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?
…it’s from St. Nicholas Day! The stocking in this picture is from the 1970s. My Mom made a pair of these one year to put St. Nicholas Day treats in for my brother and I when we were kids. If my memory is correct, we each had a bag of white chocolate covered pretzels and a bag of little plastic toys. Larry had cowboys and Indians (that’s what we called them then!), and I had dinosaurs. I loved the insanely bright colors my dinosaurs came in – loud grass green, super yellow and hot red. Propped up near the stockings was a Chipmunks Christmas album. It’s hard to describe how much fun we had with these items! We played the album to death and I know we had fun with the toys. Decades later some of them would be unearthed from the soil under potted plants that used to stand in for “the jungle” during “adventures”. For some reason that St. Nicholas Day stands out more vividly than almost any other Christmas memory.
I’ve been trying to get my act together to make some new St. Nicholas Day crafts to bring back some of these memories and make new happy memories but I didn’t get on it in time. Like last year, I looked for some Dutch shoe patterns and looked at a Christmas and Winter Crafts Pinterest board I’ve been using to collect ideas for a few years but that’s as far as I got. The meaning of St. Nicholas Day is worth knowing and contemplating.
Tom knows how special these stockings and St. Nicholas Day are for me and he had a treat ready for me in one of them this morning. So now I have a big smile on my face! Thank you Tom! I love you!
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!
I started making this series of experimental art quilts for two main purposes – to learn some hand quilting skills, and to have fun challenging myself to try to make art with upcycled scrap fabrics.
I decided to treat these pieces in a similar manner to some of my art journal pages. I thought of the fabric scraps as equivalent to the paper scraps that start off a lot of my art journal pages. Then I used the quilting stage to kind of draw with thread over and around the scraps like I would draw with pens and pencils on an art journal page. These were intended as art for the wall and not functional quilts so I had a lot of freedom to experiment with different fabrics and textures. Following are pictures of each piece and some process photos I took while I was making them so you can get an idea of how they were constructed. Enjoy!
Experienced quilters looking at these pieces I’m sure are aware I need a lot more technical skill and knowledge before I’m a “real” quilter, that’s why I call these “experimental”. One thing I’m thinking about doing this winter is learning to make a traditional quilt block to help with my skills in repairing a vintage quilt I started working on last winter. I’m looking forward to learning new skills as always! And I expect I’ll keep making experimental art quilts (I have ideas and the beginnings of two more already) because it’s fun and it’s useful to have portable projects I can carry around with me.
My Experimental Art Quilts 1-3 are for sale as wall art – if you are interested here are links to my listings on Etsy.
In the fall, I’d rather be spending my weekends camping, hiking, or working in the garden. But because of the recent sprain/break of my foot (x-rays inconclusive), I have to keep my foot elevated most of the day and limit walking. One thing that has helped me keep calm during this frustrating time is sewing! Check out these recently completed projects.
For the triangle pillow, I combined recycled t-shirt fabric (used on the back), upcycled corduroy, a recycled jeans pocket and new flannel fabric to make a pocket pillow that my husband Tom and I gave to our great-nephew. For the pattern, I used a commercial beginner pattern and added a strip across the front to make a bigger pocket to accommodate the stuffed gnome/elf that my husband bought. The finished pillow has two functional pockets.
In the middle is a throw pillow that I made for our cat Leo. I’ve been thinking about making something like this for him since our other cat, Griffin, died in February. They were together for over 20 years and Leo seems lonely sometimes. I don’t know if it really helps him or not, but it turned out cute enough to use as a throw pillow as well. I used upcycled upholstery fabric from a chair that matched our sofa that we are replacing due to wear and other things (Leo was pretty destructive to the chair – perhaps because of frustration or loneliness or both).
I made the cat with a commercial pattern that my Mom used in the early 1980s. The pattern includes six animals and I hope to make more soon. I drew a new face for the embroidery on the cat to give it more attitude than the face design in the original pattern.
I started the felt stocking a few years ago as a sample for one of the classes I was teaching at JoAnn fabrics and crafts. If I ever teach there again, it might be a long time. So I decided to take the extra parts I made and sew this stocking up to finish it. When making my samples for teaching, I typically cut out enough parts to make several so that I could demonstrate the steps for the students during the class. If the classes were popular, I would often teach multiple sessions. When making the samples there was no way to know how many times I’d end up teaching it. The original project had more gluing and less sewing since it was for kids. I used all sewing and no glue this time since it’s unlikely I’ll teach this class again and I no longer have to stick to the project directions exactly. This sure was fun to stitch!
The stocking is now listed for sale on Etsy. Here is the link:
I made this mask pattern about a year and a half ago so that I could make my own masks with fabrics that I liked. I meant to publish it eventually, but so many people had put mask patterns out there online I figured there was no need for another one. But now the pandemic has gone on long enough that I’m getting tired of the fabrics on my original batch of masks so I decided to make some new ones. I figured if I was sick of my masks, others might be tired of theirs too and might want to try out a new pattern. So here it is!
2. Trim around the outside edge of the template so that the paper edge ends at the 9 x 8 inch border. 3. Use an awl or large needle to poke holes through the four x’s that indicate where to attach the elastic, and where the two vertical lines intersect the border toward the bottom of the template. The two bottom holes indicate where to leave an opening for turning the mask inside out. 4.Out of scrap chipboard, cut out a 9 x 8 inch piece and an 8 x 7 inch piece. The larger piece is an aid for drawing a line to cut out your fabric, and the smaller piece is for drawing the seam.
Cut out and mark the fabric: 1. Place the 9×8 inch piece of cardstock on the reverse side of the piece of fabric you want for the front of your mask. Draw around with washable fabric marker and cut out a 9 x 8 piece of fabric. Repeat for the piece of fabric you want for the back of your mask. This pattern makes a reversible mask, so you can choose two interesting pieces of fabric, or a plainer fabric for the back if you choose. 2. On the back side of either your front or back fabric, whichever would show the marker better, lay the 7 x 8 inch piece of chipboard in the middle of the cutout fabric and trace around it with your washable fabric marker to indicate the seam line to follow.
3. Center the printed template over the fabric and make dots with the marker where you previously poked the holes. Lift the template and draw on the x’s and two vertical lines with marker.
Assemble the mask: 1.Cut out two pieces of elastic long enough to fit around your ears and hold the mask on your head. The length of elastic needed will vary by the size of your head. You can pin elastic in place to test what length you will need.
2. Lay one of the fabric pieces good side up on your work surface and place the elastic pieces so that they overlap the fabric and the ends line up with the x’s you drew on your fabric.
3. Lay the other piece of fabric good side down over the first piece and pin together.
4. Start at one of the vertical lines at the bottom indicating the opening, and start sewing along the seam line away from the opening, leaving that section open for the time being. Trim extra fabric away from the corners as shown.
5. Turn the mask inside out and pin the opening closed. Whip stitch it shut from the outside.
6. Fold the mask to make pleats as shown, pin, then sew the ends of the pleats in place. You’re done!
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!
Recently I was working on a sleeping bag for a doll, and I was looking around the house for a doll or stuffed animal that I could use to test out the size. I didn’t use it because it was too big, but I did look at a doll of sorts that I made a long time ago in sculpture class when I was working on a B.F.A. degree at SIUE. At the time I had taken the class, I had just been on a trip to Utah and had brought back with me some books on Native American petroglyphs and stone fetishes. I made a throw pillow sized soft wolf fetish with blanket and soft arrowhead for my late friend June for Christmas that year. We both shared an intense interest in Southwest travel and art. For class I made a humanoid stuffed figure with amulet bag, loincloth, and blanket.
While making the soft sculpture, although inspired by ancient Native American art forms, I did not want to refer to any particular culture exactly, rather I wanted to evoke an ancient sense of humanity that many cultures share. Throughout human history there were many ways to wear and use blankets as a part of clothing and outerwear before things like buttons and zippers were invented, and of course people still use and wear blankets in many ways today. For my soft sculpture’s blanket I chose a fabric in a garish early 1990s fabric pattern to suggest a striped blanket but not imitate any particular culture.
While working on my doll sleeping bag, I decided it was a good time to update the look of my soft sculpture. Since teaching at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts from 2016-early 2020 I’ve been working a lot more with fabric. I decided to start with the blanket. I have a large collection of scrap fabric that I like to sew into strips to use in projects such as art quilts, purse straps, water bottle carrier straps, table runners, headbands, and more. I thought the blanket I made for the soft sculpture would look more attractive with some added strips of scrap fabric so I started piecing and sewing strips in place.
Here is how to start a scrap strip. Decide on a color scheme and lay out pieces of fabric to use. Here I decided on a neutral scheme for a future project.
Place fabric pieces good side together, and pin along one edge. Keep going until you have pinned enough pieces to make a strip as long as you need for your project. The first two photos show the same strip from the front first, and then the back, after pinning.
Using a washable fabric marking pen and a ruler, draw a line along one edge, leaving a small seam allowance. Drawing the lines will help you keep your seams straight.
Sew all the pieces together and you’ll have a strip that you can use for many projects.
In a past blog post, A little weekend quilting, I showed a narrow quilt top remnant that I was given and described how I was quilting it for practice.
I used new cotton batting for the middle layer and a piece of a ripped gray bed sheet as the backing. I took parts of the waistband from an old pair of jeans and sewed them to each end, then used gray quilting seam binding to finish the edges. I used a piece of the seam binding to make a loop for hooking on a carabiner to hold the doll’s adventure camping gear.
The poor beat up Raggedy Ann doll was mine when I was young. I am pretty sure my Grandma Hasenfratz made it for me. She was an expert at sewing and crochet. She made me a lot of great things, many which I still have! I don’t know what happened to this poor doll’s clothes, but I’m thinking of making some new ones for her for the heck of it!
I sewed a lot of doll clothes when I was young – they were not well done. A lot of them were just draped fabric scraps that I sewed on and then ripped off when I got tired of them! In my mind my Barbie doll was an explorer and archaeologist by day but she must have had a very active night life as well – I sure did make her a lot of evening gowns! I had a kit to help me make good Barbie clothes but I don’t think I ever mastered it. I’d like to get some practice at making some that look reasonable, if there is time someday.
For the finishing touches on the sleeping bag, I made a two-sided pillow. I sewed one side of the bag together only about halfway up to that it’s easy to get a doll in and out, and put in snaps for a snug fit on cold nights!
I didn’t write down my process while making this, but I did take a lot of pictures so I can remember what I did if I ever want to make another.