Monday, December 22, 2008

I don't know if there is any direct line to the inspiration for these little ornaments. I've seen stuffed ornaments in various incarnations around The Internets, and I saw the idea of printing a picture and using it on placemats in the book Stiched in Time, but I can't say for sure that I alone have been graced with the foresight to put them together.
This happens to me at work, ALL THE TIME. I think I have some great idea for teaching math in some revolutionary new way, and I'll spend months (one time, I spent two years) developing and testing it out on many classrooms and grade levels. Then one day, I'll come across a very similar lesson in a book that was published in 1988 and I think, you know, what the hell am I doing here.

Anyway, I started these ornaments for a family friend that we'll see for a holiday dinner, but those are wrapped and ready to go. So these are the ones I'm making for a neighbor. This is our neighbor Leor. Scotty calls him Eyore, which makes me laugh and laugh. Leor has been a very friendly neighbor and a very good friend to my boys, who love his tractor more than air.

The best thing about these, I'm sorry to have to tell you this, is that they are so flipping cheap to make. I love me some thrifty. This is important information for you if, say, I draw your name in a holiday gift exchange. I apologize in advance.

I got these fabric "jellies" at Jo-Ann's. It has 9 designs, 18 strips, 2.5 inches by 42 inches, on sale for $6.99. I barely used any of it to make the ornaments. I don't mind sewing. I don't really like cutting, it turns out, and I must not be the only one in that boat, because there are lots of products like this available.

I cut the ones I used in half width-wise, as it was a lot of look to have a two inch border around a two or three inch picture. A slimmer border was easy enough to do and looks a lot better too. The ones on top are full-width, the ones on the bottom are split-width.

The ric rac continues to be the cutest thing in the universe, but I am a total schlep at sewing it on to any project, and so I continue to use it where I can while I get my mad sewing skillz up to par. I bought a bazillion yards in different colors off e-bay for 15 bucks last year. It's come in handy more than you can know. These ornaments have the ric rac sewn in for a hanging loop, and I sewed the canvas backing onto it already, but they still need to be stuffed with fiber fill. Although, looking at them here, I think you could make the case that they are rather cute without the stuffing. Huh.

General Direction, Beginning Sewers:
**Disclaimer: Better sewers will no doubt be able to give better directions. And there are things that may be obvious to better sewers, that are not at all obvious to me, so I'll end up explaining them here. Sorry!**
I used fabric sheets to print the photos. I made them generally the same size, but didn't sweat it too much. I fit about 6 photos onto a single sheet of the fabric paper, which is 8.5" by 11". **
You'll also need coordinating fabric strips, either felt or fiber fill for stuffing, a piece of ribbon or ric rac for hanging loop, needle and thread for handsewing, and an iron.
I ended up doing the last batch with the felt instead of the stuffing. I like them better, but it's up to you! I did use a layer of felt when I decided not to stuff them, just so there's some "umph" to the patch. It just needs some body, and felt or flannel is an easy ~ and cheap ~ way to do that. This is felt, I buy a few yards when it's on sale for $1.99 a yard. I use it instead of interfacing for a lot of things, because the word "interfacing" is scary to me. At the fabric store, there are dozens of kinds, and I have no idea what I need or why. So, I say, ignore it! Ahem.
** If you are like me and don't have a great photo editing software (or, more to the point, have a perfectly serviceable software that you are totally lame at using) you can do what I did, and add pictures to a Word document. Make margins as small as they'll allow under File/Page Set Up (if you make them too small, it will offer to "fix" them for you). Then, go to Insert/ Picture/ From File...browse and pick your picture. Choose "open" once it's the right picture. Now it's in your document. Making sure it's "clicked on" (just look for the little black squares in the corner of the photo; if there are no squares, hover the mouse over the photo and click it once; the squares appear, and you know it's selected!), go to Insert/Text Box. A text box will automatically be formed at the same size as the picture. Using the text box, you can drag the picture whereever you want in the document. It's really great for putting two or three photos across and down the paper. You can resize the text box and picture independently from each other, so get comfy on how to move around the technology, but it's been so dang helpful for me!

I'm a lazy sewer, from what I can tell. I don't measure so much, just line things up and cut. (I pay for this at times, but not enough to make me pin and measure.) I needed two of these brown strips to line the sides of the picture, so I just laid them and cut them, knowing that in my mind I'd rather have a little extra than not enough.
Put these right side down against the right side of the picture, and then sew the pieces to the picture. Press open with iron.

Then I measure the top and bottom fabric against the whole length and cut and sew those. Sew them right side facing to the right side of the picture. Press the seams toward the border fabric (every chance you get; I'm always shocked at how much "sewing" time is actually spent cutting and ironing!).

Once all four fabric edges are sewn into place, and ironed flat, I laid it down on top of a piece of canvas. (I used a painting drop cloth as material!) I cut around the ornament. Cut a piece of ribbon or ric rac, form it into a loop, and sandwich it between the photo piece and the backing piece, with loop facing down and the two ends hanging well over the edge. (Those two ends will get 'sucked' back into the ornament when you turn it inside out).
(I did all of these without using a single straight pin. However, if I were going to strategically place a pin, I would do it to keep the hanging loop in place. I made a whole ornament once and realized at the end that the loop had slipped out ~ I found it on the floor when I was done sewing ~ and then had to tack on a loop after it was turn. Kind of not cute.)
If you're going to stuff it with fiber-fill, just put the canvas and picture patch right sides facing. If you want to leave it flat, include a piece of felt in the stack before sewing all the layers together. (See picture). Felt, picture patch (right side up), canvas (wrong side up). Even if you sew it correctly, if you turn it incorrectly it will still be wrong. When you have two layers (picture patch and canvas) it's no problem. There's only one way to turn it. Good for you. If there are three layers, there is a wrong way to turn it. I speak from experience. And I've actually ripped seams out, resewn, and then turned it wrong and STILL been wrong, multiple times, until I really thought I was nutty. Well. Maybe I am, but this isn't why. Here's what I learned the hard way: Do not turn the layers by working between the felt and the picture patch; turn the layers by working between the picture patch and the canvas. You're welcome.

Sew along the edges, leaving an opening at the bottom (one and a half to two inches). Okay, here's a place where maybe people who sew a lot know things I don't, but I have to really plan this. I want the opening at the bottom, and I don't want it at a corner (makes it harder to hand sew the hole shut when you're done turning and stuffing). So, I start sewing the two pieces together not at the top where the hanging loop is but at the bottom of the ornament. And not at one end of the piece, which is where I want to start but near the middle of the piece. I sew about an inch, backstitch to strengthen, then sew around the whole edge of the two pieces. Sometimes, I backstitch over the looped ric rac, and sometimes I forget to do that. Oops. When you get to a corner, in order to turn and go up the other side, leave the needle in the down position, lift the foot and swivel the piece (the needle in the down position anchors everything together) and keep going. Stop 1.5" away from where you started, backstitch for strength.

Turn it inside out. I won't lie to you. It can be a bear to turn this if you don't leave a big enough opening. I say leave a bigger opening, better than too small of an opening. I'm not a fantastic hand sewer, and the opening needs to be handstitched shut, so maybe there's some aesthetic choices people make, but I just tell people things are handmade, and very personal, and that the love is in the mistakes. I like to set expectations low. HaHa. Not even kidding. Poke your finger or the eraser end of a pencil into each corner, press the whole thing flat with the iron.

And here's a tip: Use the iron to press the fabric in to make a little seam allowance after you have turned your ornament. Isn't the opening I need to hand sew right here in this picture so sweet and inviting? Yeah, it's not how it started. Yikes.
If stuffing them with fiber-fill, do that before stitching the opening shut.
I sew the opening shut with a whipstitch in a neutral thread. I know almost nothing about stitching, but I believe a slip stitch is more hidden, like between the layers, and the whipstitch is over the fabric and shows. It's not enough to bug me, and like I said, I don't even know if I'm using the right names! I am assuming as I get better at sewing, I'll start to take on these little intricacies and start to improve my craftsmanship. For now, I just try to get it done. I have a perfectionist streak, and the only way I've made any headway at all as a beginning sewer is to just ignore everything and do what I know how. If I waited until I actually knew how to do everything right, I'd never get started at all.
Just saying.
And, for the record, I gave some of these to my grandma and my aunt and they LOVED them. :)

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