Archives for posts with tag: presents

Basic, basic, basic supplies are all that's needed for this gift. That, and an idea.

When I was a kid and Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day or Easter or a birthday or… any holiday rolled around, I would break out the felt pens and paper and glue and scissors. I would make my family and friends little imitations of “real world” honours, things like badges, crowns, and certificates. When I grew a little older I transferred this urge to cut, draw and paste my gifts into the idea of specialized coupons.

Coupons are great to offer services that cannot be wrapped up in a box: “One Free Car Wash”, “One Free Babysitting”, “One Dozen Cookies (need 24 hours notice)”, “A Vacuum of The Entire House”… you get the idea.

You could use some of the simple book-binding skills we covered the other day, as I did in the example below. Simple-simple! I just cut may paper to size, stapled once. I took care that the pointy-bits of the staple went to the inside. I also cut a little into each page just inside from the “binding”, so my coupon-recipient would find it easy to rip them out of the little book.

Easy gift: Proving that it's the thought that counts.

All of the papers in the Coupon Book were destined for Recycling… they’ll still be recycled, just are being diverted along the way.

Natasha Henderson in Montreal, wishing everyone a Happy Holiday and a Merry Christmas!

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Last Christmas one of my favorite gifts to receive was a set of handmade fridge-magnets. My pal made these with old bottlecaps (never throw them away again!), glue, magnets, images, and glitter. Remarkably simple, and completely fantastic. This link provides clear instructions on how to make them, but basically, you just need to apply those objects together in a way that makes sense. One good note is that “you want to glue the non-magnetic side so to the bottle cap and leave the magnetic side exposed so it adheres to metal.” Yup!!!

My friend gave me a Catholic picture to remind me of her, and two Simpsons images chosen especially for me.

Natasha Henderson in Montreal

A few months ago I taught felt-making and other craft techniques to a large group of students. The project was massive, and very rewarding for me to see what the kids could do. While working there I received a pretty neat book as a gift. If you are really motivated to learn a new craft right now in time to make “stuff” for Christmas gifts, you could try some of the projects in this book: “Felt (Handmade Style)“, by India Flint. A worst-case scenario would be to buy this book, and then give it as a gift (or a promise of gifts… “I’ll make you what’s on page 36!”) if you just don’t have time.

Kids really love felt-making.

The idea of a promise is a good one… I have a few people on my gift-list who I have promised specific things to this year, and they will receive a rain-check on them. If I don’t have time to devote a whole morning to someone’s gift right now, then they will receive it later! That holds especially true for experimental gifts… trying to make a fitted hat for a friend who lives across the country, or trying to design a massive piece of felt that would be light enough to wear as a head-wrap. These things take time and creativity.

CRAFT TIP FOR NOW: If you want to do one craft that is mentioned in the book that you can do right NOW without referencing the book… well, you can make some wool beads! It’s easy. If you have a small amount of wool roving (or batting) then you can do it. Take a pinch of wool, use a drop of dish-soap and some warm water, and start to roll it around in your palms. Over time this will form a ball, and you can keep rolling it in your hands or on a bamboo mat or piece of bubble wrap. Experiment adding different colours to it, experiment with different sizes. A little wool bead normally takes about 5-10 minutes to do. It’s a good craft for kids, because it takes up time, keeps their hands busy, only involves soap and water as the “messy” stuff, and for some magical reason all kids like to do this! In the end you can use your wool beads for jewelry, as decoration on other things like tuques or mittens, for Christmas decorations… the sky is really the limit what you can do with them.

Hand-puppets… they are fun, functional, and CUTE. Capital “c” cute. Cute! They are easy to make, and you can combine your imagination with whatever materials that are available to make something pretty cool.

My first puppet. He likes the piano.

To start, find some fabric that is big enough to fit your hand with fingers spread widely, twice. When I made my puppets, I used hand-made felt. You can use any type of fabric if you have access to a sewing machine… otherwise (for hand-sewing) I recommend a non-fray fabric such as felt.

roughly what a template would look like

The first thing to make is a template. The template is your pattern. If you are happy with your puppet, you can re-use your template for future puppets. If you are unhappy with an aspect of your puppet, the template can be adjusted.

Extend your hand so that your thumb is sticking out, then trace on paper. Fold the paper so that the “thumb-side” is mirrored. Add a seam allowance onto this, about an inch all around. It’s a good idea to give a little extra room, too. Check that the top is rounded, not weirdly shaped (unless you want to make a weird puppet, which is always a fun option!)

When you have a general shape for the template, cut it out. You can then use this to cut out two pieces of your fabric. Simply sew them together and decorate. Puppet. Keep in mind before you sew the pieces together, however, that this is a good time to add things such as ears! Some would prefer, also, to add a face or other features before sewing it together. I prefer to see what my final shape is before doing that. Have fun with your new pal! 

After I had adjusted my template, I made some more puppets.

 

After a short time I got more ambitious with puppets. See what YOU can come up with!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

I have a small, possibly boring (no! Don’t leave!) story to share. A couple of years back, I had a job in “The Fashion Industry”. One of the little perks they’d give us was access to a mass Sample Sale twice a year.

This one has the beautiful Indian ribbon sewn to it.

Leftovers from the stores, samples that were made and discarded, and assorted wearable rejects were sold to employees of this nameless corporation by the pound. It worked out to about $1 per garment, and somehow everyone would score some nice stuff. I got my yoga-pants from one of these, and believe me I’m wearing them to the ground. Anyhow, during one of those sales I came across a bag of black polyester-fleece gloves with little pom-poms sewn on the wrists.

Quite cute already, but I thought “I’ll do something with these…” A year or so later, I did! I stuck with a colour theme for each pair, and used embroidery floss and sequins and beads that I already had.

So cool they're hot; so hot they're cool. Fire and Ice...

The most popular gloves have turned out to be the ones on which I simply sewed a colourful ribbon around the top. This ribbon was imported from India many years ago, and at the time was rare to find in mainstream shops. Since then, thankfully, many of the craft and sewing shops have similar ribbons available.

You could sew on a fringe, a bit of cord, some braided leather, some leftover bits and pieces of most anything. I would like to do something similar with old gloves I find in the fripperies and second-hand stores!

A couple of technical pointers: if the gloves are stretchy, either use stretchy thread or make certain that you stretch the material as you sew on the decorations. Try to not sew where there will be a lot of wear. This way your threads won’t be in immanent danger of breaking when the gloves are worn. You might notice that I stuck to decorating just the cuff area. Another suggestion is to tie knots often, so that if a thread does break, all your work will not come undone.

Happy decorating! I glove Christmas!

Decorated Gloves

Natasha Henderson in Montreal

Felted soaps make really cool presents, and are conversation-pieces.

Felted soap is a lovely and unique gift that just takes a bit of patience, but anyone can do it! You need some wool roving, a soap of any type, a bit of bubble wrap (or a bamboo mat, or a texured waterproof surface), a towel, an old pair of nylons, and then some hot water (even boiling!)

A soap, some roving... a bit of bubble-wrap, a towel.

For the roving, you can ask at your local wool-shop if they have roving, otherwise you might like to order some online.

Wrap the bar of soap in wool layers, placing the wool at right angles. It is good to wrap the soap fairly snugly. If it is too loose, it could cause weird bumps, but on the end it would still be ok. Work a few layers, until you cannot see the soap anymore. Keep in mind that the wool will shrink and shift somewhat as you do this, so what you lay out on the soap will probably not be exactly what you will end up with! The factor of surprise in this is actually part of the fun.

Beginning to wrap the soap in wool roving...

Place the felt-covered soap inside a pocket made from nylon pantyhose. I bought my first pair of nylons in possibly decades in order to make felted soaps. From those nylons I cut a few lengths and tied off the ends to make several pockets, so then I could teach soap-felting workshops. Don’t worry too much if the wool shifts a little while you put it in the pocket; it is possible to adjust the wool when you remove it from the pocket later on.

Pour hot water over the pocket. Rub the soapy mass inside the pocket for about eight to ten minutes. Roll it in a towel to remove some of the lather and excess moisture.

Wool-covered soap in the pocket!

Remove the soap/felt from the nylon pocket, then rub the felted soap on bubble-wrap until the felt is truly felted down and matted against the soap. During this process, you might need to rub a little more water on the soap, or roll it again in the towel if it’s a bit too lathery. Do this until you see that the wool is all stuck together, a few minutes. Try making a few of these felted soaps, and you’ll get the hang of it!

The felt will shrink as you use the soap over time, until there is no soap left and you have a cute little ball of wool that you could cut to turn into a little pouch, or a cat-toy… or even Christmas decorations.

In the process of felting the soap!

I have a business selling felted soaps (amongst other things) and my clients have told me that they love the gentle exfoliation of the wool, how fine and frothy the soap lather is, and that the soap lasts much longer than if it wasn’t wearing such a nicely felted wool sweater! Enjoy!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

I have just started knitting my own first-ever tube-shape. Last winter my forearms and wrists would get much too cold, so I’m making myself some wrist warmers. My gloves are warm and wonderful, my coat is a beaut… but the airflow up the arms of my coat lets in a chill. I find this to be an easy project, as well as practical.

Knitting with four needles. It just keeps going around... and around... and around...

I started with 26 cast on stitches, and am increasing every inch or so by two stitches, one on each side. For a default gift-size perhaps start with 28 to 32 stitches (I have surprisingly small wrists!) 

My Achilles Wrists

They look cute and more importantly, will be a welcome warmth between sleeve and gloves. I am simply knit/purling so that they are ribbed and stretchy. I am using some olive-green wool that was leftover from another project, but for a gift you could choose something a little more flashy. You could decorate them with some contrasting wool stitching, or other stitched on cuteness, too!

warming...

It is nice to give yourself a gift, sometimes. The gift of warm wrists is a pretty nice one in my opinion. Comes right after a few choco-almond balls. Think about your taller friends… do their coats fit well? Might they not like to have warm wrists? An alternative to knitting would be to crochet something similar; that is faster and you can get quite fancy with eyelets and lace. The great thing about real wool is that it is an insulating fibre, so that even lace wool wrist-warmers add a lot of warmth! Those who love to sew could use a stretchy knit or fleece fabric to achieve a similar result.

This knit-wit loves her knit-wrists.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

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