Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Christmas in July: DIY Needle Felted Ornaments with Kraemer Mauch Roving

A few years ago, I spotted some cute needle felted ornaments on Pinterest that were made using cookie cutters to create the shapes. How clever is that?! Ever since, I have been thinking about giving it a try myself, and finally decided to take a stab at it for my Christmas in July theme. Pun very much intended - please feel free to roll your eyes accordingly!

It had been so long since I last attempted a needle felting project that I couldn't find any of my supplies, so I ended up buying this affordable little kit on Amazon that has everything I need and then some! Then I dug out my cookie cutter collection (make sure they are the kind that are open on the top and bottom) and grabbed some wool roving from Kraemer Yarns for an afternoon of stabby fun.

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First, if you are new to needle felting, here are the basics: you are using a special kind of needle that has bumps on it to repeatedly stab the wool fiber, causing the scales on the wool fibers to begin fusing together. So, it's important that you are not using any wool fiber labeled superwash, as those scales will have been removed to prevent felting! You can use other types of fiber so long as they have felting properties, but typically wool fibers are used for needle felting projects. The needles are super duper sharp, so make sure that you are careful and you may even want to verify that you're up-to-date on your Tetanus shots. The kit I purchased includes some finger protectors that are a little awkward to use, but definitely worth trying out.

I chose Mauch Chunky Roving for this project because I'd heard that this fiber was great for felting projects. Another plus is that it's made from 100% US-grown wool that is processed at their mill in Nazareth, PA and comes in a huge palette of colors - 56 in all! Here are the ornaments I made one rainy Saturday afternoon; the star is made with Strawberry Mauch Roving and the tree is made with Vibrant Green Mauch roving, both from Kraemer Yarns:

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To make the ornaments, I started by placing a small amount of fiber inside of a cookie cutter placed on top of the felting surface. Chaos is encouraged here, by which I mean you should lay the fibers down in various directions to aid the felting process. If the fibers are placed in an orderly fashion going in the same direction, you'll spend way more time and energy felting them.

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Now for the fun part: start stabbing! I like to start with the outline of the shape and work my way inwards, but there really is no WRONG way to stab fiber repeatedly. Needle felting is fun, easy and therapeutic that way!

Make sure that you frequently flip the fiber you are felting over so that it doesn't get stuck to the felting surface. The nice thing about using this type of cookie cutter is that you just have to flip the whole kit & caboodle over, then push the fiber down to lay flush with the surface before you start stabbing once more. You can also add more bits of fiber as you see fit to make sure that the felted piece is nice and even.

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Then keep stabbing....and stabbing....and stabbing some more.

At some point, you might think you are close to done, and you will remove the felt shape to most likely discover that YOU ARE NOT!

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Place it back in the cookie cutter and start stabbing some more. You'll get there soon!

You'll know you're done when it becomes difficult to pierce the felt with your needle. Once that happens, remove it and use a darning needle to run some scrap yarn or thin twine through the top as a hanger. You may wish to trim any "fuzzy" edges to give a more crisp appearance, and you can even embellish the piece with beads, sequins or smaller bits of wool if you're feeling fancy.

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You may like to know: I was provided free product in exchange for this blog post. All opinions & ideas are my own!


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Christmas in July: Knit & Crochet Ornament Pattern Round-Up

Knitting or crocheting ornaments is a fun way to use up leftover yarn while adding a handmade touch to your holiday decorations. They also make great gifts and look adorable on top of a prettily wrapped package in place of a bow.

Here are some of my favorite knit and crochet patterns I've used over the years, plus a few new ones to try out!

Images via sources below.

Knitted Ornaments

Top Left: Holiday Cheer Ornaments (free) by Kate Gagnon Osborn - these fun ornaments are designed for fingering weight yarn, perfect for mini skeins!

Top Right: Knit Candy Cane Ornament (free) by Heidi Gustad - you can't have Christmas without candy canes!!

Middle: Snowball Buddies ($6) by Susan Claudino - a few years ago, I made several of these and they were so darn cute! Most of them were given away as gifts, so I might dig out this pattern and knit a few more for 2018.

Bottom: Mochimochi Snowmen and Teeny Tiny Santas ($3) by Anna Hrachovec - I've always been a fan of Mochimochiland patterns, and these tiny toys make great ornaments if you just add a little hanger at the top! Somehow I missed the Teeny Tiny Nutcrackers ($5) pattern from a few years back, so those have been added to my queue for this year! 

Crocheted Ornaments

Top: Crochet Bell and Crochet Christmas Tree (both free) by Heidi Gustad - these are in my queue for this year, I am particularly excited to find my seed bead stash to use up for the Christmas trees!

Middle: Christmas Bauble (free) by Carmen Heffernan - this pattern is also in my queue, I might try to adapt it for using with some styrofoam balls that I have in my craft stash.

Bottom: Grandma Trees and Grandma Twinkle (both free) by Michelle Kludas - both of these patterns are super easy for beginning crocheters, and totally addictive to make!


In search of more ornament pattern inspiration? Check out my Pinterest board here for all kind of fun crafts to make your tree merry!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Easy DIY: Beaded Vintage Snowflake Ornament Kits from Solid Oak Inc.

I was really excited to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new as part of my "Christmas in July" theme this month. The kind folks at Solid Oak Inc offered me a chance to review one of their Nostalgic Christmas beaded crystal ornament kits I couldn't resist. My tree is already full of ornaments I've inherited or been gifted from other family members and friends,  so these pretty crystal beaded ornaments will fit right in I think!

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I was super impressed with this compact little kit, which includes everything needed to create three gorgeous vintage-style ornaments - just add a pair of round nose pliers (I found mine on Amazon for less than ten bucks). 

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The instructions had some fabulous tips for newbies like me; for example, it recommended sorting the beads and laying them out in order on a towel or beading mat to prevent them from rolling away. That may seem obvious, but I was totally ready to start beading on my kitchen table without a second thought of WHAT IF THEY ROLLED AWAY. 

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What a relief to avoid a beading mishap right out of the gate! Also worthy of note, they do include extras of each bead type, which came in handy because I ended up dropping a few even with the towel in place, and I also managed to crush part of a crystal bead when I got a bit overzealous with a metal loop (more on that in a sec).

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It was extremely easy to follow the step by step instructions to make each ornament. The only thing I was worried about creating the loop at the end, as the instructions noted that it will take "some hand strength" to do so. If you know me even a little, you know that I am not known for hand or upper arm strength, but the good news is that I found a way to create the loops, even if they don't look exactly like the picture (if I can do it, so can you!). 

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My hand was a teensy bit sore after the session was over, so I would probably invest in nicer pliers with a more cushiony handle if I were to make more kits (and I would definitely like to!).

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Best of all, it took me a sum total of 1 hour from start to finish to make all 3 ornaments, and that was even with taking lots of notes and photos for this blog post! To be perfectly honest, when I sat down to make this kit, I planned to just do one and then save the others for another day....but it was just so fun that I couldn't stop!

I was beyond impressed with the quality of this kit, and could totally see myself making more ornaments to give as gifts - each kit retails for just $9.99, making it an affordable stocking stuffer, secret Santa, or guild gift. Solid Oak has a lot of other interesting kits, charms, and jewelry making supplies available here in their online store, and lots of fun tutorial ideas here on their blog.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Sneak Peek: Christmas in July!

Happy Fourth of July! Since it's a holiday here in the states, I'll make today's entry short and sweet: for the entire month of July, I will be sharing some fun holiday craft projects that ANYONE can do (seriously!). They will be fun, easy, and affordable ways to make holiday decor for yourself or to give as gifts. Here's a little sneak peek:

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Don't worry, there will also be some fiber-related projects, although I have to say that working with beads was incredibly fun, I might have a new obsession!

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