reversible, reusable gift wrap

The weird thing is, I remember enjoying wrapping gifts. I remember taking pride in getting the corner folds mitred just so. I remember feeling pleased when the edges of the wrap met precisely in the middle of the short sides, and came to a nice sharp point.

Somewhere along the line that stopped. It may have been paper that wouldn't behave, or running out of sellotape, or something, but I switched to commercially-available gift bags.

Does anyone else besides me remember when gift bags were touted as being reusable and therefore more eco-friendly, even though they were fully printed and cost a lot more than paper wrap? It rarely seems to work out that way.

At least a year ago, my mum gave me an article from Canadian Living about furoshiki — Japanese fabric gift wrap. The instructions were so simple, even I didn't need a lot of diagrams: you just find two squares of cloth (a square metre is a nice size) that complement each other, sew them together with a gap in one edge, clip the corners, turn the whole thing right side out, then topstitch the edge (and sew the turnout gap shut). You're left with a reversible, square piece of cloth. Tie up a gift or three inside the cloth and ta-da! reusable, washable wrapping paper.

Canadian Living  posted a video showing a couple of ways to wrap objects in furoshiki with grace and flair. Sadly, I did not discover the video until after I took the photos below. Oh well, next time. There are a lot of resources on-line to learn more about furoshiki.

I deliberately went with non-Yule patterns so I could use them throughout the year. Your mileage may vary.

The nieces got pink and purple furoshiki. This year, for my own sanity, I colour coded the gifts so that Niece the Elder had pink on the outside, and Niece the Younger had purple on the outside. Therefore, I can say with confidence this is a photo of Niece the Elder's pink toy racing car when it was wrapped up.

This is a small cloth, made from a couple of fat quarters which were trimmed down to squares. I used quilting-weight cotton for all of the furoshiki I made this year.

The next photo shows what I did with the trimmed off fabric of the fat quarters, and with some plain white cotton I had from the book cover I made:

I just used a Sharpie to write on the tags, rather then embroider them. I was low on time, and I'm not sure I could have got embroidery to fit as well.

The above photo shows a furoshiki that is about a metre square. It had Sew Red, the hardcover edition of Stephen King's Doctor Sleep, and the Dear Jane quilt book in it, along with a box of 16 Ferrero Rochers on top.

I bought the fabric before I got all of the gifts, so I wound up getting more fabric than was immediately needed. I still have two medium-ish and one large cloth left to sew up, all in the blue and green fabrics of the cloth in the last photo. It feels good to sew these, because you can actually imagine getting some use out of them. They are completely not intimidating to sew: no precise sizes to worry about, no tricky seams.

Plus, they don't rip if you tug at them to adjust a corner.

"night circus" reveur book cover

The September project for the #craftblogclub was to make a book cover, and I got An Idea. It wasn't a very good idea for my skill set, because it involved sewing (I'm much stronger at knitting and crochet), but it was An Idea that would not be silenced. So I did some math, found my way to a fabric shop, and crossed my fingers a lot.

The concept was to make a book cover in the theme of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. For those who haven't read this exquisite book, it centres around the goings-on at a travelling circus which is housed, decorated, and costumed entirely in black and white: black-and-white striped tents, black-and-white costumes for the performers, and even black-and-white food at the concession stands. Fans of the circus follow it from location to location, and call themselves reveurs. The reveurs wear black-and-white to show the affinity they feel to the circus, but they always wear something bright red to show that they are only visitors, not members. So my book cover is black-and-white with a red tie to keep it shut, because readers by nature are always reveurs.

A clock plays an important part in the story, hence the clock face on the front. Also, it's one of the few elements from the story that I can actually draw.

The first step was to figure out how wide the front of my copy of The Night Circus was, and to determine the clock face's dimensions from there. Then I drew the numbers and the hands. I don't know why I picked 7:00, but it looked good to me.

The paper sketch went on top of the applique fabric for embroidery. Yes I know that tracing/transfer paper is preferable, but I didn't have the right paper at home, and wasn't sure where to buy any! If I could do it again, I'd at least make sure I worked with onionskin instead of printer paper. I just stitched right through the paper and the fabric.

The paper started tearing away as I worked, but stayed in place until all the elements were stitched.

The major disadvantage of the paper was that I couldn't see if my backstitching wasn't right. Definitely thinner paper next time. Live and learn.

The whole thing got pinned to the black border fabric, then edges of the embroidery got notched and turned under. I don't know how to applique a circle, so it got turned into an octagon.

This is a stitch test to check zigzag length and density before stitching the actual applique.

It turned out pretty much how I wanted it on the first try. After all the "oh well, it will have to do" moments, that made me happy.

The black fabric got twice as many notches as the embroidered applique (having a bigger circumference and all), and got pinned to the outer cover fabric. I'd wanted black-and-white stripes for the outer cover, but the fabric shop didn't have anything. I think the edelweiss pattern here still suits the aesthetic.

It's amazing how much extra work one applique adds to a project!

After the applique was attached to the front, things went more quickly. The next step was to sew the front and the lining together (with the right-hand loop in between), then pink all the raw edges because this fabric was fraying a lot.

The left flap was made when I did the topstitching. You can see that my seams aren't very straight, but neither was the fabric edge. Sigh. It still works.

The book fits by slipping the front cover into the flap, and sliding the back cover under the loop. I got the design from Jocelyn Allen, who wrote You and the Pirates and who made these style book covers as promotional items (her size fits most trade paperbacks).

The cover closes by wrapping the tie around the button on the back. I like this design because it keeps the book closed during travel/handling.
The other thing I like about this design is that the extra fabric on the right-hand side creates a built-in bookmark.

all settled in for the zombie apocalypse

The interesting thing about DIY is that you can do a completely accurate estimate for how long something should take... and then be off by several weeks because one simple task pushes you way out of your comfort zone.

For Cheshin's birthday (13 March), I started working these zombie cross-stitch embroideries I got as a kit of all things. No problem: cross-stitching was one of the first things I ever learned how to do with a needle. I was three or four years old when I mastered this stitch.

The cross-stitching went well and was easy enough, although the floss from the kit had a bad habit of tangling and knotting on itself.

Then came the part where I had to cut the fabric into strips of the correct height and width, sew a cushion top, and then sew a matching back. I'd decided to make "sandwich baggie" backs with overlapping panels instead of installing a zipper. Partly this is because I've never installed a zipper in my life, and partly because I hate it when you lean your head on a cushion and get a cold metal zipper tab pressing into your face.

All well and good, except that I am absolutely awful at cutting fabric. I mean seriously awful. It doesn't matter how carefully I measure, or how painstaking I am about cutting on the line — the fabric will shift and come out crooked, every single time. In point of fact, there is a sample of fabric missing from the these photos, because one length of fabric got so butchered that I couldn't get anything usable out of it and had to buy a replacement.

Once I got to the sewing part, it wasn't so bad. I can operate a sewing machine well enough to do basic straight stitch without embarrassing myself too much. I even remembered to not reinforce the top stitching around the embroidery, and to bring the threads to the back to knot instead. (In case you are good at sewing and are having a good laugh because this is such a basic thing... hey, I'm a phobic sewer. Everyone has their weak spots.)

The happiest coincidence in this process is that when I went to buy the replacement fabric, I found something that repeated a motif from fabric I already had: the brain-cushion's white flowers are a scaled-up version of the ones on the hand-cushion.

These were also good confidence-builders. I now feel better about sewing the dining room chair covers I reverse-engineered the pattern for months ago, and about sewing the vintage-style purses I got the pattern book for even more months ago.

Here's the trio in their new home on Cheshin's chaise longue (photo by Cheshin, naturally):

baby steps

I am not as charitable towards timid knitters as I ought to be. Not becase I think they are allowed to be timid — I can't think of anything less intimidating than looping yarn — but because that makes me a hypocrite.

I am a phobic sewer. It's not the sewing so much as the stuff that comes up front: the cutting. Cutting terrifies me because once the fabric is cut, it's cut. If you cut too big, you're still maybe able to fix it, but if you cut the piece too small, the best you can do is think of something else to make.

So, I was very pleased with myself when I managed to sew a floor cushion using instructions I got at Apartment Therapy. The photos helped a lot, there was only one cut to make, and it seems I guesstimated the seam allowances correctly (the pattern is so stupidly easy they didn't bother specifying them). Try this next time you have two old bed pillows handy and feel like getting a quick project done.

I needed to chop about 3" off the end of fabric to make it the right size. It's just a straight edge, but it's also the first time I've cut this much fabric without making a slant or jaggy edges.
The directions called for slicing part of the pillows into strips and tying the strips together. My pillows were filled with little chips of foam, so that wasn't going to work. Instead I shook all the stuffing to one side and sewed them together, sort of a pillow version of a mad doctor's experiment with hybrid lifeforms.

Two of the corners had mock box shaping. I actually managed to achieve this!

Here's the finished pillow, complete with velcro-ish closure sewn in. The cover seems a bit big, but I guess that leaves "squish room" for when people sit on it.