As far back as I can remember, I’ve been creatively inspired to make things out of scraps. When I work on hand-stitched fabric projects, I often have several going at one time which means I switch thread colors often. Although there are many needles in my sewing tool stash, I have two or three that are my consistent favorites. Re-threading needles is easy for me since I do it constantly, but it’s a task that still takes time and care and I don’t enjoy doing it more often than necessary. Once I have a needle threaded, I want to use the color all up until the thread is too short to be of any use, even to me!
If I don’t have a project in progress at hand that can use odds and ends of threads, I will often sew semi-random scraps of fabric to scrap pieces of backing fabric to run off the extra thread so that I can quickly switch back to sewing with one of my favorite needles. Over time, I periodically accumulate enough of this new “textile” to make something else with it. Since these types of scrap textiles have a lot of raw edges in them, I won’t use them in something that gets a lot of wear or has to be washed because they would not survive for long. Even with that restriction, I have found good uses for the scrap textiles. Here are some examples!
What will my rainbow piece turn into? I’m not sure, but I have some crazy images in my head involving that piece and some pale yellow, lime green, and electric blue tulle. What will happen?
I made another item for my Woodland Animals and Accessories retail display project. There are several versions of this project floating around out there, but I got the idea for this tree from a blog called Crafting Cheerfully. The Crafting Cheerfully version is on the left and my version is on the right. I made mine with a hanging loop instead of putting it on a garland because I don’t know how many I’m going to end up making. I do want to make more though, after trying the acorn pattern next.
Here is a link to my Pinterest “Mood Board” where I’m posting finished items and inspirations.
Even though I have a great deal to be thankful for, due to recent bereavement and a frustrating injury that is still a problem I was in a pretty bad mood for last week’s Thanksgiving holiday. Sewing has been keeping me from feeling a lot worse. Fortunately I’ve been really excited about making craft items to hopefully be used in a retail display someday. If all the parts aren’t done for this year I’m aiming for the next. One of the things I’m learning to get better at as I work on my Master’s degree is merchandising and displays. I wrote a paper in 2020 about some ideas I want to try and this project is an attempt at realizing some of what I wrote about. The professor wanted me to write the project as if it was a company with 50 employees, so I made it pretty ambitious and one person can’t do it overnight! So while some people have asked me if I want to sell these stuffed animals I just made, for now that is not the plan. They are inspiration for a “collection” that is going to have a lot of parts. I did find a person on Etsy who is selling some of the animals from this pattern for a very reasonable price.
I’ve wanted to try the pattern shown in the image above, Simplicity 1549, for awhile so this seemed like a good time. Sometimes I like to design my own patterns but this one was so cute I could not resist! I used all upcycled or leftover fabric for my versions. I didn’t make the owl yet because I think it’s kind of out of scale and I have another owl pattern I like better that I might enlarge a bit and use later. I do have some bird patterns for adding some woodland songbirds eventually as well.
The deer and the fox are harder to sew than the raccoon and the bunny because of their small size. I did make it harder for myself with some of my fabric choices – because I was using upcycled fabric and was initially making my choices based on color and pattern and texture, I didn’t consider the fabric thickness that much and I ended up using upcycled khaki shorts and upholstery fabric for the deer which were thick enough that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to turn all the parts inside out! But somehow I did it. If I ever sew the deer again I’ll enlarge the pattern AND use thinner fabrics so it’s not so difficult.
I’m continuing with my interpretation of a woodland/lodge theme as I make more items. Here are a couple of stockings I made with a pattern that my Mom used circa the late ’70s or early ’80s.
I altered the stocking ornament to make it a bit bigger, and I changed where the top piece was placed to make them a little longer. I used a scrapbooking stencil that my friend Julie gave me a long time ago to trace the leaves out of felt for the fronts. There are going to be more of these, and they will have a hanging loop.
I remember Mom making the tree skirt from this pattern, the ornaments, and I think the wreath. I’m not sure if she made the large stockings or not. I don’t remember seeing them if so. I know Dad still has the tree skirt and ornaments. She also made a matching table runner which Dad still has.
The memories this pattern brings back are intense. It was more exciting than I can say to be a young crafter watching my Mom make all these items (and much more!). And it’s difficult to describe the bittersweet feeling of finding those fabric scraps you see there in the envelope when I was getting out the pattern pieces. There are tears falling and drying on my keyboard as I write this. Mom probably put those scraps in there so she’d know what fabric to get more of if she ran out. They were probably in there for at least 40 years. The awareness of what has happened to our family between then and now is pretty shocking, and I know we are not alone. It’s part of the human condition, and crafting and the arts are great gifts from our creator that are powerful aids in helping us cope.
Each holiday season involves both the past and the future. To turn my thoughts back to the future for now, here is a Pinterest board as I made as kind of a “mood board” for this project. If you find the theme I’m working with inspiring you might want to check it out!
When I’m fortunate to get some time to relax, I like to take a portable art project like hand-sewing outdoors to work on. If I can set myself up by water, that’s even better! Better still to add human companionship by going on a group campout. It’s always nice to take a little break from kayaking and other active pursuits and sit down around a campfire. If I should happen to get stuck with a lot of rainy weather and have to stay under a shelter for awhile, I’ll never be bored waiting it out if I have sewing with me to do. I have more camping trips planned for this season so I’ve prepared some next steps in three different current sewing projects to work on while I’m out there. These are easy to transport rolled up and carried in a bin with a selection of sewing threads and tools.
I’ve readied the right side of Experimental Art Quilt #2 in preparation of adding some accents in blue scrap fabrics and blue thread. The image above shows how I used computer graphics to plan out the red triangle area that I sewed during the last campout. I knew the finishing touches on this were going to either make or break it, so I tested out the red area in Adobe Illustrator first before stitching it. I think after adding the blue area, I’ll go back to the pale yellow areas for a bit of subtle texture, then I think it will be ready for the border to complete it.
Here are some of the scrap strips I made earlier combined with some fabric that is going to frame it in a reverse applique technique. I make a lot of strips of both paper and cloth scraps to incorporate into other projects later. I’m turned on by the idea of one stripe being colorful and rest being all neutrals.
My favorite shirt from the 80s is on the left. It used to be white and black with short sleeves and a collar. Over the years, it got so stained and faded that I stopped wearing it, but I could not bear to get rid of it because I loved the pattern so much. In 2018 I dyed it my favorite color lime green when I had a batch going for my wedding, and last summer I cut the collar and sleeves off and made it into a vest. Now I wear and enjoy it once more!
On the right is that salmon-colored shirt I’ve been stitching on. When I bought this shirt it was white with black. Yes I still love black and white shirts with Aztec-looking designs on them! The first time I wore it, it got stains on it from riding a chartered party van to and from a Rush concert (May 2015 during their farewell tour – EPIC day and night by the way – my brother and his friends started partying at brunch, I joined in a group pre-show BBQ about 3 pm after getting my day’s work done). I don’t know what got on the shirt, but I could never get it out. I put it aside for future dye experiments to try to fix it. I made two different mistakes when dyeing because I was in a hurry and ended up with even more stains and splotches to try to cover up. So I decided to put embroidered patches on all the bad spots until they were all covered up.
Patches on the front are done, though as it gets closer to completion I might add some decorative trim from top to bottom around the center panel to tidy it up. It doesn’t have to be symmetrical, but I think it needs to be a little neater. Now I’m starting work on the back. Sleeves will be last. Although the look is different, the concept of patching clothing with decorative stitching was done very well by the Japanese with the art of Boro, which I would love to try out in the more traditional Japanese manner sometime.
This was a lightweight, airy shirt when I first bought it – now it’s going to be a bit heavier because of the layers, maybe for fall wear. Probably when it gets close to completion I’ll add some white or metallic or both to the yoke area to bring the focus back to the neckline area. In the meantime, I’m having a lot of fun doing the stitching in different weights and colors of thread, like salmon, peach, rust, and coral to see what happens!
A little over two years ago, I was sick for quite awhile with an awful sinus problem. I didn’t have much energy, so to prevent too much boredom I looked for some simple tasks to do. First I sorted all my small fabric scraps by color and organized them into containers. While doing that, I thought it would be fun to challenge myself to see how small a fabric scrap could get before I couldn’t make something out of it. I wanted to upgrade my hand-sewing skills and learn the rudiments of piecing for quilt making.
I started sewing fabric pieces into strips to combine into a scrap quilt later, after seeing some beautiful examples on Pinterest. As I accumulated strips, I combined them with other leftover fabrics such as a jean pocket, a waistband from some corduroy pants, a seam from blue jeans, old clothing tags, ribbon, binding strips, selvage pieces and some rather primitive embroidered panels I made a long time ago for use on a tote bag which has since been retired.
Over the last couple of years, every once in awhile I’d add a little bit more on. Then I finished it with blanket seam binding from JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts where I taught classes in hand sewing, general crafts and jewelry making before the pandemic.
Following are some close-ups of sections of the quilt.
“Experimental Art Quilt #1” is for sale on Etsy. Here is a link to the listing: