Sunday, August 23, 2009

How to make fabric beads from scraps

I'm still obsessed with fabric beads. This is very odd since I usually spend a few days working on something and then go on to another project. Perhaps it's because I was presented with a challenge that I couldn't resist. There is nothing I like more than a challenge.

The other day, one of my online friends, Shauna, mentioned that she had tried making fabric beads following directions she had read on the Internet. She was quite frustrated since her results were less than stellar.

The technique involved taking scraps of material, fibers, threads, etc. and washing the collection in the washing machine or by hand and then drying everything in the dryer where the material/fibers would get tangled. The instructions then said to take a small amount of the tangled material, roll into a small, tight ball, pin in place to hold everything together, and then stitch the material until a tight bead was formed. Once this was done, the bead could be embellished with seed beads.

After following the directions, Shauna lamented, "My material didn't clump up. It just made a mess in the washer." I felt badly for her, and since I was stuck in the house while Hurricane Bill deluged northern NJ with rain, I decided to try my hand at this technique.

Here is my simplified version of how to make beads from scraps of fabric and thread. I like "simple" don't you? I also like to recycle. It makes me feel patriotic and noble. I'm not adding to the landfill. I'm not increasing my carbon footprint. I'm creating something from nothing. Oh what a good girl am I!

I decided to bypass the washing and drying steps. First of all, it saved time. Second of all, it saved water and electricity. I'm getting greener and greener by the moment. The goal of the washing and drying step was to get a tangled mess of frayed fabric.

I accomplished this by cutting some odds and ends of fancy fibers into 12 inch pieces.
I then ripped some scraps of fabric into very, very thin strips. The goal was to have lots of threads hanging off the fabric. To be honest, when I was all done making the bead, I could hardly see the frayed edges because I had sewn the bead so tightly. The trick is to have the material in very thin strips (as close to 1/4" as possible.)
Next step was to intersperse the fibers and fabric .....
and then roll the whole thing up into a ball.
Next, cut off a small amount from the fabric/fiber ball.
Rather than pinning the fabric/fiber into a bead shape, I used a temporary adhesive spray (used by quilters to hold paper pattern pieces to fabric) which did a lovely job of holding the fabric pieces together while I formed the ball. Note: It didn't make the fabric sticky as I had feared.
Knowing that I would need to attach my bead to a chain using a jump ring, I inserted a wire through the material before I stitched the bead. Once the bead was tightly sewn together, it would have been impossible to get the wire through the bead. I am so proud of myself for having figured this out before I made my bead.
Working my way around the bead, I used colored thread to stitch the strips of material tightly together. This way if my stitches showed, I could claim it was part of the design.

After the bead was stitched tightly, I had fun embellishing the bead. I used metallic threads of various colors which I wrapped around and stitched through the bead. I finished up by sewing small beads all around the bead. I have to admit, it was a labor-intensive project and took a couple of hours, but the results were worth it.

And I have the satisfaction of having met the challenge.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I Am In Love With Fabric Beads

What fun I had today! I felt like a 5-year old because I had a play date with a good friend.

I belong to a Yahoo Group called "The Altered Art Divas." We are a small group and many of us have belonged to this group for over 5 years. Needless to say, we have become very close friends even though we may have never met in person. On Monday, I met one of the Divas, Bev, and we shopped in the Garment District of NYC (see previous post.)

Today, another Diva friend, Santa came over so that we could experiment making fabric beads together. This is something I have always wanted to do but I never got around to it. Knowing how much "stuff" we'd need to work on this project, I dragged a bunch of supplies down to the dining room so we'd have plenty of room to spread out.

Here are a couple of pictures of what was strewn all over the room.

Everything looked very neat to start with, but you should see what the room looks like now! We don't have earthquakes here in NJ but it looks as if one just shook the house.

It was great to bat ideas around with Santa and we explored and experimented the day away. Here's Santa busily gluing her bead.

A few months ago, I bought Fabulous Fabric Beads by Kristal Wick. I am a bookaholic as are many artists. However, I usually buy a book, look at it, promise myself that I'll make every project in the book, buy everything I need to make every project in the book, and then never get to it.

However, this book was exceptional. It kept calling to me and I could not ignore its siren song. The song kept getting louder and louder until I listened and I'm glad I did.
I suggest if you have any interest at all in making fabric beads, you purchase the book. I know Amazon has the book. If I've done everything correctly, you should be able to follow this link to see the book at Amazon. Once there, you'll be able to click on the cover of the book and see some of the inside pages.

The photography in the book is superior. I wish I could say the same about my photos, but unfortunately I found it extremely hard to get good photos of the beads even though I was using my brand new light box. I think it was because the beads are shiny. So this is the best picture I was able to get. If you click on it, you should be able to see more detail of the beads.
All in all, it was a great day. As an aside, since I have everything out, I am planning on making more beads in the days to come. I'll be sure to post pictures of any new beads I make.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Eye Candy That Will Make Your Heart Go Pitter Pat

What a lovely adventure I had today! I hopped on a bus near my home and I was in NYC in less than 45 minutes. It's hard to believe that I live so close to the City and yet I rarely go there. I guess that it is so readily available to me that I take it for granted. Yes, I know that those of you who live far away will probably find this hard to believe. I am embarrassed to admit this and am hanging my head in shame.

But today was different. Bev, one of my online art friends from Modesto, CA was visiting NY along with her friend, Cindy, from Miami. We had arranged to meet today so we could wander through the famous Garment District and shop in the wonderful stores in the area.

The Garment District has been the center of our country's fashion design and manufacturing since the early 20th Century. New immigrants to this country, who entered via Ellis Island, usually wound up settling in one of the five boroughs of NYC and many of those from Eastern Europe wound up working in the garment district's factories (sometimes called sweat shops).

Coincidentally, my first job was working for Modern Bride Magazine and I had to walk through the garment district every day on my way to work. Forty plus years ago, it was a bustling, noisy, smelly place with double-parked delivery trucks blocking the streets and messengers pushing clothing racks on the sidewalk with the latest fashions being transported from the factory to the showroom. For about two years in the late 60's, I walked through the Garment District every day and never paid any attention to all the store fronts displaying fabrics, beads, buttons and baubles. I was busy trying not to get run over by the craziness going on around me.

A lot has changed during these 40 years. The original wave if Eastern European immigrant workers has been replaced by some of our country's newest immigrants who are mostly from Asian countries. Almost all of the manufacturing of garments has been out sourced to foreign countries so you no longer see the fashions being whisked past you as you walk on the sidewalk.

Perhaps most important, I now covet every single accessory, frilly piece of lace, sequined fabric and feather which is displayed in the stores. Manufacturing may be a thing of the past in the Garment District, but the fashion designers still work and shop right in that one square mile of NYC between Fifth and Ninth Avenue and 34th to 42nd Street.

And so, today, Bev, Cindy and I walked our feet off exploring many of the famous, and not so famous, shops in the area. As an aside, today was the hottest day we've had so far this year. The temperature coupled with the humidity made it feel like it was 104 degrees. But we were undaunted, and had a wonderful time exploring to our heart's content.

Our first stop was M & J Trimming. Now I know how Dorothy felt when she landed in OZ. This store is definitely in technicolor.

Ribbons, silk flowers, buttons and lace were displayed from floor to ceiling.
There were walls lined with ribbons all beautifully displayed by color and type of fabric.

There were amazing buttons on display everywhere you looked.
Just when I thought I was finished seeing everything, I discovered there was another room filled with even more buttons and trim.

It was hard not to buy everything in sight. One thing that was nice was that the buttons were sold individually and not on cards. This way, you only had to buy exactly what you would need for a project. That is if you had a specific project in mind. I had nothing special in mind, so I bought a few buttons just to hold and look at and drool over after I got home.

Our next stop was MOOD. Does that name sound familiar to you?
If so, it's because that is one of the places that Project Runway (TV show) contestants go to purchase material for their creations.
If you are a fan of Project Runway and ever wondered if MOOD was as wonderful in person as it is on the show, the answer is a resounding Yes!
MOOD covers three floors of a building on West 37th Street. One floor is entirely devoted to woolen fabrics of every type and color. Cashmere, Alpaca, Flannel. You name it, they have it in an amazing variety of colors and weights. I kept thinking that this place would be a feast for moths. I wonder how they keep them from attacking the fabric. Another floor was devoted to upholstery and drapery material.
But the third floor was the place to be. Rows and rows containing bolts of every type of fabric you could imagine from mundane polyester knits to brocades and silks fits for royalty. In northern NJ where I live, there is only one store left that sells fabrics and it is Joannes. I had always wondered where the serious home sewer went to get fabric. Now I know. I wasn't in the market for fabric, but I did look at prices and they didn't seem extraordinarily high to me for what you were buying. Polyester knits were about $6 to $8 dollars.
Of course, there were some very pricey fabrics on display. But, if you're royalty, I guess you can afford the prices. In addition, to fabric, MOOD also has a variety of trims, but certainly not as much as M & J.
However, they had some very unique buttons.
They even had buttons the size of plates that were about 6 inches in diameter. I'm wondering how they will be used.
You may have heard of Tinsel Trading. I know Martha has mentioned that store on her show many times. We stopped in there for a brief visit. By this time, I was running out of steam, and I forgot to take pictures. I'm blaming my forgetfulness on the heat and not old age. Tinsel Trading is a sight for sore eyes. Everywhere I looked, I saw something amazing. Lots of gorgeous, large silk flowers that you could wear in your hair and pretend you were a starlet of the 40's. There was an amazing assortment of vintage buttons, unusual ribbons, and other assorted doodads. Their displays change constantly with the season, so you never know what treasures will be found at Tinsel Trading.

Needless to say, there are over one hundred stores, if not more, located within the Garment District. Most of them are tiny, dirty and disorganized, but if you're adventurous and visiting the area, stop in and explore a few of them. You can never tell what you'll find.

I'm planning to return to the Garment Center in early October when another friend, Kathy, comes for a visit. I'll be sure to post more information and pictures of that shopping spree so keep your eyes open for further postings.