home decor

Tutorial: Last-minute scrappy wreath ornament!

Scrappy Wreath Tutorial

When we put up the Christmas tree this year, I noticed that one of my favorite ornaments could easily be reproduced and would be a great project for tiny scraps of cute fabric. Just a disclaimer: this is not really my original idea or anything, but no one knows where or when that ornament came from, only that it’s been on the tree for pretty much my whole life, as far as I remember. Credit for this idea goes to those unknown ornament makers out there somewhere who have charmed me for years with their adorable design.

I know I’m cutting it awfully close with a Christmas-themed tutorial, but luckily this project is so simple, it’s perfect for a last-minute gift or just a festive project to help keep you busy in the countdown to the big day. So let’s hurry up and get started! Here’s what you’ll need, and it should all be stuff a crafter will have around the house:

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– 12 fabric scraps, cut into circles 3-ish” in diameter (size is not hugely important here, I used a juice glass as a template)*
– fabric marking pen (I used the disappearing kind – this is only for drawing circles onto fabric for easier cutting)
– sewing thread and needle
– thicker / stronger string (such as crochet cotton or embroidery floss) and larger needle
– a goodly amount of polyfill stuffing
– decorative trimming of your choice (I used ribbon and a button), if you like

*(NOTE: I just made a few of these as gifts, a year later, and accidentally used 11 little plops in one of the wreaths. I thought that one smooshed nicely, creating a tight and plump wreath. You might want to make 12 circles, then try your wreath with and without the 12th to see which you like better.)

If you’ve ever made a fabric yo-yo, you’ll be able to skip a whole lot of this already simple tutorial. You’re basically going to make a bunch of yo-yos and fill them with polyfill stuffing before you close them up, making 12 puffy fabric balls. But I’ll go ahead and assume you think I’m talkin’ crazy right now and just start from the beginning.

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With your regular sewing thread and needle, sew a running stitch along the outside of one of your fabric circles. Make sure you have a hefty knot at the end of your thread or it could pull right through later, and make it easier on yourself by ending with your needle dangling from the right side of the fabric. Pull the thread a bit to make your circle into a little bowl shape.

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Grab a small handful of stuffing.

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Stick the stuffing inside the tiny bowl and pull the thread to close up the hole. (ANOTHER NOTE: Take care not to stuff them too-too full, you want them to be able to smoosh a bit when you wreath-ify it later. Fill them so they look plump, but still are squishable.)

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Close it up as tight as you can and knot the thread. I do it by making a small stitch near the original knot and running my thread through the loop as I pull the thread through. (I’m sure there is a sewing term for this knot, but I don’t know it and I can’t find it. Help a sister out if you know, ok?) This is sort of a pain, because you have to hold the thread taut to keep the ball closed and knot it at the same time. I kept pressure on the hole and sides with my left hand while knotting with my right.

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Run your thread through the center of the ball and back through the top and snip as close to the surface as you can. This will hide the thread end inside the ball.

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Do that 11 more times.

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Lay out your 12 little balls in a pleasing arrangement and grab a 18-ish” length of stronger string and needle.

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Going right through the center of each ball, thread them all onto your string – no knot needed, just leave a nice tail at the end – in the order you laid them out.

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Center them along your thread.

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As tightly as you can possibly manage, so the balls squish in together tightly, tie the two string ends in a strong knot, making a circle of fabric balls. I tried to do it alone and couldn’t no matter what I tried. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – sometimes two hands just aren’t enough.

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Run each end back through the wreath to give it some extra strength and hide the ends.

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Affix the decoration of your choice, add a loop of string for hanging, and Huzzah! A scrappy wreath ornament! I actually left mine right where it is in the very first photo, looking adorable against the many inches of snow we got over the weekend. Happy last-minute crafting!

Pretty little potholders

Potholders

Here’s a quick little something I whipped up in bits over the last week, basically using this tutorial from Sew, Mama, Sew! and a pile of scraps. There’s not so much to share with this small project other than that I’m very pleased with how they came out, but I did have a little trouble with the binding at first. I thought the tutorial was a little unclear about the corner loop bit. It took ages but I finally figured it out – in case you’re stuck too, here’s what I did:

Potholders

First of all, because these are a gift and are most likely to be used decoratively, I made the binding and hand-sewed it (from Amy Butler’s Love) around the back as if it was a normal quilt. (I’m much too lazy to bother for normal-use potholders.) Starting in one corner, as the tutorial says, I sewed around the first three sides and about halfway through the fourth as normal. There I stopped for a second, returned to the first corner and folded the start of the binding back over the stitching but not all the way around the edge yet. Maybe I’m just a big dummy, but I could not get that part for the longest time. (It seems obvious now though, looking at the tutorial again. D’oh.) Then I continued along the fourth side, stopping at the last edge with the remainder of the binding sticking straight out. To sew around the back, I just did as you would normally do for any quilt, but started right at the first corner. When I got back to that corner, I whipstitched the folded over loop fabric together, twisted it into a loop and sewed the (folded under) edge down.

Of course, you probably won’t have any problem with the loop at all and you’ll just wonder what my problem was. Me too really, but there it is just in case you didn’t get it either!

Ode to the back stitch

Vintage owl embroidery

Last week, I posted a photo of some embroidery materials, then I showed off some gorgeous back stitch done by Flickr users. That little pile of thread, pink pillowcases, and the back stitch became by new instant gratification project.

I had these Ikea pillowcases sitting around for ages, kind of making me feel bad for having bought them and then never getting to them. Don’t you hate when homewares make you feel guilty? I’d intended to embroider some unicorns on them, because what’s more grown-up than pillowcases with unicorns, right? But by the time I got to it, I just wasn’t feeling it. I turned to the super-awesome Vintage Embroidery Patterns group on Flickr. Um, how come no one told me there was a super-awesome Vintage Embroidery Patterns group on Flickr?! I just happened to bump into it while I was trying to decide what to put on those pillowcases and I found these totally goofy and adorable owl patterns.

Vintage owl embroidery - close-up

The owls won me over because they have silly faces but also because I knew they’d look great in back stitch. There’s a funny thing when you learn a new skill that makes you cringe away from the basics and want only to use more complex techniques. When I first learned to knit, garter stitch just looked seriously ugly to me for the longest time. But after a while, I started to appreciate how its simplicity can be really beautiful. Ok, I’m no newbie to embroidery, but I’ve never understood the appeal of back stitch. It just looked so ordinary. My theory is that when you’re new to something, you want to use techniques that make you look like you know what you’re doing – perhaps just a little more than you really do. But once you’re confident in that skill, you notice how lovely the simplest stitch can be. Of course, after years of not using it once, now I want to cover everything in back stitch.

One pillowcase down, the second about halfway there. I expect the pair will be finished within a day or two. Who doesn’t love a project that’s planned and finished in under two weeks?