Category Archives: Tutorial

Mice-making tutorial

img_8739

‘Tis the season for merry mice! Here’s how to make a four to five inch high mouse that will add a festive note to any tabletop or tree.

Supplies:

  • Felt or other cloth
  • Pipe cleaners for arms
  • Waxed linen for whiskers
  • Buttons or beads for eyes
  • Stuffing and small gravel
  • Scraps of cloth for clothing
  • Glue

Notes on materials:

You could make these critters out of any fabric at all — calico, for instance, or old socks. I use acrylic felt because I have a ton on hand from my days of craft fair booth-making. If you can afford it use wool felt, but fair warning, it’s pricey.

Also, I use pipe cleaners for arms because I like them to be bendable, but you could stuff the jacket arms instead.

Tools:

  • Turning tool (chopstick or knitting needle);
  • Doll making needle (not necessary but nice);
  • Wire cutters (if using pipe cleaners)
  • Seam ripper or awl for poking holes (not shown).

I’ll often start by making batches of components.

For the ears, cut outer layer out of black felt and inner out of pink (slightly smaller than the black). Sometimes I glue the pink on black. Other times, I skip the glue and rely on stitching.

Curved ears for mice. Pointy ears for cats. Drapey ovals for dogs.

If you don’t know this trick, you will be eternally grateful to me once learning it: for tough-to-open screw tops, wind a rubber band around the top and try again. Voila!


Once glue has dried, fold and stitch base tightly closed. This needs to be stiff enough to insert into the small holes that you’ll be poking in the head.

Make some heads. I don’t use a pattern but the shape is easy enough. Just be sure to create a long neck because it will need to be inserted into the body (longer than my diagram). Back stitch at tip of nose for strength. Clip seam at tip before turning.

Cut oval bases to size. They don’t have to match.

To make the body, sew up sides and then secure an oval base. It could not be easier. Only two tricks and one suggestion here:

  • Keep NECK OPENING WIDE for ease of reversing to right sides after base attached. You can always take a tuck or two later but (especially if using thick wool), too small an opening makes reversing to right sides impossible.
  • When sewing the base on, be sure to place the TAIL ON THE INSIDE and snake it up the inside. This way, when you turn it right-side-out, the tail comes out of where you want it. I usually center the tail between the base’s two side seams.
  • Lastly, make oval much larger than necessary so that precision is not required when attaching to the body.

Next, add features to the head.

Using an awl or another sharp implement, poke ear holes in the head and insert ears. Stitch, going back and forth between ears or down through the neck rather than sewing one ear first, then the other. It’s much easier. Don’t worry if your holes are too big. Felt is very forgiving.

I haven’t decided whether it’s more efficient to stuff the head first or not. Probably easier to stuff, then insert ears. Certainly by the time you’re attaching eyes, you want the head stuffed.

Attach teeny buttons or seed beads for eyes, again stitching side to side. You can also stitch the eyes.

This head exemplifies not just stitched eyes, but a short cut for when you’ve run out of ears: put a kerchief on. Or a Santa hat!

Cut small lengths of waxed linen, fold, and stitch in place for whiskers. Again, sew side to side. In a pinch, you can use embroidery floss. I usually have to trim the whiskers down after sewing them onto the nose.

Next, embroider nose and mouth, using a contrasting warm-colored floss. You can do this after the head is attached as long as you’re clever about hiding your knot.

Next, stuff the bodies. I buy pea-sized gravel and rinse it for the bottom of the body to give it ballast. If yours are meant to hang, you can use poly-stuffing only.

To make arms, take a pipe cleaner and make a loop at center, twist once around the loop for strength, then stretch arms out and stitch to the body at the loop. Cut arms to size.

This is my way of making arms and a hanging loop simultaneously, but you could use a straight piece of pipe cleaner and attach a thread as hanging loop instead. Also, you could make your arms integral to the jacket and skip the pipe cleaner altogether.

Making clothing and accessories is the fun part. This year, I’m crocheting wreaths and making teeny quilts. Doll making aisles at craft stores are a gold mine of miniature items — wreaths, garden tools, rolling pins — you name it. Good for customizing your mouse as a gift when time is short.

 

Polar fleece is great because it doesn’t fray and more, because I have a bin left over from when I taught third graders mitten and hat-making. (Note: the above mouse’s jacket is secured by straight pins. When I get a second, I’ll replace them with buttons, but I don’t have to, really. Be mindful of recipient. A child might be better with buttons).

Making felt critter clothing offers so many opportunities to reclaim cuffs, sleeves and portions of sweaters gone by! A whole post dedicated to the garbing of mice will follow.

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By the way, to say the obvious, these are SEWN FELT mice, not NEEDLE FELTED MICE.

For darling examples of felted mice, see pix from Instagram, here: MollyDollyNatural.

I plan to learn needle felting someday. It looks like so much fun, doesn’t it?

Photo transfer four ways

This yellow-ish quilt prompted questions about photo transfer, so I thought I’d share four methods: two involving ink jet printing; an oil-rub technique; and iron on transfers. I’ll save web-based fabric printing for another post.

1) INK JET PRINTING, store bought sheets

Many photo-transfer cloth sheets designed for ink jet printers are available at craft stores and online. They’re a little pricey but super convenient.

Different weights of cotton are available, as well as silk and organza. For patchwork, regular cotton is best. To print something for framing, canvas offers stability and a nice finish, while for collages, the sheer organza allows for interesting layering possibilities.

Here are two shots that give you a sense of the pliability of the thinner cotton product and how it takes a hand-stitch. The drape isn’t wonderful, but if making decorative wall-quilts, it probably doesn’t matter. More photos of the project at post’s end.


(The top of the building above was printed onto the cloth by the company spoonflower using a jpeg that I supplied. The lower part of the edifice was ink jet printed here at home).

2) INK JET PRINTING, homemade sheets

If you’re feeling a little more ambitious, you can prepare your own cloth for an inkjet printer using freezer paper.

  1. Rough cut rectangles of freezer paper and flatten before  precision cutting.
  2. Make your final rectangle-cuts slightly shy of 8 1/2 x 11. This will help prevent printer jams. The last thing you want after this amount of effort is a printer jam!
  3. Cut your fabric to size and iron freezer paper on to the wrong side. Don’t be fooled by my process shot, below — I am purposely using the wrong side of the fabric for printing because I want the lighter color.

One reason you might want to make your own sheets is to feel better shelling out the money for the manufactured sheets!

For this print, I simply laid the collage down on the printer glass. The delicate pink vintage cotton is nearly sheer and will be fun to use down the road. If I had wanted to fiddle with the size, color saturation, or other features of the original, I could have photographed it and made adjustments on the computer prior to printing.


General ink jet printing tips:

  • Don’t use “best” print setting because that lays down too much toner
  • Sometimes reducing the size of an image creates a sharper final print
  • Whether scanning originals from a printer glass or printing from a computer photo program, decide whether it’s more important to maximize the designs printed on each sheet or to leave seam allowances
  • Remove backing sheet right away even if cloth is not for immediate use because otherwise the backing can stick.
  • If backing does stick, simply apply more heat to remove.
  • If color fastness matters, you might want to pre-treat fabric with a product called “Bubble Jet Set” and also rinse with synthrapol. Dharma Trading Co. sells these products. For wall quilts, I don’t bother. However, I do pre-wash.

3. OIL RUB transfers

Oil rubbing is simple and fun. The only trick is finding a xerox copier that lays down the right kind of toner. Luckily for me, the machines at my local library do.

Essential oils: eucalyptus and citrus.

Rubbing implements: bone folder is best but almost anything will work (plastic clay tools, wooden knitting needle, the wrong end of a pen).

Dover makes lovely paperback collections of copyright-free black and white images that are perfect for these transfers. You can also copy and use your own photos.

The surface below your work area needs to have a little give but also be even. A cloth place mat topped by a plasticized study aid fits the bill.

Using a Qtip, distribute oil over entire backside of image. Tape down and rub. It’s that easy.



Direction of rubbing isn’t critical, but you must be thorough. I pull up the xerox and check a couple of times to see how it’s going. Some people won’t risk mis-aligning the image to do this and will, in fact, tape the bottom down, too. You’ll figure it out.

The poor quality of this attempt might be due to the fact that the original image was dark. Too much toner is not a good thing, just as the “best” print setting may not be ideal when printing on an inkjet.

4. IRON ON TRANSFERS

Iron-on transfers leave a plastic surface that’s hard, shines, and won’t take a needle. They degrade in the wash, too, which is why they’re not even ideal for t-shirts. I’ve used them now and again though. When the kids were young, for instance, I helped every single first grader make their own Earth Day t-shirt.

Iron-ons of original art work (onto linen, say) make fine gifts when framed under glass. I’ve also used them for holiday sachets. These only come out a few weeks a year, so the durability issue isn’t key. You can make the sheen a feature by highlighting it with your other fabrics. Below, I used a metallic drapery print and two kinds of shiny, satin edgings.

Tips for iron-on:

  • If orientation matters (for instance, when there is type), you must REVERSE your image before printing. Look for the ‘flip horizontally’ button.
  • Avoid getting the sticky stuff on your iron by using a thin presser cloth.
  • Something just shy of the iron’s linen/cotton setting works best.  Too hot and you risk scorching. Too cool and the backing sticks on.

TA-DA! Now you now everything that I know about these four methods of photo transfer!

P.S. I have a large collection of black and white xeroxes from my teaching days — vegetables, sea images, religious iconography, dogs. If you’re desperate to try this method before finding the right kind of copier, let me know and I’ll pop a few in the mail to you. You can find essential oils in Whole Foods or other health food outlets (is Whole Foods even a health food outlet anymore?).

The dapper-guy-cloth I ordered through Spoonflower. I’ll save that for another time.

Children’s Art in Quilting

IMG_9124Here is my quick version of how to make a quilt using children’s art. I really only have about three tips, but I’ll go start to finish. This one was auctioned at a fundraiser for the pre-school that my boys attended many years ago.

Order inkjet prepared cloth. This is one of my big tips. At retail and on many websites, sheets can cost up to $3.00 each. I almost never pay more than $1.00 — you just need to hunt around a little online. Many fibers and weaves are available. For a quilt like this, I recommend a cotton with some drape (i.e. not pima or canvas). For memory quilts featuring a single image (say, a vintage photograph), I have used silk.

You can prepare your own cloth for inkjet printing, of course, but it is a giant pain in the ass. Even if you shortcut like mad (as I am wont to do — in this case, meaning skipping the Bubble Jet set soak and subsequent pressing and skipping the stabilization of the perfectly measured and cut piece of fabric with a perfectly cut piece of freezer paper) — it is a lot of work. And if you DON’T shortcut and do all those time-consuming steps and the paper/cloth jams, it is heartbreaking.

Gather the artwork. This is the easiest part. Children make incredible, unselfconscious art. For this project, I used self portraits drawn by three year olds.

Photograph and Tweak. Take pictures and crop or adjust color a little, if necessary, but do not shrink the file size. This is different from the resizing one typically does to shrink an image for posting online. You want the data. Remember seam margins.

IMG_8975_edited-1 IMG_8972_edited-1 IMG_8962You might want to dye fabric for the sashes. We tried and it was a lot of fun, but the non-toxic green mixture was too dilute or weak or something. I decided the failure served the project, though, because a dramatic, striated ARASHI border would have competed with their art work.

IMG_9102Print the artwork onto the inkjet-prepared sheets of fabric. If there is not a TON of color in the artwork, go ahead and set your print to BEST. However, if there is a lot of color, you might actually achieve a better image at the REGULAR print setting (less toner being key).IMG_9094 IMG_9093Fix the image. First, let the printed sheets dry without stacking so as to avoid any possible smearing. Then, carefully peel the paper off of the back and press to fix the color. Some instructions recommend rinsing with water, but I don’t find it’s necessary.

Make the quilt. This is standard stuff. My only tip here is if you were concerned about keeping your hours somewhat contained, skip the batting and make a pillow-case style attachment of the quilt top to the back, and run a machine top stitch around the edge to close the opening. Then the two layers will stay together with just a little hand or machine quilting and no binding will be needed.IMG_9097 IMG_9095One of my objectives in selecting fabrics was to make sure they didn’t compete with the drawings.
IMG_9104 IMG_9121 IMG_9128By pressing the quarter inch turn-under at the opening, the top stitching is very easy. I do this when hand-stitching the closure shut as well.

That’s it! Easy, really.

[On another note – The fakey links are back with nearly irrepressible pops ups and this rogue insertion of six gibberish characters “ ” or something like that, is freaking me out. WordPress has been so glitchy on top of that, with weird new arbitrary photo placements, etcs.  Between all of this and the loss of regular readers, I have to wonder why I am doing this!]

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teach what you want to learn

face-shapes-traced

simplest components from African mask (see last picture, below)

We’ve all heard that right?  We teach what we most want to learn.

On the eve of teaching another class at The Boston Center for the Arts, I ought to be asking, then, “What is it that I want to learn right now?”

Hmmmmm. How to take a motif, maybe, and ‘go deeper’ with it (whatever that means). But I know what that means.

teaching

making faces

Or here’s a corollary: we give the advice we need to follow. This is extremely useful for me personally, because two of the people I routinely give advice to are Oppositional, with a capital “O”. Sometimes all I can do, is turn it around.

What advice have you given recently? Don’t fudge it by scanning memory for advice you WANT to hear. I recommend just thinking of the last three things, the most recent things, you have said to someone… in an effort to be helpful.

I’m always telling certain people to be more organized, or more responsible (and yes, yes, that applies here) but here’s the most recent thing offered:  yesterday, I suggested to someone that she partner written memoir passages that are painful with those that are joyful, so that the juxtaposition told a story, on top of those told in the passages and, possibly, to make it bearable to write the really tough stuff.  My idea for her was that a one-two step like that had the potential to turn into a dance, given sufficient air and trust.  So? Trust. Give work air? Partner the ‘uck’ with the ‘yahoo’? That’s probably pretty good advice for me right now.

four-faces-blue

building from the bottom up

Little changes make big differences

Little changes make big differences

eye lid adjustment

eye lid adjustment

looking askance

looking askance

add patterns!

add patterns!

Tomorrow’s adult class will be ‘more sophisticated’.

two sections (top and bottom) that may or may not belong together

two sections (top and bottom) that may or may not belong together

But, I’m wondering, maybe the more you break a thing down, the more complex it becomes. This I have seen time and time again in the manner of Jude Hill‘s designs and thoughts and cloths… the simpler she makes it, the more avenues spin off in every direction.

So maybe for the adults, I should make it EVEN SIMPLER!

Female kifwebe mask, late 19th or early 20th century. Unknown Songye artist. Democratic Republic of the Congo

Female kifwebe mask, late 19th or early 20th century. Unknown Songye artist. Democratic Republic of the Congo

“Venice, Anyone?”

“Venice, Anyone?” is the smallest & bluest of the Global Warming series, to date.  Finished it this weekend. Found some older, in-progress pictures from April of this year:

Unlike so many others, this little quilt’s basic composition remained the same from start to finish.

After a few quick seams, I decided to use a little stitch-witchery to adhere rough edges, since I didn’t know when I would have time to actually get around to assembling and quilting.

The red stripes marked where I was adhering fabric with the sticky tape, and even though there are so few, I managed to gunk up the iron by touching a piece.  Boo hoo!  I had to stop & clean the iron before calling it a day.  Because quilting through anything with glue is not great, I kept the sticky tape pieces small and away from edges.

This is possibly a piece that I would have liked the outcome a little better had I decided to go toward gesso rather than thread.  Hard to know, now, but the spontaneous feel of collage often is diminished by the finishing process.   In this case, the original design stayed put, and I wouldn’t say the quilting took away from it, but it doesn’t really enhance it either, which it should.

The fish fabric, by the way, was too bright initially, so I toned it down in a tea bath.

Quilting Moonlight with Recycled Shirts

Still working on the Full Moon in Taurus quilt.  Here’s what I did instead of the lace/tulle treatment —

Better-moonlight

This is more in line with what I want for this quilt than the lace I initially placed.

 

lacey-moonlight

lace too bright

tracing-shadows

tracing to define house shadows

light-cut-to-size

shiny tulle for moonlight

shiny-tulle-shadows

better than just lace, but --

When I saw one of my prize new thrift shop purchases —

bub-shirt

I saw moonlight and shadows all over it.

Other things on table this week —

studio-table

I love the unintentional symbol of financial demise created by the shadow’s traced edge placed over the bull.

I have made a couple of journal quilts expressing my outrage at the greedy, stupid, short-sighted, ridiculous laissez-faire-AynRand-Republican-lessgovernment/regulation-is-godly types (though Democrats played their part) that created the financial catastrophe of ’08.

I am not done expressing my outrage.

A recent Vanity Fair with photos of some of the big players (all the back-door dealings with billions flung at institutions to ‘save’ the economy also make me crazy, even IF it was the right thing to do)… will provide fodder.

JQ-mar-9-full

Journal Quilt, March 2009

This is one of my Economy quilts — if you look at the brown and white toile of a harvest scene, you’ll see that I blotted out the peasant slaving away to earn his bread with a big black square.  (Since then, I drew the figure back with some thread)…  You’ll also see a precipitously declining zigzag representing the crash, as well as a Hawaiian deep indigo palm print cut and rearranged to create a feeling of a hurricane.  The little house in the upper right remains relatively untouched.  I suppose that could represent the fact that I am in my home, we are paying our mortgage, and the housing market where I live is relatively stable. This is a huge blessing, but does not quite counter the ten years of savings that we lost.

I want to stop feeling like that peasant.  No — I want to stop BEING that peasant.

Quilting a Full Moon in Taurus

Fern-Village

I THOUGHT I was going to bind and be done with this.  But a few influences (later on those, perhaps) got me to wanting to add a moon and moon shadows.

To make the moon, I looked in some unlikely places, underlining my rule about COLLECTING UGLY FABRIC.

ugly-fabric

who knew I'd want this fabric?!!

Disk and batting to start —

ugly-disk-base-+-batting

I won't use a backing -- but there will be two top layers

I love sheers for layering to create depth and a one-of-a-kind surface —

shirt-for-shadow-and-shine

sheer shirts and scarves layer well

This shirt has shown up in other places lately — a self portrait, for one… Its scenes of New York resonate to a child of parents who haled from Brooklyn.  THIS particular full moon was in Taurus, and so, while my initial impulse was to make a quilt about money, the difficult transitions to fall/daylight savings, and the painful nature of attachment… now it had also to do with my father (b. May 19, 1929).

stippled-craters

I like to use dissimiliar threads top and bottom for more texture

After stippling the craters, I flipped one of the lighter edges over the top (making a third top layer) because I thought the moon was too dark, and the fabric was there.

fold-edge-to-TOP-first

Then, because I wanted to make progress and because I knew I didn’t want to attach the moon to the quilt with a loose satin stitch, I machine-stitched the lunar edges under.  (BTW, do you see those two men in the foreground of the grey landscape?!!  This reference to the “man (or men) in the moon” not only affirms my love of visual puns, it does direct homage to my father, who was a true Master of the Pun.

tucking-under-on-machine

On a different day, I might have decided to tuck these edges under by hand.

Now, I wanted to make moon shadows.

lacey-moonlight

rejected this treatment of moonlight

More on that tomorrow!  (This treatment was soundly rejected!)