DIY: Spring Chicken Plushies

DIY: Spring Chicken Plushie With spring beginning to bloom, my friends’ chickens are starting to lay more eggs. I love visiting them and watching the chickens peck and strut their way around the yard. Feeling a little ‘chicken’ inspired and wanting to work on a new sewing project, I decided to make up a few Spring Chicken Plushies to give as gifts to my friends who have and love their chickens! (I also secretly hope they will trade me a cute plushie for a fresh egg!)

chicken-plushies-22b

This is a fairly straightforward tutorial that can be done using a sewing machine or sewn completely by hand. I love coming up with ways to use up fabric scraps and this project is perfect for that since the all the pieces are quite small.

Materials:

  • Cotton fabric (quilter’s fabric works great)
  • Red and yellow felt (use scraps if you have them on hand)
  • Sewing machine (optional)
  • Needle and thread
  • Pins
  • Sewing Scissors
  • Craft scissors
  • Embroidery floss
  • Fiberfill
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Dried lemon balm (optional)
  • Free pattern (click to download)

Download the free pattern, then print and cut out the pieces using craft scissors. Press your fabric and cut out the pattern pieces using fabric scissors. Remember not to mix up your scissors! You don’t want to dull the blade of your fabric only scissors by using them to cut paper.

Use a cotton fabric of your choice to cut out pattern pieces A + B. Then choose a coordinating cotton fabric to cut out pattern piece C. Use red felt to cut out pattern piece D and yellow felt to cut out E (as shown below).

chicken-plushies-1

Once you have your pieces cut, lay the first pattern piece A (with right side facing up) onto your work surface. Place the felt pieces D + E on top as shown below. Then place pattern piece B (right side facing down) as shown and secure with a pin.

chicken-plushies-2chicken-plushies-3

Sew along the edge to secure the felt pieces and pattern piece B into place.

chicken-plushies-4

Next place the second pattern piece A directly on top (right side facing down). Pin in place and then flip over.
chicken-plushies-5

Flip up the bottom (sewn side) of piece B and pin the un-sewn side into place as shown in the photo below.

chicken-plushies-6

Sew all the way around the outside leaving about a ½” opening near the top or neck of the bird. Make small cuts in the fabric (making sure not to cut through your stitches) as shown below.

DIY: Spring Chicken Plushies

Then cut a few notches where indicated on the pattern (this will prevent the fabric from puckering once we turn the fabric right side out).

chicken-plushies-8

Now you’re ready to turn the fabric right side out and stuff with fiberfill. Use the end of a pencil to turn out completely and stuff.

OPTIONAL: Add with a few tablespoons of dried lemon balm then stuff the rest of the way with fiberfill for a scented sachet option.

chicken-plushies-9

Use a needle and thread to whip stitch the opening closed. Set the bird body aside.

Now it’s time to sew the wings. Place two pattern piece C’s together (right sides face in). Sew around leaving a small opening. Turn right side out and whip stitch the opening closed. Repeat for the second wing.

chicken-plushies-10

Thread your needle with a matching thread and stitch the wings onto the body of the bird as shown in the photo below.chicken-plushies-11

Cut a length of embroidery floss. Divide the strands into 3 plys and thread onto a needle. Poke your needle behind a wing (to hide your knot) and come up near the top where you want to start your first eye. Use a straight stitch to add a U shape eye on one side of the bird. Then poke your needle through to the other side and stitch the second eye. Hide the end of your thread by poking your needle back through the bird and coming out farther down near a seam. Cut off excess thread with scissors.

chicken-plushies-12

And you’re done! Make a few to decorate your home this spring or gift them to your chicken-loving friends and family this Easter!

chicken-plushies-24bchicken-plushies-21b

Click Here for a tutorial on how to make the Felt Cacti featured in the photos above!

 

 

The March DIY Craft Challenge Theme Is BIRDS!

First I want to say thank you again to everyone who participated in last month’s DIY Craft Challenge! If you missed our roundup of submissions yesterday, be sure to check it out. We are truly blown away by the creative projects that everyone made and shared with us!

Put A Bird On It

With spring just around the corner we are drawing inspiration from our winged friends, the birds! There are endless ways to create something with this theme whether it be the eggs you dye this Easter, the bird feeder you make for your backyard, or the feathers you collect on your afternoon walk. We hope you’ll find some feathery inspiration this month and use it as an opportunity to revisit a project you had forgotten about, experiment with a new technique or skill, or simply treat yourself to an afternoon of making something you enjoy.

I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think. – Rumi

1603_diychallenge_logo_wideb
March DIY Craft Challenge by Adventures In Making

Inspiration Sources:

1. Curly Paper Bird by Paper Craft Square
2. Wise Owl Pincushions by Quilt Magazine
3. Washi Tape Bird On A Branch by SuWolf
4. Birdseed Heart by Intimate Weddings
5. Paper Mache Birds by Ann Wood
6. Watercolor Feather by Lucy Akins
7. Peep Hot Chocolate by Needles And A Pen
8. Sugar Cookie Easter Egg Nests by Lovely Little Kitchen
9. Bird Sketches by Drawing The Motmot
10. Lego Bird Feeder by Gary Mueller
11. Painted Feathers by Free People Blog
12. Bird Garland by Art Bar Blog
13. Bird Costume by Probably Actually
14. Ombre Dyed Easter Eggs by The Crafted Life

HOW TO ENTER

Click here for details on how to enter your project to the DIY Challenge! Don’t forget to share your projects with everyone on Instagram using #diycraftchallenge.

The challenge officially begins today, March 1st and ends on March 29th, 2016. We will post a roundup of everyone’s projects on March 31st. Have fun and happy crafting!

Need more inspiration?
Take a look out our Pinterest board for more stitch inspired project ideas.

DIY: February (Peace Sign) Badge Kit

February Badge Kit Tutorial #diycraftchallenge

We are so excited to be back and have our DIY Craft Challenge up and running again. This year we are changing things up and have created a little DIY Badge Kit available for purchase in our Etsy shop! Each month we’ll have a different DIY kit to go along with our DIY Craft Challenge theme. Since this month’s theme is Stitches & Threads, I’ve created a fun embroidery inspired badge using basic embroidery stitches. We invite you to visit our new Etsy shop to purchase a kit OR if you already have the supplies on hand, feel free to use this tutorial to make your own!

The monthly badge kit is designed to be a mini (warmup) project to get your creative juices flowing for the DIY Craft Challenge. We’d love to see your finished badges so be sure to snap a photo and use #diycraftchallenge on Instagram! And don’t forget to submit a ‘Stitches & Threads’ inspired project of your own this month. For more details on how to submit, CLICK HERE.

february-badge-1

February Badge Kit Includes:

• Two 2″ felt circles
• Embroidery floss
• Embroidery needle
• One 1.5″ paper circle (for template guide)
• Pinback

Additional tools needed:

• Sewing scissors
• Felt tip pen

CLICK HERE to purchase a kit!

Step One: Create A Template

february-badge-2

First you want to sketch a peace sign onto one of the felt circles to be your guide for your embroidery stitches. Use the paper circle provided to draw a circle. Then sketch a vertical line down the middle. Complete the peace sign by sketching two more lines starting at the middle of the vertical line and moving diagonally to form two pie shapes (see photo below).

february-badge-3

Step Two: Stitch the Design

I’ve chosen four different embroidery stitches for this project. Feel free to change it up and use different stitches than the ones I’ve chosen!

Reference THIS POST full instructions on how to:
– Thread your needle & tie a knot
– Tie off your thread (once you’ve finished your stitches)
– Chain Stitch
– Fern Stitch

First, stitch the outline circle using a chain stitch.
february-badge-4

Next stitch the inside lines to complete the peace sign using a Fern Stitch.
february-badge-5

Lazy Daisy Stitch: Embellish your peace sign with one or two Lazy Daisy flowers. Bring the threaded needle to the front at A. Insert the needle back into the fabric at A and then just poke the needle back up to the front at B. Loop the thread under the needle point then pull the thread through to create a loop (with your thread coming up inside the loop). Then anchor the top of the loop to the felt with a small stitch, from B (inside the loop) to C (outside the loop). Repeat this lazy daisy stitch for each petal (always starting at the center) to create a flower.

Lazy Daisy Stitch #tutorial #embroidery

Note: You’ll notice the Lazy Daisy stitch is quite similar to the Chain Stitch.

Video Link: Lazy Daisy Stitch

Step Three: Finishing Your Badge

Finish your badge by stitching the front and back felt circles together using a Blanket Stitch. Blanket Stitch is a decorative stitch primarily used for edging. Start by holding the two felt circles together (right sides facing out). Insert the threaded needle through just the top layer (front) only and pull the thread through (this way your knot will be hidden between the two circles). Next, starting at the same place as your first stitch, insert your needle into the back circle, pulling your needle through both layers. Pull your thread through leaving a small loop. Insert the needle back through the loop and pull tight to create your first stitch. Begin your next stitch approx. 1/8″ away from the first. Bring your needle through both layers of felt. Pull the thread through, leaving a small loop. Insert your needle through the loop and pull tight. Repeat this process until you’ve stitched all the way around the edge of the circle. Insert the needle back through the loop of your first stitch to connect the circle.

Blanket Stitch Tutorial #embroidery

Video Link: Blanket Stitch

Tying Off

When tying off, you want the end the thread to be hidden in between the two layers of felt. To achieve this, you can tie a knot (optional) and then insert the needle in between the two felt layers coming out at a different spot. Pull the thread through and trim thread close to the felt with scissors. The end of your thread should now be hidden in between the felt layers.

Optional: Add a pinback

For easy pinning you can add a pinback to your badge. Simply stitch it into place making sure to insert your needle through the back layer of felt only.

february-badge-9

And that’s it! Show off your Peace Sign badge by pinning it to your bag/purse or stitching it onto your favorite denim vest or jacket!

february-badge-8

CLICK HERE to purchase a February Badge Kit from our Etsy shop!


February-badge-kit-1

SHARE YOUR PROJECT ON INSTAGRAM USING #DIYCRAFTCHALLENGE

 

DIY: Heart Embroidery Sampler (For Beginners)

DIY: Heart Embroidery Sampler (for beginners)

Embroidery is one of my favorite craft mediums. It’s the perfect ‘lap’ project to work on while watching a movie and I love that I can pick up my project, work on a few stitches and just as easily put it down again. I first learned embroidery from my grandmother, who taught me to sew when I was a kid. Since then I have accumulated a big collection of vintage embroidery kits, endless boxes of floss, and have been known to transform my own art into embroidered masterpieces.

In case you haven’t heard, the DIY Craft Challenge is back! This month’s theme is Stitches & Threads, which pairs perfectly with embroidery. I’ve been longing to create a beginner embroidery tutorial for quite some time now, so this month is the perfect opportunity! And since it’s February, I made sure to design a project that can also become a Valentine for someone special in your life!

What is an embroidery sampler?

An embroidery sampler is created as a demonstration or test of skill in needlework. It’s the perfect way to practice different kinds of stitches and make something pretty at the same time.

There are hundreds of different types of embroidery stitches in existence. For this beginner project, I’ve chosen just seven: three basic outline stitches (Running Stitch, Back Stitch and Chain Stitch) and four decorative stitches (Threaded Running Stitch, Cross Stitch, Star Stitch and Fern Stitch). To make these stitches as easy to learn as possible I’ve included both photos with written instructions and a video link for each stitch.

7 Embroidery Stitches For Beginners

MATERIALS:

  • 8-inch diameter embroidery hoop:
    The Heart Sampler pattern was created for an 8” hoop but if you would like to make a different size sampler, you can shrink or enlarge the pattern provided to fit your hoop. I’d recommend not going smaller that 6” for this pattern.
  • Hand-sewing/embroidery needle:
    You’ll want to use a medium sized needle with a sharp point and a long opening, or eye, at one end, for easy threading.
  • Embroidery floss (7 different colors):
    Embroidery floss comes in a small bundle or skein and there are tons of colors available (check your local craft store). A length of floss is made up of six smaller strands or plies that are twisted together. You can use all of them or divide them up and use two, three or four plies for a thinner line. For this project, we’ll be using all 6 plies on all our stitches EXCEPT the star stitch, where we will use only three plies.
  • 12”x12” square of fabric (quilter’s cotton or linen works best):
    The looser the weave of your fabric, the more forgiving it can be when taking out stitches and starting over. A finer weave fabric is more likely to show holes from your needle.
  • Sewing scissors:
    Sewing scissors are sharp and used only for cutting thread and fabric. Avoid using your sewing scissors to cut paper or anything else beside fabric so that you don’t dull the blades.
  • Iron & ironing board
  • Fine-lead pencil (or nonpermanent fabric marking pen):
  • Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad (or light table or sunny window)
  • Washi tape (or masking tape or pins)
  • Paper cutter (or scissors & ruler)
  • Heart Sampler Pattern

Other Useful Tools:

  • A needle threader (helpful when you find yourself struggling to thread your needle!)
  • Thimble (can prevent you from stabbing yourself in the finger with your needle. Ouch!)

DIY: Embroidery Sampler (For Beginners)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Step One: Prep the Pattern & Fabric

Download the Heart Sampler Pattern HERE and print out onto white copy paper. Then cut 1.25” from both the top and bottom of the page to create a square piece of paper with the pattern at the center.

Cut your fabric to size. I cut mine to be 12”x12” square leaving me plenty of extra. You could also get away with a 10”x10” piece of fabric too. Press your fabric to rid of any wrinkles using a hot iron.

How to use the pattern:

Use the lines of the pattern as a guide for your stitches. You’ll notice that each line has an assigned number to indicate which stitch to use. In this tutorial I will demonstrate how to make each stitch. There are a few stitches that are used more than once (like the running stitch, back stitch and chain stitch). Feel free to fill in these stitches as you go along.

Step Two: Transfer the Pattern to Fabric Using the Light Method

The easiest way to transfer a design onto a light-color fabric is to trace it. Place the square paper pattern face down onto the center of the square fabric and secure with washi tape or pins. Flip over and use a light table or my favorite tool, the Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad, to transfer the pattern to the fabric using a fine lead pencil or nonpermanent fabric marking pen. You can also tape your fabric/design to a sunny window and use the natural light to trace.

embroidery-sampler-2
embroidery-sampler-3

Step Three: Prepare the Fabric & Floss

Place the fabric into your embroidery hoop making sure the design is centered. To make your fabric taut, spread it over the smaller inside hoop and fit the larger outside hoop over the top with your fabric in between. Tighten the little screw on the outer hoop and gently pull on the edges of the fabric until you have a taut surface to work with.

embroidery-sampler-5

Threading your needle:

Threading the needle can be a little tricky, especially when using all six plies of floss. It may help to slightly dampen your finger and twist the end of the thread into a point, or try squeezing the floss ends flat between your thumb and forefinger. Then slide the needle’s eye onto the floss (instead of pushing the floss through the eye). If all else fails, use a needle threader.

Once you’ve threaded your needle, knot the longer end of the floss by first wrapping it around your finger, then roll it off and tighten into a knot.

Video Link: How To Tie A Knot For Hand Sewing

Step Four: Stitching the Design

running-stitch

1. Running Stitch: To begin stitching the Heart Sampler, let’s start with the most basic embroidery stitch- the Running Stitch. Begin at the center dashed line of the heart pattern. Starting at the bottom, pull the threaded needle to the front of the fabric at A (see photo above). Then return to the back of the fabric at B. The distance from A to B can be as long or short as you want. For this project, I recommend making small, even stitches of equal length. End your last stitch so that your needle is to the back of the fabric and tie off.

Video Link: Running Stitch

Tying off:

On your last stitch, return the needle to the back of the fabric. To tie off, pass the needle under a previous stitch creating a loop. Bring the needle back through the floss loop, and tighten. I recommend pulling the thread gently when tying off to ensure that the knot ends up snuggly next to your fabric (and not half an inch away). Avoid yanking the floss.

Video link: How to tie off a stitch

Embroidery Tip!

Your thread will get twisted up as you make your stitches. To correct this problem, hold up the hoop and let the needle and floss dangle straight down so that the strand can untwist itself. Just make sure not to lose your needle!

back-stitch

2. Back Stitch: Move over to the next line on the pattern (from the middle running stitch). Starting at the bottom of the pattern, bring your needle through to the front of the fabric at A (see photo above). Then go backwards and return your needle to the back of your fabric at B. Next your going to move your needle forward, coming up at C. Repeat this process to create consecutive back stitches by once again working backwards, poking your needle through at the end of the previous stitch, then moving your needle forward. Be sure to make small, even stitches of equal length. Once you reach the end of the line (of the pattern), tie off.

Video Link: Back Stitch

cross-stitch

3. Cross Stitch: Next we are going to try our first decorative stitch! Starting at the bottom of your pattern, bring your needle through to the front of the fabric at A and then back down again at B (creating a diagonal straight stitch). Next make a second stitch from C to D. Make sure each cross (x) overlap is in the same direction. Once you finish your row and tie off, notice what the back or your stitches look like. The back of a Cross Stitch row should look like the image shown.

Video Link: Cross Stitch

threaded-running-stitch

4. Threaded Running Stitch: First make a line of small close Running Stitches. End the floss. Start a second floss strand (in a different color) at the same spot as the first line of running stitches, bringing your needle to the front of your fabric at A. Working on the front only, without stitching through the fabric, insert the needle under the first Running Stitch, then through the second Running Stitch. Continue weaving back and forth under the Running Stitches until you reach the end of the line. End floss and tie off.

Video Link: Threaded Running Stitch (Warning: This video is not in English, but her demonstration of the stitch is all you really need).

chain-stitch

5. Chain Stitch: Start again at the bottom of the pattern and move your way up. Bring the threaded needle to the front at A. Insert the needle back into the fabric at A and then just poke the needle back up to the front at B. Loop the thread under the needle point then pull the thread through to create your first chain. Begin the next stitch in the same way by inserting the needle back into the fabric at B (now under the loop), coming up at C (outside the loop). Bring the thread around and under the needle point and pull the thread through. On your last stitch, end the chain by inserting your needle into the end of the last chain (outside the loop). Pull the thread through to the back and tie off.

Video link: Chain Stitch

fern-stitch

6. Fern Stitch: Fern Stitch consists of three Straight Stitches of equal length radiating from the same central point A. Starting at the top of the pattern and moving your way down, bring the thread through at A and then make a Straight Stitch to B. Bring the thread back through again at point A and make another Straight Stitch to C. Bring the thread back through at point A (for the final time) and make a final straight stitch to D. Repeat this pattern by moving the needle down and coming up through the next center stitch to begin the next three radiating stitches. The center stitch follows the light of the pattern design.

Video Link: Fern Stitch (Note: This demonstration is done differently than described above. Either method works!)

star-stitch

7. Star Stitch: This is an Eight Point Star Stitch. Begin by first making a basic cross stitch. Then make another cross stitch diagonally on top of the first one to form a star.

Video Link: Star Stitch

embroidery-sampler-33

Step Five: Finishing for Display

embroidery-sampler-36

Once finished, turn your embroidery sampler to the back and take a look. My grandma always said that the back of your embroidery project should look just as neat and tidy as the front! But don’t worry. It’s OK is yours doesn’t look so tidy, since no one is meant to see the back of your project anyway (unless you show your grandma and she wants to check your stitches lol).

You can now prep your project for display. If you plan to make your heart sampler into a pillow, for example, you can remove it from the hoop and move on to your sewing machine. Or you can leave it as ‘Hoop Art’ by using the embroidery hoop as a frame for the project. To do this, make sure your Heart Sampler is centered in the hoop and the fabric is nice and taut. Then use sewing scissors to cut away the excess fabric.

embroidery-sampler-38

DIY: Photo Album Pop-up Ornaments


Okay. I’ll admit it. I have possibly been making too many ornaments.

The floor is covered in little bits of paper, the ribbons are everywhere, and cat is oh so happy. (Happy and thus in the background of many of my photos.) I can’t help it. I’ve given myself over to the ornament bug, and even though I’ve told myself that these are ‘just this year’s ornaments’, I’m not sure I’ll have the self control to throw them all away.

I need a crafter help line… or maybe I can just spread the decoration disease and have you all join me in the madness. (*evil laughter*)

My sister recently handed over a large bag of family photos, and after the proper period of mortification I decided that I needed to do something with them. The best part about being in charge of photo projects is that you can include only adorable pictures of yourself, and edit out the slightly more awkward times.

I pulled together a selection of photos of family that yelled “HAPPY HOLIDAYS, Y’ALL!” Scanned and shrank them, then pulled out a few basic tools to turn the faces I love into ornaments I’ll cherish.

IMG_3792_photoalbumornaments

SUPPLIES

  • Resized photos printed on medium-heavy weight paper
  • Extra colored paper or cardstock
  • Medium to large hole punches– any symmetrical shape will work, I used circles and ovals
  • Ribbon or string
  • Buttons, bells, or beads
  • Paper glue or adhesive

IMG_3802_photoalbumornaments
To begin I punched my favorite people out of my favorite photos, and the same number of circles out of cardstock. Then I chose between 4 and 6 of my favorites, the same number of solid circles, and folded each in half– top to bottom.

IMG_3806_photoalbumornaments
I chose a button than matched my cardstock, then cut about 16 inches of string and fed it through the button.

IMG_3811_photoalbumornaments
I used my Scotch ATG gun to apply adhesive to each folded piece (glue works too).

IMG_3817_photoalbumornaments
I attached each piece to the one before it in a stack, alternating photos and cardstock. (Make sure that you don’t accidentally glue your sister in upside-down. She wouldn’t like that. All photos should point the same way.)

IMG_3823_photoalbumornaments
I laid the string and button across the spine of my stack (button on the bottom), added a little adhesive to one of the folded pieces, and attached the top and bottom piece to form a ball shape.

IMG_3825_photoalbumornaments
Then I fed another button on above the ball, tied a knot, and fluffed open all the pages.

IMG_3827_photoalbumornaments
I love how simple they look from far away, but each page is a memory of the holidays and of my family.

IMG_3842_photoalbumornaments
I did a few variations, using different punches, and combining shapes on one ribbon; but they are all put together the same way which means I could spend more time remembering good times than obsessing over the process.


It also means it’s a great project for kids, who might get a thrill out of punching holes out of photos.
IMG_3898_photoalbumornaments
and keeping them forever.

DIY: Scrap Paper Strip Ornaments

IMG_3203_paperstripornament
Up until the last couple of years, Safety Husband and I would go home to Texas for the holidays, and we never felt the need to decorate for the season. For the last couple of years we’ve talked about decorating the “Christmas Tree” that just happens to be growing in our upper yard, and this year we’re making it happen. I’ve been putting my brain power into making ornaments that are either weatherproof, or are meant to be thrown away in January. It’s been a great chance to work through some of the materials I’ve been… ahem… collecting.

I love vintage ornaments and paper, and after a couple of years of experimentation I was ready to combine those two loves in this one ornament design. Super quick, because they are held together by staples, a couple of basic techniques can build a whole tree’s worth of decoration.

IMG_2828_paperstripornament

Supplies

  • Stapler
  • Ribbon (3/8″ to 1/2″ wide is great)
  • Scrap Paper: I used leftover 12×12 scrapbooking paper, but catalog or magazine pages would work well too! If you’re using thin paper, you might want to double up on the number of strips per ornament.
  • Clips: binder clips work great for this, but a clothespin will work in a pinch. (Pun intended.)
  • Scissors

IMG_2867_paperstripornament
To begin, cut about eight 1/2″ strips off your paper. (You can vary the number, just make sure you have an even number of strips.)

IMG_2871_paperstripornament
Cut a length of ribbon about twice the length of your paper strips.

IMG_2900_paperstripornament
Fold the ribbon in half, and stack half the strips on each side. Staple near the bottom of the stack, away from the loop of ribbon.

IMG_2904_paperstripornament
The staple will go through all the paper and the ribbon, securing that point. (Staples must be cheating, because they make this too easy.)

IMG_2921_paperstripornament
Put a clip about halfway down the paper, clamping the whole stack of paper and ribbon. With one hand, hold the clip, and with the other gently pull on the loop of the ribbon.

IMG_2923_paperstripornament
This should cause the paper to pooch out a little on the other side of the clip. Repeat the holding and pulling step, but this time grab the ribbon loop and the two strips of paper closest to it on either side.

IMG_2926_paperstripornament
Repeat again and again, adding another strip on either side, until you reach the outer strip.

IMG_2927_paperstripornament

IMG_2931_paperstripornament
Then carefully put a staple through the area the clip was holding.

IMG_2934_paperstripornament

IMG_2936_paperstripornament
Trim any excess paper with a pair of scissors.

IMG_2950_paperstripornament
If you want, you can curl some of the extra paper to add a little decorative detail. Simply roll the paper around a small pencil or paintbrush to curl it.

IMG_2959_paperstripornament
Once you get the hang of the whole pull method, you can shake things up by doing a similar technique, upside-down.

IMG_2977_paperstripornament
Staple in the middle of your ornament, and turn each strip back down. Once you’ve turned each strip, staple them at the bottom to form a heart shape.

IMG_3014_paperstripornament
Using these two techniques you can make a whole range of funky vintage ornaments.

IMG_3448_paperstripornament
If you get sick of looking at the staples, you can replace them with a couple of stitches. Simply poke a hole in the middle of the stack, and make stitches back and forth to secure the ornament.

IMG_3457_paperstripornament
Remove the staple, and you’ll never know it was there.

IMG_3130_paperstripornament
Or spend that time making a whole army or ornaments. It’s up to you!

IMG_3271_paperstripornament
One set down, more to go.

DIY: Simple Trees for Your Chipboard Forest

IMG_3721_chipboardtrees
Even before I was done building little chipboard houses I knew they would need a little setting to live in. I wanted to come up with a simple and flexible tree template that I could make a whole forest out of. Inspired by my old paper bird project, I used strips of chipboard to build these trees.

IMG_3354_chipboardtrees

Supplies

  • Scrap chipboard: from the backs of notepads or boxes. My pieces were 8.5×11″
  • You favorite paper glue
  • Clothespins or clips
  • Craft knife
  • Scoring Tool: a bone folder or dull knife work great

IMG_3356_chipboardtrees
I began by making two score lines along the long side of the board, at .5″ and at 2.5″.

IMG_3374_chipboardtrees
Then I cut two pieces, 1″ wide, off the other side for the trunk of my tree. The remaining piece of chipboard had my score marks on it, and I trimmed it into 1″ pieces (each piece has the same score marks).

I applied glue to the trunk pieces, and clipped them together to dry.

IMG_3380_chipboardtrees
While the trunk glue was drying, I folded each of my small pieces along the score marks, forming an L.

IMG_3387_chipboardtrees
Piece by piece, I applied glue to the .5″ flap and the top of the L…

IMG_3392_chipboardtrees
then clipped them to the trunk. In this picture you can see that I folded the two pieces of the trunk away from each other at the base; this will allow the trees to sit by themselves.

IMG_3400_chipboardtrees
I continued to add tree pieces until I liked what I saw (typically between 2 and 4 tiers), holding each piece with a couple of clips.

IMG_3405_chipboardtrees
When I was happy, let the glue sit overnight, held by the clips. (Happy little trees, as the man said.)

IMG_3707_chipboardtrees
On some I trimmed the top a bit, some I left tall. I love the way the variety turned out. These would be great with snowy glitter added, or paint. I’m just happy to have a forest for my little chipboard houses.

IMG_3701_chipboardtrees
Trees for the little paper world.

 

Yes, I know I sound crazy. Now go make something!

(;

DIY: Chipboard Village with Free House Template

IMG_3735_chipboardvillage
You might have noticed things have slowed down a little over here at A-I-M. Life goes in cycles, as we know, and unfortunately it’s been tripping us up lately. I’m still making things (some of them more therapeutic than others- like the DIY below), but the timing is tricky, and sometimes things don’t make it online as quickly as they should. We’d like to ask you to be patient with us, and give us time to refresh and collect ourselves. We’ll be back to full speed before you know it.

I’ve been trying to simplify my life because I have accumulated too many “things”; and I’ve made a resolution to truly embrace the making of things, rather than the buying or the keeping. (Our house is getting smaller by the second. Someone’s cursed us, I swear!)

So rather than storing ornaments, sparkles, trees and lights, I’m making new temporary baubles from recycled materials.

With that in mind I sat down to make my version (sweet and simple) of a winter village. I built a template that you can use to start your own winter wonderland, and I hope you’ll get as much peace and joy out of it as I did.

IMG_3286_chipboardvillage

Supplies

  • Scrap Chipboard: I like to save the backs of paper pads for projects like this, or you can grab a food package out of the recycling.
  • Pen and pencil
  • bone folder or scoring device
  • Craft knife
  • Paper glue: Elmer’s works great!
  • The printed template: click here or on the pdf below.

chipboardvillage_template

IMG_3287_chipboardvillage
Chipboard is great because you can mark it simply by pressing down hard on it. To trace the template on my piece, I clipped the paper down, then…

IMG_3300_chipboardvillage
used a bone folder and ruler to score the dotted lines (that will eventually be folded).

IMG_3308_chipboardvillage
Then I traced over the rest of the lines by pressing down firmly with a pen.

IMG_3312_chipboardvillage
Once I finished tracing all the lines I had a faint guide to work with. (If you like, trace the lines lightly with a pencil to help when you’re cutting.)

IMG_3316_chipboardvillage
Like most cutting projects, it’s easier to start by removing the small pieces of the template. In this case that meant cutting out the windows, the notch on the back, and two sides of the door. (Refer to the template to make sure you are cutting only the solid line pieces.)

IMG_3322_chipboardvillage
When I had the building and roof all cut out, I used a bone folder to score the folds a little more deeply. Then I began folding each flap gently away from the score mark. (Including the roof piece.)

IMG_3333_chipboardvillage
When I had the main part of the building folded, I applied glue to the flap (shown in gray on the template sheet) and held the pieces together until the glue held firmly. (You can also use clips or clothespins to hold it closed for a bit.) Once the base of the house was holding firmly, I added glue to the roof flaps (also shown in gray) and aligned and attached the roof. (You will want to hold this together by putting your hand into the house-box and pressing the flaps against the roof.)

IMG_3414_chipboardvillage
To frost the windows, I took a piece of cello tape slightly larger than the window, and attached it to a piece that was even larger. Then I taped that frosted pane right into the window-sash. I left the door bent slightly in, to welcome little chipboard guests!

Now that you’ve got the hang of home-building, you can reuse this template by resizing it, or come up with your own design!

IMG_3347_chipboardvillage
For my second building, I used the natural folds in a cracker box, and drew windows and a door with a pencil before trimming it out. Remember to leave flaps to attach the roof! (But in a pinch, a piece of tape will work as well.) Simply erase the lines, glue everything together, and plop it into your village… and when it gets dark…

IMG_3438_chipboardvillage
slip a few LED Christmas lights under your buildings for ambiance. (The notch I included in the template is super handy for running the wires out the back of the house.) Make sure to use low-heat lights, since they will be surrounded by paper!

IMG_3730_chipboardvillage
If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to stop at chipboard houses. I really want to add some chipboard critters… These little houses make my imagination run free.

One thing that’s for sure, they need to be surrounded by a forest. Next week I’ll show you a quick and easy way to build your own magic woods.

 

One note: I’m a big fan of letting the materials show in my projects, but remember you can camouflage the materials quickly by adding a little paint (spray or acrylic would work great) or by using it as a base for decoupage or collage (like our shadowbox project). Go crazy!

DIY: Finger Crochet a Round T-shirt Rag Rug

IMG_2201_roundtshirtrug
Despite my sister’s best efforts I’ve never been able to make sense of real crochet. The “finger crochet” method I describe below is something that came out of a lot of experimentation, but I’m guessing you fiber wizards could whip up something even better! If you’ve done a similar project, or have suggestions to make this DIY more clear, please feel free to tell us about it in the comments below.

When I finished re-weaving my t-shirt rug (updated photos at the bottom of that post) I figured out two important things.

  1. There is better way to cut a t-shirt into strips (fewer, longer strips.)
  2. Once you know how to cut t-shirts into long strips, no t-shirt is safe.

IMG_1957_roundtshirtrug
Which translates to: I had a lot of leftover strips of jersey, and wanted to use them up! I started braiding, tying knots, and eventually settled on a method that can best be described as the frumpy cousin of crochet.

PREP: Cutting one long strip

Knotting small strips of jersey (demonstrated in the woven rug post) is time-consuming, so the longer the strip the better. After digging around a bit I found this video that shows how to turn a loop into one long strip.

IMG_2100_roundtshirtrugI started by cutting the large loop of the shirt from the top, and sliced across from one side, stopping about an inch from the other edge.


Then I slipped the loop over my arms, and starting at the end of one cut I cut diagonally towards the end of the next cut on the other side of the fabric. Then the whole thing unwound in a continuous strip.

MAKING THE RUG


To begin I tied a slip-knot near the end of the string by making a loop, reaching through and grabbing the strip, pulling it though and gently pulling to tighten. (There’s a great demonstration of a slip knot at the beginning of this video.)

IMG_1975_roundtshirtrug
Then I reached through that loop, pinched the strip, and pulled it through to create my first chain stitch. (See steps 2 thru 4 on this Red Heart blog post). This whole project breaks down into pulling a new loop through an old loop.

I repeated this chain stitch about 5 times, then…


tucked the loose string end through the last chain stitch to loosely close the first set of chains into a circle.

IMG_2045_roundtshirtrug
To connect the next ring of chains I pulled the next strip (navy) through two existing loops– the one I just made (pictured here closest to my thumb), and the inside of an earlier chain that lined up with my new one (closer to my fingertip).

IMG_2047_roundtshirtrug
This way my newest loop connected my existing chain to the one inside of it. I then started a pattern of 3 chain stitches, 1 connecting stitch, 3 chain stitches, 1 connecting stitch, 3 chain stitches, 1 connecting stitch, 3 chain stitches, 1 connecting stitch, 3 chain stitches, 1 connecting stitch…

IMG_2070_roundtshirtrug
going around and around the circle.

IMG_2073_roundtshirtrug
When I ran out of strips, I pulled the end of my string through the last loop, and tucked it into the rug– because one day I will have more t-shirts to dismantle, and this rug will keep getting bigger!

IMG_2253_roundtshirtrug_1

TIPS

  • As you are working, make sure not to pull your loops too tight, or stretch your chain when you’re doing a connecting stitch. The looser you work the flatter the rug will sit.
  • Different shirts will make thicker or thinner strings based on the thickness of their fabric. I opted for a very irregular look with lots of inconsistencies in my strips (width ranging from 1″ – 2″) but if you want a more regular look, stick with shirts of a similar weight, and cut your strips about 1.25″ wide.
  • If it’s looking weird, pull out your loops and start over! Once you get the hang of this version of finger crochet you’ll fly through this project, so you will quickly make up the time redoing it. Practice has never been more fun.
  • If you can, work for longish stretches to keep your tension consistent. This is a great “while watching tv or daydreaming” activity.
  • As always, plan to make one more rug than you have cats.

IMG_2196_roundtshirtrug_1

SHOW+TELL: A Look at the Letterpress

IMG_1848_lookatletterpress
With the weather turning gloomy it’s becoming less practical (and pleasant) to work outside, but I have had more chances to work more with my lovely letterpress. It dawned on me (while I was listening to the clunking and whirring of the machine) that I haven’t ever shared my adventures with this 126-year-old guy, even though he takes up a huge space in my heart (and my bedroom.)

I thought I’d show you a couple of behind the scenes shots, and talk about my printing process.

An old etching of the letterpress model I work with, in the amazing American Wood Type book my mom passed down to me. Synchronicity?

There are a lot of great resources for learning about the history of printing (I’ve listed some resources below) so I won’t get too much into a subject that I’m learning more about all the time.

My first experience printing was at the University of Texas, on a Vandercook press using antique wood type (from the Rob Roy Kelly collection) and modern polymer plates. I eventually acquired a small table-top platen press (a Craftsmen Imperial) and started printing greeting cards and more using the same method I use today on my floor-standing platen press.

Nearly two years ago we moved the one-ton California Reliable into a corner of our bedroom, and it has become a my go-to for printing with love.

IMG_1907_lookatletterpress

Polymer plates before they are aligned on the aluminum base for printing.

While I still use lead type and wood type occasionally, I mainly print with polymer plates on an aluminum base. I draw up the artwork, scan it, clean it up and prep it for the plates, then send the artwork out to have plates made. The plates are somewhat similar to the clear sticky stamp sheets some people use with a clear block; however the material is much harder which allows for much more detail and lets it stand up to the high pressure of the letterpress. The height of the material has to be just right to bring it up to type high on the aluminum block and allow for the ink rollers to roll, and the printer to print.

IMG_1955

Hand carved linoleum blocks being printed on a small tabletop press.

Occasionally I get a wild hair and print from hand-carved linoleum blocks. There’s less perfection in this mode, but you can end up with really great results with lots of character. There’s a trick to raising the blocks up to the right height, but it’s definitely possible.

IMG_1894_lookatletterpress
There’s a long list of things I love about letterpress printing, but color is at the top. I love how each color I print is one solid color instead of being made up of a pointillistic nightmare of Cyan/Magenta/Yellow/Black. (There’s no room in my blue for little pink dots.) Each color on a letterpress print is printed separately; each color has its own plate. I’m a somewhat inexact ink mixer, but I always seem to end up at the right color (and I try not to get ink everywhere.)

IMG_1873_lookatletterpress

Printing the first color of a leafy card.

Alignment (registration) is something that has taken a little getting used to, but I’ve come up with a method that works great for me. Here you can see a couple of polymer plates on my aluminum base, printing the first color of a two-color card.


The opening and closing action on this Gordon-style press is powered by a flywheel and a foot-powered treadle. There is a single magical dance that inks the rollers on the ink plate, rolls them across the printing plate, then presses the paper into that plate to make a print. (I’m learning a little more all the time about the mechanics of this magic, but the first lesson was DON’T LEAVE YOUR HAND IN THERE.) I’m responsible for pumping with my foot/ankle/hip and feeding paper.

IMG_1862_lookatletterpress

Printing on paper handmade from the scraps of other cards.

One of the nicest things about the letterpress is that with a little ingenuity you can print on just about anything flat. Most of my pieces are printed on thick cover stocks, often 100% cotton. I’ve started printing more and more on sheets of handmade paper that I make from the trimmings of those other cards. I love the texture and softness of the paper I make, and I adore the fact that it means I’m contributing less to the landfills. (Want to know more about making paper? 1 2 3)

I’ve also just started to experiment with printing on fabric…. I have ideas….

IMG_1876_lookatletterpress
So that’s my old guy. Our love is still new, but I think it’s made to last.

Time will pass– I will get more ragged and he will get less, and he’ll always have new things to press.
I’ll keep learning.

IMG_1889_lookatletterpress

Resources and Links

Briar Press: A never ending resource for letterpress parts and printers
Letterpress Commons: Developed by Boxcar Press with articles and resources
Boxcar Press: My usual source for polymer plates and some other materials and supplies
Reich Savoy: One of the papers I print on.
Van Son Rubber Base Plus Ink: My preferred ink