Winter Wolle
10 Feb 2012

Stamped with Love, A Valentine’s Craft

12 Comments In the Craft Room, Tutorials

Today’s installment of our Winter Wolle blog series is an extra special one because we are thrilled to introduce our first guest contributor! You’ll surely enjoy all of Gail’s sewing creations, but I think her felt creations are simply perfect!  Be sure to check out the links below to her previous fun felt projects.  My favorite are those cute farfalle! 

Hello Clever Charlotte readers!

I’m Gail from probably actually, and I’m happy to be here to share a wool creation for the Winter Wolle series! I love to make things for my daughter, and a few of my favorite past projects have been made from wool or wool felt. There’s something so satisfying about working with wool, and I especially love felt – it has such a nice texture, and cutting and sewing with it is always such a pleasure. For me, felt and Valentines go hand in hand (I cut out loads of felt hearts for a garland last year), so I made tiny felt Valentine envelopes to house some mini Valentines.

My mom, sisters and I have a tradition of exchanging valentines, so these are for them (and one for Lila, of course).

The envelopes were cut using a Paper Source “baby” envelope template – the finished size is 2 1/8 by 3 1/2 inches (the size of a business card). Before sewing them together I added a little felt heart in the stamp corner and an “address label” that I rubber stamped on twill tape. If you crease the envelope flaps with a hot iron, it leaves you with a nice rectangle on the front, making it easy to get these additions in the right place before the whole thing is assembled.

I secured everything with a running stitch using embroidery floss. Whenever I can get away with it I sew stuff by machine, but working with felt is the one time I actually prefer hand-stitching, and the embroidery floss can add a nice pop of color.

The envelopes close with two little buttons. After sewing the button to the top flap, I pulled the thread (I used embroidery floss here, too) to the inside and left it about six inches long – that remaining length of thread is used to secure the envelope shut with the bottom button, manila envelope style.

Tucked inside are little Valentines – just a felt heart stitched on by hand and a stamped message.

There you have it. Thanks so much for having me, and happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

09 Feb 2012

A New Wreath

4 Comments In the Craft Room

It never fails–the year-end holidays come and go, the bright and festive decorations are put away, and the house feels dull and lifeless.  Attempts to inject color into our environment seem artificial and glaring.  As a result, I’ve come to embrace January and February as months of introspection, renewal and calm, and, I think, so does Mother Nature. 

Gray, brown and winter white–these are the colors of the coldest months for us in the northern hemisphere and the colors that dominate the landscape as I now gaze out the window to the backyard.  But they need not be somber tones.  With the right setting they feel…well, right.  Cozy and comforting like a cup of warm milky tea, don’t you think?

This project has been a long time in the making.  I first stumbled upon the Alpaca Fiber Studio in Chagrin Falls, Ohio about 2 years ago.  I purchased some wool roving to play around with this specific project in mind.  But it wasn’t until I conceived of our new blog series, Winter Wolle, that I knew the time had come.

On the left in the picture below is 2 oz of cream roving–looks like a big marshmallow, eh?  It is especially light and fluffy, but I doubt it tastes any good.

Roving, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is what they call the wool after its been meticulously cleaned and carded, but before it has been spun into yarn or felted.  The roving comes together in a loose strip which is lightly wound into a skein.  The wool I used is alpaca, which has comparable qualities to sheep’s wool in terms of its felting-ability.

The process I used to make the felted balls was relatively easy:

Pull off a generous handful of marshmallow fluff (the middle object in the picture below).

Dip the ball carefully in a bowl of hot tap water mixed with dish detergent (such as Dawn)–I say “carefully” because you don’t want to totally submerge the ball in the water–you want to get it wet all the way through, but not soggy.

Begin to roll the ball gently in the palm of your hands.  Apply only enough pressure to start shaping the ball.  It should slowly start to become denser and denser.  If not, add the tiniest drop of soap and a bit more water.  As it becomes denser, add more pressure with your hands.  The idea is to reduce the ball to appoximately 1″ in diameter (depending on the amount of roving you started with).  I found that you can speed up the process some by rinsing the ball in cool, clear water, then back in the host soapy water. (This rinsing causes the fibers to sieze up.)

You’ll know the ball is completely felted when it no longer has any “loose” roving and it feels firm and dense.  At this point, thoroughly rinse it in a bowl of cold tap water and roll it around on a towel to remove any extra water and to ensure it is really round. I like to leave mine on the radiator for a day or two to get them extra dry, but plain old air drying will suffice.

Generally speaking, each felted ball was 45-60 seconds in the making, once I got the hang of it. Each 2 oz skein yielded approximately 20 1″ balls and the 12″ wreath featured here required about 175 balls to get full coverage on three sides.  Yes, I spent a LOT of time felting. Luckily, Etsy will provide you with many sources for roving in every shade imaginable (search for “roving”) AND finished felted balls. 

I found the cream roving took longer to felt than the other colors and was more prone to leave pronounced cracks in the sides (look closely at the cream balls above and you’ll probably see what I mean).  I don’t think the difference had anything to do with the color, per se, but was probably more attributable to the differences in the fibers of the roving.

You can’t really get rid of the cracks once they are formed, so take care to avoid them from the start.  Easier said then done, however!  I never found a really reliably way to prevent them with the cream except to use lots of soap, really hot water and slowing down the addition of pressure until I was sure there were no cracks.  In the end, I accepted the cracks figuring only half of each ball would be showing on the final wreath and I would just have to be careful when I attached them to place them “crack side down”.

For the wreath, I started with a 12″ styrofoam wreath form, which I hid by covering it first with strips of various coordinating fabrics from my stash.  Look carefully below and you’ll see a mixture of unbleached muslin, duchess silk, dupioni silk and twill from a pair of khakis.

Attaching the felted balls was not as easy I planned. I thought sewing them to the underlying fabric would be a kinder, gentler approach than my crash hot glue gun approach used previously. I think I only exponentially added to the process.  No matter, I am quite happy with how it turned out.

Happy crafting!
~Erin

07 Feb 2012

Our Winter Wool Series

3 Comments In the Craft Room, In the Workroom, Inspiration

We are very excited to announce a new series of blog posts, Winter Wolle, that we are hosting here at Clever Charlotte!

We have a variety of wool-inspired projects lined up to show you over the next few weeks. In doing so, we hope to demonstrate just why we love wool in all forms. While the function & beauty of wool isn’t limited to just wintertime, it is precisely in these cold, dark months of winter in Northeast Ohio that I seek out wool for its visual and physical warmth. What better time to feature this wonderfull, all-natural product?

So, why wool?

An obvious answer is warmth. But did you know that wool is naturally water repellant and moisture wicking? It is also extremely durable, more than making up for any extra up-front costs of a wool product over its lifetime.

It is sustainable, renewable and otherwise relatively eco-friendly. It can be produced without harmful pesticides. Wool is also low-maintenance, requiring only occasional laundering. Wool can be composted!

For apparel and crafting, wool is ideal because it naturally resists wrinkles and maintains its shape well. It is also extremely versatile. It is perfect for the coldest months of the year, and yet can comfortably span 3 seasons of style for the Mrs.–

Left, Right

the Miss–

LeftRight

and the home–

Left, Right

In addition to being a perfect sewing medium, it can be spun and knitted,

Left (Anthropologie archives), Right

felted,

Above

and needled (Ok, really just another form of felting)–

Above

Wool’s industrial applications are also worth considering. Did you know that wool can insulate your house?

With wool’s unlimited potential, we hope Winter Wolle will inspire you to plan a project or two for yourself or home.

Happy Sewing!

~Erin

PS Wanna see more?