Fiber-Wrapped Spring Wreath

Fiber-Wrapped Wreath

The front door needed something, something that was NOT the red berry wreath that has seen better days. I wanted to make a wreath that wasn’t permanent, not too fussy or prim, but would give us a burst of spring color.

Also, it had to be easy and quick. I pictured something along the lines of the ribbon wreath my daughter made last year. Or maybe a little like the Anthropologie thread-wrapped bricks I saw on Pinterest. Or the yarn-and-fiber wrapped rabbit I’d seen at the Ackland Museum Store in Chapel Hill. For the life of me, I can’t find the name of that artist or a link to her work, so let me know if you know what I’m talking about.

I bought a straw wreath form at Michaels and pulled out a bunch of spring-colored scraps: leftover strips from this quilt, scraps from this dress and this one, and Kool-Aid dyed yarns.

DSC_1257-001

I started wrapping and pinning on the darker color strips, hoping a little dark poking through from the bottom layer would keep the color scheme from getting too saccharine. Though in the end there’s actually very few darks to be seen.

Fiber-Wrapped Wreath

Next came the lighter and brighter strips, then the ribbons. Last, I started wrapping the yarn, but my five-year-old was really into that part, so I let him wrap until the whole thing had a good spreading of yarn.

In the end, I’m fairly happy with the results. It hit all my requirements, though it didn’t quite match up to my vision. Hubs wasn’t so sure about it at first, but it’s grown on him, he says. Either that or he just wants to make sure I make his favorite chicken salad this week.

For more of my posts about crafts, click here.

Is it spring where you are? We had lovely weather over the weekend, and things are sprouting up in the garden.

Meanwhile, I’m still inching along with the revision on my novel. I’m remembering something Katherine Paterson once said/ wrote….something to the effect that she had to sculpt her plot out of granite, using straight pins. My process is feeling something like that. I keep making headway but then realizing there’s so much more to do. What are you up to?

Cashmere Patchwork Blanket

Patchwork Blanket

Sometime in the last few months I got it in my head that I wanted a cashmere blanket. Like, really wanted one. I think maybe I started obsessing when I was paging through Handmade Home and saw all the cozy, cozy stacks of blankets. I just wanted to curl up with them. I didn’t want to fork over the money for cashmere, though, so I started scheming. Could I possibly find enough thrifted cashmere to make a blanket?

Sometimes it’s hard to come by, but lo and behold, there was a bumper crop of cashmere at Goodwill this fall. Some of it was in perfect condition, in my size, with classic lines. What?! I washed those and put them in my closet.

The rest of it, the out-of-fashion, the holey, the wrong sizes, I cut into rectangles (excluding the holey bits) after washing it. I added in a few washed and shrunken merino sweaters, too, to round things out and make the blanket a little bigger.

Recycled Cashmere Blanket

In all I used six sweaters for the blanket. It went together pretty quickly, and the kids were very excited to help place the pieces. Everyone was already fighting over it before it was even done.

Cashmere Blanket

I had planned to lap the edges, but kind of forgot that plan until midway through. Oh well. Next blanket, maybe. I already have some cashmere pieces waiting.

Cashmere Sweater Blanket

Personally I like all the little weirdnesses of sweater pieces, the rolled edges, the seams and ribbing here and there. And it’s kind of nice to have a “smooth” side and a “wrong side.” I like them both.

For sewing the pieces together, I used (I think) a regular machine needle and upped the stitch length a bit. I had no problems with it. If you want specific instructions for sewing a cashmere sweater blanket, check out Betz White’s book Warm Fuzzies.

Random: love loved this fire and ice birthday party over at elsie marley. Almost makes me want to live in a frozen place again.

Also, has anyone been watching Parade’s End on HBO? I can’t fully follow the storyline, but wow, the clothes are incredible!

And lastly, next week I’ll be introducing you to a friend of mine, artist/ photographer Dawn Hanna. So excited! Her work is drop-dead gorgeous.

Okay, folks. Have a great weekend.

Hand-Held Backstrap Loom

I first read about these looms in an issue of Craft magazine, back in the good ol’ days when they still had a print edition. With the article, there was a pattern to make your own loom with cardboard, and although I’m sure that works fine, it wasn’t until I found out the author of the article was making hard plastic looms for sale on etsy that I decided I had to try it. Oops! Looks like his store is currently closed, but hopefully he is just on vacation or something.

I got the loom for Christmas and tried it out a few weeks ago using some wool sock yarn I found at the thrift store for 2 euros. Score! Actually, I think it was like 1 euro 60 because they were having a funny promotion where you had to roll the dice to see if you could get a discount. I did. Yay me!

Anyway, the video the loom maker (Travis Meinolf) provides on youtube is very helpful, though I found doing the setup to be a little trickier than I thought it would be. I guess practice will make it easier. I also had grand ideas of the weaving being so fast—like, faster than my snail-like knitting—but because I chose such a skinny yarn, it hasn’t been all that fast.

The good news is, the weaving itself is pretty fun, and the kids and even my husband had to get in on the action. I’ll admit the kids’ weaving isn’t as neat as I might like, but  they had a good time, and the labor was free.

The edges, as you see, are pretty uneven. I’m not sure if this is something I would get better at with practice, or if I should just view it as charming and deal with it. Or, another option, to cover it with some kind of (silk?) bias binding, like the professional weaver downstairs does with her gorgeous blankets.

I love this shot of Cinderella (below) at the loom. It’s somehow totally right for Cinderella to be weaving, don’t you think? People in fairy tales do stuff like that.

Next we’ll be spinning wool and warning against pricking fingers on spindles.

I seem to be stuck in an almost-finished project mode. The Haiku sweater is done except for blocking. A dress like this is almost done, but I’m so frustrated that it’s not turning out the way I want it to.

Meanwhile, I’ve been writing and researching on my book projects. I’m reading another great writing book called Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich. And still reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which I beg you to read, seriously. You must. It ROCKS!

Overdyed Pashmina Shawl

This was a fairly simple and oh-so-satisfying project. I bought the pashmina (silk and cashmere) for a few dollars at a thrift store and used it as a sort of throw in my son’s room when he was a baby. It was just the right color at the time, but after it outlived its usefulness, I felt obligated to wear it.

The problem was, it just wasn’t my color, so I never did. It seemed too luxurious to get rid of, so finally I decided to overdye it. I had to choose a color that was in the same vein but deeper. This coral color (Deka calls it “Hibiscus”) seemed just right, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. The color is very slightly uneven, but to me that’s just part of the charm of hand-dyeing.

I have to confess, though, that I’m still a little lost as to how to wear a pashmina shawl—maybe I should look for an online tute? The beading is also a little fancy for my taste. I could remove it, but that feels a little drastic. In the meantime, the shawl is keeping me warm at home.

For tips on overdyeing, see my post How to Overdye. If you’re in the US, I recommend dharma trading for supplies and directions. Remember: only try this with natural fibers, and please not with anything precious, because you never know what your results will be.

I threw in a few other things while the dye was ready, including this tablecloth from the thrift store here:

You may remember it from this earlier post. I love the dipped-in-Kool-Aid look it has here—so much more interesting than the brown on white. I’m planning to make some travel sacks for my daughter to pack her shoes and dirty laundry in. This always seems to be an issue when we travel, and it’s nice to have something handy and cute to use.

Speaking of fiber arts, the haiku sweater is off the needles (woowoo!) and Amy Karol had this great post on knitting attitudes the other day. And by the way she seems to have found a similar cookie thing like ours (where you can print letters) at Williams Sonoma. She’s a much more patient mommy than I am because she let the kids do a bajillion different words. I’m inspired.

Also, regarding fiber arts, I was totally happy to see the return of annekata. She had quit blogging for awhile, but she’s back!

The Cuppa Cuppa Patchwork

“It’s just a cup of flour, a cup of sugar and a cup of fruit cocktail with the syrup, stir and bake in a hot oven ‘til golden brown and bubbly.  I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness.” Dolly Parton as Truvy in Steel Magnolias

For awhile I was calling this the Candy Rainbow patchwork, but now when I look at it, I keep thinking of Truvy serving ice cream with her Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa cake. The intense, sweet colors here were just begging for a little something to cut the sweetness.

I’m liking the quiet spaces the white is making. The front of this is finished now, so hopefully I will finish up the back (all white) and show it to you soon.

I’m getting a little weary of the candy colors, or at least in using them all together. My next new quilt will have to be something a little quieter.

For earlier pictures of this patchwork, click here.

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy seeing an earlier patchwork of mine that appears here.

Hand-Dyed Patchwork Duvet Cover

It’s finished! The duvet cover I started lo these many months ago is now on my son’s bed. His bed is a bunk, though, very difficult to photograph, so this bed had to stand in.

This duvet cover started out life as my son’s cribsheets, which I hand-dyed and batiked. Also thrown in are scraps from curtains I made for his room and the pieces from a failed attempt at a shopping cart cover and leftovers from his baby sling. For more information about how this cover was made, check out these posts: this one on the batik, this one on his original room, this one about the design for the bed cover, and here and here about the patchwork process.

I’m really excited with how it turned out. It just glows. The little man really likes it, too.

Here’s another view.

And below, a couple of detail shots:

On to other duvet covers for the rest of the family!

FYI I recently joined Pinterest, a social networking site where you can “pin” images from the web into an account so you can look at your favorite things together in one place. Other people can see them, too, so if you’re interested in seeing what I’ve pinned, click here. I seem fixated on quilts lately, so that’s most of what you’ll see. Be forewarned, if you’re addicted to beautiful images, like I am, it’s a bit of a dangerous site.

How to Overdye

I did this project a long time ago, but I thought of it recently after seeing this blog post about overdyed rugs. I made these curtains when I was first living in Boston. I moved there with no job, no furniture, and very little money. If you missed the post with paintings of my apartment there, check it out.

Cash was short, and fabric stores were really hard to get to for someone relying on public transportation, so I started sewing with things I found at the thrift store.

For some reason, I can’t remember why, I was determined to have red curtains for our living room. So determined the curtains be red that I dyed sheets and stitched curtains out of them by hand because I had no machine. Well, we did have some crazy boy neighbors who had a gigantic telescope which they swore they weren’t using to spy on us.

Anyway, tips on overdyeing.

1) Start with natural fibers in a pale color, or discharge first

These sheets/ curtains are 100% cotton and were originally a peachy color. You can also start with a deeper color and opt to soak your fabric in a bleach solution to remove the original color. This is called discharging. If you’re going that route, you’ll be better off with a fabric that is still fairly new, as the bleach will weaken the fibers a good bit. And I wouldn’t try discharging fabric for a heavy-wear item, such as a handbag, or something that will need a lot of washing, because again, the fabric will be more fragile.

2) Select dye color carefully

Remember that the color you start with, however pale, will influence the dye color, and the result will be different from what you’d get from dyeing plain white fabric. You’re layering color. A basic knowledge of the color wheel is useful here.

As a general rule of thumb, overdyeing is going to work better if the original color is in the same color family as the dye color. For example, my peachy sheets and the red dye color are both warm colors. Had I chosen to dye them blue, the peach would have tempered that blue, making it a little muddy. Not necessarily a bad thing, but a little unpredictable.

3) Follow dye instructions

Skip grocery store dye, which fades and bleeds a lot when you wash, and use procion dyes like those found at dharmatrading. For more even color, soak the item in clear water first before dipping it into the dye.

4) Have open-ended expectations

This is not an exact science. Chances are, your end product will not look the way you pictured it, and it’s best if you’re okay with that from the beginning. Also, don’t dye something precious. That’s why thrift store-finds are a perfect choice here. If it doesn’t turn out, you don’t get your heart broken.

For more reading about dyeing:

Read my earlier posts about getting started with dyes here (animal fibers) and here (plant fibers). Also check out these posts from ohfransson: discharging here and overdyeing here.

Wish I knew what to do with these old curtains. I can’t toss them, but I don’t really have much of a red thing going on in our current place. The vintage cream floral fabric came from a garage sale in Contoocook, VT, the same place where I got the braided rug “kit.”

It’s been a slow week creatively. I limped through a little writing and inched along on my son’s bedcover (almost finished!), but it took everything out of me just to keep the kids clean, fed, homeworked, and back and forth to school and home. Still, I have to keep in mind that even limping and inching are moving toward my goals. Have a great weekend. It’s sunny here and above freezing, which means spring fever is visiting us once again.