Clay Menagerie

You may remember the beginnings of this project way back here. What is it for, you may ask? Well, I’m not quite sure yet. Right now I’m just enjoying working. That 4 1/2 pounds of modeling clay was the best craft purchase, ever.

This may be a little premature to show these, but I can shake this ominous clay lion feeling (especially after I found half of my animals with severe puncture wounds inflicted by some helpful little cousins), so here we go.

This one isn’t finished yet. I started all my pieces as just clay, but they clay was too pliable, and they wouldn’t stand up, so I had to go back and add a skeleton for each figure.
I can’t help but smile as I look at this picture, it makes me think of a little animal council. I want to try playing around with stacking these. We’ll see what comes out of this. Who knows.

Have a great weekend!

Crocheted stone

So, I’m pretty sure you’ve all seen these crocheted stones. They’re so lovely, right (unless you’re like my husband and don’t see any point in decorating rocks; sorry, this post is not for you)?

Well, I found a few doily patterns that I liked and that looked do-able, so I whipped up my very own crocheted stone.

I like it. It’s definitely not as refined as her stones,

especially the back, but it’s a start. And you know what, I’ve already started using it. How, you might ask?

Well, that’s a story for another day…

Craft Fail…?

So, another pin-inspired project. I’ve had these little twine baskets pinned for a long time, and I’ve even had the material, we’ll call it jute (honestly, I can’t remember if this is jute or hemp cord, forgive my ignorance), since my craft shopping spree I mentioned previously, but it wasn’t until this week that I actually gave this project a try.

Hmm, well, let’s just say I didn’t have the lovely special twine that they used in the original project, so it went a little less smoothly than I would have liked. Let’s just say that this was my second basket.

The stuff I used (probably jute) was rather unwieldy, and very uneven. It took a couple tries to figure out how to work it. Even after I finished the big basket, I wasn’t sure that I liked it. It was a little lopsided.

After some steaming, I kind of forced it to be the shape I wanted it to be. But it’s still not quite what I was hoping.

I still had some jute (?) left when I was done, so I decided to make a couple of small baskets for odds and ends.


The smallest one was just the last little bit of the jute, I don’t know what I’ll use it for, but it sure is a little bit of loveliness.

So I guess it wasn’t a complete fail. I still think I’ll have to get some of that fun twine someday. For now, these will do.

 

 

 

ps. I’m linking this project at skip to my lou.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tutorial: Lacing Softies

My little girl always asks to “sew” when she sees me doing my embroidery. If she finds my hoop, she will often make a few giant stitches of her own. She’s a little too young to handle a real hoop and needle, so I wanted to make something she could work on, too.

I’ve seen those sewing cards, but since I don’t have access to power tools, little wooden things are not an option. My solution: make it out of fabric.

Would you like to make your own lacing softies for your little ones? It’s pretty simple and straight-forward, but it does require some specific tools and some time. The results are totally worth it, though.

Supplies:

  • Hammer
  • Eyelets/grommets (if you check the definitions, the distinction is rather fuzzy, but in the store the box I got said “eyelets”). I used 5/32″ eyelets.
  • Fabric and whatever you need to put your design on it, (thread, ink, stamps, etc.)
  • Batting
  • Cardboard
  • Hole punch (the kind you hold with one hand and hammer with the other hand)
  • Sewing implement (yarn, blunt needle, shoelace, ribbon, etc.)
  1. Design your softie. You can use whatever means you want to get an image for your softie—a freezer-paper stencil, stamps, silk screening, large printed fabrics, etc; for this one I embroidered the image I wanted (a fox** in this case).
    You can do a front and back image, like I did, or just a front image if you like. If you do a front and back image, you’ll need to make them mirror images so that they’re not backwards.
  2. Turn your image over. If you can’t see it on the back (i.e., the back of the stitches), then place your fabric over a light table, window, and trace the outline with a fabric marker or pencil.
  3. Set some 1/4 in grommets around the outside of of your image where you intend to have them, about 3/4 in apart.
  4. Trace an outline around the grommets with a fabric marker or pencil  (I used a pen so you could see the line). This outline is the line you will sew on, so you do not need to include seam allowances. 
  5. Layer the two pieces of fabric with your design on them together, right sides facing. Use a light table or window to see that your front and back design match up. Pin these two layers together, with a layer of batting behind them.
  6. Sew all the way along the line (I used a free motion foot, but a regular foot might work fine, depending on the design), leaving an opening for turning out.
    (I wasn’t going to show you this, because my free-motion stitching is bad, but it worked okay, so don’t worry about it too much.)
  7. Cut your piece out, leaving 1/4 in seam allowance.
  8. Clip and curves/trim corners if your design has them, and then turn your piece right-side out.
  9. Tuck in the opening and slip stitch it closed. If you need help with slip-stitching, I’ve got some instructions on it in my fabric puzzle tutorial.
  10. Add the eyelets. (If you’ve used eyelets/grommets before, you can skip these instructions, but this was pretty much my first time, and I learned some things that might be good to know before you try it.)
  11. Use a punch to cut a small hole for each eyelet. You will want a cutting board, scrap piece of wood, or piece of thick cardboard underneath you fabric to make sure you don’t make holes in your work surface. (ahem.) I’m using a punch that was about half the diameter of my eyelet hole. Not ideal, but when I tried the punch that was the same size as the eyelet hole, I found that the fabric did not always get caught by the eyelet’s edge when it was pounded down, so it’s better to have to push and wiggle to get the eyelet to fit through a snug hole than to have too much room. I also tried punching a hole and then doing half another hole, overlapping the first one, to make the diameter a little bigger, and that seemed to work pretty well.
  12. I quickly learned that a tap tap tap tap approach worked much better than thud thud thud. I ended up with a few misshapen eyelets before I learned this lesson.
    Also, be sure to tap directly perpendicular to your eyelet setting tool, or it will go on at an angle and not catch all of your fabric (I also learned this lesson the hard way).
  13. Try to push your eyelet through the hole without fabric overlapping the edge of the eyelet, this will help the back stay neater.
  14. Keep setting eyelets all the way around until you’ve done them all.
  15. Choose your sewing implement. I went with yarn and a large, dull needle, but you could use a thin ribbon on a needle, a shoelace, etc.With the yarn, I started with a pretty long piece, and sewed it all the way around to make sure it would be long enough before I cut it off.

Once you have your sewing implement, you’re done. I couldn’t wait to share this with my little sewer (yes, it’s a word).

I don’t know about you, but there is something about those chubbly little fingers holding an oversized needle that is just too adorable (and yes, my daughter is sporting a snow hat at the end of July).

I’m not going to lie, putting in all 26 eyelets was kind of a pain because of the aforementioned problems that I had to work through. But I really liked the result, so I think I’ll definitely have to make a couple more of these.
**If you would like to embroider you’re own fox, leave a comment with your email address, and I will send you the embroidery template.

Have a great weekend!

ps. I’m linking this up on skip to my lou.

Another Fabric Box Tutorial

So, did I mention that I really like my tangram puzzle? A lot. But I knew as soon as I finished the project I would need some way to store the whole thing. Because a neat little stack doesn’t stay neat very long.
I thought I would do a bag at first, like what I used in my chess set, but my sister suggested a box, and after thinking about it, I decided to go with it.

When it came to the design of the box, I wanted to do something a little different. I knew it had to be a fabric box (unsmashable) since my girls would be using it, but I wanted it to have some sort of lid, too. As is often the case, I thought back to my college studies for some ideas (I picked up a lot of DIY skills during my art major). I decided to use an overlapping flap closure from the portfolios I used to make for my printmaking class.

I originally thought a tie closure would be nice, but in the end I decided to go with buttons, because I love hand-sewn buttonholes. Don’t you?

Would you like to make your own fabric box with flap closures (in case you’ve already made up a set of tangram pieces you need to store, or you have something else you want to store with style)? It’s pretty much the same process as making a regular fabric box like the cute ones here and the ones I made here, but the flaps are added in as you are sewing the box up.

  1. Cut out the pieces of your fabric basket. The sizes of each piece will depend on the dimensions of what you’re putting in the box, but you will need to have four side pieces and a bottom piece in the outside fabric, four side pieces and a bottom piece in the inside fabric, and eight pieces for the flaps.
  2. Now you’re going to be sewing your box together. Start by sewing the side pieces to the bottom piece for both the inside and outside parts of the box. You’ll end up with something that looks like a “+” sign.
  3. Then sew up the sides of the box.
  4. For each flap, put your two pieces of fabric right sides together, and sew the flaps on three sides. Clip the corners, and then turn them right sides out. (If you want, you can do some fun little label, stamp, embroidery, or other embellishment on your flaps to identify the contents.)
    (I also did rounded corners, just for fun.)
  5. Clip the corners of your box outside and inside.
  6. To assemble the box, start with the outside box part wrong side out, and then lay the flaps in the box, arranging them face down and pin them in place.
    Then place the inside box piece (right side out) in the outside box piece, so the right sides are facing each other, with the flaps sandwiched between the two.
  7. Sew all the way around the top edge, leaving an approximately 5-inch opening for turning out.
  8. Turn the box out with the flaps.
  9. Top stitch around the top edge of the box to seal the opening.
    This is a little tricky with the flaps, but if I can do it, I think you can too.
  10. The closure method is really up to you.
    I put the buttons on the inside flaps, and put the buttonholes through the two top flaps, but you could put the buttons on the top and the loops on the side of the box. Or sew ribbon into the flaps to tie at the side. Be creative. If you are going to do machine-stitched buttonholes, you should probably sew those on the flaps before you sew the box together.

You’re done. Congratulations. You now have a cute little box for storing your tangrams, or anything else, really. I thought these boxes might be nice for storing photographs, collectible items, memorabilia, felt food, or other handmade toys, or as extra-special gift wrapping for a special gift.

ps. I’m linking this up at skip to my lou and here:
Visit thecsiproject.com

Tutorial: Tangram-esque Fabric Puzzle

This is one of those projects that’s been on my mental to do list for a while, like before I had my Pinterest boards, or I would be able to tell you exactly when and where I saw it. (Oh Pinterest, how did I ever get along without you?) I did pin a similar project as soon as I saw it, but this was months after the original inspiration struck me.

Curious yet? After tumbling the idea around in my head, I finally cracked down and did it, and rather than trying to work backwards to make a tutorial in the event that others might be interested in make their own fabric puzzle, I actually planned ahead on sharing the how-to with you (thoughtful, huh?). And now that it’s done, I’m so glad I took pictures because (a) it is way too cool not to share and (b) I’m not going to be making another set of these things for a while (yes, that means this is a tad labor intensive, but what do you expect when this, this, and this, are my typical project?).

I’m calling these tangram-esque because Merriam-Webster’s definition actually specifies the little Chinese puzzle with seven specifically shaped pieces in the definition of tangram, and this isn’t quite that. But it’s in the spirit of the tangram puzzle.

These are addictingly fun to play with, and I don’t just mean for the kids. My photo sessions got rather drawn-out because I was so into coming up with different designs.


It’s basically a open-ended puzzle that you make up as you go, and I love it. I’m not sure how age-appropriate it is for my toddler and 9-month old, but they pieces are soft, stackable, and colorful, so at the very least they make excellent teething toys and safe projectiles.


I think my older daughter was getting into them, but if not, I’m sure she’ll love them as much as I do in a few years.

Do you want to make your own set of tangram-esque puzzle pieces? Great. Let’s get to work.

The process is pretty simple. You’ll be making a bunch of half-square triangles, sewing a backing and batting to it, turning it right side out, and slip-stitching the opening closed. Here’s the details:

  1. First, choose your fabrics. You don’t need much of each color. I used seven different colors, and only used about 1/6th of a yard each color, and about a third of a yard of the white.
    Really, you can use whatever fabric you want, with as many different colors as you want, and make as many pieces as you want.
  2. Each color is paired with every other color once (7 colors, so the math is 6 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 21; I think this works with whatever number of colors you have: take the number of colors, minus one, then add all the numbers to that number and on down), and by cutting the pieces in half (you’ll see later) you get a total of 42 tile pieces.

    If you want to end up with 42 finished squares like I did, you’ll need to cut six 4″ squares in each color, including the white (if you are using a different number of colors, the number of squares you’ll need to cut will be one less than the number of colors you have). For the backing, you’ll need forty-two 3 3/4″ squares in whatever combination of colors you want; I used 18 squares in white and 4 squares of every other color.
  3. Match up one of each color with one of every other color, red with orange, red with yellow, red with green, and so on. If you’re using fabric with a pattern, make sure to keep right sides together.
  4. Use a pencil or a disappearing fabric marker to draw a line from one corner to another.
  5. Sew from one corner of the square diagonally to the opposite corner, using the line you made as the guide for your presser foot.
  6. Turn the square around and sew down the opposite side of the line in the same manner. You will now have to parallel lines of stitching.
  7. Cut each square in half along the diagonal line you marked in step 4.
  8. Press the squares open with the seam pressed toward the darker fabric.
    (I’m sure there are lots great tutorials about how to do half-square triangles. Calli from Make It Do just did a very nice little tutorial about how to do half-square triangles, and it looks very similar to the way I did it, so if you need another tutorial on how to do half-square triangles, check it out.)
  9. Cut out 42 3 3/4″ squares of batting (I cut out twice that because the batting I had was very thin, and I wanted it to have a little more heft.
  10. Lay each pieced square on top of a 3 3/4″ square, right sides together.
  11. Lay your matched pieces on top of one piece of batting.
  12. Sew all the way around your square (1/4″ seam allowance), leaving a 1 1/2″ opening for turning out.
  13. Clip off the corners (sorry, I didn’t show this step, but basically you want to trim to as close to the corner as possible without cutting through the stitching).
  14. Using a turning tool of some sort (I used hemostats, which I read about here), turn out each piece, making sure to push the corners nicely.
  15. Tuck in the open seam, and slip stitch the opening closed. I don’t really know how to describe the slip stitch, I stitched through both sides of the fabric as closely as possible so the thread doesn’t show, then I pulled the thread back through half an inch, made a knot, and “popped” the knot through the fabric to bury it inside (that’s how it was described to me when I was first learning to sew as a teenager, so please forgive my lack of eloquence). Perhaps the pictures will help the description.Repeat 41 times, and you’re done. Now go enjoy your finished work.

They’re great for throwing,

stacking,

sucking on,

designing,

and undesigning.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do; I’m telling you, hand stitching 42 seams closed is worth it for this little toy. If you make your own, I’d love to see them!

Have a great Monday!

ps. I’m linking this up at skip to my loutatertots and jello, and here:

Visit thecsiproject.com.

Fabric Chessboard

Okay, so maybe it’s a month late, but this is the project I was working on for prudent baby’s “use your words” embroidery contest.

A fabric chess set.

I’ve actually been wanting to make a fabric chessboard for a while now, but it wasn’t until I came across this contest that I could think of a way to do the pieces. I thought about ways to use words (or letters, in this case) literally, and this was what I came up with.

I designed the letters based on a typeface designed by Albrect Dürer and added the pieces’ silhouettes to the sides.

I stitched all 32 pieces with Japanese silk on linen (two of my favorite materials).

My favorite pieces are the knights. Love those little horses.

Each of those little white dots (x’s) you see hold a paperclip in place, which is what the magnet in the pieces sticks to.

I tried simulating the moves to a very short game, but after about five minutes I realized I couldn’t beat myself very quickly.

So, skip to the end, checkmate! (I’m pretty sure. It’s been a while since I’ve really played chess.

I think one of my favorite things about this project, though, is the bag.

I even tried some French seams on the inside (at least, what I think are French seams based on wikipedia’s definition).

This would be great to take along on a picnic or a fun outdoor trip. Just fold it up and pack it along. I had meant for it as a car trip game, but it ended up being a little big for that.

Maybe I’ll have to make a smaller traveler’s version sometime. If I do make it again, I think I’ll try cotton, because getting all the lines straight with the linen was very difficult for my meager sewing skills.

Still a fun, simple (though time-consuming) project. If you want to make your own, leave a comment and I’ll see about uploading a template with the letters if there’s a demand for them.

Have a great day!

ps. I’m linking this up at skip to my lou and here:
Visit thecsiproject.com

Baby Bibs

Yes I am still here. I hope you didn’t give my blog up for dead, dear reader. I’ve just taken an untintentional blog vacation, but rest assured, I have been busy behind the scenes. Sometimes balancing everything is hard; I’m sure every mom on the planet, or just every person, period, could expound on that statement ad nauseam, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Anyways, here’s one of the little things I’ve been working on. Baby bibs.

These aren’t really messy-eating bibs. I intend their main function to be for absorbing the copious amounts of drool my little angel produces on a regular basis. Seriously, this girl can drool.

They were very simple. I just patched together a bunch of fabric scraps, layered them on top of a piece of backing fabric and some batting, sewed around the whole shape of the bib on there, leaving a little opening, and then I turned the thing inside out and top-stitched all the way around. The hardest part was attaching the snaps.

Did you notice that one bib doesn’t have snaps. That’s because I wrecked up a bunch before I got it right, so I ran out. They were difficult little beasts to handle, but they worked out okay in the end.

And I rather like the results.


By the way, all the fabric came from a bag of scraps that I picked up at a fabric store—they have a big bin where the quilting class dumps their scraps, and you can stuff a quart sized bag with them for $5. So that’s the humble origins of these bibs’ fabric. You see, this project comes with a wee confession: I don’t know anything about fabric. Okay, I take that back. I know what I like, but that’s all I know about fabric.

Designers, lines, collections, series, or whatever it is that fabrics are grouped in mean really nothing to me. At all. I guess I know some designer names, but I would not be able to pair the names with the fabrics; no, not if you gave me a million dollars to do it. And I don’t intend on changing that anytime soon, because I certainly don’t need any more arts/crafts supply addictions.

ps. I’m linking this up at skip to my lou.

Playdough

We made play dough today.

I used the recipe I found here, and I thought it was pretty easy, and the texture is nice and soft but not sticky.

Next time I might try a half recipe, because it made a lot, so I thought, oh, I’ll make three colors. Which very shortly turned into one multi colored lump.

Next time, just one color.

**UPDATE: Here’s the recipe I used for the play dough. It was nice and smooth, and not sticky at all.

New Medium: Modeling Clay**

(**Modeling clay was actually one of my earliest and most favorite creative mediums as a child, and now it’s finally making and appearance here. Welcome my sticky, greasy old friend.)

What do a yak and a newt have in common? I’m sure there is some appropriate scientific answer, but for now, I’ll just leave this question for you to ponder.

Happy Monday!