Purls of Wisdom

Quilting: Learn Its Unique American History and How to Start Making Your Own Quilt Today!

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Aug 26, 2018 @ 10:10 AM

Good morning and welcome to the last of the summer activities blog posts! My final topic is somewhat fitting for these final days of summer vacation as we move into the chilly fall season: quilting! I remember helping to make class quilts when I was in elementary school, so I hope that this post inspires you and your kids to start your own family quilt today.Camper holding memory quilt-674506-edited

A quilt, as defined by Merriam Webster, is a “bed coverlet of two layers of cloth filled with padding (such as down or batting) held in place by ties or stitched designs.” Therefore, quilting is the process of making a quilt! Quilts have three main components: the top, a piece of fabric that is often decorated, the bottom, and the filler, which is the padded section sewn between the top and the bottom to form a kind of sandwich. Quilting has a history that predates the United States, but since the tradition of quilting is so intrinsic to the history of this country, I thought we could start there.

English, Welsh, and Dutch settlers brought their handwork skills with them when they traveled to the New World, as well as their knowledge of the use of padded fabrics in clothes, bedding, and armor all over the world. In the US, quilts had many uses throughout the years, starting mainly as a way to keep people warm at night and prevent cold wind from coming thro

Chintz Whole-Cloth Quilt, circa 1815, United States Courtesy American Folk Art Museum

ugh doors and windows, and evolving into an expressive art form. In the 1700s and 1800s, thousands of quilts were made by women in the US, and many were passed down for centuries.

One of the most popular forms of quilts in the early 1800s was a whole cloth quilt, which was made from a single piece of fabric on the top and another large piece on the bottom, and most of the decoration on this form of quilt was made using corded or padded material. Inspiration for whole cloth quilts came from East Indian fabrics because the highly valued imported Indian cotton was too prized to be cut into pieces. The medallion quilt is anoth

er kind that drew inspiration from Indian art and was decorated with a central image surrounded by other designs. The patchwork or pieced quilt was made from scraps of fabric sewn together, which saved crafters from having to buy large swaths of fabric. The applique quilt, on the other hand, was considered very elegant and was made by using extra pieces of fabric and incredibly detailed needlework to decorate the quilt. Only the wealthy typically had the time and expenses to make this type of quilt. Quilting was so crucial to American communities that it was a tradition for mothers to make their children quilts before they left the house, and for women to sew twelve quilts, including their bridal bed quilt before they were engaged.

“Log Cabin”—Single Block “Courthouse Steps” Variation, by Loretta Pettway, circa 1958Although quilting practices and foundations were brought to the US via European settlers, the country also has a history of African-American quilting traditions that trace back to slavery. Although most textiles in Africa were woven and not quilted, the bold, geometric, colorful aesthetics of fabrics like kente cloth served as inspiration for enslaved women, who were often taught to quilt in order to make help and serve their mistresses.

In the ‘50s and ‘60s, the practice of quilting died off some but came back in the ‘70s and ‘80s as people expressed a desire to return to handwork skills in the face of increased mechanization. Quilting became an important part of the feminist movements in the ‘70s because it served as means of artistic expression, and after the bicentennial celebration of the United States in 1976, it became a representation of national pride and love for the country.

Unlike sewing, the actual process of quilting hasn’t changed too much over the years, so it is a really cool way to feel connected to women who lived hundreds of years ago, and it is also an amazing way to create a family heirloom that can be passed down to your kids, their kids, and their kids! When starting out quilting, the most important tip is to keep it simple. Choose simple patterns with lots of straight lines, rectangles, and squares, use larger pieces of fabric so there will be less sewing involved, and maybe even buy patterns with precut fabrics so that you don’t have to spend time measuring and cutting your own. You will probably need sewing pins, safety pins, sewing scissors, thread, a seam ripper, a measurement tool, a fabric pencil or a marker, and a rotary cutter, as well as your fabric and patterns! The four stages of quilting include preparation, making the quilt top, quilting, and finally binding it all together, and if you can sew a straight line and are willing to follow instructions, you can definitely make your own quilt! Quilt by Emma Redmond

Now that you’ve learned all about the uniquely American history of quilting, you can grab your kids and get started on your own! For detailed quilting instructions, check out this awesome blog or this great article. If you want your child to have handwork experience but you’re not sure about helping them yourself, you can always send them to the Handwork Studio’s amazing classes.

Finally, I hope everyone has an incredible school year! It’s been awesome learning about different kinds of handwork with you this summer, and I hope this blog series inspired you to get out there and try these crafts yourself! As always, post a picture of your incredible creations on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove so we can see your art! Happy quilting!

Image Descriptions:
1) Camper holding Memory Quilt, Handwork Studio camp
2) Chintz Whole-Cloth Quilt, 1810-1820
3) Quilt by artist Loretta Pettway, 1958 
4) Quilt by artist Emma Redmond

Tags: Quilting, Quilt, Handwork, Memory Quilt, Inspiration, Fun, Summer, Summer Camp, Kids Activities

Learn about Wet Felting and How to Try Out This Awesome Craft Yourself This Summer!

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Aug 19, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

Kid wet felting, Narberth Handwork CampGood morning crafters! Do you remember when we learned about dry felting last week, a technique used to create felt from wool with a barbed needle? Well this week, as promised, we are going to learn about wet felting. Wet felting can be defined as the process of continually rubbing wool fibers together with mild soap and warm water to form a firm, felted object,” and is often better for beginner felters to learn before they start needle felting because it does not involve any sharp objects. The history of wet felting is closely aligned with the history of needle felting - the tents and yurts made by Nomadic people of Asia are most often wet felted - so let’s jump right into talking about the craft! 

Wet felting involves creating rectangular fabric made of several layers of wool (not plant or synthetic fibers because those won’t felt well), applying water and mild soap, and sponging or agitating the wool to encourage the fibers to lock together. In dry felting, the wool is agitated with a needle rather than water, but in the end, you will have a tight, sturdy felt fabric no matter which method you use. By the end of the felting process, the wool can shrink down to more than 50% of its original size, one of the reasons that wet felting is a craft more concerned with the feeling and the process of creation rather than the precision of the end result. (A good felting tip is to measure the size of the layers of wool you create before you begin applying water so you can measure just how much the wool tends to shrink).

I am no expert at wet felting, but I’m going to attempt to share my knowledge of the process with you so you can test it out with your kids at home! First, the materials. Before you start crafting, you need to make sure you have everything you need to felt: wool, a spray bottle, hot water, mild dish soap, a large sheet of bubble wrap, netting or tulle, and a bamboo mat or a towel. You can also grab some scraps of wool or yarn for decoration if you prefer! Once you gather all your materials, you should lay down the mat or towel on a large, flat surface, like the kitchen table, and then place the bubble wrap, bubble side up, on top. Then, after pulling your wool into strips about half a foot long, you can start to lay them down on the bubble wrap, all facing the same direction. Try to make a layer of wool and fill in all the empty gaps, and when you finish with the first layer, you can start the second! The second layer should have the strips of wool oriented 90 degrees to the first layer, so the second layer of strips crosses over the first. Keep creating layers rotated 90 degrees from the one below them until you have four to six layers of wool, all stacked in a rectangle on top of the bubble wrap and the mat! If you want, you can make some designs on top of your wool with the scraps of colorful wool and yarn you gathered earlier! Kid with wet felted creation, Narberth Handwork Camp

Once you’re done with the layers, it’s time for the water. Place the netting or tulle on top of your wool, making sure it is all covered, and then fill your spray bottle with the mild liquid soap and warm water and spray it onto the wool. Use enough water so that the wool gets thoroughly wet, but not so much that water starts to spill out from underneath. After the wool is all wet, gently rub it with your hands. In this part of the process you are agitating the wool, an essential step in creating felt. After about ten minutes you want to roll up your mat (or towel) with the bubble wrap and wool inside, making sure that the roll is tight. Slide some rubber bands on the rolled mat or towel to keep it together, and roll the whole thing back and forth across the table for ten or so minutes, then unroll the mat or towel and flip the felt over before rolling it up and rolling it around for ten more minutes. After you’ve rolled both sides, unroll the mat or towel, carefully separate the felt from the bubble wrap and netting, and then gently rinse the soap out in tepid water. Once all the soap is gone, carefully squeeze out the water, and roll out the felt again on the mat to flatten it before leaving it out to dry!

Artist Andrea Graham's Wet Felted Art

Once again, there are many different ways to wet felt and dozens of tutorials to follow, but I hope my tips and tricks helped. If you want to try a slightly different, simpler kind of wet felting, check out The Handwork Studio’s YouTube tutorial on how to get started! If you already have some understanding of how to felt and are looking for inspiration for new projects, take a look at this amazing list of wet felting projects or this slideshow of great felt creations to try!

We hope that this blog post convinces you to get out there and try wet felting today. Incredible felt artists like these inspire me to try this craft one day, and I hope they inspire you too! If you want to send your kids to The Handwork Studio this summer to learn how to wet felt, among many other amazing crafts, don’t worry! The summer isn’t over yet! We still offer camps and classes so your kids can have a fantastic experience learning a new, special skill. As always, if you do end up trying a wet felting project, post a picture of your creation on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove so we can give your art the love it deserves!

Image Descriptions
1) Child in background, rainbow wet felting project in foreground, Handwork Studio camp
2) Child with wet felting project, Handwork Studio camp
3) Wet felt art by Andrea Graham

Tags: Felting, Wet Felting, crafts, Handwork, Inspiration, Summer, Kids Activities, activities, Fun, Summer Camp

Learn about the History of Needle Felting and How to Make Your Own Adorable Felt Creations This Summer!

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Aug 12, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

If you’re like me, the term “felting” might not ring a bell when you first hear it, and you may be confused about its significance. But chances are you have seen a felted creation before and not even realized it!

Martha Stewart penguin needle felting

Felting is the “process of separating, tangling, and relocking animal fibers found in items such as yarn or wool,” and can either be achieved through a wet technique (which we will talk about on the blog next week!) or a dry technique, which is typically done with a needle. When needle felting, t

he crafter uses a special barbed tool to repeatedly stab into the wool, pulling the fiber into itself and ultimately creating a round, firm shape. Once this firm, felted piece of wool is created, you can add more felted shapes or pieces of wool to form a sculpture!

Felting has been around since the Neolithic period, and samples of felting date back to the Bronze and Iron Ages. Felted creations were used to keep people warm and dry during a time when knitting wasn’t yet invented! Nomadic people in Central and East Asia still practice felt making, using the craft to create rugs, tents, and clothing both for themselves and for tourists, and Roman soldiers made breastplates, tunics, boots, and socks out of felt because it is a relatively speedy process that requires fewer tools than some other handwork techniques. Legend has it that Saint Clement of Metz and Saint Christopher filled their sandals with wool while fleeing persecution to protect them from blisters and that at the end of their long journey all the walking and sweat had turned the wool in their shoes to felted socks! These days felting has come back into fashion in Great Britain, Scandinavia, and the United States, and more modern designs and techniques are always being invented to adapt to current felting trends.felted creatures, Narberth handwork studio

Felt is used in anything from cars to musical instruments to picture frames, and to create hats, jackets, decorations, pillows, and bags, but its most exciting usage is probably to create figurines and sculptures! Animals are very popular to make with dry felting because their fuzzy hair and fur is easily copied using wool. Before you start trying to create needle felted sculptures, however, you’ll need some tools. The first thing you should acquire is wool! It may be beneficial to do some research on the best type of wool for felting because there is no general consensus in the felting community on which type of wool is better, but I am confident that you will find the perfect material for your project! Next, you need a felting needle, which has sharp barbs on it that all point in the same direction in order to pull the wool into a firm, sculpted shape. Finally, you should have a foam block or a sponge on which to felt so that you don’t hurt yourself or damage your needle or the table while stabbing your wool.Chick needle felting feltify

Once you’ve gotten your needle felting tools, it’s all about practice! You can start by following this Handwork Studio YouTube tutorial to learn how to make a felted turkey or this YouTube tutorial to learn how to felt an owl, just in time for fall! You can also try these really cool felted spider earrings to get you in the mood for Halloween. If you want to create something more summery, you can also make a chick, a rabbit, or a koala, all out of spheres, or check out this list or this site to find more amazing step-by-step needle felting lessons. Needle felting is an incredible activity to try with your kids this summer, and not only is it fun to pass the time, but they end up with adorable figurines and sculptures at the end! If you’re not so sure about teaching your kids how to needle felt on your own, you can always send them to The Handwork Studio’s camps and classes so they can learn amazing handcraft skills, make friends, and have a wholesome, unique summer experience. If you do try out needle felting, post a picture of your creation on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove! We would love to see the fantastic things you create. Have a great week, try some needle felting, let us know how it went, and then tune in next week to learn about wet felting! 

Image Descriptions
1) Person dry felting penguin, Martha Stewart
2) Dry felted figures, Narberth Handwork Studio camp
3) Dry felted chick, Feltify
4) Dry felted snails, Narberth Handwork Studio camp

Felted snails, Narberth handwork studio

Tags: Felting, Dry Felting, Needle Felting, Handwork, The Handwork Studio, Kids Activities, activities, Fun, Summer

Weaving: A Beautiful, Ancient, Craft That You And Your Kids Can Try This Summer!

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Aug 05, 2018 @ 10:05 AM

Not too many activities that we take part in today have been around for thousands of years, but there is evidence that weaving, a craft involving the intertwining of yarn or thread to form fabric, existed in the Paleolithic era. Early humans weaved branches and twigs together to create shelters and baskets, but weaving as we know it was only able to develop with the production of string and thread. Finger weaving, lacing, and knotting were also early forms of weaving, and are still used today!Yellow, blue, pink, and white weaving pattern on wooden loom

For a long time people mostly weaved with their hands, but when humans began to settle, looms came into play. A loom is a frame, typically made of wood, meant to improve the weaving process. Horizontal looms that lie flat on the ground were typically used in warmer climates where weavers would sit outside and work, and vertical looms were often used in colder, more temperamental climates and kept inside so the weaver could avoid the harsh weather. People also weaved different materials and fabrics depending on where they lived and what the weather was like and could create anything from linen to silk to cotton to wool.

Weaving was a craft mostly kept to the home until the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s, which meant that weavers (who were usually women) took their looms from their houses to factories. In 1733 John Kay invented the flying shuttle, a device that sped up the weaving process significantly and revolutionized the craft, allowing for faster, more efficient production. Then, in the early 1800s, Frenchman Joseph-Marie Jacquard invented the Jacquard Machine, a loom operated by a punch card that allowed for patterns to be created in the weaving automatically. Handweavers were so afraid that Jacquard’s invention would put them out of work that they burned many of his looms! (Sound familiar? Something very similar happened to Frenchman Barthélemy Thimonnier in 1830, not too many years later when he invented a sewing machine!) After the Industrial Revolution, 90% of weaving looms in North America were automated, and the craft was changed forever.Woman weaving geometric pattern on upright loom

There are many different kinds of weaving, but all of them involve the intertwining of warp threads and weft threads. Warp threads are strung over the loom vertically and provide the backbone for the weaving, and the weft threads are woven in and around the warp threads to create the design.  In the most common type of weaving, a plain weave, the weft yarn goes alternately over and under the warp yarn and creates a flat surface on which it is easy to print patterns. Basket weaving creates a checkerboard pattern, and twill weaving create a strong, heavy fabric like denim.

There are many tools that go into weaving, like a tapestry beater to push down the weft threads, a tapestry needle to pull the weft threads through the warp threads, and shed stick to create a gap to easily pull the weft thread through, but you won’t necessarily need all of them at once. A fork is an excellent substitute for a tapestry beater, and you can even make a homemade loom out of cardboard! When you first start out teaching your kids to weave, it might be useful to string the loom yourself with the warp thread so that it’s all ready to go, and even have your kids practice weaving with paper first - the stakes will be lower, and it will help them get a sense of how the process goes. You can even invite some friends over and make it a party, and set up a “yarn buffet” to make it easier to distribute supplies without chaos. When a kid runs out of yarn, they can return to the buffet!  Five colorful weaving projects hung on wall by branches, pom poms

If you’re stuck without any ideas for designs or how to get started on a project, check out this fantastic weaving, complete with branches and pom poms! For some great tutorials on simple weaving projects, check out The Handwork Studio’s videos on straw weaving and hand weaving. And as always, if you want your kids to learn amazing handwork skills with incredible teachers and also make lifelong friends, check out The Handwork Studio’s camps and classes. We hope you enjoy weaving, and if you want us to see any of your cool new projects, post a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove! Best of luck!

Image Descriptions
1) Yellow, blue, pink, and white weaving pattern on wooden loom
2) Woman weaving geometric pattern on upright loom
3) Five colorful weaving projects hung on wall (https://www.artbarblog.com/weaving-kids/)

Tags: Weaving, Kids Activities, Inspiration, Summer Camp Spirit Crafts, activities, fun kids activities, history, crafts, Handwork