Monday, February 18, 2013

DIY bunting

  No birthday party is complete without some celebratory decorations.  In keeping with my desire for Evening’s first birthday party to be eco-friendly I got busy sewing some bunting to decorate the house.   

  My plan is to re-use this bunting for several birthdays, other special days, future pajama parties, outdoor summer parties, you name it.  

  I didn’t mind spending the time to make my bunting to match the vision I had in my mind, but I do realize that not everyone has the time or desire to do so.  So I’ve added in a few “Busy Busy Alternatives” in this tutorial to suit those people – follow those directions and you’ll have some lovely bunting in just a few hours.  

  Here’s what you’ll need:

-         Old cereal box to make template (or piece of cardboard)
-         Protractor, ruler, scissors, fabric marking pen
-         Fabric
-         Needle and thread (Busy Busy Alternative: craft glue)
-         A ball of all-natural hemp twine (it should say ‘all natural’ on label)
-         Barrette or bobby pin

  Cut open your cereal box and lay it flat.  Take up your ruler and make a straight line near the bottom, 8” long.  Using your protractor (that you probably haven’t even thought of since high school), mark an angle of 65 degrees on each end of your line, angled toward each other.  Use your ruler to mark a straight line following those angles until the two lines intersect to make a triangle.  That sounds complicated, but it isn’t, take a look:

  This is going to be the template for all the triangles on your bunting.  

  Using this triangle, you can get three double-sided bunting triangles from one fat quarter of fabric (as long as the pattern is not one way, then one of your triangles will be upside down), like this: 

  Take two matching triangles, and  place them on top of each other, right sides facing out.  Select a seam allowance (I used ¾ “ but it doesn’t matter as long as you are consistent throughout), and fold the edges under to the middle, matching up with the other side, and press.   Pin and sew all around with a running stitch, taking special care around the corners which are a bit trickier to keep tucked under.  

  Busy Busy Alternative: Select batiks for your bunting; that way there is no ‘wrong side’ and you can have a double-sided bunting with just one triangle.  Rather than sewing the edges together, use pinking shears to cut your triangles, which looks very funky and will minimize fraying.  

  How many triangles you need to complete your bunting depends on the size of room you want to decorate, as well as how many strands you would like to make.  I laid mine out on the floor until I was certain I had enough for our party room, which worked really well and I recommend that you try.

  I ‘strung’ my bunting triangles on hemp, because I do love the way it looks, and it lasts forever.  To get this earthy lacey look, I first braided three long strands of hemp twine, then I braided those strands together into another braid.   It takes time, but it looks so pretty!

  Here’s a few tips for braiding this much twine: 

1.      find something rigid to attach it to.  I tucked mine into our door lock and just stepped back and plaited away.  

2.    You may need to take a break so keep a barrette or bobby pin in your pocket to hold the braid until you get back.  

3.    This much twine can get tangled really fast, so every few plaits, stop and untangle the twine – trust me, it’s worth it!

4.    Lastly, keep your sense of humour, it’s very hard to have this much twine flopping about without your children and pets thinking it’s the greatest game they’ve ever played!

  Busy Busy Alternative: rather than braiding, simple use a single strand of tough hemp twine to ‘string’ your bunting triangles. 
  Once you are finished plaiting the ‘super-braid’ you are ready to stitch your triangles to the hemp.  

  Before you begin, find the center of your hemp super-braid (or simple strand) and mark it with your barrette or bobby pin.  Count up your triangles.  If you have an even number, divide your triangle into two halves.  Start on one side of the barrette and start to sew on one of those halves, going back and sewing on the second half afterwards (this ensures the triangles are centered on the braid).  If you have an uneven number, position the middle triangle in the middle and then do the same.  Basically, you’re starting from the middle and sewing on one side at a time.  

  I used a combination of running stitch and ladder stitch to attach the triangle to one side of the hemp.  Because of the nature of the hemp, the super-braid is a little uneven, which made it impossible to simply use a ladder stitch without it looking rather terrible.  Here’s what the running stitch/ladder stitch combo looks like up close:

  Busy Busy Alternative: tuck the long end of the triangle around the hemp and seal it there with craft glue.  Ta-daa!

  I left approximately 1 ¼” between my triangles, because that’s what I thought looked best.    You may choose to use more, or less, just be consistent with each triangle so that your bunting looks even when you are done. 

  Sew, sew, sew (or glue, glue, glue).

  I recommend a few sturdy craft hooks for hanging your bunting from the ceiling or wall, and while hemp can handle getting wet it does change the texture, so be sure to wash your bunting on ‘delicate’ if you have to, and hang it to dry.  

  You’re done!  You’ve made yourself some gorgeous bunting you can use over and over again!  Great job!

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

DIY princess hat

    Since Evening was going to be wearing a crown for her birthday, it was only fitting that her guests would be princesses.

  One year olds aren’t the most social  creatures, so we only have four little guests coming to our party.  This gave me the chance to do a little extra and make them all a special princess hat to wear for the party and take home to add to their dress up collection when  the party's over.   

   Here’s the supplies you’ll need to gather to get started:

-outer fabric                                      -embroidery floss
-inner fabric                                      -ribbon (or elastic for kids under 2)         
-double sided interfacing                -ribbon yarn
-scissors or rotary system              -iron
-paper, pen, and string                    -measuring tape

making a curve with a string
   To make your pattern, start by taping four sheets of regular printer paper together to make a large rectangle.  Tie a string around your pen, keeping a sizable length out to hold on to.  With your non-writing hand, hold the string steady in one corner of your square.  With your other hand, grasp the tied-to pen, keeping the string taut, and mark along the page in an arc forced by the string.  This will create a perfect curve for the bottom of your hat.

trimming the pattern
  Now measure around the child’s head that will wear the hat (at one year, Evening’s head measured 17” and a friend’s 3-year old measured 20”).  You don’t want the curve in your pattern to be bigger than this measurement or the hat will be too big.  If need be, trim the pattern from the corner, taking equal amounts from both edges so the curve isn’t compromised.  

  Now that you’ve got your template, cut one each from your inner fabric, and interfacing.  Then cut one from the outer fabric, leaving an extra seam allowance so that you can fold it over the others to stitch and hide the 'sandwich'. 
  Make a sandwich with the interfacing in the middle and pin.   It looks something like a triangle with a curvy bottom.  Quickly snip off the very tip of the triangle on the interfacing and inner fabric only

sandwich of inner fabric, interfacing, and outer fabric

 Follow the directions given with your choice of interfacing to fuse the fabrics together.  

  When this is done, take the extra seam allowance you’ve made with the outer fabric and pull it over the sandwich, folding under and pinning down neatly into a seam for stitching.  Continue along the curve, and yes it gets a little uneven but that’s alright, we need to keep the curve.  Pin down the tip of the outer fabric’s triangle down over the trimmed triangle of the interfacing and inner fabric.  
add ribbon into pinned seam

  If you are making your hat for someone over 2 years old, take your ribbon and measure out two lengths to use as a strap to tie the hat under their chin.  Pin into your seams ¼ of the way in from the edges, on both sides.  (For younger children, we will add an elastic strap when the hat is completed).   

  Using a co-ordinating colour of embroidery floss, use a blanket stitch to stitch all along the seam that you’ve just pinned.  A thimble will be a big help (especially if you are using tightly woven batiks like I did!).

  Now, take your ribbon yarn and cut several strips at a length corresponding to the dimensions of your hat (I made mine the height of the hat in the middle plus one half).  Tie them all into a knot at one end.  

  Place the knot on the inner side of your hat, in the center of the cropped triangle top and stitch into place, making sure the thread goes through the center of the knot a few times for strength.

stitch the yarn's knot into the hat
 Starting at the bottom of your hat (not the top like I did in the following photos - you risk an uneven hat!), hold the two ends together, and using your embroidery floss,  pull the hat together by weaving the floss between the peaks of the blanket stitches that you’ve already made.  Keep the floss tight, going back and forth from side to side, until you’ve reached the top of your hat, which is now the desired cone shape.  Tie off, letting the floss get lost in the ribbon yarn cascaded from the top.

 If your little princess is under two years old, take some sewing elastic, measuring on your little one how much you will need to go under her chin.  Then stitch the elastic into the hat,  1/4 of the way 'round from the seam and there you have it. 

  Your little princess now has a perfect hat to spark her imagination! 

  You can also leave out the ribbon yarn to make a wizard hat or even a gnome hat if you like.

   Her guests have not arrived yet, but Evening and I couldn’t resist trying on one of the hats for a just a little while… 
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

DIY birthday crown

  I wanted to make Evening something extra special to wear for her birthday celebration that would last her through several birthdays, become a keepsake, and maybe even a heirloom to pass down through a generation or two.   So I did just that.   

   There are two ways to make this crown; the ‘easy’ way from a felted wool sweater; and the ‘not so easy’ way using wet felting techniques with wool fibres.

  You will need:

‘easy’                                                              not so easy’
old wool sweater, felted (instructions)   wool fibres in your choice of colours
felt of co-ordinating colour                       bubble wrap/sushi roll/bamboo place mat
needlefelting or embroidery needle        felt of co-ordinating colour
embroidery floss                                          needlefelting needles
buttons or other décor                               embroidery floss
sewing elastic                                               buttons or other décor
                                                                        sewing elastic

  Making the crown body

‘Easy’ – draw or use a paper crown template to make a pattern for your crown.   Here are some free crown patterns that I found online to get you startedCut this shape out of the felted sweater for the main body of your crown.  (Optional step – use a needlefelting needle to sculpt the shape for a little extra texture).

‘Not So Easy’ – using your selection of fibres, arrange them into a sort of crown shape.  Here is a great tutorial if you aren’t familiar with wet felting.  

  Remember, the fibres are well felted when they don’t tear.  (HINT – you can ‘cheat’ by popping your crown into the dryer once you are done, which gives it a little extra shrinkage and dries it faster).

  Once your crown is dry, you can needlefelt it to get the perfect shape for your vision.  

Finishing the crown – Easy and Not So Easy

  Cut a small oval from your co-ordinating felt, and needlefelt or embroider the letter ‘1’ (or 2 or 3 or…) onto it.  Then sew the numbered oval onto your crown in the center with embroidery floss and a simple running stitch (keeping in mind that you’ll need to remove it to change the age number next year).  

  Take your sewing elastic, folding over the end a few times so you can let it out as the child’s head grows, and stitch to the inside of one end of the crown.  Measure your birthday child’s head to determine the length needed to complete the circle and make a properly fitting crown.  Stitch, keeping the elastic on the inside of the crown.  

  OPTIONAL STEP – some young children will pull off anything placed on their head, and if your child is like this, now is the time to add a chin strap using the same sewing elastic and method as above.

  Now I used some cute flower-shaped buttons to decorate the points on my crown.  HINT – after sewing on my buttons, I needlefelted a little extra wool over the stitches on the back to hide the bright thread I used as the flower center.

 You don’t have to use buttons, any sort of fun décor will do, or even no décor at all!  Some suggestions could be shiny jewels, pine cones, shells, or even painted rocks. 

  And there you have it!  A super cute little birthday crown you can use over and over again!  

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