Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How to Stretch a Shirt - Project 10 (for the wall)

I had hoped to end last week on a high note with my very last thrifted shirt project.  Alas, the last project kind of took on a life of its own and therefore ate up much more time than I had assumed it would.  And so, instead of ending the week on a high note, we’re starting the week on a high note!  I declare today the very last day of 

And I’ll admit, this project does NOT follow the same vein as the previous three or so in that is was NOT insanely easy.  Easy, sure.  Insanely easy?  No.  And it was time consuming.  BUT I like the end result.  And now that I’ve rambled on and on about it for some time, would you like me to tell you what it is?  Or should I just continue to blabber about it without giving you any real information at all?  Oh, ok, you win.
I used my last shreds of scraps, in combination with a few other shreds of scraps, to construct a hand-sewn Fabric Mosaic.  
Originally, I figured I would simply prep a canvas and mod podge bits of scrap fabric on in a cool design and call it a mosaic.  But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do something different.  Don’t get me wrong, mod podge and I are still tight, I just wanted to do something unique.  So, somewhere along the line I came up with the idea to hand sew the scraps on to a fabric canvas with embroidery floss.  
Here’s what you’ll need:
butcher paper or similar
a sharpie
a pencil
embroidery hoops
some kind of sturdy fabric for your canvas (upholstery fabric, canvas, I used burlap)
scraps of fabric
embroidery floss to match scraps
a needle
a little bit of insanity and quite a lot of “what have I started?”

The first step is to decide on a design.  My scrap fabric went really well with my bedroom colors, and I needed some fun art there anyway, so I wanted the design to work in that space.  I went with a tree.  You can do whatever your heart desires.  While you’re making decisions, you’ll want to decide on how many different embroidery hoops you want to divide your design into - your design will be split into that many different “pieces” and then hung together to complete the look.  For instance, I decided on three different sized embroidery hoops, so my tree was split into three parts that, when finished, I hung together to make the whole tree.
Next, you’ll want to go steal some embroidery hoops from your mom because no matter how hard she tried to get you to enjoy embroidery when you were a child, you just couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for the subject, and of course you forgot to buy the hoops while you were at the store - since the idea of going back to the store with a screaming toddler and a baby who just fell asleep is repulsive to you, stealing from your mom is a great idea (because you just happen to still have your old house key).  Sorry mom, I’ll buy you some replacements.
And you know, if your mom isn’t literally RIGHT around the corner from your house your best bet would probably be to go back to the store.  Or wait until your hubby gets home and go to the store sans children then.  Your choice.  
So, now you’ve got your design in mind and your {stolen} embroidery hoops.
Take a large piece of paper - butcher paper, or, if you’re like me, packing paper you saved from the last time you moved - and use a sharpie to draw out your design.  Don’t go into too much detail or anything - this is just to get an idea.  
Lay your hoops down on the design a few different ways and decide which lay out you like the best.  
Cut squares of your heavy fabric (I used burlap) and put them in your hoops.
Trim around the hoops so there isn’t any excess fabric.
Cut out your design (don’t worry about being exact, this is just to make sure you have the proportions and spacing right) and lay it on top of your hoops (which are still configured in the desired layout, capishe?)
Use a pencil to trace around your design on the burlap.  

It will be pretty faint, but this is really just to trigger your memory about the size and general shape of your design, anyway.
If your scraps are little pieces, you’re ready to go.
If not, you will need to cut your scraps into little pieces.  

I made sure that my pieces were not uniform.  The point of a mosaic is to piece different shapes together to create a larger shape, so I didn’t want to end up with a bunch of 2x4 rectangles, you know?  So I folded my scraps up in different ways and just hacked them apart so I had some skinny pieces, some triangles, some weird oddballs, etc.
I used two different sewing “techniques” (if you can call them that...) so I’ll explain each one and you can decide what you’d like to do for your own mosaic.
First, I wanted the bark of my tree to lie flat to contrast with the leaves which, obviously, I wanted to be more three-dimensional.  
Take a piece of scrap, lay it in place, and use your matching floss.  Sew through the front to the back, 

then back to front very close (to make a very small stitch on the back.) 

Cut the floss and 

tie the ends in a double knot.  

Trim the ends to the desired length.  (mine are all different lengths, because I didn’t want it symmetrical in any way.)
Repeat this process maybe two or three more times on the same piece of fabric to make sure it’s secured.  Some pieces will only need two knots.  Some will need more.  You decide.  
(Keep in mind that you will be overlapping pieces, so you may not need a ton of knots in the first piece since you can attach both pieces at the same time instead.)

One done!

Lay out another piece and sew/tie more knots.   If they curl up on the edges and corners, 
that’s ok.  It adds to the charm of the piece if things aren’t perfect.

I really tried to work with the shapes of the pieces as they were, instead of cutting them to fit because I think that’s the way real mosaic work is done, right?  (I don’t know, I don’t really do mosaics.)  I also used a lighter brown pattern along one side for “shading,” as if the sun were hitting from that direction.
Continue to do this all along the shape of whatever it is that you want to appear more flat.

When you get to about this point, you will wonder what you got yourself into.
Was this really a good idea?
Can I just go back to the mod podge thing?
But since you’ve already invested about half your life, you might as well continue.
The knots add a lot of time to the project.
When you finally get done with the flat pieces - or bark, in my case - on one hoop, you will need to do the other two.
Keep at it.  Even when your fingers start to feel arthritic.
When you’re done with all the pieces you want to be flat, you can move on to the three dimensional pieces, which, though time consuming, are more fun (I think).
This time, do a more traditional stitch, tying a knot in one end of the floss, and starting by going through the back to the front and then through the font to the back.   Don’t cut anything, and don’t tie knots, just keep stitching pieces in place.
The cool part about this technique though, is that you fold and bunch the fabric as you stitch.  There is no set way to do this.  Simply put as many folds, bunches and stitches in one piece of scrap as you think you need to get the look you want - I know, scientific, right?  (I put two to three stitches in each one and some are more gathered than others.)
For instance, start with your leaf (or what have you) 

folded once.  
Sew through it from back to front.
Then fold one side over and gather it just a bit.    
Sew through it front to back.
And it looks like this.
Do this again, folding in different ways and bunching different sides.
A few more and it look like this:
Overlap your pieces and alternate colors according to your design.  When you’ve got a bunch together, it looks kind of like this:
Again, I tried to use the yellow and white stripes as highlights along the parts I thought the sun would be shining on.
When the first hoop is finished, you may want to end there.  Just a take a break and come back.
I added a little bird, which I just stitched on normally, added a little 3-D wing and stitched on two back beads for eyes.  If you look close, you can see the little yellow feet I stitched on too!
If at any point you find yourself wondering if this project will ever be complete, I am here to assure you that it will be.
Far after you thought it would be.
And when it is done, your husband will say, “huh, that’s kinda cool.” Which in normal people speak (as opposed to chemical engineer, laid back, never excited speak) is equivalent to, “Wow!  This looks really cool!  You MADE this???  How unique, original and artistic!”
At that point, all the hours and cramped hands will be worth it.
Hang it up according to the predetermined layout and enjoy!

PS.  I’ve recently realized that I painted my bedroom the worst color possible to photograph.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the color.  I think it is fun, but also peaceful. It’s a lovely spring green.  BUT, it either photographs as a sickly yellow or really neon.  I promise my bedroom doesn’t look this weird in reality.


Lise said...

Oooo, cute. Good job.

Mandy England said...

Kimberly, this is incredible! Your creativity never ceases to amaze me! :] I'm gonna go ahead and say that I would LOVE to feature this on Love Me 2 Times next week if you're ok with that?

Unknown said...

Why thank you very much, ladies!

Rachel@oneprettything.com said...

This one might be my favorite- I love it! Thanks for the fun how-to, I'll be linking.

Unknown said...

wow! what a neat, creative idea :) thank you for linking up to MMM!!

Throw Open the Windows said...

WOW!! This is gorgeous! When I clicked on your link over at The Girl Creative I had no idea how impressed I would be. Awesome!! Rebecca

zeshuregi said...

OOOOps !!!!what a great effort you have done....so nice.wowwww

Mrs. Priss said...

Wow! That turned out SO freaking cute!

Melissa said...

Kimberly - I have been checking in on your blog more and more. You are amazing and doing so many creative, unique things. I'm very impressed!! Keep it up girl!

Zoe said...

I love this- right up my alley! Definitely pinned this for inspiration- I am your newest follower!

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