Category Archives: Upcycling

Make a textile out of fabric and thread scraps

A rainbow scrap textile in progress

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!

Holiday ornaments
Christmas stockings
Throw pillows
Parts for art quilts

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?

Art show opening this past Saturday

Today I am Dazzle Yellow and I have a lot to say!
“Today I am Dazzle Yellow and I have a lot to say!”

I appear to be in-between crises today so I’ll take a moment to write a little about art!

This past Saturday, October 1, 2022, was the opening reception for the Art Saint Louis show, “Declaration”. Above is my contribution to the show. It’s made of found papers, paint sample cards and image transfers from found papers made with packing tape. My artist statement reads as follows:

“When I started, I was inspired by some found images of rug designs from a catalog combined with some of my own mini postage stamp inspired collages juxtaposed with paint sample cards in tints of yellow. I work part time in a hardware store where exciting possibilities are everywhere. Bright paint sample cards, caution signs and caution tape and anything in the store that is colorful are parts of life I greatly enjoy. One of the colors on the sample cards was named Dazzle Yellow. I made some image transfers on packing tape out of sign images from a catalog and pieces of found papers that incorporate yellow, basically making my own version of caution tape. The purpose of such a bright yellow is to get attention. Once you have it, how do you use it? Yellow could mean stop and be careful, stop and enjoy, or “Look at me, I’m full of possibilities today!”

This was not an easy art show to look at, because as you might expect, a show with the theme “Declaration” is heavy on political themes. I had my share of political ideas for art pieces I considered making for this show but I decided to go in a different direction – I desperately need a break from politics and I figured art show patrons might like a little break as well! Whatever the subject matter, it’s always an honor to exhibit among a group of artists as talented as these.

I’m on the left posing with my collage and Dad is on the right next to a panel outside on the sidewalk that we were all allowed to add to with chalk markers. I’m very grateful to my Dad for coming with me – my husband Tom was busy at a homecoming event at his high school at the time of the opening and I certainly don’t begrudge him that! My Dad has been coming to my art events for decades and I’m eternally grateful for his support!

I custom made the frame for this piece at the last minute – I hadn’t done any woodworking since making a memorial box for the funeral of my uncle last year. Due to tragic events of last year I had been in such a brain fog that I didn’t trust myself with saws, mat knives and things until I was kind of forced into making this frame. That’s part of my motivation for entering these shows – it’s therapy for me both because of the opportunity for expression and because the deadlines force me to get things finished.

I have made so many picture frames in a similar style that even though it had been awhile, I had little trouble and was vastly relieved when it turned out ok! I had been intending to buy a frame because I thought I didn’t have enough time to work up to making one, but in the checkout line after looking in three stores for one the right size and shape I discovered that I had forgotten to pay my credit card bill and the charge would not go through. I immediately made a payment over the phone but it took a couple of days to re-activate so I was forced to hurry up and make the frame. I’m now glad that happened because now I have a lot more confidence and the next frame or wood project will be much easier.

Here are some helpful links with more information about the “Declaration” show:

My photos from the reception (plus one of me and my collage that my Dad took – click right arrow to see more)

Image gallery of all the works

Promotional video

“Get the Funk Out” Collage

“Get The Funk Out” collage

One of my favorite ways to relax is to cut up some old magazines and make collages out of them. One reason why collages are so relaxing is that I can start them without a pre-planned project in mind and just let my subconscious and the random materials in front of me suggest the theme. Stress is a common theme, because I tend to start them when I need to work some stress out of me. Another reason is that so much printed media, like all media, is filled with images that scream out desperation.

Most media has been on a trend during our lifetimes to become more and more extreme in intensity in order to feed what some people call the “attention economy” or the “addiction economy”. Many media companies rely on an intangible resource to generate revenue – that resource is our eyes on their content. Whatever distraction can direct our attention to them and away from real life is how many corporations generate revenue now. We are not people to them, but a resource to be exploited to fullest extent possible.

A lot of friends pass old magazines on to me to use in collages, and somehow, I don’t know how or why, I’ve been getting US magazine in the mail. The theme of a lot of my art and writing is media analysis, so I don’t mind getting these magazines to see the bizarro world that some people live in and the desperation on display when celebrities need your eyes on them in order to make money and promote the bizarro world agenda. Excess can be both entertaining and disturbing. I’ve done some study on what kind of toll it takes on the people who view it, and I plan to write more in that vein on an ongoing basis. Paging through the celebrity magazines, I also thought about the mental health of the people who go to extreme measures to remain in the top echelon of attention grabbers. Surgeries, diets, fashions, casting couches, drugs, abuse – what won’t they put themselves through in the quest for status in an insulated and dehumanizing system? When they break down, how do they feel about entertaining the masses with evidence of their pain and destruction? When they look at images of themselves, are they looking for signs that the cracks are showing, knowing that untold other sets of eyes are looking for that too and hoping they find some? When does what is on the inside start to show on the outside?

Getting some collage elements together

To make this collage I used a stencil I have that looks like a film contact sheet to make a grid in pencil on a plain piece of white cardstock. Using a template I made with a window opening the size of the rectangle openings in the stencil, I started building up images on separate pieces of white cardstock. After adding images to each rectangle, I added textures from stencils and an a black outline with markers. I used a gray marker to add some lines to the background, and gray and black markers with the stencils to add some more texture on and around cut out words, rearranged a bit.

I deliberately tried to choose less than flattering celebrity photos on which to glue mismatched facial features to make them look more “crazy” to show how I feel about corporations and government trying to use media and celebrities and communications professionals to try to force me to accept a bizarro world as my world. The Urban Dictionary states that a bizarro world is a place where everything is the opposite of the word used to describe it. For example, “good is bad, wrong is right, white is black, logical is illogical, giving is taking, insanity is sane”, etc. It’s one of my theories, shared by many, that those who start out relatively mentally healthy generally pay a price on the inside for living in a bizarro world and being coerced into propagating its false values. Picking up one of these magazines, no I don’t believe some of the messages it’s trying to send me. Ugliness is not beauty, exploitation is not empowerment, sickness is not health, artificiality is not freshness, materialism is not happiness, and celebrities are not just like us! And no, war is not peace, freedom is not slavery, ignorance is not strength. And I don’t love Big Brother either. So there!

When I started the collage, I initially intended just to have some silly fun with some silly magazines and not necessarily think about such serious topics. I can’t seem to stop analyzing media when I see it I guess. I hope my next art or craft project will stay more on the lighthearted side!

Here are links to the stencils I used, on sale in my store:

Mini Texturized: https://www.etsy.com/listing/191860371/mini-texturized-6×6-stencil

Mini Tiny Circles: https://www.etsy.com/listing/679546395/mini-tiny-circles-6×6-stencil

Contact Sheet:
https://www.etsy.com/listing/1020629452/12×12-stencils

Mini Halftone Borders:
https://www.etsy.com/listing/1226450019/mini-halftone-borders-6×6-stencil

Paper Art and Crafting Technique – Making Templates From Chipboard

Directly above is a faux postage stamp sheet collage I started almost a year ago. Here is how it began. I was sorting through some old papers and I found two computer printouts that another artist had sent to me as mail art a long time ago. The printouts were of faux postage designs featuring computer manipulated photos of Ray Johnson – an artist who is considered by many to have been the founder of the modern mail art movement. Ray Johnson is the subject of a lot of mail art projects. I participated in one such project myself in the fall of 2019. I also featured some pictures of Ray Johnson in my #12daysoftomsbeard art project because when my husband Tom is clean shaven, he looks so much like Ray Johnson that when I was working on the mail art project, Tom thought at first glance that I was using pictures of him!

In the same stack of old papers, I found an advertising booklet that had black and white portraits similar in size to the Ray Johnson portraits in the old printouts. At least they were close enough in size to possibly be used together in a faux postage design. I took a faux postage base I made a long time ago and use a lot and started laying down the portrait pictures on it to get ideas.

I originally had the idea to put the smaller portraits inside silhouettes of the Ray Johnson images and alternate the two on the stamp sheets. I made templates from scrap chipboard to help me cut multiple silhouettes and negatives of silhouettes from colorful paper scraps to play around with. I ended up saving the smaller black and white portraits for a future project and I kept the Ray Johnson images for this set of stamp sheets.

When I make chipboard templates for a collage or other project, I keep them in folders named after the project they were made for so if I want to I can use them over and over for related art projects. If I’m really turned on by the designs, I am likely to use the templates many times. I also made a bunch of rectangle templates to go with my faux postage stamp background, using tracing paper as an aid to finding which piece goes where on the collage. I numbered the chipboard pieces and their position on the tracing paper to help me get organized the next time I use the templates.

I arranged the different colored small rectangles on my collage sheets where I wanted them. I glued on the Ray Johnson images, some miscellaneous found images, and used black permanent Sharpie markers and stencils to draw on some bold designs in black marker. I printed out postage stamp related words, phrases and images with black permanent stamping ink onto white blank sticker paper, cut them out and stuck them on my collages to make them look even more like sheets of imaginary stamps.

I thought they needed more texture to look finished so I used freehand drawing plus stencils again to apply marks with paint markers and colored pencils. The final marks I applied were a bit of colored pencil outlining the white sticker pieces to make them look more integrated with the whole.

Here are the commercial stencils I used in the project. They were designed by the Crafter’s Workshop company:

Mini Patterns

Mini Shape Landscape

Mini X Trail

Mini Rows of Lines

I probably will display the resulting “stamp” sheets as framed collages some time in the future. I’ve scanned them into the computer where they will be reduced to a smaller size so that they look more like real postage stamps. Then I’ll print out and distribute the finished stamp sheets to some other mail artists. Many mail artists collect faux postage as art or use the resulting stamps as part of another piece of mail artwork.

Instructions for #12daysoftomsbeard

WHAT: If you have ordered something from my Etsy store recently, or if you get a Christmas card from me, you will find inside one or both of the following invitations for #12daysoftomsbeard.

Invitations with tags to decorate. Sometimes I include a little packet of paper ephemera to help people get ideas or inspiration, if they need it. If you want an invitation and did not get one in the mail, you can download one at this link – #12daysoftomsbeard tag invite.

These tags are intended for drawing on or decorating, then sending back to me, so that I can hang them on Tom’s beard each day from December 25 to January 6. During that time I will take a crazy picture of the results to put on social media for people to find when they search for the hashtag #12daysoftomsbeard. Last year Tom and I experimented with different lighting effects, backgrounds and filters to come up with something unusual each day. Last year I tried to group the beard art items, background and filters by color because bright colors usually go far toward cheering and inspiring me.

Here are some examples of tags I decorated last year, a couple that people sent in to me, and a few images that resulted.

WHY: We mostly like to do this because it’s a lot of fun, and it makes us laugh! You should have seen my MIL’s reaction when she saw the orange picture of Tom! “What have you done to my son!!!” We could do this without any participation from others, but we appreciate it whenever anyone wants to join in. It’s an extra creative challenge to use something someone else sent in, and it’s a way to connect with people who are sometimes separated by distance or who I don’t even know in “real life”.

Why do people paint rocks and leave them for others to find? Why do Jeep owners put rubber ducks on random other Jeeps? Why did I put a banana peel on my head earlier this year and have my picture taken with it on? Why did people in Toronto make a memorial display for a dead raccoon and share it on social media? Group activities and performance art projects are a satisfying activity for some reason, for quite a few people. I will probably write more later about the psychological reasons why that is the case.

Earlier this year I started a SWOT analysis of #12daysoftomsbeard to try to use some of what I learned in marketing class to try to increase participation this year. I didn’t finish the analysis yet, but I will keep adding onto it in the future as I finish sections. Here it is if you want to read what I have written so far – SWOT Analysis of #12daysoftomsbeard.

HOW – One idea I want to try for increasing participation is to provide some more specific instructions. The wording on the invitations reads: “To play, color, glue, punch, stamp or otherwise decorate this tag.” For some people, that will be enough guidance, others might feel comfortable with something more specific.

I am going to suggest techniques to try, and post examples here on this page. Watch this space as I add them! Since I like to use mixed media a lot, it will be a challenge for me to use just one technique at a time, so maybe I’ll try that. Enjoy!

Drawing

Coloring

Stenciling

Stickers

Hole punches

Design tape – also known as Washi tape or Paper tape

Collage

Rubber Stamping

Image Transfers

?????????? – What other techniques could be used?

Here is a link to a slideshow of images from the web page of IUOMA – The International Union of Mail Artists. I’ve been uploading the beard pictures to this gallery as I go. Intermixed are images that other people are uploading of conceptual art that they are both sending and receiving. This slide show changes daily as new images get added and older ones drop off. It might give you some ideas! Sometimes I put this slideshow on the screen while I’m working for extra inspiration!

Slide show of photos from IUOMA

Christmas Trees from scrap fabric

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.

Trees made of fabric scraps
I’ve finished three stockings so far and I have more in progress. On the right are a couple of samples of paper flowers I made a few years ago that go well with the look I’m going for in this group, so I got them out to add to my display.

Here is a link to my Pinterest “Mood Board” where I’m posting finished items and inspirations.

Sewing Ideas: Woodland Animals and Accessories

Christmas craft bender 2021 edition

Woodland animals sewn from a commercial pattern using upcycled and leftover fabrics.

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!

Sewing Ideas: Woodland Animals and Accessories

I finished Experimental Art Quilts #2 and #3

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!

Experimental Art Quilt #2
Originally this was going to be a sample for a JoAnn class for beginners I was interested in teaching. It was supposed to be four 6 inch squares with embroidery on them. Then I got inspired and started adding and adding and adding parts…
I wanted to get the embroidered parts right so I plotted some of them out on the computer first by using Adobe Illustrator to draw lines over a picture of the quilt to see how it might look. The final step was to outline it with blanket edging that I bought at JoAnn. I also bought the rick-rack, tulle, and yellow sheer ribbon there. I bought the batting online from my wholesaler and all the other fabrics were upcycled or leftovers. There are a few scraps in there that I printed with rubber stamps, a few scraps from my Mom’s stash, a few pieces from a dress I wore in 1985 and a piece of curtains that my Mom made for my room in the early 1980s!
Finished Experimental Art Quilt #3
I assembled strips from scraps and used the reverse applique technique to insert then between strips taken from upcycled bed sheets and pillow cases. The large scale black and white Aztec-looking print was taken from my favorite shirt in the 80s. These are remnants of the sleeves and collar that I cut off when I made a vest out of it a couple of years ago. The color scheme is a result of having some fun with one colorful strip among all neutrals to make a focal point.
I added a border made of tubes of leftover fabric, then decided the piece needed a bit more color and to draw attention to the focal point a little more. I added a strip of leftover brighter colored fabric and started on the embroidery. I used tracings inspired by a shirt I’m still working on that was inspired by my old shirt from the 80s. Then I embroidered through the tracing paper and tore away the paper after I stitched it.

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.

Experimental Art Quilt #1

Experimental Art Quilt #2

Experimental Art Quilt #3

The upside to forced inactivity – more time to sew!

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:

Felt Christmas Stocking With Hand Sewn Applique – Blue and Green