Friday, December 15, 2017

From Failed Button Necklace to Sparkly Holiday Wreath!

Happy Chanukah! Here's my newest accidental decor!
At 5 1/2" across, can be hung, or, even better, used flat as a candle-surround. The central hole is about 2 1/2" across, which nicely accommodates a votive holder. 
The buttons and rhinestones sparkle beautifully in Chanukah candlelight!
But it didn't start out as room decor. A couple of weeks ago, I had some fancy parties coming up, and a blue-and-silver dress to wear, so I seized the opportunity to make experimental neckgear with some of my favorite buttons.

I started by crocheting an arc-shape base, using a linen yarn. The first row is at the top, and I doubled every other stitch or so to create a 2" wide crescent. I cut and lightly glued a crescent of blue felt to the back. Then, one by one, I stitched on blue, silver, and rhinestone buttons.

When it was done, and I tried it on with my dress, it looked big and lumpy; it overwhelmed the dress's neckline, and it was just messy and wrong. What's more, the contrast between the necklace's heavy front, and the thin strings leading to the closure, looked really bad.
So I cut off the strings, sewed the two ends together, added a stiff interfacing donut to the back (you'll see in a minute), and voila! 
The rhinestone butterfly - peeled off a bat mitzvah invitation - covers the join (thank you Karen!)
 And below is what I meant by a donut - a piece of stiff fusible interfacing covered with dupioni silk.
There are much more direct routes to making your own button wreath. Buy a wreath blank, or just cut and wrap a stiff interfacing donut, and sew on buttons, beads, whatever! If you don't happen to have your own failed necklace, the thrift shops are full of them. (While you're there, buy a vintage necktie to wrap the wreath form, for extra pizzazz!)

And just for the memories, here's the wreath I made for my Mom's assisted living apartment a couple of years ago, blogged here.  I'd never really believed in Chanukah wreaths, until this situation came up. There weren't many Jewish residents in this wonderful place, and virtually every other door had a festive wreath on it. I didn't want her to be the only resident without - so I made a unilateral decision that Chanukah wreaths are kosher! 
The residence provided that hangar on top, which came as a hilarious surprise. This decoration, including that menorah that I was quite fond of, ultimately vanished (as things tend to do in dementia residences), so now I have a replacement.

Wishing you and your family a happy, densely embellished, buttony holiday season!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Quilting Elvis: Small Holiday Postcard = Big Gift

Uh oh! The holidays are upon us! If you're still stuck for a fast gift to make for people who deserve  more than an e-card, consider a quilted fiber art postcard. If you use novelty fabrics from your stash or LQS, they can be thoughtful, personal, and fun, all at the same time. (If elegant is more your style, consider making batik postcards, instead.)

Here's one of my latest:

(Elvis is singing Shalom, which means hello/goodbye/peace in Hebrew. Elvis had a non-secret Jewish  history!) The card is one of six I made in September:
This one, let us call it "Lips," incorporates just three novelty fabrics: 
Plus one more on the back: 
The next one's a bit cluttered, with six different fabrics. The background is eyeglasses fabric, but it's hard to tell with all that stuff on top. 
A bit simpler, but also six different fabrics, and a hairy polka-dot Jan Mullen fabric in the background: 
On the backs, I chose more Elvis fabrics from my Elv-cyclopedic stash: 
I later strategically placed small mailing labels on top, trying to let Elvis' eyes and other significant features show. 

Making one fiber art postcard is a bit of work, but making 12 more doesn't take a dozen times as long -- there are Elv-ficiencies. I've published fabric postcard tutorials in the past, but here's one specifically for novelty fabrics. 


1. Cut pieces of stiff interfacing to postcard size, 4" x 6" (Peltex, Peltex 72F, Inner Fuse, Fast-2-Fuse - stiff interfacing of any kind, ideally with fusible on both sides, but okay without.) 

2. Pick background fabric for the featured side. Cut to a little over 4" x 6". Adhere them to ONE side of the stiff interfacing. (Use fusible web if your interfacing doesn't have built-in fusible.) Trim excess. DO NOT put the backing fabric on yet. 

3.  Gather the fabrics with the images you want to arrange on top.  Cut out these small motifs (like Elvis heads, or record albums, or G-clefs).  Cut at least a quarter-inch beyond the size you will want them when they're fully trimmed. 

4. Adhere these small pieces to paper-backed fusible web. Then cut them out closely, to the final size, and arrange them on the background fabric. (Alternative: Instead of fusible web, use a glue stick -  in that case, cut the motifs to the finished size, then use the glue stick with a light touch on the bacs.)

5. Press the trimmed motifs in position.

6. Stitch everything down with a zigzag. In the Elvis postcards, I used gold metallic thread. For less conspicuous stitching, use invisible/clear nylon monofilament thread.

7. Trim stray threads from the back. 

8. On the back of each card, adhere a fabric rectangle slightly larger than 4" x 6". Make it light-colored, so writing will show. Or, use a novelty fabric, and place it so when you paste an address label and message on the back, the key features of the fabric will still show.  Fuse it in place, and trim close around the edges. 

9. Zigzag all the way around the edges. I did it with the same gold metallic thread I used for the appliques. 

10. Add sticky mailing labels and return address labels on the back to write the address and message. Put a stamp on and mail! Your friends and family will love it, guaranteed!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Chanukah/Christmas Decor from Neckties: Use the Nice Ones!

Black Friday weekend is almost over! Enough with the shopping! Instead, stay home and make free winter holiday decor/gift card holders using old neckties!

There's nothing new about necktie Christmas decor; do an image search for "necktie wreaths," and you'll find plenty. At the bottom of this post, after the tutorial, there's a bulleted list with some I liked best. If you're not a craftsy person, you can buy beautiful, professional necktie wreaths on Etsy. I've also seen crazy-quilt style Christmas stockings made from neckties. If the ties come from a loved one, they make extra-meaningful decorations.

And for Chanukah (which starts the evening of December 12 this year), you can easily make something like this:

Necktie dreidels! They are not my original brainstorm. The idea came from Jessica Wilson, of the Scrumdillyoo blog, who brilliantly perceived the resemblance between neckties' widest end, and dreidels. She created the garland in the photo below (and gave me permission to use it - thanks Jessica!)
Jessica's tutorial is here. In a nutshell, she cut off the wide end of the tie, rolled the top  to the back, and then fastened a loop made from the narrow end to the back. She shows how to do it with tacky glue, but stitching goes faster, as would hot glue.

I might not have found the project if I weren't a member of the San Fernando Valley, California chapter of The Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework. Our dedicated chapter president, Jo Anne Leeds, introduced us to Jessica's project, brought old neckties to share, and we sewed or glued them together, during a lovely evening in a backyard sukkah.

As I was playing with my tie that night, it occurred to me that I could make the dreidels multi-use by installing a pocket. That way, they could also work as gift card holders, and maybe even hold something larger - like a cellphone. I improvised a folding maneuver on the back to create the pocket. Here's the one I started at the meeting, from the back.
...and front:
There are two sew-in snap pieces: 
The pocket's in front of the flap. 
I had so much fun, I've now made two of them: 
From them, I learned:

  1. Don't start with a thin necktie, like the red one above. The wider, the better.
  2. Don't start with a hideous necktie, like the red one above. Turning it into a dreidel isn't going to make it any prettier. Save it for a monster next Halloween.
  3. The more you make, the better they look. To a point. 

With those caveats in mind - I photographed the tutorial below with my second practice dreidel. I didn't want to ruin a nice necktie - that's why I made the unfortunate choice of scratchy wool adorned with pheasants (partridges?) on a burgundy plaid.
It doesn't exactly scream Chanukah. As you can see, at it's widest point, this tie is less than 3". Don't make my mistake - the bigger, the better. At LEAST 3", ideally more.  Fold the necktie thusly, with the fold underneath reaching down to where the wide tip starts.
Cut the end, leaving a 1" extra for folding under. In this photo, I cut two extra inches, but had to cut that back further.
I tried turning it over twice, but that white lining peeping out made it difficult. You may want to trim it back.
I stitched the end under with my sewing machine, but of course glue or handstitching would work.
Bring the side edges together and stitch by hand.
One side sewn 

...and the other...
Cut a flap from the other end of the tie. Play around with it first to figure out how much you want to show on the front, and how much on the back. Cut a half inch longer, for the turn-under - it only needs to be turned under once.
Again, you may want to cut back the lining to make turning easier. That may mean releasing a few stitches on the tie. Trim back at least a half inch. 
Without the lining, it's much easier to turn. 
Hand or machine sew the roll in place. I used my machine. 
Experiment with placement. Make sure you like the length on front. If you have a cellphone handy, use it to test for length.
Hand sew the back in place, stitching down one long edge, across the bottom, and up the other edge, stopping at the top rim, as shown by the white arrows. 
Figure out where the snaps will go and stitch the two parts in place. 
Sew a statement button to the front of the flap. I stitched it slightly below the snap behind it. 
Open it up and tuck in a gift card.
Or hang them on a string, like Jessica did!
And what if you're celebrating Christmas? I did a lot of google searching for necktie wreath projects and tutorials. So many fun ideas! Here are some of my favorites:
  • A simple necktie wreath, using only 7 neckties
  • An even simpler wreath, with fewer neckties. 
  • And this one may be even easier. 
  • On the other end of the time-consuming spectrum, here's a no-sew wreath you can make with any kind of fabric scraps. 
  • And here's someone who wrapped their entire tree with identical neckties. (This may be going too far!)
Wreaths can be Chanukah decorations, too. Here's one I made several years ago for my mom's assisted living apartment. Hmm, I could have used neckties instead of ribbon!

UPDATE: One of my Canadian friends, Roz Agulnik, of Montreal, just sent me pictures of a  Chanukah wreath she made, using Judaic fabrics stitched onto yo-yos. Isn't this gorgeous?
Closeup, you can see the Judaic prints, purchased from Sunshine Sewing in Florida (no financial affiliation).
Roz overcame some physical issues to make it. "Since I don't have feeling in my hands," she writes, "making the yo-yos was a huge challenge for me. I have have a hard time threading the needle and holding onto it. I used straight pins to keep them attached to the Styrofoam shape. I hang it on the door leading to our condo." Thank you so much, Roz, for sharing this!

And for Halloween decor which are okay to make from aesthetically-challenged neckties, check out this post from last month!

If you try one of these ideas, (or you've done it in the past), I'd love to see how it turns/turned out!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving! Nostalgic for Thanksgivvukah!

Remember Thanksgivvukah? It seems so long ago, 2013 to be exact, when a once-in-77,000 year coincidence brought Thanksgiving to the same night as Chanukah. To celebrate, I used up many Chanukah fabrics to make this unbatted banner....

...with a turkey doing oversight....

...and a million Judaic prints.

I also frantically crocheted flocks of turkey menorahs...

AKA "turkorahs" or "menurkeys," with lightable tails....

And the occasional ethnic headgear..
Every night, I crocheted an additional flame.
For non-Hanukah Thanksgivings, it can be adapted to be a non-menorah, like this peacock turkey. 
The pattern for the crochet turkey/peacock with menorah option is still available as a free download on my pattern page. My blog posts with more details about all of the above are here, here and here. Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!