directions at all four corners, as a finishing touch and to ensure that no raw edges are accidentally exposed. You can hand-stitch the binding in place if you're feeling fussy about the stitching lining up evenly on the back side. I deliberately choose a busy print and unobtrusive thread and don't sweat this step too much. It's not a side anybody's going to see on a regular basis, and I'm more interested in durability than fine detail here.

Voila! Your pet's cozy new home is done!

You can use these almost anywhere: a favorite nesting place on the sofa, by the hearth, or, in our case, along the lower level of the garden window, where they love to watch the world and sun. They're easy to toss in the washer and dryer: just make sure they're not with a load of your clothes, if you added catnip, since that might result in an unexpected, nefarious assault on your closet. These would work great for small dogs as well; bigger dogs probably need something more robust and overstuffed. And what a thoughtful, quick gift for your pet-loving friends!

A few ideas, in closing:
  • This project is terrific for re-purposing older fabrics - bathrobes and pajamas that have outlived their usefulness, old blue jeans, etc.

  • You could use the same technique for quick and easy placemats, replacing the batting with a layer of fusible interfacing instead and only stitching the 5/8" perimeter seam once.

  • Obviously they don't have to be holiday-themed. I for one have a huge stash of cat-print fabric that I've collected for the cat quilt(s) that are still barely a gleam in my eye: some of them will end up in more of these.

  • As long as you're making one, and they're so quick and easy, why not run up a few extra and donate them to a local cat or small-animal rescue?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Doing That Thing You Do

by Kimberlee

One of the best things about doing a blog is that you have an excuse - even better, a reason - to surf the web for awesome stuff.  Another thing is getting to wax poetic and trust your readers to either read or scroll, whatever they want.

I've been so inspired by all the blogs and sites I have the pleasure of looking through and communicating with.  You artist-crafters from all over make such beautiful and lovely items, objects that make me believe in the essential good of human nature.  How else could there be so much beauty in the world?

As the holidays roll around, I think those of us who make things feel some added pressure to step up our craft for gifts, decorations, etc - and we really don't have to.  The basics, the things we are good at and are easy, are the best gifts to make.  Plus, everyone loves the essentials.

For those who sew

Zippered pouches make easy, useful gifts.  You also can opt for fancier fabrics, as you don't need to purchase as much. 

The Classic Tote Bag, is there anything it can't do?  You can use any fabric, alter the size, add trim, add pockets, pleats or ANYTHING with the classic patterns, and everyone needs more tote bags.

For those that cook

 Christmas Cookies are always a great bet, and I know that I always appreciate the time and effort put into making them. One of the things I like so much about getting cookies is that I get to explore other people's recipes, as I tend to make the same thing year after year. I am, however, making the above pictured Oreo Upgrade.

I am a sucker for Mason Jar Recipes.  They're easy to  make, economical, attractive and fun to get.  You can make both cookies and savory items, like cornbread.  Friends made us several cookie jars a couple of years ago, and we loved them.  I might make up some myself, this year.

For the Knitters

I can't speak by the way of patterns, but I know that hats and scarves are easy to make - and AWESOME to get.  Don't ever think because you have given someone a scarf or a hat, you can't do it again.  The more the better!  I love love love getting both, and it's not just because I live in Minnesota where it's Winter 2/3 of the year.  If you know socks, PLUS!

Fingerless Gloves

Beautiful Cowl

Flowery Scarf

Other Easy &Lovely Things from the Web

40 Edible Gifts

Ruched Headband

Peppermint Bark Soap


Felt Ornaments


a nice gift to make with children
Tutorial HERE