Archive for September, 2012

Early beginnings

I’ve been around some amount of fiber arts my whole life. My mom is a quilter and has been for a long time, so she was always sewing on something. She taught me to sew long before I can remember and she owned a fabric store for a while, which we still visited a lot even after she sold it, so I spent a lot of time around fabric and buttons and sewing accouterments. I’m pretty sure I can attribute my love of buttons to this too. I still remember when we would go to the shop and I’d be bored so someone would take me back to the back room and give me this box of buttons to play with. I would happily sort them again and again, in many different ways, and always wished I could take those buttons home!

To get back on track, my mom’s hobby led me to making my first quilt when I was about 6 years old. I remember that I was bored, and my mom was in her work room, and I was annoying her, cause I was bored. So she handed me a piece of white fabric and a bunch of scraps, and told me to sew. So I sewed and sewed, and then put some buttons on it. And my mom put a backing on it for me, and voila! my first quilt. Which is named, aptly enough, the Button and Shape quilt. I’ve always been so creative with names, I’m sure you can tell. And here are pictures!

I’ve been trying different ways of doing the pictures in posts, including in this one. Please let me know what you think. Most of my early posts had the pictures as galleries which put them all on one line with smaller thumbnails. The last few posts have just had the pictures inserted which means they’re all on separate lines, take up a bit more space. I tried this one as a slideshow but the captions were an issue so I’m not sure about the slideshow, and I changed this post to a gallery.

Embellishing Machine

As I mentioned in the post Play Day, my mom recently bought an embellishing machine. Personally I call it a needle felting machine but that seems to confuse some people. Basically the machine uses up to twelve felting needles to, well, felt things. It seems to work fine as long as one of the things being felted is wool. For example, you can use roving to make a design on denim jeans, or you can affix a shape made of wool felt to denim, or cotton or more wool. I tried a bit with two pieces of cotton fabric or some lace on top of cotton fabric and the two pieces just pull right apart. Of course if you’re not going to be manipulating the piece, like if it’s on a wall hanging, that’s not a big deal, but I prefer more durable stuff. Most of the experimenting I’ve done has been with colored roving on a backing of wool or cotton fabric. I played a bit with yarns on felt and really liked the result.

This is plain wool roving on denim. It’s supposed to be the beginning of a flower but the petal on the left was my first attempt at making a shape with the embellisher machine so it looks a bit funny.

This is a bit of yarn on cotton. I think the yarn is actually acrylic, not sure cause it’s just stuff I had sitting around, but it seems to stick quite well. It seems that the fluffy-ness of the yarn makes up for it not being wool, gives it more fibers to be tangled together.

I tried using yarn to make the design on the fabric look like a bunch of flowers but the yarn kind of overpowers the design. Something similar might work better with a more subtle yarn and a stronger design on the fabric.

The work with the bunch of flowers gave me the idea of using strips of yarn to create a tree complete with branches. Then I decided I want leaves, and this is the result. I like it but I think the fuzzy yarn for the leaves obscures the branches underneath more than I want.

You can see the branches under the leaves a little better in this close up. I think the branches would show up more if the yarn for the leaves weren’t so fuzzy but at the same time it also might look less tree-like. This will require more experimenting, oh darn! (and that last bit was sarcastic, which is hard to convey in writing!)

You can see the lines of yarn laid down next to each other in the trunk here. You can also see that the last piece of yarn I felted on didn’t just go straight. The crooked piece seems very visible to me which is something important to note. I think I’ll play with lines of yarn like this more, it could be quite interesting.

The machine also has this fancy little place that you can feed yarn through the top and it’s supposed to be fed right under the needles


It’s supposed to make using yarn to make lines easier, but as I discovered it works better in theory than practice. I just fed the yarn by hand to make the tree and designs above, which worked fine. Then I was over at my mom’s house, and saw some pearl cotton sitting there. So I figured I would try feeding that through the machine and see how it went. It fed through pretty easily, except getting it through the presser foot, cause you have to try and manipulate it when it’s in the middle of all the needles, but I got it threaded. I was, however, very disappointed at how it felted. If I went over the thread several times I could get it to stay, but then the line was rather jittery. And if I just moved the machine like I would if I were feeding the thread by hand, then the thread wouldn’t get felted down at all. So hand feeding the yarn it is, and now I know that is not an important feature to have on a felting machine.

See how it’s all jittery? That’s cause I had to move the piece back and forth a lot under the machine to make the thread felt down. And even then it didn’t stick the best.

This is what happened when I tried to move the machine smoothly and steadily like when I feed the yarn by hand. I was basically just dragging the yarn around and not felting it at all so I did stop on a spot occasionally which is where you can see it stuck down at the edge of the picture. But then it ended up with little felted spots and big loose bits of yarn between. Overall, an unsuccessful attempt.

The difficulty felting the pearl cotton also probably had to do with it being so smooth, rather than fuzzy, and small, so the needles didn’t really have anything to grip. But the thing is that any yarn that is thicker or fuzzier than the pearl cotton is impossible to feed through the thread slot, so that’s not really an option.

And one last little bit of experimenting I did. My mom likes the look of a style of felting called nuno-felting. I think it’s a neat look but not that amazing, and definitely not worth the usual price of the pieces to me. Nuno-felting is done by wet felting wool roving onto a sheer fabric, often nuno-felted silk scarves are what you find for sale. Wet felting tends to be very time and labor intensive, I just don’t have the patience for it. So at my mom’s suggestion I played with needle felting a sheer scarf to see how it goes. Sheer fabric is used a lot with embellishing machines to add texture and a bit of color on top of other pieces or to add ruffles cause it scrunches up when you felt it, but I’m not much of a ruffle person and don’t like the texture you get from really felting it down on top of other fabric. Not to mention I hadn’t researched nuno-felting at all so I just assumed it was needle felted. Apparently nuno-felting is wet felted but the results I got sure look like nuno-felting to me. Maybe I’ll make more and sell it for large profits at regular nuno-felt prices. But probably not.

My “faux” nuno-felting experiment. It doesn’t look bad, but the look just doesn’t thrill me.

Play Day!

Today I spent the afternoon with my mother and our friend Linda playing with fiber. Linda has a book full of these neat cords that are made by sewing over cords and pieces of fabric. It’s really neat but really hard to describe. I only did a little bit cause I was mostly playing with my mom’s embellishing machine, I’ll do a separate post about that one, but I did one cord, and my mom and Linda did some really cool ones.

For my cord I basically did a zigzag stitch over the cord with bright thread. I used black bobbin thread cause it was easy but I really like the contrast it gives to the thicker and brighter yarn. You can see the back a little bit here.

I varied the stitch length as well and found it gives interesting texture changes. When you pick the cord up it’s also a lot stiffer where the stitches are closer together, which makes sense.

My mom had several long crochet chains that she stitched over on both a regular sewing machine and her serger.

Here she is adding gold thread to give the cord more sparkle

This is the crochet chain she did on the Serger, I like the lacy bits.

You can see the lacy bits better on the close-up. Really it’s more that the stitching was only partially on the cord, so the extra stitching gives it a lacy effect.

Linda did a lot more with ribbons and skinny cords and then adding on scraps of fabric. I really like hers, they turned out very neat and funky. Then again she has had more practice than us! Raw talent may help a bit too ;-D.

These are three separate cords.

Linda was putting these little holes into her cords. She said she shows buttons onto the cords and puts the button through the holes in the cord to make loopy, sometimes bow-shaped, things. They’re very cool.

She got lots of neat fringe-y bits from the edges of the fabric scraps too. Creates nice texture and dimension.

And because action shots are fun, here are a couple pictures of my mom and Linda working on their cords.

Well, that went well

Blog Stuff!

You can tell just how well I’ve been doing with posting regularly. It’s been almost exactly a year since the last time I posted, but it has been a crazy year. Not long after my last post I got a job working nights at Target, which really throws the schedule off, then the BF was diagnosed with Leukemia which totally took over my life. He is in complete remission now and has been back at work full time for about 3 weeks, so that’s awesome! But that ate up 9 months or so of my life, and in that time I quit my job at Target and got a job at the West Fargo Public Library, which is such an awesome place! I am loving the job, and now that life is settling down again a bit I have decided to try this again. 

Fiber Stuff!

I can’t seem to find the pictures of stuff I’m looking for and I really wasn’t prepared for this post, it’s more to get myself going again so it’s mostly just gonna be writing this time. I finished the Earth From Above challenge piece called Chocolate Hills but never did start the cathedral project. I will post final pictures of the Chocolate Hills once I find them *guilty face*. The project itself is with the other pieces from the challenge and they’re on display somewhere, I’m not totally sure where at the moment. I think they’re at Aunt Annie’s quilt shop in Avon, MN but I know they were going to be somewhere else as well, so I’m not certain.

I’ve also been working on a needle felted version of Serenity, the ship from the TV show Firefly and the movie Serenity. It’s moving slowly but I am crazy excited about the project!

And so that I don’t leave you completely without pictures here are some pictures of a present I made for my BF for our college graduation. He volunteers with Salvation Army EDS in our hometown to help with rehab for first-responders (usually at fires) and with disaster relief. So I made him the EDS shield in needle-felting. I didn’t manage to get it as detailed as I wanted because of the size and I discovered that lettering with needle felting is quite difficult! I was very grateful that I didn’t felt the letters down really hard right away as I ended up pulling most of them up at least once to re-position and change the size of them. Overall this project was a lesson in the importance of pre-planning a project.

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