Category: how to

the 2019 annual scrap festival : 10 ideas for your scraps

stitched amulets on my work table

stacks of antique fabric scraps

Did you know it is national scrap week? It is not. I made that up. But it should be a thing. I’m making it a thing.  A bag of scraps is food for thought, inspiration, an invitation to happenstance, possibility thinking. It always has been for me.  

January is an organizing month here. I am sorting through pretty much everything but mostly fabric scraps. Choosing what to keep, what to let go of and making what I keep as tidy and orderly as scraps can be. I’m ironing my scraps. I secretly love to iron. Not my clothes, I’m permanently, slightly, comfortably disheveled.  I like to iron scraps. It’s a little ridiculous. Lets call it meditative. Or it could also be called productive procrastination… 

tiny scrap of vintage fabric to patch tiny pants

And sometimes not so productive procrastination. It frequently devolves into spending a lot of time pondering a very small and fabulous scrap. I love this scrap. Now I have to make a tiny pair of pants so I can add this patch to them. And then I have to make a lamb to put in the pants. You see how this goes…

fragment of an antique garment

There are some pieces I can’t call scraps. Some are so exquisite I call them fragments. Something left over from a life with marks from other hands and days.  

If you have found your way here it is likely you have scraps too. In celebration of the inaugural scrap festival I’ve collected 10 ideas for your scraps. Let’s start with 3 projects for your most special scraps, your fragments.  

1. sweet needle books –  for needles and ideas and memories.

2. amulets – little stitch experiments I  started making last summer. I begin with no shape in mind, just layering my favorite fragments, experimenting and playing with compositions. Then I trim them and sew a backing. I find the compositions are more interesting if I approach them this way rather than beginning with the shape. I made a little template of the shapes I use for you – you can download that here.  And for cord I usually use this waxed thread (PS I get a tiny commission if you buy it through that link, you can also find it in craft stores).

stitched amulets on my work table

3. ethereal garlands – for the tiniest scraps, the un-sewables, the little whispers you can’t let go of.

4. string quilts- there is a full tutorial here for this quick and easy flip and sew technique for your longish scraps.

5. Once you have pieced together a bunch of scraps you can make a fabric basket – you know what you could put in it?  Scraps.

specks and keeping stitched compostition

6. marvelous fabric compositions – let happenstance be your guide and find inspiration in these stitched pieces by Specks and Keepings. The left-overs from garment sewing are used as is. I love the compositions. There is magic in those accidental shapes and relationships. 

7. french seam pillow cases – for your larger scraps. This is on my domestic sewing list. 

8. jar opener – so clever – made from fabric scraps and rubber shelf liner. 

9. fabric twine – for your tiny scraps. And netflix. And wine. 

10. And finally – it  is illegal to do a blog post about fabric scrap projects without including fabric bunting. Plus I love it – so sweet to make for little folks.

Find 4 more scrap project ideas here. And if you have a project to recommend please leave it in the comments.

 P S – Do you get my free weekly-ish newsletter? There are tips and tricks, ideas, stuff to try, all the latest news and blogposts and extra stuff, just for subscribers, delivered mostly on Friday. Pretty much.

ann wood : stitch expeiments and stacks of antique scraps

the world’s sweetest needle book : a free sewing pattern

heart needle book sewing pattern

free heart needle book tutorial

This little book will certainly hold your needles. It could also be a repository for the scraps you can’t part with. It could tell a story, mark an occasion, like a birth or anniversary, or be a sort of travel journal, the pages filled with little things found along the way and saved.

needle book and tiny rag doll night gown

I always travel with small sewing and it is always a mess of ziplock bags and other aesthetically unappealing containers with sharp things poking out of them. This started as a practical project and turned into a whole other thing.

I made this needle book for future me. Future me is the sort of person who is packed a week before travel, has extra light bulbs and never runs out of toilet paper.

needle book made from scraps

needle book ideas

I’m in love with my little needle book and plan to take it pretty much everywhere for the rest of my life. There are more of these books in my future, for needles and ideas and memories. It is good winter evening sewing.

needle book : free sewing pattern

pin it for later

I’ve put together a tutorial for you below. And subscribers will have a link to a pdf download emailed to them.

You will need a basic sewing kit and the templates.

download the templates

materials :

  • cotton or light linen 
  • scraps for details
  • matching and contrasting thread
  • button
  • embroidery thread
  • batting or felt
  • light weight cardboard
  • ribbon
  • gluestick

patch and appliques : needle book pages

Cut out two each of the A, B, C and heart pattern pieces. One side of A will be your cover page. Add patches, embroidery, appliqués, and other details to your pages. Also cut out 2 cardboard support pieces from light weight cardboard ( a cereal box is great). Use a glue stick to glue the cardboard to pieces of batting or felt and cut out.

Note: Piecing fabric together before cutting the pattern shapes creates a nice variety in the pages.

needle book : ribbon latch

Cut a 3 and 1/2 inch length of ribbon or trim and fold in half. With the right side of the cover fabric facing you pin the folded ribbon to the center of the left side. The folded edge should extend 1 and 1/4 inches from the seam line.  I’m using 1/4 inch cotton twill tape.

needle book_tutorial : seam lines

Pin The A, B, C and heart pieces with the right sides together and stitch the seam lines. Leave a small section on each open for turning. Be sure that the opening on A is large enough to insert the cardboard supports. Clip off the corners of the rectangles close to the seam. Clip the bottom point of the heart and clip notches around the curves at the top and at the center.

needle book tutorial : stitch pages

Turn your sewn and clipped pieces right side out. Use a chopstick or similar to push the corners and curves all the way out.  Add any additional appliqué or other details.

needle book tutorial : insert support

Insert the cardboard and batting pieces into the cover page. The batting side should be facing the inside and the cardboard facing the outside cover.  Push the cardboard all the way to each side, there should be an empty space between them. Leave the cover open at the bottom.

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the fruitless search for the ultimate organic dot and the diy solution

The quest for the perfect organic dot fabric for toadstools is never ending, I’m always on the look out for fungal feeling dots, speckles and marks in general and I’m super particular. Shopping in LA a few weeks ago there was lots of nice batik stuff that was close but no cigar. I described my dream fabric to my friend Molly and she said “dude you could totally make that”. That is such a good attitude. Yesterday I experimented a little. And dude, I can totally make that, so can you.

making marks on cotton fabric with bleach

Gather some cotton fabric, bleach, wax paper and tools for mark making. I tried all sorts of things, rubber stamps, pallet knives, brushes, straws, cardboard, spools, on and on. Also put on an apron and some gloves and do this somewhere very well ventilated or outside.

marking with bleach on fabric using a pencil eraser

I had one little dish of straight up bleach (you just need a little) and another diluted about 2 parts bleach to one part water. I put wax paper under the fabric and started making marks. My favorite tools ended up being a pencil eraser, putty knife, a stiff bristle brush, a toothbrush for splattering and a little spool that I glued a piece of wool felt to one end of. A cork would have been good too – just thought of it.

spool with wool felt glued to one end for bleach printing

cotton fabrics printed with bleach for making fabric toadstools

The marks take a moment to begin to “develop”. I let most of the fabric sit for about 20 minutes before rinsing. I have googled/pinterested around and there are all sorts of interesting things you can do with this technique and you can get pretty fancy about it. Find a great tutorial here and another here. 

We will be playing with this process in my botanical workshop in Kentucky next November (at this moment is is wait list only but if you’d like to go jump on the wait list – stuff happens in a year).

toadstools made from fabric

toadstools made from fabric, brown and red with spots

find the mushroom sewing pattern here

I love how they turned out, the bleach prints are so perfect for little fungi.

doll making tips and tricks

dampening the fabric before stuffing a doll

One of the challenges in tiny rag doll sewing is getting a smooth neck. It is challenging when sewing any doll that has a torso and head as one piece, the stuffing wants to sneak out of the narrow part. I always recommend wool stuffing and that helps but stuffing still escapes sometimes. This past week I came across a great post on stuffing small dolls by Beth, author of By Hook, By Hand, that includes this genius tip for getting a smooth result, particularly in the neck. Spray a little water on the fabric before you stuff.

dampening the fabric before stuffing a doll

I gave it a try this week and the result is marvelous. It’s so simple. Also I was impatient so I used a blow dryer to speed things up after I stuffed, not sure if that made a difference or not.

adding stuffing to the doll torso

I stuff most of my figures, owls, songbirds etc. as firmly as I can but rag dolls are different. I like rag dolls to be stuffed just enough to completely fill out the shape but not too firmly.

moving stuffing inside a rag doll with a needle

Sculpting from the outside with a needle helps refine the shape too – I mean moving stuffing into little cavities with a needle from the outside after a doll is stuffed and closed. I almost always do this with any stuffed thing I make. And I find it easier to feel the areas that need to be filled in more than looking for them.

tiny rag doll with a shawl and satchel

While we are on the subject of tiny dolls, find the easy way to turn tiny parts here and tips for hiding knots here.

onward,

ann

PS – the songbird print pattern is back in stock and ready to ship

the songbird pattern is in the shop and a free tutorial : how to make a realistic bird foot

sewing pattern for a textile songbird

The songbird PDF pattern is in the shop today! It has more than 100 color photos and detailed instructions.  You need basic sewing skills and some patience if you are a beginner.

stitched songbird in a tree

textile songbird in prospect park

hand stitched songbird - back

And to celebrate the instructions for making a realistic bird leg are below. I hope you make songbirds!

How to make a realistic bird leg with wire:

You can use any gauge wire you like, I think that 19 gauge soft annealed wire is the easiest to work with and provides enough stability for the legs. You can build up the thickness of the legs and feet by adding additional layers of floral tape.

how to make a realistic bird leg - step 1

1. Gather the wire, floral tape, hammer, pliers and cutters, ruler and a surface to hammer on, I’m using a little anvil but any very hard surface will do.
Cut 2 –  12 inch lengths of wire.

how to make a bird leg - step 2     how to make a realistic bird leg - step 3    2. Hold the wire with the pliers 1 and 1/2 inches from one end.
3. Bend the wire forming a loop.

how to make a realistic bird leg - step 4     how to make a realistic bird leg - step 5
4. Hold the loop just past where the wire crosses with the pliers. Bend the long end of the wire so it is perpendicular to the loop.
5. Wrap the long end of the wire around the short end behind the loop. Wrap as tightly as you can, keeping you fingers very close to the wrapping.

how to make a realistic bird leg - step 6     how to make a realistic bird leg - step 6
6. Place the wire on a hard surface and tap firmly with the hammer to flatten the wire wrapping. This will help the wrap hold in the next step.
7. Use wire cutters to snip the loop in the middle.

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4 scrap projects to try and a peek at the next two patterns

craft projects made from scraps

craft projects made from scraps

Little projects, for your little bits of fabric:

1. Charming little houses by retro mama. So sweet! And I love her fabric combinations, the natural linen and bright prints. The full pattern and tutorial are both detailed and excellent and you can find them right here.

2. Fabric wrapped hangers. I’m happiest when I have busy hands. Things like paper mache that occupy my hands and relax my mind. Good thinking projects. I also like hangers that things don’t fall off of.

3. For your tiniest scraps darling little flags with a secret ingredient. Perfect for your paper castles and cupcakes and maybe paper mache boats?

4. Paper piecing is perfect summer sewing, something that travels well, beach sewing. This tutorial is great.

And pattern news:

Update 1/25/2019  – both of the sewing pattern below are complete and in the shop.

 

songbird pattern progress

The pdf version of the songbird pattern is just about ready to go. To drive myself crazy I’ve also been working on the print version at the same time and that will be right behind it. It has been a giant undertaking.

paper mache ship pattern progress

The paper mache ship pattern is at the printer as we speak. I’m picking it up next Monday. So  pleased to have it in print. It won’t be in the shop for a couple weeks because I’ll be traveling and teaching.

squam art fair

When I’m back I’ll turn it into a kit too. I am bringing the ship print patterns (and some ships) to Squam with me. Come say hi at the art fair next Saturday night, it’s such fun, there are twinkle lights and beer.

an entirely satisfying activity involving scraps

lace scrap spools

garlands made from lace scraps

All you need are scraps. And a sewing machine. It is the kind of thing you could lose yourself in, the next thing you know hours have gone by and there are miles of it. It’s a meandering process and an invitation to happy accidents, there are no mistakes, it is not careful (except keeping your fingers away from the needle) and there is no planning. The perfect thing if you are feeling the need for something spontaneous. Just start and keep adding stuff.

garlands made form little scraps of fabric and lace

My approach was pretty bare bones and I had lots of fun. What is your scrap situation like? I’ve got tons and lots of it very small.  I dumped the whole thing out and started pulling out the tiniest scraps, the un-sewables, the little whispers I can’t let go of.

 garlands of scrap lace

Start with one piece, add another and another, machine stitching through the whole thing, sometimes bunching or curving the little pieces. I can’t stop. And they don’t need to be lace, I’ve got cotton scraps too and I’ll try those next.  And you can add other stuff and get super intricate and detailed – find a tutorial here.

You could use the garlands for packages or hang them (maybe with some twinkle lights and paper mache ships) or stitch them onto doll clothes or your clothes or make a crown for somebody little.

I made a mini one  to use as a roiling sea for this little boat.  Find the free mouse pattern here and the free  little boat pattern here.

very nice mice free sewing pattern     

how to make a tiny bicorne hat

colorful handmade pirate birds with fancy bicorne hats (you should make one)

colorful handmade pirate birds with fancy bicorne hats (you should make one)

They are such fun to make. I want to put a bicorne on everything. I might start wearing one (kidding). You just need a few scraps and a few minutes.  I’ve made you a template in two sizes, one just right for little birds and another that is perfect for mr. socks. He likes to dress up like a pirate once in a while too.  Who doesn’t.

mr. socks dressed up like a pirate

materials for making a pirate hat

You will need:

The template pdf, wool felt, bright fabric scraps, embroidery thread, a couple sequins and/or some metallic embroidery thread, pinking shears and basic sewing supplies.

1. Cut out 2 felt pieces for the hat and 2 accent pieces.Use pinking shears for the curved part of the accent pieces.

2. Whipstitch the accent fabric to each felt piece with embroidery thread and stitch on a little sequin and fabric scrap to one of the pieces.

3. Place the two pieces together and  blanket or whip stitch the top together. You can find a video of the blanket stitch here – just make the stitch length much smaller.

how to make a little felt pirate hat

handmad pirate bird with a fancy bicorne hat

handmade pirate birds made from fortuny textiles

handmade pirate birds made from fortuny textiles

There are tips for piratizing birds here and if you make a tiny pirate hat I’d love to see! You can use #putabicorneonit on instagram.

template and instructions for making a tiny pirate hat

how to hide knots and an easy way to add seam allowance

tape pencils together to mark a consistent seam allowance

If you have taken a workshop with me then you know I am the seam allowance police. I always mark my stitch line. I think it’s essential for small sewing. I recently came across an easy way to add or mark a consistent seam allowance:

tape pencils together to mark a consistent seam allowance

Tape pencils together.

That’s it. If you’re drafting patterns it’s a quick and easy way to make a consistent seam allowance and for marking fabric just put one pencil point on the edge of the fabric and trace around. Also, if you glue a sheet of very fine sandpaper to a piece of cardboard or foam core it makes an ideal surface to keep your fabric from slipping as you make your marks.

tape pencils together to mark a consistent seam allowance

While we are talking about sewing tips one of the questions I’m asked most frequently is how to hide knots when adding features and details. I include this trick in almost every pattern I publish (and you can find a video of it here).

1. Make a tiny knot close to the end of your thread.

2. Insert the needle a little away from where you would like to begin and come out where you would like the first stitch.

3. Pull the thread tight to pop the knot through.

4. Insert the needle and use a sweeping motion to grab the thread from the inside  and pull the tail in.  I’m ready to embroider the little white ring around my bird eye ( I always add one dot to the center too, to give it life).

5. When you are almost finished stitching stop before you are ready to make the last stitch and make a knot in the thread.  Before you tighten the knot insert the needle into the loop and pull it down the thread until it is just a little further away from your work than the length the last stitch will be.

6. Make your stitch, bringing your needle out about 1/2 inch away, pop the knot through, pull the thread tight and clip it close to the fabric. If there is still a little tail use your needle to pull it under again.

trick for hiding sewing knots

Finished!  And no messy knots.  Find another tip for making small sewing beautiful and easy right here.

little doll jacket : a free sewing tutorial

tiny rag doll jacket

Sometimes a light jacket is just the thing and I’ve made you a simple and easy sewing pattern in two sizes, one for the tiny rag doll (or any dollhouse size doll) and a slightly larger version for mr. socks. And the pattern scales well so you could use it for other dolls too. It’s quick and very easy.

little doll jacket sewing pattern

tiny rag doll jacket

The hat pattern is free too and you can find the satchel pattern here, if you need to fully outfit someone tiny.

mr. socks jacket : free pattern

You might also notice that mr. socks is wearing pants for the first time. I made them using the bloomer pattern for the tiny rag doll sewing pattern. I add about 1/4 inch to the pattern and left an opening in the back to accommodate his tail.

mr. socks

mr. socks in pants
little doll jacket : free tutorial

little doll jacket : free tutorial

To make the jacket you will need : wool felt, an embroidery thread, a tiny button, basic sewing supplies and the pattern.

download the sewing pattern here

* You can click each image for a larger view

1. Cut out the three pattern pieces and pin to your felt.
2. Cut out one of each.

3. Fold the rounded collar of the front top over and stitch.  I’m using one strand of embroidery floss. You can use any stitch you like, fancy or simple. I’m using a basic whip stitch.
4. Fold over each rounded cuff and stitch as well.

5. Pin the front under piece to the back piece, make sure your folded and stitched cuffs  are on the outside.
6. Pin the front top piece as shown.

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4 free projects to try and a post crash update

4 free projects to try

minki kim linen bookmarks

I’ve been hitting the Pinterest pretty hard lately and collected a few projects I thought you might like to try.  First, linen book marks by Minki Kim. I love book marks as little gifts (it is time to make the things for the people…) and Minki shares some great techniques and ideas for imagery.

felt ornament gift tags

Next stitched felt gift tags from Purl Soho. Purl has a huge collection of free projects, it goes on and on, lots of knit and crochet stuff and a bunch of sewing and craft projects too – all with Purl’s sweet, clean, contemporary style.

bustle and sew alpaca

And a dear Appliqué Alpaca from Bustle and Sew. Everybody loves an alpaca. Find all the instructions and templates right here.

the cheerful space diy

Finally a step by step painting tutorial from The Cheerful Space. I especially love this for a beginner or somebody who is having a hard time starting – this will get you moving and trying stuff.

and the post crash update:

I’m back in Brooklyn but not back to business as usual. It has been a month since the ceiling came crashing down unexpectedly and I’m still dealing with it. I do have a ceiling again, a beautiful ceiling but I have not been able to put things back together here yet. I came home to one hundred years of dust. In everything, it went everywhere.  Looking on the bright side it has been a fabulous opportunity to vacuum, wash, or launder    every    single    thing    I    own.

temporary arrangements

temporary arrangements

And I was very surprised to find about 2 thirds of my place painted an aggressive shade of salmon pink. I have no idea why. No one does.  It should be repainted by Monday and I can’t wait. I am spiritually at odds with this color.

But still, I am home. Happy to be here and making things. Please meet Fernando (dashing in powder blue) and Alvaro.

fernando and alvaro : fortuny owls

fortuny owl : fernando

alvaro : fortuny owl

4 free projects to try

dear little paper mache boat ornament : a free tutorial

free tutorial : dear little boat

Everybody loves to go boating.

I’ve made you something!  A free tutorial for a dear little paper mache boat ornament. The boat is 5 and 1/2 inches long and 6 and1/2 inches high – a very nice size for very nice mice or tiny rag dolls.

tiny rag doll

ann wood : boat ornament

They are quick and simple to make (really quick! make a bunch) and only require little bits of fabric, cardboard and other things you probably already have.  And the pattern scales up easily – if you’d like to make a larger boat. I think it is helpful to read through all the steps before you begin.

To get started download the dear little boat and sail templates here.

little boat tutorial

* You can click each image for a larger view.

1. Place the boat template on your cardboard and trace the outline. Mark the fold lines (the dashed lines on the template) in colored pencil. Use the BACK of the exacto knife to lightly score the fold lines. Cut out the template.

2. Gently fold at the scored fold lines.

3. Bring the front sides and bottom together.

4. Tape over the tabs with masking tape – it’s helpful to tear off several little pieces of tape so they are ready when you need them.

5. Tape over the outside seams as well.

6. Fold up the back of the boat and tape over the tabs as well as the outside cardboard seams.

7. Fold the boat bottom flap tabs toward the print side.

8. Fold the bottom flap into the boat and tape over the tabs

9. Fold the sides over – into the boat.

10. Tape along all the edges. We are ready for paper mache.

paper mache tips: Because the boat is small and our armature is sturdy – one layer of paper mache is enough. If you are making a larger boat use at least two layers. Tear small pieces of newsprint – roughly an inch or smaller – small pieces of paper create a smooth sturdy result- use the smallest pieces for covering corners, tight curves and edges. I like commercially prepared wall paper paste – available at most hardware stores Collect text scraps for embellishing.

11. Begin with the edges – paint paste onto the boat – apply a piece of paper and paint paste over.

12. After covering the edges fill in the rest of the areas. One layer of paper is enough for a small boat – two will make it even sturdier. If adding a second layer there is no need to wait for the first to dry. Read More