Thursday, December 1, 2016

tips and tools for making your Twelve Days ornaments


Wowee, folks! Thanks for making my Black Friday/Small Biz Saturday/Crafty Sunday/Cyber Monday Etsy sale the most successful ever! And by far the most popular items from my shop were the Twelve Days ornaments. Quite a number of you have some cozy hand-sewing to do! Thanks again.

As you might imagine, I've made a lot of these ornaments. I thought I'd share some tips and tricks of the trade that will make crafting your Twelve Days ornaments easier and quicker!

SULKY® PRINTABLE STICK 'N STITCH (aka Sticky Fabri-Solvy)
First and most obvious one. Can't say enough about this magical felt craft and embroidery helper.


This sticky-backed stabilizer is the key to making these ornaments. I live in terror of it being discontinued. I miiight be hoarding it.


You just print (or copy) the pattern to the Sulky stabilizer, peel off the backing, apply it to the pre-shrunk* wool felt and start stitching right on the lines. It's FANTASTIC. No pattern tracing or transferring embroidery designs.

When you are finished embroidering you cut out the piece and soak it in cold water** about 15 minutes. The stabilizer dissolves away and when your piece has air dried you have a perfectly executed embroidery design with no trace of the stabilizer.

You may notice the felt and stitching feels stiffer after it's dry, like it's been starched. That's perfectly normal. It's a leftover invisible residue from the stabilizer and I actually prefer it because it secures your stitching and adds body and durability to the ornament.

And of course, Sulky Stick 'n Stitch also works great for your regular fabric hoop embroidery projects. You can get it at your local craft/sewing store and also at walmart.com, amazon.com or Shiny Happy World.

*You should pre-shrink your wool or wool-blend felts the day before you make the ornament by simply soaking them with cold water and letting them air dry. 

** If you have hard water you may want to use bottled or distilled water to both pre-soak and soak away the stabilizer. According to some users, hard water seems to make washing the stabilizer away more difficult. However, if you have the old packaging you may also have a faulty batch if the adhesive won't wash away. Please read this.

THREAD HEAVEN


Do you guys know about Thread Heaven? I love this stuff. If you do a lot of embroidery or hand sewing you need to have this right next to you.


It adds a siliconey (technical term) coating to your needle and thread, which keeps knotting and snarling at bay as you sew. It makes the whole process of sewing French knots way less frustrating. If you coat your needle along with the thread it makes poking through the stabilizer as smooth as butter. Mm. Butter. But anyway, I love it and you can get it in several places but I bought mine here. It seems to last forever because I can't remember when I bought this one and I still have plenty.

STUFFING FORK


Do you guys have a stuffing fork? You might need one. So much better than a dowel, crochet hook or that leadless pencil you've been using. It can't be matched at stuffing tiny, hard to reach areas. Here's a closeup of the business end:


You are perhaps saying, 'So it has a tiny fork at the end, big whoop.' That's because you don't realize the fork is GENIUS. You take a loose pinch of stuffing, press it against the fork and spin the fork like you are eating spaghetti. It makes a compact ball of stuffing that you slide into place in the tiny spot you are trying to stuff. The fork also makes positioning stuffing inside an ornament a cinch. It grabs and repositions the stuffing whereas a dowel just pokes through it. I use my stuffing fork all the time with this ornament series. The store I purchased it from doesn't seem to have them anymore, but this is the website listed on the handle: Barbara Willis Designs.

There's a stuffing fork I've seen online made by Clover, but I can't find a closeup of what the end looks like. It's not as long but if it has a little fork on the end it would also be very helpful for these ornaments. Anyone have one?

DRITZ® FRAY CHECK


Dritz® Fray Check is listed as optional on my pattern supplies, but it's really nice to have. It's a clear, quick drying liquid that keeps things from raveling. Think of it like the hand sewing version of nail polish on your pantyhose.


Metallic embroidery threads tend to ravel and come untied, so just adding a dot of it to your hanging loop attachments and hanging loop knots ensures they won't ravel with use. I love it for sealing the ends of cut ribbon also. You can see by the label that you shouldn't expose it to heat, so keep it away from your iron. It's available at all your local sewing and crafting stores.

ALEENE'S ORIGINAL TACKY GLUE


Whoever Aleene is, I'd like to hug her. I love this glue. It's widely available in the US at any self-respecting local craft store or Wal-mart or Amazon.com. I use it on all my Twelve Days ornaments where glue is needed. It's nicely thick and dries to a clear finish pretty fast, but not so fast that you can't reposition if needed. If used sparingly, I never have trouble sewing through it. If I get a smear of it on something I can easily wipe it away with a damp cloth if it's still wet.

I keep mine stored upside down in a cup at all times so that it stays ready to dot on when I need it. I also cut the hole in the nozzle as small as possible to control the flow of the glue.


I never said it was a pretty cup.

Just as important as having the right glue is knowing to use as little as possible to get the job done. It doesn't take much. I hardly ever squeeze the bottle. I just dot it on. In most cases when my patterns call for glue it's just to tack something in place long enough for you to sew it down without using pins. Always, always, always just tiny dots or even smears.

In some instances glueing is used instead of sewing to hold something in place, like wings. In those cases you'll want to use a little more glue, but it still doesn't take a lot. You'll know this if you ever accidentally glue two felt pieces together and then try to get them apart.


Are you Glob Challenged? Do you have problems with accidentally adding too much? Easy solution: squeeze a glob of glue on a scrap piece of paper (the backing from the Sulky Printable Fabri-Solvy is good for this because it's coated) and use a toothpick to apply the glue instead of the glue nozzle. Voila!

COTTON PIPE CLEANERS AND WOOD BEADS
You'll notice several patterns in the series call for cotton pipe cleaners and unfinished wood beads. First, cotton pipe cleaners. Here's a shot of the ones I'm using:


So why cotton pipe cleaners as opposed to the more easily found craft pipe cleaner?


Here's a side by side comparison of the two. The white one is a BJ Long's cotton pipe cleaner and the gray one is a cheapy craft pipe cleaner from Joann.

First thing you'll notice is the width. The cheapy one is wider and the fuzzy stuff is not as dense, so you can easily see the wire in the middle. Also the wire in the middle of Mr Cheapy is pretty flimsy compared to the BJ Long. The BJ Long on the left has soft, dense cotton fuzz so that the interior wire is not visible and the skinnier width works better for my ornaments. If you need a different color than white I have seen and purchased packs of colored cotton pipe cleaners on eBay, but it might be easier just to color the cotton pipe cleaner with a few strokes of a fabric marker and let it dry.

I buy mine here, but you can find smaller packs in local cigar/pipe shops too. Other brands I've tried and liked are Ideal and Dill's.


OK, unfinished wood beads. Several of my ornaments use 8 mm (5/16 inch) wood beads and 20 mm (3/4 inch) wood beads. If your craft store is a nice, big one they might have those available right on the aisle. In my town these sizes are not usually available, so I ordered them from Etsy. There are several shops that carry them and you can find them by doing a quick search for the size you need. The ones shown above came from here and here and they were great quality beads.

WOOL FELT AND WOOL-BLEND FELT
It's important to get the right kind of felt for these ornaments. Both 100% wool felts and wool-blend felts work great. Wool-blend felts are a mixture of rayon and wool fibers and are less expensive than 100% wool felts. Most of my samples are made using wool-blend felts.

I buy my felt online because my local craft store doesn't carry it. I have a few vendors I like listed in my FAQ if you'll scroll down to the question about wool felt.

Photo courtesy of Benzie Design

For your convenience, Benzie Design has put together wool-blend felt and floss bundles curated just for this series and you can find them all here. You can find my color samples for each ornament and embroidery floss color guides here on my blog. Just scroll to the bottom to see a list of links.

Just say no to acrylic craft felts! They are plentiful and cheap but they won't work for these ornaments. Besides not being very durable or dense, the acrylic felts don't work with the Sulky stabilizer and often turn the stabilizer into a gummy glue-like substance when you try to soak it off. Please use wool or wool-blend felts only.

So that's it for the tools and tips. I hope it's been helpful! The heirloom nature of these ornaments and the time it takes to sew them make it worth getting the right tools and supplies. You'll thank yourself!


22 comments:

  1. This post is FANTASTIC. I just love all the extra detail you've gone to, I just wanna jump online now and order some of that stabiliser stuff. And I didn't know about stuffing forks either, and I love the comparison between the fake and real pipe cleaners. It's all in the details right? You've shown me new tips and I've been a crafter forever. Not only that but your ornaments are super cute. I'm pinning them right now!

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    1. Hey, julesmadden, outstanding! I'm so glad it was a useful post. I was just going to share about Thread Heaven then I thought of a bunch of other stuff so it kind of snowballed. :-) Thanks a bunch!

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  2. Thank you for this post - I am planning on making a complete set of 12 days of Christmas - one for my lifelong friend and one for myself. So far I have made The Partridge and Pear (2), and the Colling Bird (2) and my two French hens are both 50% done - I had to find some perfect pipe cleaners, and now I have I am working on getting them finished for Christmas - this year! I love the tips on this page and I am going to get some of the silicony stuff and a stuffing fork because I do have difficulty in getting the stuffing where I want it. Your work is wonderful and I am so glad I found you. Oh! Nearly forgot to tell you that the Milkmaid is AWESOME!
    Pauline
    perry94022 at hotmail dot com

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    1. Hey, Pauline,
      Lovely! You'll love Thread Heaven and the stuffing fork! Thanks so much! :-)

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  3. My sister and I are doing this series - she makes the evens, I do the odds - we each make two and then gift one to each other each Christmas.

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    1. That's a cool way to do it, Julie! :-) Have fun!

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  4. Hi. I love your pattern but am really reluctant to do the printing myself. Are you ever going into selling the patterns already printed on the stabaliser?
    Thanks Karen - karen.schulz@paradise.net.nz (as I am a no reply blogger)

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    1. Hey, Schulz family! I will probably look into getting pre-printed ones at some point after the series is complete.

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  5. This is such a terrific resource! The only thing I would add is a fabric glue stick. I'm. . . um. . . liquid-glue-challenged and prefer to use the stick to hold pieces together for hand sewing. :-)

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    1. Hey, Wendi! Oh yes, I love a good fabric glue stick. I use those for appliqué (thanks to you) and love them! However on these ornaments the pieces are small and a stick might be too large to work with in some instances?

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  6. Nice blog and so informative thank you for sharing us.

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  7. I couldn't find your email address anywhere to email this instead - but you should sign up as an amazon affiliate if it's available in your state! Maybe you're like DUH I know, everyone knows. But. Just in case :) I am so intrigued by that stuffing fork, I want one!

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  8. I have had problems with some printer ink bleeding (when soaking after completing embroidery) and permanently staining the embroidery floss when using the sulky stabilizer :(

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    1. Hey, Kathleen,
      I use a laser printer and haven't experienced that. If you are using an inkjet printer the ink may be water soluble? I'd try a laser printer or copier.

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  9. I will try that, Larissa. Thank you

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  10. Has anyone else had problems with their inkjet printer ink bleeding after soaking the Sulky? Haven't started my ornaments yet, but concerned about this. Thanks!

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    1. Hi, Kitty, the commenter just above you was having issues with that. I guess it depends on your inkjet ink. Some is water soluble so in that case it might bleed. I use a laser printer and/or copier and those work well. You may have to try a test piece to see abou the ink. HTH!

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    2. Yes, I saw the above comment and that's why I was concerned. I'll try a test piece first and if it bleeds, I'll see if I can get the patterns printed on a laser. Thanks Larissa!

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  11. I just saw your ornaments on a blog and had to go a take a look myself. Love them. I'm really into wool felt embroidery/applique at the moment. I've made a few Wendy Williams quilts (from Australia). I have heaps of offcuts. Perfect for your ornaments. I loved seeing your hints and tips. I've found someone in Australia who stocks the stuffing fork! Have you tried Roxannes Glue Baste-it? Highly recommend because of the fine tip. I'm off to buy some of your patterns.

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    1. Hey, Helen! Thank you! Yay about the stuffing fork. I love mine! I have not tried the glue baste-it. I'll look into that. :-)

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  12. Larissa: Have you ever tried "Stick 'n Stitch" by Sulky? I don't know if this is a new product, but it sounds like it might work with your ornaments . . . when you run out of Sticky Fabri-Solvy. I'm almost finished with the black swan and am loving the process. Now I have to order the other 7 and get working on them. No rush, but I'm really looking forward to seeing the last four!

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    1. Judy S., yes, thanks! It's actually the exact same product, just rebranded with a more accessible name! Haha. I need to do a post about that! I have a big stack of it on my desk right now. Happy sewing! Number nine is underway and the others will follow this year.

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