Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fabric Wrapped Milagro Bracelet

Another piece of tribal jewelry from a tribe that dwells somewhere in the far reaches of my subconscious, resulting in an accessory Jung would love. This bracelet has an old worthless plastic bangle as its base. It is covered in stitched-on black cotton and embellished with a bunch of milagros (tin votives or charms placed at altars, statues, and images of saints to reinforce a prayer) collected during various journeys to Mexico. As with the black cotton, the milagros are simply stitched in place.

Cloth-wrapped milagro bracelet

The bracelet has an unexpected attribute; it tinkles and chimes beautifully and constantly when worn, sounding like distant temple bells. Not good for movies, meetings, or covert activities, but perfect for art gallery openings or a musically-enhanced stroll by the bay.

The piece has a convincingly rough look, with bits of frayed fabric standing out here and there.

Worn with another tribal creation: the paper bead bracelet

You can probably figure out how to make this bracelet just by looking at the photos, but for those who need a little extra help, the photo below should illustrate how it's done. Wrap a strip of cloth around and around the bangle, maintaining the tension. Stitch through the bracelet wrapping, loop the thread around the bracelet once or twice to hold cloth in place, stitch again, and repeat, repeat, repeat. As a final step, stitch milagros (or any other charms or beads you have on hand) in place. Between each charm or bead, take a few extra, random stitches to make the whole thing more secure.

You can also make a fairly nifty-looking bracelet without any charms at all. The bright, summery bibelot below was made with a final scrap of cloth left over from the Alchemy project. In this case it's the bright red thread used to secure the cloth wrapping that makes the design.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Alchemy: From Nostalgia to Necklace

Fabric beads from a favorite old dress

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has stored away articles of clothing that, while I'll never wear them again for reasons of weight (mine), size (theirs), and/or style (both of ours), I cannot bear to throw or give them away. Like an old song that brings back memories of dancing on the beach in Mombasa, an old dress can evoke heady remembrances of shots of ouzo in Ios, back before there were any cars or roads on the island; back when the only place with electricity was Electric Yannis, where a generator powered a jukebox that had Carol King singing "I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet." This gauzy yellow dress was one of those garments, purchased back in the mid-seventies and worn in tropical climes around the world.

The dress: a gauzy, barely there, perfect for nude beaches kind of garb

During recent fiddling with fabric beads (see Red Flannel Beads) I realized I could perform a bit of alchemy and transform this ephemeral scrap of nostalgia into a necklace. So I did.

Fiber bead necklaces

In fact, I fashioned the cloth from the dress into two necklaces, but they can be combined and worn as one double-layered necklace. Every bit of the original dress has been used, including the tie from the waist, which now serves as the main cord on the necklaces, and bits of red edging trim, which have been added to the cord to lengthen the necklaces.

Worn as a double strand
The technique used to make the necklaces is the same as that described in the Red Flannel Beads write-up: cut strips of cloth, roll them into balls, use needle and thread to secure the balls by alternately winding and running the needle through the ball. An innovation here was to wrap three lengths of thread around a pencil, driving the needle through the ball after each wrap, to form the red thread loops you see in the photo, which are used to hang the balls from the cord.

Now I'm ready for another go at the tropics.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Red Flannel Beads

Red flannel beads

Here we have an upcycling trifecta: cloth beads made from scraps of cloth left over from creating a new piece of conceptual couture (see That Dog Don't Hunt) from second-hand shirts. Now that's recycling! There is something wonderfully tactile and visually pleasing about cloth beads.

Making the beads is easy, but requires a bit of manual dexterity. Cut long strips of cloth and roll the strip into a bead, which will require continually shifting the direction of the rolling motion as you form the bead to create a sphere. Have a needle pre-threaded (it's hard to thread a needle while holding a tightly compressed cloth sphere in one hand). Tuck the first knotted stitch under a flap of cloth, and then bring the needle through the cloth and start winding. After one or two winds, drive the needle through the sphere. Repeat. As you near the end of the thread, drive the needle back and forth a few times through the cloth, which should help to keep the thread secure, and then snip off whatever is left over. See close-up of cloth bead below.

Close-up of cloth bead

Make different sizes of beads for variety. Use longer or shorter strips of cloth to control the end size, or start with a wad of cloth and wind strip around it to create a really large bead.

Close-up of cloth bead

What to do with all of these beads? 

Make a necklace. Use an embroidery needle and embroidery thread that complements the color of your beads. Simply string the beads. You should find that there is enough friction/tension to hold the beads in place along the thread.

Red flannel bead necklace

Close-up of necklace

Thursday, January 10, 2013

That Dog Don't Hunt

Red flannel hunting shirt

Part of a new line of Conceptual Couture here at Stuff You Can't Have, this red flannel hunting shirt brings new meaning to the phrase: "That dog don't hunt." Fashioned from the recycled remnants of two flannel shirts and one flannel scarf, this cozy tunic top falls at mid-thigh and sports a wide boat neck cowl collar. Because (as always) pockets are power, this upcycled rendition incorporates all four of the pockets from the original shirts.

Front breast patch
The two patches on the shirt incorporate images of hunting dogs printed onto iron-on transfer paper, transferred to recycled T-shirt material, and blanket stitched in place.

Shirt back

Close-up of back panel

Piecing together a shirt like this requires a little ingenuity and a lot of stitching. Begin by cutting up the shirts you are going to recycle. Use a simple tunic top pattern (I've heavily adapted the one here from a commercial pattern, but any simple tunic pattern should work). Lay out a single pattern piece and start playing with fabric in jigsaw puzzle mode on top of the pattern piece. When you've pieced together something pleasing, slide the pattern piece out from underneath, pin the fabric together, and stitch. You now have a panel of pieced fabric. Lay the same pattern piece on top of the fabric and cut out that piece. Repeat this method with all pattern pieces.

Piecing in progress
Close-up of piecing
Happy hunting.
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