Posted in quilting, recycling, sewing

Crazy Out-of-Control Scrap Heap

This past summer has been a wonderful time of learning for the fiber artist in me. I have viewed dozens of tutorials, focused primarily on quilting. “Don’t ever throw away your scraps,” is advice that I heard from an art quilter, early in my training. Well, I took her advice, and look where it has got me. I desperately need a system for managing these fabric pieces!

By nature I am not a messy person. I like to make my bed and wash the dishes. When I began my journey with fiber, I organized a space which I believed possessed ample work room and plenty of storage for tools and materials. It was great, as long as I stuck to yarn crafts. But once I ventured into fabric work, things went wonky. (FYI “wonky” is a technical term used by quilters.)

I share my closet with the family’s camping equipment. It also houses the ironing board, a small set of drawers and shelves for my yarn stash. The stash is relatively modest, but it now fills the shelves. My bookcases contain paint, books, tools, my fabric stash and sewing machine. But the scraps have proven recalcitrant. If left tossed in a basket, they are impossible to work with.

So this is my plea: Who of you has solved the Scraps Dilemma, and will you share your solution with me, a frustrated fiber artist?

Posted in quilting, recycling

Addressing UFO Sewn Objects

Six months into my adventures with Daily Fiber Fun, I find myself surrounded by a bunch of Unfinished Objects. Here they sit, silently reproaching me for leaving them in a partial state of completion: unfinished, unused, unloved.

Resolved to address the cries, I have selected this guy to work up into an FO.

I made this 21 inch square block of hexagons during my week of learning to piece angular shapes. The teacher behind my success is Joanna Figueroa and her class on Bluprint, “Smarter Strip Quilting.” Since I had a bunch of fabric left, I turned to Joanna’s class again for another lesson. This time, I used the same type of piece – a 60 degree triangle, but cut in a way that makes diamonds.

I reasoned that this shape would work nicely with the hexagons as the back side of a large sofa cushion (!) After sewing and cutting many 1/2 diamonds, I came up with an arrangement that ignores the diamond shape (!) I’m going with chevrons instead.

Five columns of diamond shapes, roughly 21″ wide.

Skills that I learned in class the first time helped me speed through any little technical difficulties encountered while making this block.

Nesting the seam allowances together makes it a breeze to match points.

That said, it still took me the better part of Sunday and Monday to make.

I added white triangles to balance and fill the chevron ends.

The next step is quilting. There was so much going on in the chevron block, I decided not to risk messing it up with bad machine quilting. But I did choose to quilt the hexes, using parallel and dot to dot machine quilting technique.

I Love the red cotton thread.

Now to construct the pillow: I recycled a zipper from a disassembled cushion and a king-sized feather pillow which had got slightly mashed over the years. After I squared up the two blocks, the zipper was inserted into a side seam and the four sides sewn together. Using 1/2 inch seams and zig-zagging the seam allowances make it sturdier. Here is the completed pillow, resting peacefully on my sofa:

And here it is showing the chevron side:

Which side do you like better?

A big shout-out to Joanna Figueroa. You can find her class here:

Posted in recycling, sewing, weaving

Fiber Fun at the Lake House

While I and my family were soaking up the sun and splashing in the water at the Lake House, my daughter proposed that we work on a fiber project together. The family lake house, which was built in the 1950s, contains random pieces of furniture and what nots from several decades. The object of attention is a floor lamp with a silk shade that had disintegrated completely. Used in its present condition, the unshaded light got into everyone’s eyes. She thought we could solve this problem.

Of course, the Lake House Challenge is to make it work with limited materials and tools. After a bit of brainstorming, during which we rejected piecing panels together and shirring or gathering fabric, we came up with a weaving concept. We had on hand a few bed sheets and a ball of cotton blend yarn.

Yarn is left over from the Luna Moth baby dress project.

Fortunately, Daughter had brought her sewing machine.

I took on the task of warping the yarn over the lamp shade frame and she hemmed and turned the strips of white sheet. They were about 2 inches wide. We thought we would need six rounds. Here is the shade with the warp in place and the first round of weft weaving.

It took a few days because it was possible to work only while the baby was sleeping. She sewed together the two ends of each strip and trimmed up the yarn.


We agreed that it was pleasing to the eye in a bohemian kind of way.

Posted in knitting, recycling

A Little Remake

In March my daughter gave me three garments that were in need of a remake. I have already dealt with the silk blouse and the brown cardigan. The third was a blue wool baby sweater which got machine washed in hot water by mistake. The consequence was that it thoroughly felted and shrank down to the size of a doll’s coat.

I had been mulling over what I can make from a felted sweater. No ideas came forth. Then I shifted my thinking and considered what could be done with the felt itself? Remembering a conversation that I had with my grandson, about the poor performance of hand-knitted mittens in wet snow, I hit upon the idea of felt mittens. Melting snow will rarely, if ever, penetrate a heavy felt garment. Could I make mittens for the baby with this felt?

To start with, I cut off the sleeves. They looked vaguely mitten-like.

Using a crewel needle and sock yarn, I blanket-stitched around the lower edges of the sleeves. Then I picked up and knit into the blanket stitches and joined for knitting in the round. I knitted the cuff downward in rounds. After a few rounds, I started 2×2 ribbing for about an inch. Then I decreased, knitting another five rounds and bound off loosely.

Cuff finished. Beginning thumb for right hand mitten.

The process for the thumb was similar, except I had to slice a one-inch gash in the heavy felt. About eight rounds of knitting later, I decreased with k2tog, pulled the yarn through the remaining loops and fastened off.

Here comes the fun part. I cut down the top edge, making the total length of the mitten 5 inches. The upper edge was closed with running stitch and then sewn with blanket stitch all around. Using pink and red yarn, I embroidered a heart on the back of the mitten.

The letter R is for Right Hand Mitten!

Right hand mitten is done. I do hope that this will be a workable mitten. Now to make the left hand mitten to match.

Rainbow Beanie Baby, holding the mitten for me while I make the second one.
Right-Hand Mitten’s buddy has arrived.
Posted in recycling, sewing

Wabi-Sabi 2

I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon sewing the little wabi-sabi blouse. Getting to know the automatic button stitch on my Bernina was a bit of an eye-opener. It took four practice button holes before I was ready to attempt it on the garment. So the buttonhole is fine now, but I am having some fit issues.

Finally I called my daughter, to discuss the blouse and check her measurements. She was enthusiastic about my progress so far. Then she casually mentioned that the blouse was constructed with the buttons on the BACK. What?

After the call, I put on the blouse, switching it around so buttons were in the back. Sure enough it seemed to drift into place over my body.

A new point of view.

I will need to adjust the button locations (most of them are not centered over the button holes) and take in the band to match daughter’s measurement. Otherwise, this little turnabout is done!

Posted in recycling, sewing

Wabi Sabi

A Japanese philosophy that has been around since the 15th century, wabi-sabi is all about finding beauty in imperfection. It means keeping your old stuff, especially if you really love it. A few high quality garments are more valuable than a bunch of new, poorly constructed items of inferior fabric. Sometimes a few minor repairs will keep your treasured frock in circulation. It’s really okay if the repairs are visible.

When I was explaining this concept to my daughter a few months ago, she said that she had just the thing for a wabi-sabi treatment. What she brought me was a silk blouse, in a muted print of neutrals that had become worn and torn. She said that she wore it often, but no longer, due to rips and thin places in the silk. Could I do something with it?

I wish I had taken a photo of the blouse as she handed it to me, but alas, I did not. Here is what the garment looked like after I had cut out the damaged sections.

Three months have passed since I gained possession. This morning, I decided it was time. Last year I had purchased a largish silk blouse in similar colors at a thrift store for a few dollars. This might be a good source of fabric for the wabi-sabi blouse.

My plan is to cut this blouse lengthwise along the stripes, and use the pieces to rebuild the yoke of daughter’s blouse. Here is a sample of the fabric.

And here is a sketch of my intended alterations.

Without a pattern, I set about cutting and sewing, cutting and sewing. First I made some strips from the thrift store blouse and used them to create a band at the underarm area. This was stabilized with ultra-light weight fusible interfacing. Next I cut two triangles from the front of daughter’s blouse and trimmed the edges with black silk. These pieces were then sewn to the band. A few alterations to the back also included black silk edging.

It’s the end of the day, and here is a photograph of the wabi-sabi blouse.

Progress is good. If all goes well tomorrow, I will finish the structure, make a buttonhole, sew the buttons back on, and maybe add some decorative elements.

Posted in recycling, weaving

Button Loom

When thinking about all things fiber, I occasionally ponder the role of objects associated with fiber. Buttons come to mind very quickly. Who doesn’t have a handful (or jarful) of these tiny essentials? While they are often mundane adjuncts to your cardigans, coats and jeans, is it possible for buttons to step out of the ordinary? Let’s make something that gives them a stellar role. I am designing and building a button loom. This loom won’t handle the work of any serious weaver. But it can hold the warp threads for a modest tapestry. If positioned artistically, the buttons can become a key design element of the finished object.

Among my collection, I have two dozen metal shank buttons that were saved from various worn-out blazers and jackets.

The pretty silver ones came from my mom’s stash of vintage buttons.

If I sew them very close together on sturdy upholstery fabric, and then wrap the fabric around a wooden frame, it could start to become a loom.

The button-covered fabric rectangles were wrapped around the short sides of the black frame and stapled in place. I used the glue to prevent fraying.

Here is my finished frame with warp threads in place. I have used cotton and acrylic yarns for the warp, pulling and tying them together at the lower edge of frame.

Next time I will weave the tapestry.

Posted in collage, recycling

Paper Beads

Paper week continues with an exploration on turning paper into beads. I like the idea of taking a 2-D substance and making it into a 3-D object. Paper bead making started in Victorian times, after paper had become inexpensive and plentiful. There were so many well-bred ladies needing a large variety of well-bred activities to keep those hands busy. In the 1920s and 1930s the craft had a resurgence. At that time it became popular to use the beads in jewelry-making. I suspect it was the frugality of the craft in a time of scarcity that made it appealing during the Depression. Now in the 21st century, the technology and process of paper bead making has changed very little. All you need to get started is any kind of paper, scissors, all-purpose glue and a double-pointed knitting needle. Additional useful items include a cutting board, grid ruler and some masking or painter’s tape to wrap around the needle.
(Check, check, check and check!)

The process seems simple enough – cut wedges of paper, roll around the knitting needle, glue down edge and repeat until you have enough beads. But just in case I’m missing something, I spend an hour viewing U-Tube videos. Would you have guessed that there are crafters making and actually selling these beads? Those folks use some tools and materials such as PC Hardener that I will not purchase for my little experiment. But I did buy a jar of Mod Podge. It is coated on the beads to give them more structure. I guess this acquisition places me firmly in the category of Crafter with a capital C. Here is my first round of beads:

The yellow beads are rolled-up magazines. The red beads are basic copy paper colored with a red Sharpie. The black and cream-color beads are made with copy paper and then a strip of narrower magazine paper. This is the style I like the best. It has a nice barrel shape and a slight shine from the black magazine paper. I made more beads of this style in prettier colors:

The blue paper is a print-out of one of my color wash fabrics. The magazine strips are from a photograph of blooming heather. I really like the color combination. I ended up making eighteen blue-purple beads. Here they are strung up on a silver chain with one of my turquoise pendants.

Some of the professional bead makers add silver spacers between each bead. It gives a much more polished appearance. I might be tempted to make more beads. But I won’t be making enough to use up ALL the Mod Podge.

Posted in recycling, weaving

Boho Basket

I’m staring at this really ugly wire basket which has been pressed into use in my studio. You may know the kind – available through Container Store. While it is commodious, it isn’t pretty.

Poking around in my linen closet, I identified several cotton woven placemats that are refugees from the eighties. We really liked these colors back then – peach, mint green, mauve and pale blue. They haven’t seen the light of day since I moved them sixteen years ago to our present home.


I decided that the wire which ran the length of the basket would be the warp, and the cut-up placemats will be the weft. The opening between wires are 1 and 1/4 inch.

I cut up the placemats parallel to the warp, and across the weft. It is my hope that the full-length warp threads will keep the strips from fraying. I sewed two strips together so that they stretch down both sides and across the bottom of the basket. Here is the color sequence that I settled on:

After a bit of sewing and weaving, my new Boho-style basket is finished. Here it is, put into service holding yarn:

I like this . And it feels good to re-cycle stuff that’s just taking up space in a closet. However, I must admit to you, dear reader, that this project produced a bunch of lint!

Posted in crochet, recycling

Consider the Plastic Bag

It is my stated goal to explore the possibilities of everything fiber, or even fiber-ish. Plastic bags seem to accumulate at an alarming rate in my home. This photo shows the orange plastic bag that my daily paper comes in, if the weather is even the least bit damp. Recycling these wrappers is not an option in my community. Of course the re-use option is the most likely destination for this item. I don’t have a dog, so that re-use is not going to happen. I re-use them occasionally to cover my paint rollers temporarily, if I am unable to finish the paint job in one day. But considering that the wrappers are long and narrow, I wondered if they could be woven, crocheted or knit?

The answer is yes to all three. I started out by knitting and, indeed, came up with a respectable looking little orange swatch. But I couldn’t think of any use for it. I moved on to crochet, using my no. 15 hook.

  1. I connected the wrappers with clear tape. I tried sewing them end to end, but the plastic clung to my needle every time I pushed it through wrapper.
  2. Here is my chain, slip-stitched together.
  3. Here is the finished object, viewed from the bottom. My husband says it looks like a bunch of Cheetos.

The object ended up as a sort of Koozie, or in this case, a cover for a plant pot. I inserted a glass jar, added a cotton bow and filled with herbs. One could just as easily insert a cold beer which would likely stay cold until consumed.

My conclusion is that one can crochet a bunch of plastic together, but it isn’t fun and it isn’t pretty. The result is a bit of a “sow’s ear” trying to be a “silk purse.”