Scarf

Peg Loom

Charlie and I have wanted to try weaving for some time, but didn’t want to invest in a pricey loom until we knew it was something we would do. In our imaginations, we would make large, beautiful pieces on a big, complicated floor loom. In reality, we’re very aware that something that large could easily become an expensive coatrack, that takes up a lot of room.

We went to the Fiber Fusion show in the fall and discovered something new: a peg loom. Even when we had our weaving tutorial at Spinners Guild, peg looms weren’t mentioned, so I have to believe other people haven’t heard of them. Then again, if anybody has seen one on a shelf, with nobody using it, you would have no idea what it was.

Loom and pegs

Yep, that’s it. A board, maybe 1″ x 2″, with holes drilled in it; another board, I’m guessing 1″ x 3″, attached to the underside, blocking the holes; and a set of pegs. I don’t know about you, but I would never have looked at this and thought, “Yeah, I could weave something with that.”

Peg looms come in different widths, from about 6 inches to 3 feet. I imagine you could make it as wide as you want, but if it were too wide it would become pretty difficult to work with. We selected one with two rows – one row of big pegs and one row of small – but they are also available with a single row of one or the other.  The thick pegs would be used for something like a rug or blanket, while the thinner pegs would be used for something like a scarf.

Here’s how the set up works:

First, decide how long you want your project to be, and cut your warp strings to twice that length, plus 6 extra inches at either end. (Warp: the strings that are set up ahead of time, that you will weave through) The measuring part can be a little tricky. Since each warp string will be doubled, they will need to be cut 2 feet longer than the final length – 6 inches at either end with each string becoming 2 ends. Since I wanted my first piece to be 5 feet long, I measured my warp strings to 12 feet each. I put two chairs, spaced 6 feet apart, and wrapped the string around and around and around. It may seem weird, but I really didn’t want to measure out 12 foot strings, one string at a time.  After I had enough threads to fill the loom, I only had to make one cut through the top row of threads in order to have 12 foot segments.

Set up

Next, you thread your strings through the little hold drilled at one end of each peg. Our loom came with a threader that the pulls the string through the hole. Remember, the wider you want your project to be, the more pegs you have to thread. Pull the string through until both ends are even.

Peg threading

As you thread each peg, place it in the loom. I felt pretty lucky that my dining table has these handy dandy grooves along the sides. It helped to keep the strings from tangling while I got the whole thing set up.

Loom threaded

Once all the pegs are threaded and inserted into the loom, tie ten or so strings together into a loose knot at the end. This prevents the strings from getting all tangled up while you’re weaving.

Threads tied

The first project I set up took about 2 hours, but part of that was figuring out the easiest way to cut 12 foot lengths of string. I imagine future large projects will probably take about an hour to set up.

Once you’re all set up, find a comfy place to sit and start weaving! The project in the following pictures in going to be a scarf, made from the alpaca yarn I spun last summer. (I used just 16 of the thinner pegs, instead of using the whole width of the loom) All you do now is slalom your string back and forth through the pegs. These strings are called the weft. scarf weavingAs your strings reach the top of the pegs, pull each peg out, push the string (weft) down the threads (warp), then return the peg to the hole. Since the string is threaded through the peg, it will just pull through as you go.

Scarf

When there are about 12 inches left at the end of your project, stop weaving. Push your strings down until there is 6 inches of thread at either end of the project. At the loose end of the project, tie together 4 strings at a time. Then remove the pegs from the loom, cut the threads, and tie them like you did at the other end.

The weaving goes very quickly, and is very easy. There are limits to the designs or patterns that can be done, but it’s a great way to start.

Originally, Charlie and I looked at these looms and thought, “We could make one of these!” Of course we could, but then we also realized we wouldn’t take the time to make one. If you wanted to make your own, I’m sure you could. Just Google “How to make a peg loom” and lots of tutorials and videos come up.

If you’re like Charlie and me, you can get one from Lavender Acres Alpacas like we did.

Lavender Acres

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Christmas Curtains

Since we have cats, dogs and kids running around, I decided it would be safest to set up Christmas in the sunroom. We can put anything in there we want, and not worry about it getting knocked over or torn up. And since the sunroom has windows on all sides we can see it from everywhere. Of course, these windows also pose a bit of a problem. It’s December in northwest Washington. Cold.

There is a heat vent in the sunroom, but with all the glass it gets really chilly.  I decided some simple curtains over the main windows might help keep some of the chill out. Christmas fabric costs more than I wanted to spend for this little project. Tori spent years on the stage crew for her high school theater department, and I learned from her that muslin can be used for darn near anything. I could get 12 yards of muslin for the same cost as 2 yards of holiday-print fabric. I have 5 windows that are 32″ x 36″ so this is much more cost effective. A little creativity and I can make this work!

mulsin

I haven’t used my Cricut much since I stopped teaching, but I thought I might be able to use it to cut out stencils. I didn’t know if the Cricut would cut plastic, but it was worth a try. And it worked! (Hint: I set it at the slowest speed, highest pressure, and deepest blade length)

stencil

I originally made single stencils, and used red dye. The dye ended up looking more like rust, and the single stencil was going to take a long time.  Fortunately, I had enough panels for 6 panels, and I only needed 5. The first panel ended up being my experiment piece. Plan B was a stencil with multiple characters cut into it, and red paint. I learned regular acrylic paint can be mixed with “textile medium” and it works like fabric paint, without the stiffness. You can also make larger amounts, instead of dealing with those little dinky bottles of fabric paint. I found the paint and textile medium at the local craft store.

paint prep

I like the way this looked much better than the dye.

stenciled

Once I sewed a pocket for the tension rod, the panels were going to be just a bit too short. I decided to get a little fabric to sew across the top to create a rod pocket, and make it a little cuter. I then zipped around the edges with the serger to finish them off.

top

I’m pretty pleased with the way they came out. If I were making these for something more permanent, I would be more precise with the stencil placement, and take a little more care to make sure each panel is even. I’ve decided the imperfections add to the charm.

Complete

Raymond was more interested in getting the Christmas lights hung, but Reta Jean liked my curtains. When she saw them she said, “Did you make these, Gabba?” When I said yes, she patted my arm and said, “Good job!” Yes, I live for the approval of a 3-year-old.

Supplies:

  • Muslin
  • Tension rods
  • Stencil plastic
  • Acrylic paint
  • Textile medium
  • Paint dobber

 

Gifts

Christmas Eve Goody Box

I love Christmas! I’m going to say it again: I LOVE Christmas!!!

It’s not about the gifts, unless I’m the one giving them. In my book, there’s nothing better than finding the perfect gift for someone. I’m not talking about things that are expensive or fancy. I’m talking about things that are perfect for the person in mind. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s a major dance-around victory!

Gift giving aside, I believe that Christmas is for children. Santa, Rudolph, decorated Christmas trees, holiday lights, fancy cookies and presents under the tree. My goal is to make Christmas as magical and full of memories for the kids as possible. This time of year, I can’t go to the store without picking up a candy cane, or little gift, before stopping off to see Raymond and Reta Jean. And every time they’re excited, and laughing and clapping, and their faces light up, I feel like I’m doing it right. (It’s really not about the things. I want the kids to be as excited about the magic and surprise of Christmas as I’ve always been.)

My dad insisted we get new pajamas every Christmas. He said there was nothing better than getting up early, opening gifts, spending the day with family, then taking a bath, putting on your new jammies, and climbing into your warm bed. And he was right. Our kids got pajamas every year when they were children. Now that they’re adults, if we find perfect pajamas, we still have to get them…Like pizza print footie pajamas for Tori.

Family traditions are an important part of making the holiday special. We got pajamas, macadamia nuts and oranges every year, no matter what. There were other gifts, too, but notice what I remember the most: the traditions.

Years ago, Charlie and I both saw a “Christmas Eve Box” on the internet. The idea was to pack it full of things to make Christmas Eve special, too. The picture we saw looked something like this:Pinterest Box

We decided this fit right in with our desire to help all the kids make Christmas memories. Our two branches of grandkids have three kids each, so our boxes have to be a little bigger. I also had to add some Gabba touches.  For instance, there has to be a fun activity, because I always want the kids to DO things.

The first year, I made a quilt and pillows for each box. I thought the kids needed something to snuggle up with. We also put together pajamas, a movie, a book, and hot cocoa. The activities are things like cookie decorating kits. As much as I like to make things from scratch, I don’t want the kids’ moms to hate me for giving them one more thing to do. I count on kits, in hopes of making things easier.

Amazon has become an important part of the process. When you’re trying to get a different book and movie every year, it helps to remember what you’ve already gotten. Yep, I count on my Amazon history to help me out. They also make it easy to find matching/coordinating/specific pajamas in all the different sizes.

Since it’s been a few years since we made our first box, Charlie thought it was time for new blankets. So, new blankets it is!

Here is this year’s box for the California girls:

Gifts

Contents:

  • Holiday quilt – specially picked out Christmas Farm fabric to help them remember their summer trip to visit us
  • Pajamas
  • Gingerbread village kit – the girls like to do their own thing and this one gives them each their own house
  • Hot cocoa
  • The Little Drummer Boy movie – it was my mom’s favorite and continues to be one of mine
  • The Pajama Elves book – it’s a new one and I thought it was appropriate since pajamas are always a thing
  • Personalized ornaments – they’re not here yet, but on their way

Once it’s all packed up, everything fits in a 12 x 12 box. All ready to be shipped, and opened up Christmas Eve!

PackedCharlie and I have fun selecting the items for the Christmas Eve box every year, and hope the grandkids enjoy it as much as we do. And now, I have to get back to work on quilt #2 for the Washington grandkids.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Princess Layout

Love and the Fabric Store

When I was a little girl, my mom sewed for herself, my brothers, and me. One Christmas, she even pulled a Sound of Music moment, and made me a whole wardrobe of Barbie clothes out of her old dresses. I grew up knowing Mama’s sewing machine was just short of magic.

As I got older, I got to help make my own clothes. I remember as early as 1st grade, going with Mama to the fabric store. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I probably made her crazy. I would spend HOURS picking out fabrics that I felt would work together. And then there were the buttons, appliques, or embroidery patterns for the pockets.

During the last weeks of summer, we would work together in the den. I would embroider flowers, or butterflies, or puppies for the front of a shirt, or the pocket of a dress, while Mama did the cutting and sewing. If I was managing to be focused and patient, I was even allowed to sew some of the straight seams.

I was so happy during those summer days. Mama and I working together to take flat, rectangular pieces of fabric, and turning them into something I could actually wear. It was the magic of the sewing machine. Unfortunately, there were mean, snotty girls in my class who made fun of my homemade clothes. This made me so sad because I LOVED making my clothes. By middle school I had caved to the pressure and insisted on store-bought clothes, like everybody else.

My love of the fabric store never died. By high school I was back to spending hours picking out fabrics to make things. Store-bought clothes were still important, because I was a teenage girl, but I had to sew. Mama helped me make formal dresses, and I made shirt, shorts, skirts, dresses, and tote bags. I don’t know if the mean girls chilled out, or if I just didn’t listen to them anymore, but they were no longer part of the equation.

llama fabric

When I had my own kids, I made clothes for them from time to time. We also sewed Christmas outfits, drama costumes, and performance skirts. I didn’t get to spend as much time at the sewing machine as my mother, but I still got in a couple of projects a year. The best part was still the fabric store, picking out the prints and fabrics I felt would work together.

Squares

As the kids got older, and I had more time, I started making quilts for everyone. I don’t have the patience for little pieces and the actual quilting, so I make what I call “Lazy Gabba Quilts.” I sew squares or strips for the quilt tops, and back them with fleece.

Cutting Strips

Now, I enjoy sewing things for the grandkids. Raymond loves superheroes, so he got an Avengers quilt for his birthday. Reta Jean is all about princesses and pink. I managed to find not only princesses and castles, but frogs, too. Riley doesn’t have an opinion yet, so naturally she got llamas and alpacas. And these were just the summer projects!

Avengers

Princess Layout

Rileys blanket

Over the years, I’ve used Abby Cadabby and Santa Claus. Pirates, owls, fish, and maps. Ladybugs, flowers, camo, and birds. I’ve tried to put together all kinds of colors, prints and patterns.

The women at the local fabric store have already learned my “process.” I find one fabric I really like, then roll through the aisles picking out the rest. Hours. Just like I’ve done my whole life. When I’m sitting at the sewing machine, I always think back to those summers with Mama. Taking those random pieces of fabric, and turning them into something, still makes me happy. The thing that makes me even happier, though, is seeing my family enjoy what I’ve made.

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Skeins

Ribbons from the Fair

Charlotte’s Web was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. My daughter Carly is actually a Charlotte. It’s a family name, but I’ve always felt that I named her after that beautiful spider. When I brought Tori home from the hospital, Carly immediately started calling her Wilbur. They’re adults now, but sometimes I still think of them as Charlotte and Wilbur.

We had a fair nearby when I was a kid, but it was nothing like the fair in Charlotte’s Web. There’s just not a whole lot of “country” in the middle of the California desert. Oh, how I wanted to go to a real live country fair!  Now, I look forward to the Evergreen State Fair every summer.

After our first trip to the fair, I decided I was going to enter something. We’d only lived in the country a couple of months, so I had no idea what I would enter, but I was going to enter SOMETHING. The truth is, I wanted a ribbon. I didn’t care what color, any ribbon. (The only thing I didn’t want was the little sticker that says, “Thank you for entering. Please try again next year.)  I’ve never entered anything in anything, and I when I played sports as a kid participation trophies weren’t a thing. The kids had shelves of ribbons and trophies from years of soccer, baseball, baton, swimming and water polo.  Is it wrong for me to want just one ribbon?

Well, last year I didn’t pay attention to the deadlines, AND I didn’t really have anything to enter. The fair came and went, and I still admired all the pretty ribbons. THIS year was going to be different. I’ve learned to spin and crochet. I’ve also learned to make jam and jelly, and can all kinds of things. Not only was I going to get to enter the fair, I had choices!

I started checking and double checking deadlines in June when the fair entries were first published. I really thought I would enter my pickles and green beans in canning, but changed my mind. For one, they require a lot of information on recipes and canning methods. Two, they don’t even taste the canned product. They’re just judging canning technique. To me, that meant I would be judged on how well I followed directions. I’ll probably enter some canned goods next year, but for this year it just didn’t sound like much fun.

Ever since we got Spike and Tajo, I knew I wanted to spin their fiber and enter it in the fair. Because they’re rescues, I really wanted to show how awesome they are. We’ve had them for a whole year now. Because we got them shortly after shearing last year, I felt fully responsible for this year’s fiber. Whatever I produced, good or bad, was 100% on me.

003 (800x465)After shearing, I washed (and washed and washed and washed) their fiber.  Alpacas love rolling in the dirt, so this is a big job. I then dyed Spike’s fawn fiber with cherry Kool Aid. I would have liked to enter both boys naturally, but you can only enter one skein of yarn in each category.  With the natural shadings of Spike’s fiber, the yarn came out a really pretty rust color, with lots of different subtle shades. Then, I carded both batches of fiber. Twice! I wasn’t going to have any tangles or matting or grass interfering with my yarn. I’ve realized that after all the prep, spinning is actually the easy part. I was really happy with the results!

SkeinsOn entry day, I drove into town with my skeins carefully tied and twisted in the passenger’s seat. I’ll admit, I was a little afraid the people collecting the entries would laugh at my attempts. I kept seeing those stickers from previous years: “Thank you for entering. Please try again next year.” I would be so sad if I got one of those. I was absolutely tickled when asked if I was entering in the Master Class. Me? No way. Spike’s yarn got entered first. When she looked at Tajo’s she asked what method I had used for dying his fiber. She was amazed when I told her that was natural. He really does have fabulous, shiny, inky-black fiber! And with that, I was in!

EntryI had to wait nearly two weeks for the fair to open, to see how I did. The first day of the fair was free entry, so I picked up Carly and the kids and we went to check things out! We went straight to the yarn exhibits and I scanned the entries for my name. I would have been happy with “Some Pig.” Just please, please, please not a try again next year sticker.

Guess what!

1st Tajo     1st Spike

Yep. I got ribbons!

 

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Spinners Guild – Weaving

Since Charlie and I entered the fiber world, we have seen a lot of weaving things. I wove one very bad hot pad when I was a kid, and that’s the extent of my weaving experience. Charlie has been interested in learning more about weaving so we check out all the weaving displays at fiber festivals and county fairs. This past week, we had a brief but informative weaving presentation at our Spinners Guild meeting.

One of our members is a prolific weaver, has multiple looms, and runs her own classes. She brought in a few of her looms and a large sample of her weaving. We learned that there is SO MUCH more to learn.

A little lingo: The strings that go tightly from top to bottom are called the “warp.” The strings that are woven through the warp are called the “weft” or, sometimes the “woof.” The “shed” is the space between the warp strings when some of them are up and some of them are down. A “shuttle” holds the weft strings and is slid through the shed to make a row.

This is a basic pin loom. It resembles the little loom I used as a kid, and the pulling in at the sides reminds me of my pot holder.0519151847a (692x800)

This is called a rigid heddle loom. Every other warp string is threaded through the heddle, which is the plastic comb-looking thingy toward the top of the loom. This allows you to lift or lower half of the warp strings at a time, then use the shuttle to just shoot the weft string through.

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This is an inkle loom. It was explained, but I still don’t get how it works. Heck, for half the night I thought it was called an “ankle” loom and that really confused me. Anyway, it’s cool looking and you can wrap the warp strings around as many of those little wooden pegs as you want, to make your piece longer or shorter.

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This one is really cool! It’s a 16-harness table loom. The harnesses are the wooden levers on top of the loom. Different sets of warp strings are threaded through different harnesses. This allows specific strings to be lifted for each row. When you see elaborate woven pieces, several harnesses are used. I think we will probably start with something like this. We will be limited on the width of pieces, but will have a lot of versatility in patterns, and it is small enough to not be completely intimidating.

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This is a big ol’ fancy floor loom. There were none of these at our meeting because it would have been too difficult to transport. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but I think all those pedals at the bottom work like the harnesses do on the table loom. This would be the “someday when we know what we’re doing and have a ton of extra space” loom. When you see large rugs and tapestries, they are done on a loom similar to this.

floor loom

The samples that were brought in were really impressive. I didn’t want to be insulting, but the best way I could describe them was that they looked “store-bought.” These are all hand-woven and are beautiful. Using different types of string, different patterns and different looms, created totally different textiles.

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Our little lesson was enough to make me want to learn so much more. Charlie says not yet, and he’s right. We’re in the middle of planting season and won’t have time to take on any big projects until after the last harvest. Until then, I think some books and maybe some classes are in order. I’m imagining my gorgeous alpaca woven into something fabulous.

 

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Potato Planter Bags

Potatoes don’t grow like other garden plants.  Seed potatoes are planted in fairly shallow soil, then more soil is added as the plant grows up. The potatoes grow off the roots and stem of the plant, under the dirt. Because of their weird growth style, people will often plant them in buckets or bags. That way, as the plant grows, it’s easy to add more soil. Deeper soil = more potatoes.

When Charlie told me he was ordering bags to plant potatoes in, I didn’t give it a thought. When they arrived, I realized I should have given it some thought. As so often happens now, my first thought was, “I could make those!”

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The first thing I noticed was that they were made of material very similar to our feed bags. I’ve already had practice making feed bag totes ( http://redmonwoods.com/2014/12/15/feed-bag-tote-bag/ ), and I figured I could put my stash to good use. Because I have a lot of them…

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I was a little worried they may not be big enough, but when I compared them to the potato bags, they’re actually quite a bit bigger.

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What you need:

  • Empty 50 lb. feed bag – the kind that is made of a sort of woven plastic-y material
  • Heavy duty thread
  • Heavy material needle
  • Scissors or Rotary cutter

The first step is to cut the bottom off the bag.

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Turn the bag inside out, smooth it out, and stitch across the bottom. I used a double seam to make it stronger. The seams are at 1/4″ and 1/2″ from the edge.

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This is my view while I work. I get distracted by it, so now you get to be distracted by it, too.

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This next step can be a little tricky, and it’s hard to explain. Hopefully, the picture helps. Fold the bottom corners so that the bottom seam lines up with the crease down the side. The bags measure 20″ across, so I am going to make my corner seam 5″ from the corner.

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Again, I did a double seam for strength. The black line is at my 5″ measurement, then the 2 seams are 1/4″ and 1/2″ from that line.

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While you’re at the machine, fold over the top edge 2/12″ and stitch it down. I only say 2 1/2″ because I didn’t want to fold the chick’s head in half, you can fold it over as much as you want. But 2 1/2″ seems to work well. No need to double stitch here.

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Charlie said handles would be helpful. The bags he purchased had little straps sewn onto the sides, which promptly broke the first time he tried to move the bags with soil in them. Along the piece I just folded over, I drew a line 4″ across, on each side of the bag. Feed bags have a fairly sharp seam down each side, so it’s really easy to figure out where to place the line.

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Now, I basically made a giant buttonhole. I had to redo this a couple of times because I tried to use my machine’s buttonhole setting, and it wasn’t big enough. With the machine set to a zig-zag stitch, just go around your line, with the edge of the presser foot running alongside the line. I wanted the stitching to go continuously around the line, for no other reason than I wanted it that way. Since I couldn’t turn the bag to go up the other side of the line, I put the machine in reverse and backed it up the line. (So, in the picture, I sewed down the right side, across the bottom, then backed up the left side, turning again to go across the top.)

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Back to the cutting table. Cut the corners off the bottom, and cut along the line inside the “giant buttonhole” to create the handle. (Yes, my hands got dirty with this project. I saw no reason to rinse out the bag since I was just going to be filling it with dirt.)

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Last step, cut some little holes in the bottom for drainage. The store-bought version has little round holes, but my little diamond shapes were easier to cut out.

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Ta da!!! Bags to plant potatoes in! They’re a little taller and even a little sturdier than the store-bought bags. Charlie’s excited because now we have a place to plant even more different kinds of potatoes. I guess I’ll be making a few more bags.

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Bonus: They only cost the price of the thread!

Double bonus: Feed bags recycled instead of thrown away!!

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Evolution of a Project

I never claim to know exactly what I’m doing – especially when it comes to fiber projects. I have an idea what I want to happen, but I’ve come to accept that these things make some of their own decisions and I just have to follow it. People don’t always understand my imagination. Heck, I don’t understand my imagination. But, as Charlie has said, it’s best just to let me go with it.

This project started with a ball of alpaca yarn and my desire to make an envelope-type pouch for P.J. to keep his important papers in. What it ended up being wasn’t even close.

First, I crocheted a long rectangle, but I realized it wasn’t going to be big enough. I didn’t have another ball of this yarn, so I decided to just play with what I had. I threw it into the wash to felt it and make it more solid. It not only felted, it got REALLY fuzzy. Definitely not something P.J. would want.

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But, hey, maybe it could be a little purse. I had crocheted a little hole into one end for a clasp, so it would be easy enough to find a cute button, stitch up the sides and add a strap.

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Tori happened to walk in and said, “That would make a cute little purse. If you don’t want to make it for P.J., I’d like it.” Now, making something for Tori opens up all kinds of possibilities.  I think it needs a little hair cut before I do anything.

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I decided it looked like an owl. Really. I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like, I just had to figure out how I was going to do that. I went on a search for owls online and found one that I thought would work perfectly. The head will be on the flap part, the body will be on the lower part, and I’ll find a button for the beak. I think.  (To read more about needle felting designs, read this: http://redmonwoods.com/2014/10/17/needle-felting-my-slippers/ )

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I select my colors and get to work. I have no idea how I’m going to make the wings look like wings, so I start with the face.

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So far, so good. Sort of. The hole I made for the button has wandered over into the eye, but I think I can fix that.

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I really don’t want the feathers to be solid fiber. I want them to at least look a little bit like feathers. I decide to make little loops out of the fiber, then needle felt it like that. And it works! I wasn’t sure it would attach completely, but after lots of stabbing it’s holding great. I used shades of light brown, dark brown, blue, purple and gray to give it some more depth and variety. For not having any idea how I was going to make it work, I’m pretty proud of how it’s turning out.

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After all of this, I need a beak that will look like a beak. A plastic triangle button would be my last resort. We attended a gem show, and a vendor had arrowheads. Those would be perfect! But none of them seem to be the right size. Charlie remembers the Mountain Man show will be a couple of weeks later, and they may have different kinds of buttons. He was right. We found several booths with bone, antler and stone buttons. We ended up buying about 10 different buttons  because we just couldn’t decide which would work best.

A little blanket stitch around the edges to hold the purse together, and a button made from antler, and my little project is almost finished. It just needs a strap, but I showed it to Tori and haven’t seen it since. I think she already has it in her backpack, full of her stuff.

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I think it came out pretty darn cute!

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Felted Soap

If you Google “Felted Soap,” you’ll find lots of beautiful pieces. On the one hand, I’m jealous of such artistic talent, but on the other hand, I would never use soap that was so beautiful. I wouldn’t even want to put it in my guest bathroom for fear someone would use it. Sort of defeats the purpose of soap.

Like everything, I hope to get better at making felted soap. For now, I’m happy to learn that the basic process is super-easy. (“Super-easy” seems to be a theme for the projects I like.)  The general idea is you wrap wool or alpaca around a bar of soap, get it wet, and rub/agitate it until the fiber attaches to itself, around the soap.

The key to felted soap, is the soap. You can use homemade or store-bought soap. It takes a good amount of lather to work its way through the felt, so you want a soap that gets good and sudsy. I found Kirk’s Natural Soap at the grocery store at a cost of 3 bars for under $5. It suds up really well, and works great for felting!

What you need:

Bar Soap

Carded/combed fiber

Colored felting fiber for decoration/design (optional)

Baking pan or shallow dish

Warm water with small amount of Dawn

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A few weeks ago I dyed some alpaca fiber with turmeric. It made a really pretty yellow, and I used that for this project.  (Check out how to dye with turmeric here:  http://redmonwoods.com/2015/02/09/turmeric-dye/ ) I wanted a basic rainbow of color around the soap, so I used small strips of colored fiber, also.

The first step is to lay out the fiber. The first layer will be the outermost layer on your soap. I set the bar of soap in the pan to get a look at how far across the fiber needs to be. Once the outer layer of colored fiber is laid out, add your main fiber on top of that, in the same direction.

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Continue to lay out thin layers of fiber in opposite directions.

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Wet the fiber with warm, slightly soapy water, and lay the bar soap on top. Then, wrap the fiber around the soap, as tightly as possible.

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Gently rub the “design” on your soap, in order to get it to felt, without moving around too much.

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After 10-15 minutes, the outer design will be attached enough to hold into place. Now, you can rub the whole bar, gently at first to get it loosely attached. Once the fiber doesn’t lift up, you can rub it vigorously, just like lathering up in the shower. I spin it in one hand, while resting the end in the other hand, for about 10 turns, then flip it and spin in the other direction. This takes about another 10 minutes. The soap will start working through the fiber and gets lathery enough that I stand over the sink so I can fling the excess soap off my hands as I work.

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The fiber will form itself around the soap and become like a solid piece of fabric. Once everything is sticking together, set the bar aside for a day or 2 to dry.

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The final product is soap, wrapped up in its own, natural fiber, wash cloth!

Notes:

You can make your outer design whatever you want, or nothing at all.

Lots of people like using liquid body wash with a scrubby. This gives you the soap and scrubby in one.

Felted soap works great for travelling! No need to worry about getting liquid soap through airport security.

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Felting Crocheted Items

It has come to my attention that I’ve written about some of the more work-intensive felts, but have neglected to write about another easy method of felting. You can actually crochet any item you want, and then felt it. This makes the item more solid and more sturdy.

I’m still improving with my spinning, which means some of my yarn still comes out pretty crummy. I wrap these balls of yarn in a different colored yarn to remind myself not to use it in something that needs “good” yarn (like my alpaca blanket I’m crocheting). This yarn is over-twisted, under-twisted, thick, thin. In other words, what fiber artists would call “art yarn.” What that really means is they can charge you more. This type of yarn is great for felting. The process is going to make it felt together and get fluffy, so all the goofs will be absorbed in the process.

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If you don’t spin your own yarn, you can use any animal fiber yarn. I’ve used both wool and alpaca, and they give two very different looks. Anything you can crochet or knit, you can felt. I used alpaca for this project.

 To make a basket, you just make a beanie-type cap.  Start with your circle, and continue to crochet in the round, increasing with each row. You can see here how lumpy and uneven the yarn is.0224150850 (500x402)

(Note: I start with 4 chain stitches, connect them in a loop with a slip stitch, the crochet 12 double stitches through the center loop. Connect last stitch to first stitch with a slip stitch at the end of each row. 2nd row: 2 double stitches in each stitch. 3rd row: 2 double stitches in first stitch, 1 double stitch in the next stitch, continue all the way around. 4th row: 2 double stitches in first stitch, 1 double stitch in each of the next 2 stitches. Continue in this manner with each row, until you have the size you desire.)

Continue with your increases until your circle is a little bigger than you want the bottom of your basket to be.

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When my base is the size I want, I like to crochet the next row into just the front stitches. This just helps to make a defining line between the bottom and the sides, but it’s not necessary.

I’m really bad about slip-stitching the ends of each row together, so once I’m working my way up the sides, I keep on going in more of a spiral. I used my whole ball of less-than-perfect yarn and my basket wasn’t as high as I wanted it. I had about a half-ball of a different color and decided to use that to finish up. I like it.

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Now for the hard part. Ready? Throw it in the washing machine. Yep, that’s it. It works well to throw in a pair of jeans to help with the agitation. (Don’t use a towel because off the towel fluff pills up in the felting) Use a little squirt of Dawn liquid, set the washing machine on hot water and high agitation and let it do its thing. After the first round of washing, you’ll notice a good amount of felting, but still be able to see the individual stitching. This is fine, if it’s the look you’re going for. I usually run my items through 3 times to get them good and felted. After each round of washing, check your item to make sure it’s holding its shape and not felting onto itself. I’ve never had this happen, but I’ve heard it can, so I check. Once your item is felted as much as you want it, run it through a cold water rinse, let the water spin out, and set it out to dry. I set basket shapes upside down, over an upside down bowl to help them dry into the desired shape.

When felting alpaca it gets really furry. I’ve done this with a few different items, and it fluffs up every time.

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I thought this one ended up looking like a bird’s nest, so that’s exactly what I decided to use it for. Eggs!

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I made another piece out of alpaca, but didn’t want it quite so fuzzy, so I just gave it a haircut. Using scissors, carefully trim off the extra length you don’t want. Come to think of it, beard or hair trimmers may work well for this.

I’ve also made a basket out of wool yarn, and then needle felted an alpaca on it. You can see that this isn’t nearly as fuzzy as the alpaca yarn basket.

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You can find animal fiber yarns at most fabric and craft stores. If you want something handspun, you can find this at local fiber shows, and sometimes at farmer’s markets. If you’re city-bound, you can always hit up Craigslist.

One of my projects this next year will be slippers that are crocheted, then felted. I’m not sure how much bigger I’ll need to make them, in order for them to end up the right size. I’ll be experimenting with that.