Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A felted wool Christmas project

Hi again!  While I've been off not writing a new Hug, I've been very busy sewing some:

I never get tired of looking at these so bear with me while I post many, many pictures to remember them by, now that they've all been sent off to their new homes.  These pins are so simple to make.  Also, they take less than two hours each, some of which can be done well in advance and all of it in stages.  So technically there is still time for you to come up with some yourself, if you are looking for a little Make to top off a gift this year.  Really, they are the gift in my case, though I did add a little chocolate to sweeten the deal.

I've made these before, many times, and last year I did a detailed tutorial here.  But this year I went all-out and made 9 of them at once.

Okay, it was a little crazy around here while I did this.  Even though I had some felted wool ready, and some previously-cut circles and other supplies, I added a new design (candy canes) and anyway: sheer volume.  I spent all day Saturday making the tops and sewing on the pins, and all day Sunday sewing the backs to the fronts with blanket stitch.  And yet.  After walking around blankly for nearly two days, I'm thinking of doing a few more in an Ornament version with a loop for hanging, instead of a pin for wearing.

Pretty sure this is the sort of assembly line we can all get behind:

There would have been a lot more candy canes but MAN those turned out to be hard to cut properly on this scale!  Holly leaves are so basic and easy to trim, but you can ruin a cane with one wrong snip.

Also, the candy canes require many more stitches.  They are simple - all I did was to bind down the white felt with slightly angled stitches all the way from the tip of the cane to the bottom - but it takes a while and I did rip out a lot as I went, to get the angles just right.  The glossy sheen of the embroidery thread I used was SO beautiful, it would have showcased any errors in judgment.

Also the bows on the candy canes were a bit tricky to cut, and I wasn't sure at first how best to stitch them on.  There's a close up further on and you can see what I ended up doing.  First though: PROGRESS.

Sewing on the pins, very late on Day 1.  (innovation alert: last year, I sewed the pins at the middle, but this year I put them on at the top so there is less flopping during use.)

They look so neat and tidy from this angle, but actually: I am terrible at hand sewing.

Bleah.  People who are really good at embroidery can produce worth that is as lovely on the front side and the back, and I envy them.  Maybe some day I will take a course.  I mean, check out the best of my candy cane stitches!

Gah!  I have no idea how they could look this bad when they look so normal on the other side.

However.  I did come up with some valuable additions to the craft this year, like a wider variety of colour options for the holly pins:

You really want a good stiff felted wool for the back of a pin and a thin one with low pile for the front.  The low pile felt is easier to get your needle through and it shows off your embroidery; the thicker stuff at the back keeps the whole pin stable.  Also, the low-pile stuff is what you can buy easily in a craft store, and using it allows you to eke out the harder-to-come-by thicker felt.  For that, you really need to find inexpensive, sometimes motheaten sweaters in a thrift store and felt them at home.  But the holes from moths don't felt shut in the process, which limits your materials in the end.

At the same time: if you have felted a sweater that is dark green and you have scraps left over, how many opportunities are you going to have to use it?  And how much is a black thread stitch going to stand out when you are setting it in place in the form of holly leaves?

The candy canes are all pretty similar to one another:

I was trying to stretch out my supply of light green felt for next year so I used a little blue, but when it came to the point, I had to keep the blue one for myself.  It is SO CUTE, and I am so selfish .  And conveniently enough, now I can show you the simple straight stitches, forming a box, that I used to secure the bow to the pin.

The other thing you can see here is the blanket stitch I used.  It's a little inconsistent on this pin but it's more inconsistent across all the pins.  The rule is: whatever spacing and distance from edge to inside you start with, is the spacing and distance you should go on with.  I try to consider how far the decorative felt comes toward the edge and keep all the stitches within that range.  In this case, I was stitching right up to the bottom of the cane.

Stitching tip: it's best to sew this things with a sufficiently heavy-duty yarn or thread to allow you to work with a single strand (rather than having to loop it through the eye of your needle and tie both ends together into a knot at the end.)  That makes it SO much easier to rip out, when you find you put a stitch or two wrong and want a do-over.  Ahem.  (there is a reason there are so few pins incorporating thin white thread, doubled.)

Another stitching issue is how you close it all off at the end so it doesn't unravel. I did a little series of knots along the back edge, which shows, but not when you're wearing it.

The trick is to match your thread to the fabric you are using on the back.  I decided to stick with black button thread this time around, because I couldn't find my stash of stripy sock wool scraps, but black works for the other three of backing fabrics I used this time.  See?

It really only looks bad on the red backing, which came from a lovely red boucle Chanel-style dress cardigan that somebody mishandled horribly in the wash, to my benefit.

Group shot!

I used these ones to top off a gifts of a small bar of almond bark from Soma, a chocolatier here in Toronto, but I gave one to Carol too:

There's a hat* in this little parcel if you can believe it, as well as some more Soma chocolate and a large square of sea-salted chocolate from France.  I really think the wrapping is as valuable as the present inside - certainly it gave me a lot of pleasure to put together!  Well worth the purchase of fancy tags and un-fancy twine.

* I knit three of these hats four years ago in January, intending to give one of the red/brown stripies to Carol the following Christmas, but I had another idea for her by then, and every winter since has been kind of mild, so I held off.  This year is supposed to be freezing, so I decided it was Time, and it fit her, and she loved it.  Yay!!!  I got to give a hand-knit gift this year, without having to hand-knit it this year.

And that's me for today.  I hope you are well and your stitching fingers unblemished, and I will try to pop back in again this week because I have some other yummy knitting projects to show you.  Either way, take care till we meet again!


Laraf123 said...

Just found your blog and I love it!

Mary Keenan said...

That is so nice to hear Lara, thank you!