Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The LittleBirds Project Goes Bigtime!

Those of those that know me personally know that I'm obsessed with fiber, and I'm obsessed with all things miniature.  Miniature food, miniature crafts, you name it.

My latest love has been the creation of tiny needlefelted birds, and I've been working feverishly on launching The LittleBirds Project for a few months.  I'm so happy to say we're finally there!

Check out our Etsy Store: The LittleBirds Project (we donate 10% of every LittleBird purchased to The National Audubon Society)

Follow us on Twitter: @The_LittleBirds  (we tweet about project events / milestones AND bird-related news, issues, etc.)

We were also accepted to Pittsburgh's First Mini Maker Faire, hosted at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh on 10/23 - what a great day!  Pics of them in action just outside the Make Shop here, here and here.

For a little backstory... this project began life as a bit of a prank.  Several months ago, my husband had a *most resplendent* beard.  Sort of biker-esque.  I had been needlefelting for a little while, and I decided to make a tiny bird for his beard.  You know, a "beard bird"...

Well, it turned out so gosh-darn cute that I decided to make more.  And more, and more.  I started modeling them after actual North American Birds, using my National Audubon Society North American Birdfeeder Guide.

Once I had a whole flock, I needed someplace to put them!  Wanting them to "fly free", I built a potted shrub for them of willow branches and moss.

Not wanting the project to just find a place on a random shelf, I submitted them as part of HackPittsburgh's booth submission to Maker Faire Detroit 2011.  The LittleBirds Project was accepted and underway!  See pix of them in action (and other HackPittsburgh projects) at Maker Faire Detroit here.

Their second outing was solo,  at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, for Mini Maker Faire, as mentioned above.  Look for us at future Maker Faire events!

I'll post up soon how I create these little guys, and keep track of the HackPittsburgh calendar if you're in the surrounding area, as I occasionally teach needlefelting classes there.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Interactive Rug Loom

It's actually *not* closet cleaning season right now... but I have relevant news to share for this project done some time ago, so please allow me to introduce you to The Interactive Rug Loom!

The Interactive Rug Loom was recently featured just outside the Make Shop at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh during Pittsburgh's First Mini Maker Faire on Sunday October 23!  Check out a photo of the loom in action at the Faire here, and browse some of the other Faire action shots here, here and here.  A great time was had by all!

I must add to this post with a note that this is *not* originally my idea.  I saw one of these giant looms in action at Maker Faire Detroit in 2010, brought by the fabulous makers at GreenSheep!  They're true artists and pros at repurposing natural fibers!

I came home after Maker Faire Detroit, and proceeded to daydream for a while about having a giant loom of my very own.  A few months later and I was well underway, thanks to a little help and tool resources at HackPittsburgh!

Here's how I made mine, if you'd like to make one of your own!  This can, of course, be scaled down - a 6' x 4' loom isn't exactly the easiest thing to find a home for - but those measurements are on you :)

Here's what you need:
* Enough 1x3 board to cut two 6' lengths and two 4' lengths
* 4 "L" brackets and installation screws
* 224 #8x 2" construction screws, the kind with the top 1/2" smooth
* Drill
* Measuring tool (ruler, yardstick, etc.)
* Table saw or mitre box and handsaw

Here's what to do:
* Step 1: Cut your boards to the appropriate lengths.  In my case, I cut them down to two 6' and two 4' boards.
* Step 2: Cut your board ends at 45 degree angles using your table saw or mitre box and handsaw.  Remember that the two ends will be at opposite angles to create a frame.
* Step 3: Match up your corners, and attach your "L" brackets on the back of the corners to create the frame.
* Step 4: Measure and mark your screw placements.  I placed my screws 1" apart.
* Step 5: Drill pilot holes where you've marked.
* Step 6: Insert all screws in pilot holes and screw into place.

*** NOTE: These steps are outlined exactly as I put them together.  Since this was my first loom, and I didn't have any instructions (only a mental image), it may be easier for you to drill and place your screws before putting the frame together with "L" brackets.  Your choice.  
The finished loom!

Now, to weave on the loom.  Since this loom isn't exactly "small", you need a lot of material to fill it up.  My favorite materials to use are wool sweaters and t-shirts.  Simply cut your sweaters or t-shirts from the bottom up, horizontally, front and back at the same time, to create loops.  I usually stop at the arms and use the remains for other projects. 

Sweaters are a little trickier, but in general, if you purchase men's XL t-shirts, one loop stretched will cross the loom horizontally, and two loops together will cross the loom vertically.  I cut my strips (both sweater and t-shirt) in approximately 1" width.

The first rug created on this loom was 100% wool sweaters from Goodwill.  I will warn you - this loom requires an amazing amount of material to properly fill it.  By my estimate, the first sweater rug needed 45 sweaters to complete it.  If you have sweaters you're looking to get rid of, you're all set - but if you're shopping at Goodwill, please expect to pay ~$300 to finish your rug.  (Don't get me wrong, the finished product is really beautiful!)

T-shirts are a little easier on the wallet, and more readily available year-round.  It takes about 35 t-shirts to finish off a rug on this loom.  At about $2 / t-shirt, that's a much more wallet-friendly ~$70.  It will look great, of course, but not as luxurious as the wool version.

To weave, I find it's easiest to install the vertical strips first.  Simply loop one end over the top screw, pull down, and pull the bottom of the loop over the corresponding screw at the bottom of the frame.

Once all vertical loops are installed, it's time to weave!  Start by placing one end of your loop over the first screw.  Go over the first vertical strip, under the second, over the third, under the fourth, and so on!  Continue all the way to the right, looping the end onto the corresponding screw on the opposite side from where you started.  To start the next line, do exactly opposite of what you did on the first - under, over, under, over, etc. to the end.  Continue alternating all lines in same fashion.

Once your weaving is complete, it's time to remove your rug!  Starting on the left corner and moving down the left side, pull off the first loop.  Place that loop on the second screw down.  Pull the loop originally on the second screw through the first loop that you just placed in front of it.  Holding onto the second loop, pull both loops off of the screw.  Now, take that second loop (in your hand) and put it onto the third screw down.  Pull the loop already on that screw through the loop you just placed on the screw.  Holding onto that third loop, pull both loops off of the screw. 

Continue pulling loops off the loom in same fashion, all the way around, saving the top for last (so it has a place to hang).  When you get to the very last loop, pull tight, cut open, and weave into rug and tie off so it's secure.

You're done!  Enjoy your new rug!

If you're in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, have some free time and materials, and would like to make a rug of your own, please stop by HackPittsburgh.  The Interactive Rug Loom is installed there, and looking to help people make beautiful rugs!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Reverse Applique Skirt

Hey kids!  It's time to dig that boring, sad, plain skirt out of the back of your closet, and make it into something fabulous for fall!

Today I've done some reverse applique on a skirt - but this very same technique can be used on any article of t-shirt type material.

Unfortunately I didn't think to take photos as I went along, so I'll try to give very detailed info.

What you'll need:
* Article of clothing you'd like to modify, made of cotton jersey or cotton interlock
* Fabric for design, ideally of the very same material as your garment, but different color for accent - I like to use scraps of old t-shirts
* Embroidery floss in an accent color
* Pins
* Scissors
* Large-eyed sewing needle
* Paper and markers or access to computer and printer for designing

Here's what to do:
Step 1: Make sure the fabrics you'll be using are clean.  Run them through the wash, especially if they're brand new, as they could shrink a bit.  You don't want shrinkage after you've completed the applique process, as it could stretch and warp.

Step 2: Decide on your design!  Simple works best - think more "silhouette" than elaborate designs.  For my skirt, I chose a simple leaf shape, in two different sizes.

Step 3: Draw your design with markers and paper, or find a suitable image online to print out.  Cut out your design, leaving a small edge as a place for the pins to land.  Cut out one or many - one strategically placed accent can have just as much impact as several in a group!

Step 4: Pin the paper pattern(s) you just cut out to your accent material.  Cut around the edges, unpin from the paper, and your pieces are ready to go!

Step 5: Turn your garment inside out.  Then, take your accent pieces and arrange them where you'd like them to be, and pin them in place.  Keep in mind that your garment is inside out right now!  If you can't imagine what it'll look like when turned right side out (I never can!) turn it right side out once you have them pinned, and you'll be able to see basically where everything is.

Step 6: Thread your large-eyed needle with your embroidery floss.  I used it whole for my project, as I wanted a distinct accented look, but you can always use fewer strands for a more delicate look.

Step 7: Sew away!  A simple running stitch / sashiko stitch works perfectly for this.  Sew with your garment inside out, so be sure your knots are on the "top" side (which will turn into the inside).  Stitch along the edge of your accent fabric pieces, but not so close to the edge that there is a danger of ripping out.  Make sure your running stitch goes all the way through the accent fabric *and* the garment you're attaching to!

Step 8: Once you have all of your accent pieces stitched on, turn your garment right side out, and take a look at your handiwork!  You should be able to see where all of your embroidery floss stitches are.

Step 9: Cut!  Cut along the edges of where your embroidery floss is, on the inside of the pattern.  Leave a little bit of space so it doesn't rip through if washed or stretched.  I find 1/4" is fine.

(Please ignore the computer workstations, crazy tables and random stuff in the photo... this creation was completed at HackPittsburgh, my home away from home!)

You're all set!  Wear your newly refashioned garment with pride, knowing it has a little bit more flair now!  I tend to hand wash anything I've appliqued after wearing - it's easier on the embroidery floss.

Please let me know if you tackle this project, and I'd love to see how you incorporate it into your outfits!  You can email me at mandy (dot) stultz (at) gmail.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Felted Bracelets

Those of you that know me in "real life" know that I'm obsessed with fiber, and how it can be modified depending on manipulation type.

Today's post will introduce you to the wild world of wet felting - and in doing so we'll transform something old into something new!  We'll take an ordinary bracelet and some wool fiber, and create a brand new fashion accessory for your latest outfit.

Here's what you'll need:
* Old bangle bracelet - the one I used here was a thin stamped metal one from the 80s
* Wool roving in the color of your choice - you'll need a length a bit longer than your bracelet size is around
* Tiny bit of liquid dish soap - I like Seventh Generation since it's a little easier on the wool
* Hot water - from the tap is fine if your tap gets really hot
* Small dish - tupperware, bowl, whatever you have that will hold some water

Here's what to do:
Step 1: Measure your wool roving out to be slightly longer than your bracelet is around.  You may have to go a little bit longer depending on the width of the bracelet you've chosen to cover.  Thick bangles will need more wool to cover them completely than thin ones.

Step 2: Begin to twist your roving around the bangle.  Go the entire way around so the bangle is completely encased in wool.

Step 3: When your bangle is completely covered by the wool twist, overlap the edges slightly to make sure you're not left with a seam.  The amount of roving on the two ends that are overlapping should naturally be slightly less than in the middle of your roving, so you're not left with more wool on once side than the other.  If it's not thinner on your ends for overlapping, pull the wool and possibly remove some so it' more even.

Step 4: Place your bangle, wrapped in the wool roving, into your bowl / tupperware / dish / etc.  Sprinkle with a little bit of liquid dish soap.

Step 5: Add a little bit of hot water to your container, and get the wool wet!

Step 6: Begin working the wool, rubbing the soap into the wool with your fingertips.  Start with a "pinching" motion, working around the bangle on all sides, and keeping the wool even and intact.  Keep adding hot water and rubbing with your fingertips.  You'll feel the wool start to tighten around the bangle!

Step 7: Work the wool until it's nice and tight on the bangle.  Once the wool feels like you want it to, rinse in hot running water until it runs clear.  Make sure all the soap is out!

Step 8: Rinse out your container, add a little hot water and a splash of white vinegar.  Swish your new bracelet in the vinegar mixture, and then rinse again (really well) in hot running water.  The vinegar will neutralize any remaining soap so it won't break down your wool.

You're done!  Hang your bangle to dry so it can dry evenly on all sides, and wear with pride!

I have also included step-by-step photo instructions in my Flickr Set for this project here: Wet Felting Flickr Set

If you follow my tutorial, I'd love to see what you create!  Send me a note to mandy (dot) stultz (at) gmail.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Recycled Sweater Flower Brooch

Recycled sweaters are one of my favorite "fibers" to work with, and I'm always looking for new and creative uses for them, especially wool.  Wool is so versatile - so why throw a sweater away because it doesn't fit, or shrunk in the wash, or got a moth hole in storage?  Make something else with it!

For this recycled sweater flower brooch, I chose leftover sweater scraps in 4 different colors - grey, red, yellow and green.  Thinner, already felted sweaters work the best for this project, if you'd like a more "stacked" petals look.  A thicker sweater will require fewer petal stacks for the same thickness.

Choosing grey and red for the petals, I cut one red petal set and one grey, tracing around the edge of a plastic party cup for the initial basic size, then cutting into it to create the petals.  I left the center intact.  I followed the same system for the following layers, downsizing the petal sets slightly by tracing around a smaller cup, and then a medicine lid.

For the leaf, I cut a simple teardrop shape out of the green sweater.

The flower center is three tiny strips cut from the yellow sweater, then folded in half.

Once all the wool was cut, I stacked everything so it was pleasing to the eye, and stitched everything together straight up the middle from the back.  I stitched on a safety pin to the back, and it was ready to wear!

I've gotten lots of compliments on mine - feel free to give it a go and sport your own!