Holiday party centerpiece made with donated and natural materials
Litzinger Road Ecology Center has an annual Holiday party for volunteers. I wasn’t able to go because I went to the Master Gardener party instead which was the same day. I did however get to participate in the fun of making centerpieces from natural materials and donated flower arranging supplies.
This project is inspired by memories of sewing kits that I used to work on when I was a kid. I remember one kit in particular was a calendar printed on burlap with certain areas of the design accented with sequins attached by running thread through seed beads. Here is an original design of mine that reminds me of all that fun!
Tools and Materials
Ball point pen
Wide burlap ribbon with metallic threads in it – about 9 inches wide
Harvest gold color wired burlap-look ribbon – 1 1/2 inches wide
Felt in a assorted fall leaf colors
Washable fabric marking pen
Gold metallic embroidery thread – six strand
Embroidery thread in off white, rust and dark brown
Assorted size sequins in fall and earthy colors such as ochre, brown, bronze, copper and gold
Copper or bronze colored seed beads – select ones with holes big enough for a threaded needle to pass through twice
Scrap fabric in a rustic color for the ends
Needles – tapestry and embroidery
Walk around your neighborhood and collect leaves to use as templates. Choose leaves more for their shape than their color – you want ones that will flatten easily and are roughly the size of your hand and smaller.
Place your leaves on a hard surface like a table between pieces of scrap paper. Stack books or other flat heavy objects on top and allow to sit for several hours to press leaves for easier handling.
Place leaves on scrap chipboard and trace around with marker. Loosely draw where the leaf veins are on the cardboard for future reference. Discard leaves in the compost if you don’t want them for another project. Cut out the chipboard leaves.
Cut a piece of wide burap ribbon the length that you want for your table runner, plus about 4 extra inches for hemming. Before cutting, tape a piece of masking tape just inside where you plan to cut. The tape will help keep the ends of the ribbon from unraveling.
Pin down the hems on the ends but don’t sew yet.
Fold wired burlap ribbon lengthwise and pin along the long sides of the ribbon.
Use tapestry needle and full thickness of the gold embroidery thread to sew the ribbon in place with a running stitch just inside the wired edge.
Trace around the chipboard leaf shapes with a ball point pen on the backs of various colors of felt. Cut out leaf shapes.
Place felt leaves on your runner in an arrangement that you like. Pin in place.
Split lengths of the six-strand gold embroidery thread lengthwise into pieces with three strands each. Use the three-strand pieces to sew a running stitch along the edges of the felt leaves, attaching them to the wide burlap ribbon.
Stitch leaf vein marks using a running stitch with the various embroidery thread colors. For example try rust color thread for the veins on the light brown felt, off-white thread for the ochre felt and dark brown for the gold and orange felt. If it helps to figure out where to sew the leaf veins, refer back to your chipboard leaves and draw the veins on the felt with the washable fabric marker. After you’re done sewing on the leaf viens, dab any washable marker marks that show with a damp cloth to get rid of them.
Accent the leaves with a few scattered sequins on each nestled among the embroidered leaf veins in a manner that suggests the spots and color variations that you find on natural fallen leaves. Hold the sequins on by bringing a thread from the back through a bead, around the side of the bead then back down through the sequin. Go back through each bead at least twice for durability. Sew a few beads by themselves among the sequins.
Pin and fold strips of fabric to the ends to cover up the raw edge of the ribbon. Sew in place with the metallic embroidery thread.
When the fall season is over, store your table runner rolled up so that the wire in the ribbon does not kink.
When choosing containers, first keep in mind what style of garden you have. You can break design “rules” but you will have more predictable success if you try to match the style of pots to the style of home and garden you have.
I started seeing poop emoji pillows for sale in mall kiosks last fall. Ever since then I’ve been tempted to buy one – why? They make me laugh, that’s why, and I like to laugh! But I have been too embarrassed to buy one. It’s kind of hard to justify at my age! At JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts, where I teach classes, they have started selling emoji merchandise. You can buy patches, pillows, pillow kits, suncatcher kits and more. The poop designs seem to sell out a lot faster than the other emojis, so I guess I don’t need to be embarrassed. Still, I feel better about making a poop patch and poop pillow rather than buying one. I can always justify it as sewing practice, right?
When I was in seventh grade, my Mom made a duffel bag for me out of an old pair of my jeans. I used to use it for Girl Scout camping trips. It’s a good size for transporting a sleeping bag, pillow, air mattress and sheets. When I was older, for nostalgia reasons I got it out again and I decided it would be a good place to display my growing collection of patches. Over the last several years I’ve been sewing on old patches and collecting new ones and adding them to the duffel bag. It’s a great conversation starter on trips and reminds me of fun times!
To make the poop patch, I downloaded a pattern and used Photoshop to size it for a patch. I printed out the design and traced it onto tracing paper. I made extra tracings to use for cutting and lining up.
To make a poop patch like mine, transfer a tracing of the outline of the poop, the white smile and the white part of the eyeballs onto scrap chipboard. Cut out the chipboard.
Place the poop outline chipboard template onto a piece of medium brown felt. Trace around the chipboard with a ball-point pen and cut out the brown poop piece. Trace around the smile and eyeball pieces on white felt and cut out.
Take a tracing on tracing paper of the whole poop design, with the brown lines and facial features indicated and pin it to the front of the brown felt piece. Use it as a guide for where to pin the white smile and eyeball pieces. Using white thread, sew around the edges of the white pieces to hold them in place.
Using dark brown embroidery thread, sew the brown diagonal lines using a running stitch. Don’t sew the outline yet – you’ll sew the outline when you sew your patch where it’s going to go. Carefully tear the paper away. A pair of tweezers is helpful for removing tiny bits of paper that might stick in small crevices.
Make a tracing on tracing paper of only the eyes, including the pupils and cut out, leaving some space around the eyes for pinning in place. Pin your tracing over the eyes so you can see exactly where to sew the pupils. With black embroidery thread, outline the pupils then fill them in solid with a satin stitch. Tear away the paper.
When you sew on your patch, use brown embroidery thread around the edge. You’re done!
Pictured above is the small pillow I made from the same pattern at a larger size. Because of the larger size I sewed on black felt ovals for the pupils instead of using stitching only to fill them in. I used two pieces of dark brown felt as the pillow body. Cut a little larger, they made a nice outline. I sewed the medium brown felt portion with all the details onto the front.
A therapist recently suggested the use of a talking globe for family discussions. This reminded me of the family intervention scene with the talking pillow in the TV show Breaking Bad. In my immediate family we are all fans of the show and I thought it would be funny to make a talking pillow and have a portrait of the main character Walter White aka Heisenberg on it. That should create a more convivial atmosphere for us. I feel a little silly making fan art at my age but if I call it Pop Art it’s more legit, right?
I traced a drawing of the character at the size I wanted onto translucent tracing paper. I decided to applique felt onto the dark hat and sunglasses areas so I used my tracing to make additional outlines for the hat and glasses on scrap paper. I pinned the scrap paper to the felt and cut the shapes out. Another method for transferring a shape design to felt is to make a chipboard template and trace around it with a ball point pen or graphite pencil for light colors or a light colored chalk pencil for dark felt colors.
Next I cut out two square pieces for the front and back of the pillow from scrap knit white fabric with a texture to it that was suggestive of cross stitch backing fabric. I ironed fusible webbing onto the backs of each piece because stretchy fabric like this knit is sometimes hard to keep square.
I pinned my tracing to the front of the pillow and fastened my felt pieces in place over the sunglasses and hat areas. I stitched the felt pieces around the edges with black embroidery thread to hold the applied pieces in place. I then stitched the rest of the design with two different weights of embroidery thread through the tracing paper. When I was finished stitching I carefully tore the tracing paper away. In places where the stitching was close together I used a pair of tweezers to tear out some small remaining tracing paper bits.
I pinned the pillow halves together with the good sides facing out since I was not planning to turn the pillow inside out. I stitched the halves together with more of the black embroidery thread leaving a gap at the bottom edge for stuffing. I stuffed he pillow with fiberfill then sewed the gap shut. The last step to finish the pillow was to trim the raw fabric edges with pinking shears.
When matting artwork, it’s common to have a lot of mat board scraps left over. I had a number of scraps that were large enough to make small open top storage boxes. If you would like to make one similar, here is how I did it.
First take your five mat board pieces and decorate both sides with collage papers combined with the paper embellishing techniques of your choice. Use water resistant inks because you’ll be applying acrylic medium over your collages later. Yes Paste is my favorite glue for sticking down large pieces of paper that have to look flat and free of wrinkles. I apply the glue with a credit card to get a nice thin layer then after laying down the paper piece I’m gluing I put a clean piece of scrap paper on top and burnish with a bone folder or Squeegee tool to get a tight, flat seal.
While working on this project at Perennial, another member asked me where I get my paper ephemera. The short answer to that question is that I’ve been collecting papers since the year I first got turned on to making collages – 1985! A more involved answer is to suggest some of the following sources of interesting papers:
Old magazines and catalogs.
Is someone you know doing some major cleaning? Offer to help in exchange for keeping interesting papers. This is a good way to get old graphic design samples, newspapers, books, maps, photos, negatives, stamps, envelopes, tickets – all kinds of neat stuff.
Save your art and paper craft “failures” and experiments. Whenever you have extra paint or ink, add a little more embellishment to your scraps until you get something you like. Toward the end of this article are examples of some great results I got using this method – Fun With Stencils.
Check thrift stores, estate sales, garage sales, flea markets, etc.
Make your own with any paper technique that you like, or a combination of techniques, such as rubber stamping, stenciling, painting, printing, making paste paper, rubbings, handmade paper, computer printouts, cyanotypes or drawing.
Use the decorative paper pads commonly sold for scrapbooking. There are designs for every taste and decorating style.
When you are satisfied with your designs, brush both sides of your mat board pieces with acrylic medium for durability and let dry.
Next start assembling your box from the bottom up, using the box corner hardware and the metal brads included in the package. Use a pencil to mark where the holes go and punch out the holes with an awl. An old chunk of wood is handy for protecting your work surface from the awl point. Be carful with the awl and aim it away from yourself while pressing down and through. Push brads through holes and spread the tines from the inside of the box to assemble the four bottom corners.
At this point the top four corners are loose and flapping so you’ll need something to stabilize them and keep your box shaped like a cube. At Perennial I rummaged through the spare hardware bins and found a couple of metal corner braces which worked wonderfully when attached with brass brads. There were only two available so I looked for something else for the other corners. You can buy metal corner braces at a hardware store and use them on all four top corners if you like.
At Perennial there is a box of old belts and belts have holes! Idea! I selected some to cut down and use on the other corners. Attached with brads, they work well with the “grunge” look of my boxes. If you lack old belts, you can use a variety of materials that can be cut into strips and have holes poked in it – plastic from old lids, scraps of faux leather, scraps of real leather, thin metal – what do you have lying around that you want to try?
I’ll be teaching this fun class suitable for beginners at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in Maplewood, MO. Make fun personalized decor while learning to trace, cut with pinking shears and hand sew fabric and felt. This class is suitable for ages 5 and up.
Available dates and times:
Sunday, January 29, 11:00am – 2:00pm
Saturday, February 25, 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Monday, February 27, 5:30pm – 8:30pm
Cost of class is $35 and you will need to buy a few supplies in addition to that. To register for the class please call 314-644-3436 or go to:
In this article I’ll show you how to make a stand to show off a special container plant. Raising a planter off of its surface can really enhance the appearance of a single specimen or help you create an attractive container plant grouping by providing elevation to some containers. Such a stand may also help protect the surface underneath by allowing air circulation under the pot so the surface can dry out between waterings. This stand is designed for both indoor and outdoor use. It is designed to let water from the plants run off, rather than catching it. This stand can also be used as a sturdy trivet indoors or outdoors.