Thursday, June 29, 2006

Felting Wool for Fun & Profit

Hee. Well, ok. Maybe not for profit. But it sure is fun!! This Friday Tute is all about the wool, baby. Perfect topic for the 97 degree heat of summer dontcha think?

I became fascinated by felting wool a few years ago, after I bought this book by Charlotte Lyons. The book is filled with fabulous crafts to do & daughter, but mom & son would work fine too. The wool felt appliqued projects have always been my favorite.

There are pattern/directions for this adorable bunny & bear....
& this yummy kitty pillow:

and, if you're really adventurous and/or a crafty sort, there's this gorgeous hooked footstool:

All 3 of these project are made using your very own felted-at-home wool.

The best part about felting wool is that it's quick and easy! Not to mention that you get to dig around in skeezy old flea markets, thrift stores & the nearest Salvation Army looking for 100% wool sweaters! Here's the basic process for making your own wool felt:

Step 1: Scavenger Hunt!!
The main reason for giving you this tute in the middle of summer is that the Salvation Army, thrift stores, etc. are practically GIVING AWAY all the wool items right now. It's like getting all your supplies for free. Or at least $1. Last summer I scored 10 wool sweaters, all different colors, for $5. Sweaters were $1 each (because it was July) and I happened to be in the
Salvation Army on 1/2 off day. Woohoo!!

Try to look for odd and varied solid sweaters. By odd I mean olive green rather than "mint" or "kelly". You'll appreciate the kitsch more in the finished product, trust me. And while striped or patterned sweaters are great to have on hand...most of your appliques are going to need solid colors. So I try to stick to solid color sweaters.

Step 2: Wash.
Ok, the Salvation Army--while having a lot going for it per se--isn't exactly a bed of roses. Your sweaters will be smelly. And frankly, smelly wool is one of the smelliest smells EVER. No worries. The first part of felting wool (ok, really the only part) is to wash it! I wash in hot water, with Dawn liquid detergent. Tide, if I'm in a pinch. (liquid dish detergent is recommended first, although I've never really seen enough of a difference to say one way or the other!)

The basic process of making felt involves warm/hot water & agitation. Thus, the washing machine! Perfect. I'm not so good with the hand wash items anyway. The combination of the agitation, hot water & detergent makes all the wooly fiber scales stand on end and sort of meld to each other, tightening into a frenetic wad of, er, felt. It's really the coolest thing ever. The kids love it too, so be sure to let them see the "before" sweater, and then the magic of the "after". It's like an itty bitty dolly sweater when it's done!

Step 3: Dry.
Some directions for felting say you don't have to dry, some say you do. The basic consensus is the additional heat from the dryer will tighten up those wooly wads even tighter, giving you a smaller, tighter piece of felt. I always dry mine in a warm/hot dryer.

You can repeat the process, especially if the sweater is a looser knit to begin with. It gets smaller & tighter each time you wash it. I also usually cut my pieces into "flats" after the first washing & drying...cut the arms off & cut up the seam; cut the front from the back. Now I've got 4 pieces of felted fabric, instead of a sweater. (This is only after you've let the kids watch the process at least once with an intact sweater. Oh ok, at least twice. It's that cool.)

Here's a pic of a knitted hat before & after washing/drying (pics courtesy of

Since felt doesn't fray, it's perfect for applique. Applique some cute flowers & leaves along the hem of a jacket, or how about some red cherries on the flap of a handbag. There are so many places/uses for this stuff! It's addictive. It also washes up/wears much better than the 10 cents/sheet of craft felt, which pills all to heck after a little wear & tear. Wool felt just gets better with age. So, felt a wool sweater today and give it a new life!


Birthday Girl

LuLu is 9 today. The good news? She's still a little girl, who likes little girl things. Today this post is all about my angel-baby...

She's beautiful. Breathtaking, even. Sometimes when we're driving down the road and I glance back in the rearview mirror at her, and it actually takes my breath away. Do all mothers feel that way? Probably. Although I do think mine are extra pretty, of course. Lu in particular, though, has that kind of face that people like to look at. Even when she was a baby people liked to touch her and talk to her. Stranger-People. I've tried to instill in her that not all people are safe to talk to, even when they are extra nice. So far I've got a slim to none lead over the Stranger-People. They just like her. When she was about 3 one of those S-P told me LuLu should really be on tv. Instead, I've religiously shielded her and protected her. She's utterly and completely....nine.

She loves Barbies and, much to her mother's initial dismay, Bratz. She still adores her baby dolls and pushes around the yard (somewhat hunched over) her fold up dolly stroller. Even though I had read in some baby magazine somewhere that she would outgrow baby dolls by 6... I don't tell her this. In fact, I relish, RELISH, the fact that she is so much a little girl still, doing little girl things.

She loves play makeup, and gaudy jewelry. She likes tutus and tiaras. She's recently in love with Samantha of the American Girl series, and is doing "chores" around the house to save up to buy Kit. I could buy it for her. It's hard for me to NOT buy it, when she wants it so much that the mailer catalog is grey and wrinkly from the sheer looking it's received. I want her to want it though. I want her to have that satisfaction, that feeling of accomplishment, when she's finally saved enough to buy it herself. To place the order, and wait impatiently by the mailbox every day until Kit arrives. There is nothing like that feeling, and if I buy it for her...she'll never know that. It's important that she know that.

But it's still really hard on mom. I want her to have it all. Thankfully my mom did such a great job raising ME that I know I have to teach Lu about this want, and the wait that comes with it. So thanks, mom.

Happy Birthday, LuLubelle. You are the light in my day, and the stars at night. And no mama ever loved anyone so much.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

So long Charlie...

I spent the better part of 2 hours this morning blowing my nose. Charlie Gibson has said his goodbye to GMA.

I actually remember when he started back in the 80's. I was barely a teenager. I've been a morning news show watcher for a LOOONG time. I tried the Today show, a few times. I tried the CBS morning show once or twice...I always came back to GMA.

Charlie Gibson is a genuinely nice person. Do I know him personally? No. But I know alot about him, just by who he's been over the past 19 years while I ate my cereal in the morning. He reminds me alot of my dad, who's also a genuine, nice person. They are men you can count on. Men who think of other people's wellbeing first...and think of themselves later (if at all). I've always said there's NO ONE like my dad...but maybe I was wrong.

By one.

Charlie Gibson has been a steady, trustworthy presence in my home for 2 decades. And he will be missed while I'm eating my cereal. Although I suspect we'll be turning on that tv in the evenings while eating dinner. Good luck & best wishes to Mr. Gibson in his new endeavor.


ps...NO crafting or sewing done today at all! Whatsup with that?! Well, I got inspired by the pics of posie's studio makeover and I moved furniture, and hung fabric/glued trim to the back edge of an old vanity-cum-new serger table/workspace. Yay for me!

Saturday, June 24, 2006


No....Ah-me-goo-ROO-me. Or amigurumi, appropriately. Is this not the cutest little monkey you've ever seen? You can adopt her here. The crochet bug has bitten hard! Funnily enough, I've got a 1970's pamphlet wtih a bunch of these little animals in it (a CUTE donkey, and a siamese kitty.) I picked it up at a yard sale eons ago and have had it stashed away because it SPOKE MY NAME, in a big way.

So...this week's FRIDAY TUTE is all about amigurumi. Uh, ya, I know it's Saturday. Sue me.

Amigurumi means 'knitted or crocheted doll' in Japanese. They're worked in the round in single crochet. There's a great little intro to amigurumi on the CrochetMe website. There are, admittedly, not-so-cute little ones. (What's up with the fascination with mushrooms?!)
But most are "that's so dang cute I could eat it up" cute. There are tons of free patterns. Like the ones found here. And just to direct you to the cutest piggie around, go here. Look at his widdle face!!!
Patterns to purchase, of course, are becoming the norm as amigurumi becomes more popular. Some GREAT ones can be found on Etsy, search "amigurumi patterns". There is an ADORABLE pattern at RoxyCrafts.

Go craftsters! Grab your crochet hook & some wooly yarnstuffs & make me somethin'!


Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday Tute

"Cultivate your gift for clothes." (Paris Frocks at Home, c. 1930)

What's a tute you ask? Well...for those unused to the www's network of craftsters, a Tute is short for tutorial. I see things asked ALL the time on boutique boards that I actually know the answer to... So I just decided to start a tutorial haven. Easy stuff, quickies if you will. Because I'm nothing if not lazy.

The quote above comes from a fabulous site about vintage sewing techniques. The Paris Frocks book in particular has bunches of quotable advice. I'm usually grinning like a fool while reading. For instance...

"Short necks must be given space. Give them air."


"Do not draw material tightly around any of your round rear contours" (NOTE from a: Ok...anybody who refers to my bum in so lovely a turn of phrase as "round rear contours" is my new best friend!)

and this one (put down your drink so life-threatening snorting is kept at a minimum)

"Place bows discreetly: - on flat places - yes, if you wish; on contours - never. Consider the appearance of bows on large bosoms. It just must not be done, that's all."

and finally...

"But what of the woman who is really matronly in build? No puffy bouffants for her. She would become terrifyingly enormous."

Ok, "terrifyingly enormous" is the phrase of the day!! GO! Use it in a sentence straightaway!

Oh yea. In all the fun I forgot the tute. So....first up: Seam Finishes.

Anyway, inside seams should be finished. Otherwise the fabric frays all to hell heck and your seams will eventually go bye-bye. Seams are tricky business. Your serger may (or MAY NOT) be your friend. I personally don't enjoy serging. Love my serger. Hate threading the bugger. It's not that it's difficult. It's that it has to happen 4 or 5 TIMES. Ummm...lazy, remember? There are several ways to finish seams. Serged, French, pinked (Pinker's were your grandma's friend. Sounds kinda kinky, huh?), Hong Kong (no, I'm not making this up), flat fell (otherwise known as Ode to Levi), rolled & whipped (now there's kinky) and a few others no would ever in their right mind use. Oh, except for this one: Faux roll & whip. That one's my fave.

Serged. The nice thing about sergers is that they're FAST. I mean, Earnhardt fast. And they trim off excess fabric while enclosing your raw edges ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Quite a modern marvel it 'tis. "Serged Seams" are 2 buzzwords on ebay, apparently attesting to quality. (Given the difficulty in obtaining correct tension, threading, and tying off with most home sergers, I have my doubts. It takes a pretty knowledgable serger operator to consistently produce great results.) Here's a pic:
French: Another buzzword in ebay boutique auctions. French seams had basically fallen away from current use with the advent of sergers (and even zig zag machines, for that matter). Prior to zigzag machines, people either pinked their seams, turned under the raw edge & stitched, rolled & whipped, OR did a French seam. It's different than any other seam in that you actually make your first seam WRONG sides together, instead of right sides together. Then you trim, turn & press open, then press again RIGHT sides together. Sew 1/8 - 1/4 inch seam. This treatment totally enases the raw edges in fabric. It's most commonly still used in ready-to-wear in sheer fabrics like chiffon or organza. Oh, and it's used a lot in boutique too, which is why I'm mentioning it! TIP: Don't try french seams on curves. There will be crying. Pic:

Faux Rolled & Whipped: Now this one is my personal fave, for several reasons. 1) You can get a perfect match to any fabric. 2) You never have to leave the sewing machine. 3) It's as sturdy as a French seam, and will never come "undone" like a serged seam might. 4) Did I mention you never have to leave the sewing machine? It's also your basic zigzag stitch, so anyone with a plain-jane machine can do one.

So here's the 411...after sewing your straight seam, you trim down to say 1/8 inch. Then you sew again, but this time with a zig-zag. Shorten your stitch length to 1.5 (or even 1 if you want a tight roll) and widen the stitch width to 4-6...depending on the seam allowance you've left. You want the zig to bite into the fabric right next to the straight seam, and the zag to fall off the edge. Then tighten your top tension just a notch (not necessary actually, but cool.) and GO. The raw edges will magically "roll" up inside that zigzag seam.

This seam treatment evolved from renewed interest in "heirloom" sewing using machine techniques. Rolling & whipping you'll remember was mentioned above as a seam treatment, and it used to be done by hand. Like this:
Can't find a good pic of the faux version, but it looks basically the same when you do it by machine.

So that's it for today's Friday Tute! Fun, huh? Try a new seam finish! And don't forget to say to your best girlfriend..."Hon, your rounded rear contours look FABU in those pants!"