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?
Sometimes life smacks you in the face several times in a row and reminds you to put your circumstances in perspective. I own a house that I am working on fixing up. There are several things I’m considering doing with it once it’s done. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy DIY projects and perhaps planning some bigger projects for it that I’ll need to hire some help to complete. This is a diverting and enjoyable task, even though the events behind me getting this house to work on are quite sad. It’s therapeutic to try to turn the sadness into something even more beautiful and useful than this cute house already is.
I have been frustrated because of breaking my foot in October and having to halt my work for awhile. I had a second fall later next to our workbench and landed on my miter saw! I was lucky that I only got a superficial sawtooth scratch down my arm from that. I might have a scar but who cares considering how serious it COULD have been. Now my foot has improved enough for me to do a little more and I did some cleaning and organizing in the kitchen earlier this week while I churned ideas in my head. I’ve made a Pinterest board to help me brainstorm and plan – Bungalow Project.
Today at my desk taking a lunch break, I brainstormed and fantasized about home decor topics, such as collectibles and furniture I want to get out of storage when the house is ready to stage and display, paint schemes, tile ideas, etc. No I’m not a real estate professional but I am a design professional (not specifically in home decor) so hopefully I can grow creatively while I work. I am blessed to have the luxury of being able to tackle this kind of project rather than worrying about whether I am even going to have a home to live in this winter, like a friend of mine is doing right now.
An old friend of mine from the Route 66 Association of Missouri sent me an invite to his GoFundMe drive which he initiated to try to collect enough rent money to avoid being evicted from his apartment. With his permission, I’m including a link here in case anyone wants to contribute, share ideas, or spread the word – Fundraiser by Gary Adkins.
Because I know how fortunate I am, I have made contributions to this and other causes this holiday season as I do each year. I can’t help everybody who needs it and deserves it, no one person can. With so many people in distress, it can get overwhelming and seem hopeless. Maybe helping prevent homelessness for one person would be extra satisfying because I can find out the outcome later and see concrete results. If my injury was as serious as this friend’s injuries, and my situation was different, what state would I be in? I have been blessed to go over five decades without ever having an injury as serious as my recent one, and I don’t even need surgery to fix it. I just have to be patient and wait and try to stay healthy in the meantime. How much would it take for any one of us to be in the position of having to ask for help? Temporarily I have had to ask for help with things like driving and shopping while my foot heals. I’m not used to that and it’s sobering. I am grateful for what I can do and for everyone who is helping someone in need, whoever it is.
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:
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:
This past Wednesday was a pretty gloomy day weather-wise. It wasn’t terribly cold, but it was relentlessly gray and damp. While working at Schnarr’s Hardware in Webster Groves on that day, I was given the task of helping to hang garlands and wreaths on the outside of the store. We were preparing for the Old Webster Holiday Open House which runs from 10 am – 4 pm today.
Whether it was the physical exercise involved or something inherently joyful about decorating, almost immediately my dull mood turned lively and creative. Over the next few days I got some of my Christmas stuff out and started brainstorming on decorating ideas for the store and the home I share with my husband Tom. I finally got some ideas for the endcap in the Garden department that I decorated and update from time to time. I added some paper flowers I made with tin birds, seed packets from Botanical Interests, some little tin watering cans, a canvas mat with attractive lettering and some holiday faux greenery and floral pieces. I’d been stuck for awhile on ideas but I finally felt inspired. If you’re going to the Open House today be sure to stop in Schnarr’s – there are some new holiday items to see and and lots of festive lights and decorations!
For many years when I lived alone in my condo I did not bother with displaying Christmas decorations. I made them because I love to make them and always will, but since I didn’t have many visitors I thought it was not worth the effort just to decorate for myself. Before I met my husband, I was dating a guy for the first time in many many many (did I say many) years and I did decorate a bit while seeing him since I finally had someone else to decorate for. I think I have learned a lesson from these experiences – it’s exciting to work on decorations and displays for business purposes because selling things and creating excitement in a store is a lot of fun. But it’s also worth doing just for yourself, whether you live alone or not. You can choose to shop for a lot of new items, use old favorites or combine old and new. If you find that decorating lifts your winter mood, you are worth the effort all by yourself! You could look at it as a form of necessary self care. Tom and I will have to be somewhat restrained in our decorating at home because we have cats, but we can do something and I’m going to make the effort. (The mistletoe is up already, to make sure we get lots of use out of that!)
I worked really hard the last couple of weeks to get ready for our first party that we’ve hosted as a married couple (aside from our wedding reception). I’ve been gradually moving my stuff in to our home which had already been Tom’s home for quite awhile. In preparation of getting married, Tom gave away some of his old furniture so that we could combine our furniture and use what was most useful and most to our taste. We both have a lot of hand me down furniture so whatever we do is going to end up pretty eclectic. We both have a fondness for Mid-century Modern design and that is the base style of Tom’s house so we are gradually going to go more in that direction as we decorate. We haven’t moved any larger furniture pieces from my condo yet so a couple of rooms are a bit empty for the time being. That worked out well for the party because there was space to set up card tables and TV trays to make a game area.
Eventually we will add bookshelves, my aquariums and perhaps bean bag chairs to make this kind of a reading/writing/meditation room. The plants really help get the right mood started.
We plan for this alcove to eventually hold a Mid-Century Modern storage and display shelf unit. We haven’t decided yet whether to custom build it or buy parts, but what we have in mind is something that looks mod and takes the place of a china cabinet with both open and closed areas for storage and display. For temporary use, I put up a couple of card tables to use for a food overflow and game table and used metal display racks that I use for craft shows to display banners that I sewed together a few years back. While making those and two related table runners I rubber-stamped some of the fabrics I used. I set up my lava lamp and made some small floral arrangements here and there to try to tie the colors together. One of the guests gave us the lovely pumpkin full of candy as a housewarming gift. We love it! The serving tray was my Mom’s from the 1970s – it’s a souvenir from Rockhome Gardens, a tourist attraction in Illinois that we visited when I was very young on one of our many Sunday drives. I’m going to blog about how I made the faux clock candle sconces soon so stay tuned for that!
Here is the main food table. I put together a simple veggie and dip tray and the guests were starting to fill the rest of the table with food they brought. We were blessed with lots of food!
Tom and I love the 1970’s-looking nature mural on the wall and we are not planning on changing it. I displayed some felt crows I made last year with some faux flowers and Colonial Candles from Schnarr’s Hardware.
I made some turkey chili with black beans and butternut squash. I set up a cheese fondue in my rice cooker set on warm (since I don’t have a fondue set) and served it with bread cubes and cut up sausage kept warm in an electric skillet. In this photo you can see a couple of pieces of the retro glassware I like to collect. That was a hobby my Mom and I shared – she loved looking for Mid-Century ceramics and I loved looking for Mid-Century glassware. Neither of our collections was particularly complete or cohesive because we just bought when we saw something we liked for a bargain price. More items from our collections will appear in our house as Tom and I work on it. My collectibles inspire me a lot in my design work and I like to have them around me and put them to use if I can.
I set up fondue chocolate in my potpourri crock pot and served it with dunking cookies, grapes, marshmallows, pineapple and strawberries.
My photo of the drinks table didn’t take – a shame! But I’ll get it next time. I want to show off Tom’s really cool Mid-Century punch bowl!
Yesterday was my two month anniversary of getting married! I’ve been really busy with moving my studio, plants and personal effects and before that working on wedding projects so I’m a bit behind on writing new blog posts and coming up with new projects. However here are a couple of new articles about me on the Canvas Corp Brands blog that you might enjoy: