Monday, March 30, 2015

An experiment - Ribbon/ Fabric Manipulation Technique

Posted by Kashmira

Many years ago I watched as my Grandma made dainty little flowers using a satin ribbon manipulation technique. It was simple enough to do, but gave a wonderful result. It involves:

A) Sewing a running stitch in a wave pattern along the length of the ribbon. (I've used contrasting thread for photo purposes.)

 B) Gathering it to form a scallop/ petal like effect.

C) Knotting off the two ends of the ribbon to form a petaled flower, with maybe a button center.

I've used this method to make satin ribbon flowers for earrings and such but I've always wanted to increase the scale and try this out on a piece of fabric. I decided to go big and experiment, but also wanted to achieve a complete project. And when I pondered on what to make with a strip of fabric, I immediately thought of a scarf. 

1) I debated on whether to use knit or cotton fabrics, but went with cotton as I thought it might hold it's shape better. I started by cutting fabric into strips 5" wide. The width of the fabric was 36" so I cut 3 strips in all to have a strip long enough to be manipulated and still have a decent sized scarf. 

2) Then I joined the strips together to make one long strip 108" * 5". It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to make it a double-sided scarf, so I did the same using another coordinating fabric.

3) I pressed the strips flat, opened up the join seams. Put the two strips of fabric right sides together and sewed around with 1/4" seam and left one short end open.

4) Then I clipped off the corners, turned the scarf right side out and ironed it flat.

5) Next I drew a wavy pattern, just like on the satin ribbon. 

6) At first I machine basted the wave but quickly realized it was getting problematic gathering the double layered cotton fabric. So instead I grabbed some embroidery floss, threaded it through a large sized hand-sewing needle and made a running stitch with 1/4" sized bites after laying the fabric strip flat on my work surface. 

7) I kept gathering the fabric to create scallops and adjusting the gathers as required. Once I was satisfied with the ruching and had reached the end I make a knot and cut the thread off. Next I machine sewed on the embroidery floss running stitch, through the ruching so that the scallops would stay in place.

That's it! The scarf was done in less than a couple of hours - with a few missteps along the way. Here's how it turned out. It's really quite frilly and while that's not everyone's cup of tea, I do think it's a dramatic look (project runway rubbing off!) and that there might be some girly girls out there who actually take a fancy to it! 

Considering this was completely an experiment, here's a couple of things I'd do differently:

1) I'd use more lightweight fabrics or maybe even try it with lightweight knits.

2) I'd use a narrower and shorter fabric strip. Narrower because the size of the scallops is quite big. Shorter because even after the ruching was done the scarf is still quite long.

Still, I'm not entirely disappointed with the outcome - I know a girl who likes her frills and when I gift this to her she will be thrilled!

Monday, March 23, 2015

An Inside Look at a Quilt Show

When I took up quilting a couple of years ago, I joined a quilt guild- a local group of quilters who meet every month to share and learn more about their craft. Every two years, our guild organizes a quilt show- it is an ambitious undertaking for a small guild of just over a hundred members. We rent a large event space for the weekend. Quilt show weekend takes a year of preparation and hundreds of volunteer hours.

The central theme of the show is to showcase the quilts that we make- and a few months in advance, categories for the quilts are announced (bed sized quilts, art quilts, modern quilts, etc. and a novice quilts category for beginner quilters) and everyone is hard at work finishing their quilts for the show.

A few weeks before the show, the quilts are received from the members, each ensconced in a pillowcase for safe-keeping. Each quilt is measured, photographed and documented. A nationally recognized, certified quilt judge comes to town and spends a weekend examining the quilts and awarding ribbons in each category for first, second and third place, as well as honorable mentions and special overall awards including ones for best quilting, best applique and the most coveted grand prize of them all- best in show. Having a third-party judge to come look at the quilts is a golden opportunity to get comments on one's work and see potential areas for improvement. Quilting is a lifelong journey of learning and we can all strive to do better next time. One of the members volunteers to hand-make beautiful ribbons to put on the quilts, and pins to give out to the winners for bragging rights.

As the show date approaches, there is a frenzy of work behind the scenes. One or two people form the "layout committee" and decide how we will manage to hang the quilts so that all 200 quilts can fit in our space in a way that shows them off perfectly.

Meanwhile, there are other volunteers who handle print publicity (making posters, flyers and postcards), Internet publicity, place ads in local newspapers and send out press releases about our event.

Then the much-awaited day dawns- set up day. It starts well before the crack of dawn, at 7 AM, with volunteers arriving to a large and empty space. They start by taping off floor space- the central space will be bays where quilts are hung and around the perimeter of the space are booths for the vendors.

The materials to create the bays- boxes, poles, sheets, hardware- are stored in the basement of one of the quilters. A few volunteers show up at this place and load up a UHaul truck with all the materials, and unload it in the event space. Then, two or three teams, along with tall metal ladders get started on the work of building the bays.

By lunchtime the framework is up. Everyone takes a break and sits down to a family style lunch of sandwiches, chips and fruit.

Then the layout sheets are consulted. The quilts are brought in and laid out in different bays. The hanging teams fan out, taking the quilts and hanging them up using S hooks and cords. This takes 4 hours or so. By the end, the quilts are up and the show is on! While the quilts are hung, the vendors start driving in, unloading their wares and setting up shop.

At the end of the day, the hanging team makes one last walk through the show, adjusting the quilts just so, removing stray threads and getting things just right. Everyone takes a break and freshens up.

At 5 PM, punch is served, and the guild gathers in the auditorium. There is a lovely presentation, showing a bit of the history of the guild, the community involvement of the guild. This is also when the awards are announced, to loud whoops and cheers. The show opens, and the evening is for guild members only, to enjoy the quilts, and to do some shopping.

The next morning, Friday, the show opens to the general public. Volunteers sell tickets, greet guests and enjoy hosting the show. Back in the kitchen space, members drop off food for a potluck breakfast, lunch and snacks served all day to the members and vendors. Vendors appreciate having this hospitality and tell us that we serve the best food of any of the shows they attend.

In addition to the vendors, the guild sets up a boutique- handmade items made by members are sold here. There's everything from stuffed animals, bags, potholders, scarves and quilts of course.

This year, we organized a scavenger hunt for the kids attending the show. Kids got a sheet listing 24 items that were on the quilts (houses, animals, Christmas tree, etc.) and had to walk around the show locating the items. They got to pick a prize for participating in the scavenger hunt.

On Sunday afternoon, the show draws to a close. It takes 9 hours to set up the show but less than an hour to tear it down. The quilts get taken down, put back in the pillowcases and returned to their makers. Materials get put back on the truck and transported back to the basement for storage. Everyone is tired but happy.

There are quilt shows all over the United States, and Spring and Fall tend to be the seasons for quilt shows. So look around for a show in your town and please- go attend, look at the artistic talent in your community and prepare to be wowed. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Door Decor to Welcome Warm Weather!

Posted by Kashmira

Winter's gone, the snow did melt
So I made some flowers out of felt
To say goodbye to winter's gloom
And welcome spring with vibrant blooms!

And without further ado let me spring forward to today's craft - not a bunch, not a bouquet but a whole sackful of felt flowers to spruce up the front door!

I love doing 3D crafts. So this time I decided to make a floral display that looked like they were potted from whichever side you approached the door. I collected the following materials:

1) A used yogurt container, washed and dried.
2) A piece of burlap big enough to cover the container
3) Pieces of felt in different colors
4) Buttons
5) Needles and threads in coordinating colors
6) Green straws
7) Glue gun

I usually make fabric flowers, but knew felt ones would be easiest and quickest. There are tonnes of tutorials on the internet on making felt flowers; I chose these 3 to get three different kinds of blooms.

1) Felt flowers with scalloped petals from Cutesy Crafts

2) Felt roses from Dreamwidth

3) Felt zinnias from Craft Leftovers

Once I got the flowers done, I cut the yogurt container in half to get a cross section. Then I covered the convex surface with the burlap to create the sack effect. I tried stapling it together but it got too thick on the folds. However, the glue gun worked like a charm!

I glued a piece of pom-pom ribbon to the sack just to amp up the cute quotient. Then I stuck a few of the flowers on green straws and reinforced them by using a waste piece of felt across the straw. 

Then came the actual flower arrangement. I started gluing the non-straw flowers to the front edge of the sack first. Then I flipped it over and glued the straws to the back surface after eyeballing the placement from the front first.

And here I've finished arranging all the flowers on the sack. I like how a couple of stems peek out from behind the blooms.

Next I attached thread through the sides of the container - a needle passed through with just a bit of coaxing and finally I hung it up on the front door!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Custom Creation for a Charming Customer

Posted by Kashmira

A couple of months ago I was excited to receive an email from a lovely lady about a custom bag she would like to order. Now, it is always a pleasure to make custom designs for people, to incorporate all their dream features and endeavor to hand over exactly the product they'd love.

But the pleasure is greater when the person in question
1) Gives you a detailed list of 'I'd like to have' / 'I do not want to have'
2) Points out special things to look out for
3) Knows enough of your work to, in her words, 'trust your judgement'

Needless to say, I was very grateful to know her preferred features and colors (red, blue, black) and especially the nagging problem she's faced with handbags earlier - lining/ pockets tearing from the inside under the weight of her keys. I'm glad she pointed this out, because then I took special care to reinforce pockets.

I remember when I first drafted this pattern for a pleated tote. It was in my early days of sewing and my living room was full of newspaper pattern pieces, with trial after trial to get just the right sized bag. The most fun part of making a bag with this pattern is pulling the fabric combinations. I went on to sell a few of these colorful bags subsequently at college fairs, exhibitions and for a short duration at my etsy store.

So I began with a trip to the fabric store to pull the best combination I could of reds, blues and blacks and ended up going with all three. Next I cut strips from all the fabrics and set them up in an asymmetrical way just to make it more interesting.

I sewed them together and added the pleats to the front and back.

Then I prepared the pockets and added them to the lining. I chose a heavyweight black interfacing because the bag needed the structure to take the weight of those notorious keys! I triple stitched the pockets to the lining and also made triangular corners for added reinforcement. Bring it on keys!

Here's the inside of the bag put together.

Similarly the outside sewn together.

Then I sewed the handles, added the magnetic closure and sewed the roomy bag together.

I'm thrilled to say that my charming customer was very happy with it and I'm so glad I bagged her order :D.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Crochet Beanies for Teenie Weenies!

Posted by Kashmira

Last week we had our friends over for tea and snacks and it was the unveiling of their brand new 2 month old daughter. Well - at least for us it was, since we saw her for the very first time! 

It is always great fun to make stuff for babies (even if your project turns out a little less than perfect, they couldn't care less!). That's not the only reason of course - there's so many cute knick-knacks out there to make for tots. But this time instead of sewing something, I decided to dust off my crochet needles that hadn't seen the light of day for a long while. I'm completely a novice crocheter, with just a handful of projects like a couple of butterflies and dishcloths under my belt.

But then there is a plethora of helpful youtube videos out there that gives you that experience of actually doing the project with someone right next to you showing you step by step stitches. I got hold of one such tutorial by Happy Berry Crochet to make a little beanie for the tiny tot. I must say, the tutorial is really clear and although this was the very first crochet hat I made I had no problems with it at all. Any fears I had of creating a 'has beenie' instead of a beanie flew out the window once I got started!

I used a multicolored yarn from my limited yarn stash and made this.

Then of course I had to amp up the cute factor by making some type of embellishment. So I cut out the shape of a little birdie from felt, a contrast beak, used some polyfill to plump it up and sewed it shut using a blanket stitch.

And here it is sewn on the little hat with a small branch and a couple of leaves!

Now, while I was busily crocheting this hat my son comes over and after his usual interrogation about what i'm doing, who it's for etc helpfully points out that the baby already has a green hat (which he's noticed when they had come over and actually remembered!) and didn't need another one and can I make him one instead. (At this point he conveniently forgets that he has one too.) 

But then by this point I've realized that, crochet is WAY addictive and I also have some blue-grey yarn that Sis has given me earlier. So I went ahead and made him one. I ran out of the yarn a few rounds before I could complete the toddler hat, so I had no choice but to learn how to change the yarn color and continue crocheting haha! Again, youtube came to the rescue by way of this tutorial. I learned that this process was not at all as big a deal as I'd imagined it would be. I fortunately had some contrast yarn in my son's favorite color that went well with the grey.

For the embellishment I cut two car shapes out of blue felt and a couple of windows and got two buttons. 

First I sewed the windows onto one car shape. Then sewed the car together with a blanket stitch, filled it with polyfill and lastly added the buttons for wheels.

And here's my toddler's beanie!

I do hope the teenie weenies enjoy their new beanies :)