Archive for May, 2007

Mercury’s Slippers

mercury_tease.jpgIt has been a while since I went into a full step-by-step process post, but these slippers were so easy to create, so much easier than my first pair, that it seems right to share with everyone.

Before getting started, I should say that the pattern and instructions for these slippers came from Pat Sparks Feltmaker’s List, once again.

What a fountain of information she has created! Forget the books, unless you need some pictures to inspire you; instead start right away with her instructions. I’ve corrected just about everything I first learned thanks to her instructions.

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1. Start with tracing your foot, and then create an oval around your outline. Make a rough boot shape drawing a straight line up from the middle of the instep. Trace two of these shapes, end to end, on a piece of fabric to create your resist. I used a bit of diaper fabric because it is coated on one side, but cotton will work just as well.

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2. Time to lay out your batts over the resist. I started with a layer of natural, undyed wool that is slightly coarse and crimped, partly because it would give the slippers stability, and partly because I wanted the inside to be white. The colored wool is New Zealand merino, very soft and combed straight. The wool in each layer lies perpendicular to the wool in the layer beneath it.

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You should have two identical batts when you are finished composed of four (or more) layers – two white and two colored. Take your time laying out the batts, as it is important that they are even throughout, otherwise, you will have thin spots in your slippers.

If you are very lucky, a handsome barista will enter at this point with a large foamy café au lait to bolster your energy.

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3. Moisten the first batt with hot, soapy water and lay your screen over the roving. I used rubberized non-skid carpet underlay, but you can use a polyester curtain or some other sheer fabric. Get your hands nice and soapy, then rub them all over the surface, agitating gently without moving the fibers around. Let the felting begin!

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4. After a couple of minutes, remove the screen and flip over your batt. Tuck the loose edges around your resist.

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5. Repeat the process with the second batt, and then sandwich the two together.

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6. Fold the loose edges of the second batt over the first batt, which has already been tidied. Your resists will be trapped in the middle inside, between the layers of felt.

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7. The next step is fulling the felt. I use bubble wrap, as directed by Pat Sparks; other people use bamboo screens, or blinds, and still others use yoga mats. Whatever you use, give the felt another dose of hot, soapy water, roll it up and work it.

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My preferred method is to wrap the bubble wrap bundle in a beach towel and rock it back and forth under my feet for fifteen minutes. This creates a nice firm felt, in a short amount of time. Other methods suggest rubbing the felt on a washboard, but I found this laborious and boring.

The towel technique is a variation on the time-tested method used by nomadic peoples around the world to create large tapestries and yurts; they bundled the wool and dragged it for miles behind a pack animal as they travelled across the steppes.

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8. Unroll the bundle after five minutes to check on the progress. It may be necessary to straighten or realign the felt if it has become skewed in one direction, or if it is felting more in one spot than another.

9. Rotate the felt 90 degrees before rolling it back up to ensure that it felts evenly in all directions.

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10. When the felt is close to the size you hope to achieve, it is time to cut the package open. This is my favorite part. Slice them right down the middle and extract the fabric resist.

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11. Since I intended to keep these slippers, I put them on and worked them with some more hot water until they felt snug; this is where the final shaping happens. If you are making a small pair, simply felt them around your hand, working the felt from both the inside and the outside.

I was a bit too vigorous at this stage, as one of the slippers has a little nipple on the toe where I didn’t smooth out the crease down the middle carefully enough. It is also nice to work all of the edges after they have been cut to make them look smooth.

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Almost done…

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…a little lariat, a few needle felted leaves and a little button to close it up. Lance said I remind him of the Mercury Man logo for FTD flowers wearing these slippers, derived from the Roman god Mercury hence the name Mercury’s Slippers.

Old Trees

Standing around chatting with a parent at our preschool this Saturday, I happened to whip out my checkbook sporting a slightly botched, very stretched needle felted checkbook cover with this design. My friend had been giving me advice because I was wearing these two numbers, and she thought I should start selling my work. When I whipped out the checkbook to show her my latest idea, she immediately asked me to make one for her husband, something a little more manly.  

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The tree motif was Lance’s idea of something manly. I was so excited when I got to her house to turn it over, that I forgot to set the macro focus on my camera, so these pictures are the best of a bad set.

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Pacific Fabrics sells clear vinyl printed with butterflies, frogs and flip flops for $4.99/yd. I bought 12″ of two different patterns, plenty for many more checkbook covers. Thanks for setting me off in the right direction, Sue. I love running into you on the street.

Sampler Swap

Always wanted to know what was in The Sampler, but never managed to snag one in that short little window when they are available? Now is your chance! I’m offering up the April and May Sampler to a pair of randomly selected commenters who tell me their favorite repurposed household item (old sneakers turned into a planter, toilet paper tube walkie-talkies).

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Not pictured here, but also included are copies of Croc Zine, the zine for and by crafters; Lemongrass Fennel Guest Soap from Barcelona Bath & Body, as well as Simple Rosemary Hemp Soap by botanical earth.

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I’ll try my best to reconstruct the Samplers as they arrived on my doorstep, but there might be a little confusion between the two packs. Just like the real Sampler, you never know what you are going to find!

Names will be drawn in one week, on Monday, May 28th.

Fixing Things

It is funny how a simple thing like folding laundry leads to a cascade of events that end up with this sweet little shirt. This story is a little like “If You Give a Pig A Pancake“.

After folding several loads of laundry, we tried to put away some t-shirts, but found the baskets were too full. Hmmm. Time to cull the old shirts at the bottom that get ignored week after week. This was a shirt bought at the Cotton Caboodle outlet on Elliott; it had sloppy seams when we bought in 2002, and after five years of wear, there really were no hems left.

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Since I didn’t have any thread to match the original stitches, I decided to add a little ribbon and stitch over the oddly colored hems. The warped sleeves didn’t look right by themselves, so this bit of stenciled fabric left over from here ended up in the middle. The irony is that I like this shirt so much more than the shirt I sent for Anna’s birthday, I may have to send it to her as well.

Can anyone give me suggestions for ways to sew knit fabric without stretching it out of shape? I’m going to pretend I wanted bell sleeves and a wavy hem for this shirt, but it would be nice to know how to avoid it in the future in case I wanted something a little straighter.

Working on the little turquoise ostrich was just practice for the real repair at hand: a “new” denim shirt brutally altered by a previous owner. I picked this up at the West Seattle clothing swap (didn’t I say it was a great day?) and have worn it twice, despite the fact that the sleeves were lopped off and the threads were left dangling. When I put it on this morning, I noticed that one sleeve was starting to rip vertically, making a nice little slit towards the shoulder. By the time I had finished folding all the laundry, the slit was getting dangerously close to bisecting the sleeve. Some repairs were needed, but what?

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My success with the little t-shirt left me inspired to pull out this ribbon trim and add it to the sleeve after I had hemmed it (no coordinating thread, again). One of the reasons I love this shirt is because I can show off my favorite stencil, P. Edward Squidersons II.

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Sophie kept me company as I worked today, ironing our best napkins. She did a great job, and said it was fun! I’ve got plans for you little girl… Actually, I hope she always enjoys ironing, so I’m going to resist the urge to use her helpful nature to my advantage.

Projectus Interruptus

I’m suffering from a bad case of crafter’s block, or perhaps it is aesthetic intimidation caused by reading too many blogs. Each of these projects was started with a burst of enthusiasm, but for various reasons, I had to stop before I was done and now I can’t decide how to “finish” them.

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This apron is made from a dishtowel and some grosgrain ribbon thrifted on Mother’s Day weekend. My original intention was to add a pocket just like this, à la Lotta Jansdotter‘s Café Apron, or perhaps a patch pocket with a freezer paper stencil applique, but I just can’t picture the right “thing”. Where has my muse gone?

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The inspiration for this little scissor hanger hit on Mother’s Day as well, but the ribbons aren’t exactly right, there isn’t enough room to include my rotary cutter, and the whole thing needs some interfacing or Timtex to make more rigid. Perhaps a more densely fulled piece of felt would be a better choice because the pinking shears make the bottom skew away from the top. This project is screaming do-over, but now that the bug to make it has evaporated, I’m lacking in motivation.

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This lambswool and angora sweater was acquired at the clothing swap in West Seattle, but I couldn’t bear to rip it apart because it is so warm and fuzzy. Small tears at the neck in the shoulder seams needed to be repaired this week, so I embroidered a vine across the neck and down each shoulder, but this isn’t done either. More or less?

Recycled Sweater Cases

A few weeks ago, friends alerted me to a clothing swap at a West Seattle co-housing community. My mind immediately started thinking about picking up sweaters for recycling. I brought home four, but decided one was too good to recycle.

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These small pouches were made from the sleeves of two different sweaters, both partially fulled by their previous owners.

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We’ve needed a new case for our teeny camera for several months. Ironically, the old one turned up at my son’s preschool the day after I finished sewing this together. The circles are cut from a sushi-felted tube I made around Valentines for class cards. I sliced of a bit and needle felted them to the wool before sewing it together.

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As this scene came together, I imagined a garden full of bachelor buttons. This is more of Marti’s roving, with more left for additional projects.

Inspiring Mothers

A friend called me on Monday morning to wish me a belated Happy Mother’s Day. She, too, is a mother, so I was a little surprised to receive her call, and her apology for getting to me so late. She has established a tradition since becoming a mother three years ago, of honoring mothers who inspire her on Mother’s Day. What a wonderful idea. I was touched to be included in her circle, and immediately started thinking of the women who would be on my list.

In no particular order, these women are all part of the Attachment Parenting community in Seattle:

fritilaria.jpgErika Jennings – for pursuing a path to peace, for envisioning a different way to communicate with our children, using the big-hearted language of Compassionate Communication. Thank you for making this your life work and sharing it with me.*

Sara Cole – for leading and guiding our community, for your friendship and support, for being the bridge that enables our community to be.

Tera Schreiber – for the gift of wisdom and the ability to express it so well. Thank you for bringing all of the hard work of parenting into perspective, and encouraging us to discuss it.

Jen Witsoe – for vision and leadership; with your ambition and drive, we will create a better place for families to grow together.**

Kristin and Heidi – for reminding me how precious and joyful the small moments can be with a wee one. Your faithfulness has given me a reason to continue carving out time in the week for my nourishment.

Erika Carlson – for leading a life that treads lightly on the earth, and for working to better your relationships rather than turn away from strife and difficulty.

*Erika is a peer educator working with the “Peaceful Families, Peaceful World Project“; she moderates a bi-weekly practice group that meets on the first and third Sunday of the month at the Greenwood Neighborhood Service Center.

**Jen is spearheading the research around forming a new co-housing community, gathered around a love of family and diversity, living in affordable housing in an urban setting. A general information meeting for anyone interested in exploring this idea is being held at the Douglass-Truth Library on Sunday, June 3rd, between 3-5pm.

Poetry Night

Poetry Night is an annual event at Salmon Bay Elementary, the school where my daughter attends the first grade. It takes place towards the end of April, in honor of National Poetry Month. The students read and write poetry for weeks before the event, and then are invited to recite original or published works of poetry.

It seems my daughter has inherited some performance genes, most visible in my brother, TJ Dawe. She begged and begged to attend this event, held at bedtime on a school night. She wrote nine poems the week before the big event. These two were my favorites:

Laundry
by Sophie Adams

sophie-selfportrait.jpgLaundry is done by
Washing machine
By hand in your sink
Or wash basin down by the river

My Coat
by Sophie Adams

My coat is warm,
Reversible,
Cozy,
Cats on the inside,
Purple on the outside

Megan, parent and volunteer coordinator read the stunning ode to spoonerism: Rindercella. A frequent victim of twisted tongue syndrome, I appreciate bringing this common malady to public attention.

For several months, the school has endured recurring infestations of lice. One parent was inspired to describe her experience: 

Lice, a Love Poem
by Robin Lofstrom

Oh no, they’re here!  (Or they’re back, God forbid!)
Those nasty creepy crawlies are crawling on my kid!
It’s not that I mind them living on us,
It’s just when they’re here we all make such a fuss.

The laundry at my house gets piled into rooms.
And suddenly my palace starts to feel like a tomb.
We can’t go out and expose you guys to this chore,
You need me to do my job; I need you to do yours.

So it’s home that we stay, and we nitpick and sit,
And at first we do not like it, not one little bit.
Then we realize, suddenly, that we’re talking much more.
We’re sitting and chatting and looking for more.

More lice, oh, of course.  Here’s a nit overlooked!
And a nymph, oh my goodness, he appears to be hooked.
But as we’re looking for more lice we are also together,
And I’m sure we can manage – this we can weather.

The attention I’ve paid to my kids and their hair,
Has gotten us, strangely, to a place where somewhere,
The nitpicking’s brought us closer, and that’s when I think:
I don’t mind lice so much!  (Nudge, nudge, and wink wink.)

As a fan of the written word and spoken word, I’m tickled that this student body is cultivating a love of language. Let’s hope this is just a springboard for further pursuits.

NunoFelting

One of the first times I saw felt, I was at a craft fair in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Emily Archer was selling hats, scarves, sweater soaps and wall hangings. I was particularly intrigued by her scarves, which I discovered later were created using a technique called Nuno Felting, coined by Polly Stirling. Pat Sparks calls this technique Laminated Felt; she gives a great description and instructions on her general Feltmakers’ List. Since only animal fibers felt, you must push the fibers through the weave of your base fabric.

Determined to try this technique, which yields a supple fabric unlike most felt, I bought one and a half yards of silk. In hindsight, I should have hemmed it before starting the process, but as always, I was too anxious to go through the steps one at a time.

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I lay pieces of turquoise roving lengthwise along the silk, sandwiching it between two long pieces of bubblewrap. After sprinkling hot, soapy water on the fabric, I rolled it up and massaged the bubble wrap package for a short while. Eager to see what was happening, if anything, I unwrapped it to discover some wet wool. Since more is usually better, I flipped the silk over and laid bits of a slightly different shade of turquoise roving on the other side, then rolled it up again. After several minutes of agitation, the fibers didn’t seem to be poking through as I was expecting, so I decided to do the log roll.

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Perhaps I rolled it a little too long, because this is what I discovered when I unrolled the towel bundle: a shrunken, wrinkled little thing with weird chunks hanging off either end.

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The wool achieved a nice firm felt, and the silk matted together creating a crinkly texture. What you can’t see very well in this photo are the wool fibers poking through the silk, which is what we are trying to achieve with nuno felting, but without crushing the silk. I’m halfway there.

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You can see the alternating colors of wool layered on the front and back of the silk.

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Determined to wear my new creation out to an event that night, I struggled to find an elegant way to wrap this thing around me that was really too small. The green and yellow felt pin was thrown together at the last minute as our babysitter was arriving. Lance smirked as he saw me furiously needle felting the petals to each other; the last time we went to a school function, I threw this lariat together at the last minute. Perhaps I don’t get out enough, perhaps my fellow parents just inspire my creativity, perhaps it is a simple coincidence that the night before going out, I have a few hours to myself for creating.

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I tried to wear it one more time, but I just couldn’t carry it off without feeling a little dramatic. So, I cut it in two right down the middle and needle felted the dreadlock ends to each other, creating a middle section with a little open lattice work. Ahhh. Much better.

A few more examples of stunning nuno felting…clearly I need a little artistic mentoring to take me from crumple to silky.

Presents Both Ways

For her birthday, Sophie asked her friends not to bring gifts. Instead, she asked that they bring something they found in nature, or something they made. “People never get things that you really want”, she complained a few weeks before her birthday, “so I’d rather that brought something that was really from them”. Smart kid.

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On the way to the bowling alley, where Sophie chose to celebrate with three friends, the girls tried to guess what Bobby would bring. “I bet I know”, Sophie announced, “he’s going to draw me a picture of a robot”. She was right, a robot and a rocket made out of pine cones (two little pine cones glued to the bottom were the blasters).

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Marlene made window stickers and Madeleine made a ruffled tissue paper peony. Sophie was delighted by their creativity.

Owen’s friend Theo made him a gift too, but he’s a private kid, so he asked me not to put up any pictures. Suffice it to say that secret communication between the Greenwood and Montlake neighborhoods has been enabled thanks to the power of scotch tape, fabric and chopsticks.

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In lieu of goodie bags, I made stenciled bowling t-shirts for everyone. The lady working behind the counter that morning at Sunset Bowl was so impressed with the shirts, she came to ask us about them on two separate occasions. She wanted to know if they could be done with white ink on a sweatshirt. Anything goes!

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