Purls of Wisdom

Upgrade Your Back-to-School Wardrobe! 10 Fun & Crafty Ways to Upcycle Clothing

Posted by Marjanna Smith on Sun, Sep 02, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

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                      Source: Google Images

Looking for a fun, unique way to be creative with your family? How about a cheap and eco-friendly one? Try upcycling, the perfect combination of originality, creativity, and sustainability for you to try with your kids. Read on to find out what it is and how you can do it at home.

What is Upcycling?

Upcycling is the reuse or repurposing of an old object into a product that is more useful or more beautiful than the original. Upcycling can be super simple and kid-friendly -- for example, instead of throwing out old CDs and magazines, you can make them into mosaic picture frames and woven coasters. It can also be more complex, such as repainting and repairing a piece of furniture instead of kicking it to the curb.

Why is Upcycling Important?

You may be thinking, “Why should I take the time to upcycle? Isn’t recycling good enough?” Well, there are a lot of reasons why upcycling is so important. First, let’s establish the difference between recycling and upcycling. While recycling involves breaking down material to be reused (which decreases the material’s value), upcycling is all about finding new, creative ways to reuse the material (thus increasing its value)! So, like recycling, upcycling reduces the amount of landfill waste you generate; however, upcycling also creates a new product that has a functional and/or decorative use.

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                        Source: Google Images

Next, let’s talk about waste. Remember that helpful catchphrase that everyone uses when talking about how to be more eco-friendly? Reduce, reuse, recycle! Well, I recently learned that these three actions are actually in order of importance. First and foremost, we should make the effort to reduce the amount of things we buy and resources we use (i.e., taking shorter showers and avoiding impulse purchases that we don’t really need). Next is reusing, which includes upcycling! Last is recycling -- so, while it's obviously important to recycle, it is more important to prioritize those first two steps over recycling.  

What Can I Upcycle? Why Should I Upcycle Clothes?

Upcycling can be done with any object or material you can think of -- if you can repurpose, modify, or personalize it, you can upcycle it. For this post, I decided to focus on a popular material of choice for "upcyclers": clothing. Clothing is a great medium for upcycling because it is versatile, available, and can be modified in an infinite number of ways. Clothing is also a big issue when it comes to keeping our planet clean. In 2014, the U.S. alone generated approximately 32.44 billion pounds of textile waste even though 95% of all textiles have the potential to be reused or recycled. This number will only continue to increase unless we raise awareness of this issue and the different ways we can reduce, reuse, and recycle clothing.

Now that you’ve learned how upcycling is an economical, eco-friendly, and creative activity, you must be ready for some inspiration! Whether you have thrift store finds, hand-me-downs, or old clothes of your own, here are 10 different ways you can upcycle them with your kids.

1. Tie-Dye

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Tie-dye is a fun, kid-friendly way to upcycle that never goes out of style. This easy DIY will instantly upgrade any plain, light-colored clothes (and it can camouflage stains). Dye a t-shirt, tank top, skirt, pair of leggings -- or even accessories like headbands or socks! Thinking outside the box is encouraged. Let your kids’ imaginations lead the way as they combine colors and patterns into their own custom work of wearable art. Check out this guide to tie-dye for plenty of tips, tricks, and pattern ideas.

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Don’t have any white clothes laying around? Don’t worry! If you have solid-colored clothing, try tie-dyeing with bleach for a new twist on this classic activity.

2. Freezer Paper Stencil

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Who knew that you could use freezer paper and paint to add a design to a t-shirt? I didn’t until I found this tutorial on how to do it, and it looks as simple and fun as the pictured results.

3. T-Shirt Tote Bag

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Basically all you need to make this tote bag is an old t-shirt, sharp scissors, and 10 minutes. This no-sew project is a great way to repurpose a t-shirt that is too big or no longer worn.

4. Patches, Pins, and Appliques

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Personalize an old hand-me-down (or even cover up stains or holes) by adding some 3D art to your clothes! You can buy patches, pins, and appliques at craft stores and online, or you can make them yourself! See this tutorial for no-sew felt appliques and this tutorial for no-sew fabric flowers. And if you’re up to the challenge, you can try making embroidered patches by hand.

5. Stamped Clothes

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To make your own printed clothing, all you need is a stamp and some paint! You can buy stamps of all kinds at your local craft store, or you can make a quick DIY stamp out of a kitchen sponge, sponge brush, or even a potato! Then simply dip your stamp in acrylic or fabric paint and press it onto any piece of clothing that you want to make 100% cuter.

6.Throw Pillow

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Your child doesn’t have to say goodbye to that beloved t-shirt that has become too small to wear -- preserve it as a throw pillow! Try the no-sew, hand sewed, and machine sewed version depending on your available equipment and skill level. Leave the shirt plain or embellish it with buttons, sequins, fabric stickers, or paint designs! 

7. Unconventional Dye Techniques

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Looking for something different from the average tie-dye or bleach methods? Try using some Elmer’s glue to draw a design or make a pattern with found objects and let the sun do the work!

8. T-Shirt and Tank Top Upgrades

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Cutting up a top is a surprisingly popular DIY project -- and there are sooo many ways to do it. Turn a regular old t-shirt into a cold shoulder top, workout tank, or tie-front tank. Also, don’t hesitate to explore the internet for hundreds of other ideas.

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If you're looking to use an old shirt in a completely new way, you can repurpose t-shirt fabric! From a simple headband to a woven pillow, t-shirt “yarn” has many colorful and practical applications.

9. Peplum Shirt

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Embrace the timeless style of a peplum shape in your upcycling endeavors! Convert an oversized t-shirt into a peplum top or increase the charm (and length!) of a shirt by adding a different colored fabric for a trendy color block effect. While this project can be created through hand sewing, it is also an excellent way to practice and develop basic machine sewing skills.

10. Denim Shorts Upgrades

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Cut an old pair of jeans into shorts and make them stylish using a variety of techniques! This video shows how to do modifications such as adding lace, bleaching, painting, and adding patterned fabric.

 

Have fun with your new, upcycled clothes! And don’t forget to share your upcycling projects with us on Instagram using the hashtag #SewMoreLove so we can see your wonderful creations!

If you and your family is feeling inspired after your adventures in upcycling, make sure to check out The Handwork Studio’s camps and classes so your child can continue to make more handmade art! Our students flourish in our nurturing environment, and we encourage creativity and original projects while developing handwork and needlework techniques for multiple skill levels.

Tags: kids knitting, crafts, kids programs, creativity, imagination, Fall Class, Fall Class Registration, How to Tuesday, fiber arts, teach kids to knit, stitch, embroidery, Machine Sewing, Studio, Fall, Sewing, Knitting, Fun, Teen Fashion Bootcamp, Fashion, kids, fun kids activities, project ideas, activities, camp, Fashion Bootcamp, Fashion & Machine Sewing, Fashion Design, Sewing Machine, Kids' craft class, Gifts, Kids' craft class, tie-dye, Eco Fashion, Upcycling, Inspiration, Kids Activities, Embroidering, sewmorelove, clothes, clothing, blogging, mom blogs, sustainability, DIY projects, t shirt DIYs, repurpose clothes, eco friendly, DIY, thrifting, back-to-school, blog, craft blogs, tutorial, upcycle, sustainable fashion, kids DIYs, DIY ideas, t shirt pillow

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

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

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

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

Machine Sewing: Learn Its Wild History and Why You Should Try It This Summer!

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Jul 29, 2018 @ 10:10 AM

What enjoyable, kid-friendly summer activity has a history filled with theft, sabotage, and fortune? Your first thought might be that there aren’t any, but it might surprise you, as it surprised me, to find out that machine sewing fits all those categories! How is that possible, you might ask? Keep reading to find out more, and learn how to teach your kids to machine sew today. hands using sewing machine, close up

As I mentioned, machine sewing has a long and rather complicated history that originated with hand sewing, something humans have been doing for thousands of years. Early humans used bones and horns for needles and animal sinews for threads. The first real sewing machine was patented in 1755 by a German gentleman named Charles Weisenthal. Weisenthal never actually designed the sewing machine, but he had the idea and acted upon it, so he’s pretty important.

After him came an Englishman named Thomas Saint who in 1790 created plans the first sewing machine. It was to be powered by a hand crank and used for leather and other materials. (Unfortunately, he never built it, but a man named William Newton Wilson made a replica in 1874 based on Saint’s plans, and it actually worked!)

The first truly successful sewing machine came in 1830 when a French tailor called Barthélemy Thimonnier invented a machine with a curved needle that used one thread. The French government patented Thimonnier’s invention and commissioned him to produce uniforms for the French army, but about 200 tailors burned his factory down (with him inside!) because they thought his machine would destroy their business. Luckily Thimonnier survived, but his machines were burnt to a crisp.Painting of Isaac Singer, Singer Company

Ultimately a now famous man named Isaac Singer drew inspiration from the many machine designs and plans that came before him to create the Singer sewing machine. The Singer Company became an incredibly famous and well-loved brand, and Singer died with a personal fortune of $13 million to his name. At a time when the average American household income was $500, Singer managed to sell his machines for $125, and they were extremely popular. Although Singer reportedly didn’t care much about sewing, he did care about money, and he built his company into one of the world’s leading sewing machine suppliers for many years.

Even though the history of the sewing machine is intriguing, to say the least, you might still be wondering why you would need a sewing machine when hand sewing is seemingly less expensive and potentially less challenging to learn, but machine sewing definitely has its benefits. For example, machine sewing can save you money on clothes and other items once you learn how to make them yourself. You and your kids can also customize clothes, blankets, and other items and make them personal to you in a way that store-bought things won’t necessarily be. If you are a non-traditional size you can make clothes that fit you, and express your personal style through special items that you make for yourself! Learning how to machine sew can also save you a trip to the tailor if your child accidentally rips their clothes because then you can fix them right up at home. You and your child might even be able to start a business with your new machine sewing skills, like The Handwork Studio’s very own Anna Welsh, and sell clothes and items you make to friends, family, and others. Like knitting and crocheting, machine sewing also helps strengthen your mind and relieve stress, so in addition to being a fun activity for you and your kids, it is a beneficial one as well!Girl working with sewing machine, The Handwork Studio

If you’re like me and aren’t sure exactly what parts make up a sewing machine, you can check out The Handwork Studio’s YouTube videos on getting to know your machine and its components. Here are a few of the basic parts of the sewing machine to get you started. Sewing machines also allow for crafters to use a variety of stitches! Most machines have settings for straight stitches and zigzag stitches, and higher level machines also have decorative stitches, blind stitches, and stretch stitches. Each stitch has a different use, and once again, it is always beneficial to do some research on which stitches are best for what you and your child are trying to create.

I hope this blog post inspired you and your kids to get informed, go out and buy a sewing machine, and learn how to use it today! If you still want some extra help or guidance, don’t hesitate to check out The Handwork Studio’s camps and classes, particularly the Fashion & Machine Sewing Camp for children ages 9-15, and our line of Simplicity Sewing Patterns. We can’t want to see what you and your kids dream up with your new sewing machine skills. If you want to share anything with us, post it on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove! Happy sewing!

sewing machine with Handwork Studio Simplicity Sewing PatternImage Descriptions
1) Close up, hands using sewing machine
2) Isaac Singer, founder of The Singer Sewing Machine Company
3) Child working on sewing machine at Handwork Studio camp
4) Sewing Machine with a Handwork Studio Simplicity Sewing Pattern 

 

 

Tags: history, Machine Sewing, Summer Camp, Sewing, Fun, Fashion, Summer, Handwork, Fashion & Machine Sewing, Sewing Machine, Inspiration, Kids Activities

Embroidery: Its History, How To Teach Your Kids, and Why It Makes For Great Summer Fun!

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Jul 22, 2018 @ 10:15 AM

So far in this blog series, we’ve learned about kumihimo, knitting, and crocheting. Each is special in its own way and attracts a variety of people, but just in case you aren’t interested in any of those, we thought we would discuss another handwork craft today that’s just a little different from what we’ve talked about before. Here’s a hint: It involves a needle, thread, fabric, and a whole lot of creativity. That’s right: we’re here to talk about embroidery!

Butterfly embroidery, emillieferrisEmbroidery is a personal favorite craft of mine because of the amazing representative capability of the art: you can make a design or pattern with embroidery like you can in kumihimo, knitting, or crocheting, but you can also create a hyper-realistic animal portrait or depict an entire, detailed scene. Embroidery, or “the art or process of forming decorative designs with hand or machine needlework,” employs dozens of different techniques, has an extensive history, and can be used for any number of things. Let’s dive in!

Embroidery is global, and has history all over the world. Ancient Egyptian tomb paintings depict embroidery on clothes, hangings, and tents, and some Ancient Chinese silk robes were decorated with embroidery. In Northern Europe, embroidery mostly focused on Christian themes until the Renaissance, when embroidery became more of an amateur craft rather than a profession and crafters could experiment more with their designs. Certain indigenous tribes in North America practiced quillwork, in which they would embroider skins and bark with porcupine quills, and other North American embroidery practices mimicked European styles, yet tended to be simpler. During the Industrial Revolution, France was the first country to mass produce embroidery through the use of machines.

There are many different ways to embroider, and many different stitches you can use. Embroidery can be done in the crewel style, which uses two wool threads and dates back to medieval periods; you can do needle painting, which is typically used to create realistic images; you can try stumpwork, which creates more dimensional designs; and finally, surface or freestyle embroidery, which encompasses anything else! This style of embroidery is most popular today because it allows crafters the most freedom to explore what they want to design.

There are many kinds of stitches to use when you embroider, but some of the more simpler and more popular ones to teach your kids are the running stitch, the back stitch, and the split stitch. The running stitch is used for outlining and creating straight and curved lines, and there is space in between each stitch. The back stitch is also used for outlining and creating straight and curved lines, and the stitches should be touching.  The split stitch, which you use for outlines, lines, and filling a shape, is created by splitting the last stitch to create the next. If you or your child wants to achieve a specific look, it may be beneficial to research what kind of stitch would work best for your project!

Dog embroidery, The Handwork Studio Although the type of stitch and style of embroidery are necessary to determine before starting a project, it is also important to know how to teach your kids to embroider! In general, it is good to keep your thread from twisting around while you work, keep your hands clean, and create uniform stitches by marking your fabric, but helping kids out with handwork can be particularly challenging, especially if you aren’t familiar with the craft yourself.

When you and your kids start, they should work on fabric scraps and use big stitches to help them get the hang of the movements and processes. Make sure you choose bigger threads, thicker needles, and a medium weight fabric that is easier for kids to hold and use and show them some examples of what they can achieve to get them inspired. Maybe even invite over a friend and make the lesson a fun social event! After making sure your kids understand the dangers of scissors, needles, and other tools you may be using, make sure the lesson is fun and memorable, and choose a time that your child wants to learn so they can get the most out of it.Girl with her embroidery, Garrison Forest Handwork Studio

If you can’t teach your child to embroider yourself this summer, The Handwork Studio has amazing camps and tutorials where they can learn these awesome skills from incredible teachers, surrounded by kids their age! And remember, if you and your child create an embroidery project that they want us to see, post it on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove! Happy embroidering!

Image Descriptions
1. Embroidery of a butterfly by @emillieferris on Instagram
2. Camper's embroidery, Philadelphia School Handwork Studio
3. Camper with embroidery, Garrison Forest Handwork Studio

Tags: embroidery, Fun, Summer, Handwork, Inspiration, Kids Activities, Embroidering

Crocheting: How It Is Different from Knitting, and Why You Should Try It This Summer!

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Jul 15, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

So you’ve decided to try out handwork with your kids this summer, but you can’t choose between knitting and crocheting. What are the differences? Which is easier? Do they both offer the health benefits that we discovered knitting helps with in our last blog post? If you were never taught the difference between the two, it can be daunting to figure out how to start. You may have a family member that knits or crochets, but you’re not quite sure what goes into the different processes, and you’ve never thought to ask them why they prefer one form of the craft over the other. In this post we’ll explore the history of crocheting together, talk about the differences (and similarities!) between knitting and crocheting, and help you figure out which of the two you’d rather learn first! (If neither seem right for you, check out this blog post on kumihimo, a form of Japanese braiding, and an awesome summer activity for your kids.)Hands crocheting with blue yarn and crochet hook

Crocheting, or the process of making “a piece of needlework by looping thread with a hooked needle,” has history in many countries around the world. A lot less is known about the origins of crocheting than knitting, but some researchers believe that the art originated in Arabia and traveled around the world via Arab trade routes, while others believe crocheting was born in South America or China. Even though the history of crocheting is not very well documented, its role in the world has been very important! After the Irish potato famine in the mid 1800s, for example, families survived on money they made from selling their crochet projects, and when millions of Irish people immigrated to America to escape the famine, they brought crocheting with them.

Early crochet projects were made using anything from hair to grass to animal fur as yarn, and animal bone, horns, old spoons, and wood served as substitutes for the crochet hooks used today. One of the main uses of crocheting in 16th century Europe, for example, was to imitate the fashionable lace that wealthier people could afford, but that people of the lower classes couldn’t. Nowadays people crochet afghans, blankets, scarves, hats, shawls, socks, tote bags, and more!

Now that I’ve told you all about crocheting and knitting, it’s time to learn about the similarities and differences between the two so you can pick which to try first! Both crocheting and knitting can be done by following patterns and you can make mostly the same projects using either technique. They require similar sets of skills - hand-eye coordination, patience, determination to see a project through to the end - and because of this, crocheting offers many of the same health benefits as knitting.

Crocheting and knitting, on the other hand, don’t use all of the same supplies. Instead of using two needles like you do when you hand knit, crocheting is done with a single hook. Although there are knitting machines that help mass produce clothes, no machine has yet been invented that properly mimics crochet stitches, so almost all crocheting is done by hand.  

There is no simple answer to which process is easier: some people find crocheting more natural to pick up and others think knitting is less difficult. Because you can make very similar projects with knitting and crocheting, whether you wish to create a blanket or a hat shouldn’t stop you from exploring one or the other. If you want to help teach your child how to knit, check out our last blog post for some amazing resources on getting started!

Crochet hook and purple yarnIf you wish to try crocheting, you have many options for how to begin! You can send your kids to one of The Handwork Studio’s summer camps where they can learn all sorts of crafts, or you can check out The Handwork Studio’s YouTube tutorial on how to get started crocheting and learn right alongside your kids. No matter which technique you choose to learn and how you decide to explore it, The Handwork Studio will be right by your side with resources and guidance.

If you and your child work on projects that you want to share, post a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove! We would love to see what you and your young crafters create this summer!

Tags: Knitting, Crochet, Fun, Summer, Handwork, Inspiration, Kids Activities, Crocheting

Knitting: A Fun Summer Activity That’s Also Good for Your Health

Posted by Cameron Lee on Tue, Jul 10, 2018 @ 05:15 PM

Do you ever notice that your child is feeling stress, helplessness, or anxiety? Whether they are caused by school, work, or other daily worries, these negative emotions can sometimes get overwhelming. Everyone has their way of dealing with them, from bubble baths to relaxing yoga to playing sports, but there’s one method of helping eliminate this negativity from your kids’ lives that is a bit more unconventional: Knitting. 

 Stock photo of knitting needles and yarn

Hear me out! Knitting, a process that involves the repeated interlocking of loops of yarn using needles, has been around since the 5th century and spread from the Middle East to Europe to all over the world. People everywhere learned to make sweaters, scarves, socks, and all sorts of things with this handheld craft, and eventually, it became so popular that machines had to be invented to make the process faster. Its popularity only grew and spread with the recent resurgence of handmade knitting, and now it is popular amongst people of all ages!

Knitters and scientists alike have conducted studies, experiments, and research all to figure out if knitting has health benefits, and they discovered some amazing things. One study shows that knitting can “reduce chronic pain, boost mood, reduce stress, treat panic attacks...boost confidence,” and more. The repetitive movements, hand positions, and mental stimulation of knitting can help cheer you up and make you feel safe, and feeling the soft yarn can soothe you and calm you down.

Child (boy) smiling with Wonder Knitter

Another study finds that knitting can prompt your brain to release serotonin, a chemical that affects your mood, and it can also lower your heart rate by 11 beats per minute, creating a sense of calm similar to what you feel when you practice yoga. Knitting is different than yoga, playing music, and other calming activities, however, because research speculates that crafting encourages neural pathways in your brain to stay healthy. This means that knitting can help your brain stay strong as you age, and lessen the chance of memory loss and cognitive impairments.

In addition to being great for your health, knitting is an fantastic skill to learn both for personal gain and to combat loneliness. When you or your child finishes a knitting project, you get to wear your hat or scarf or socks knowing that you made them, or give them to someone else knowing that you gave them something unique that no one else could have done the same. When you are on the bus, or in a car, or in a waiting room, knitting is an amazing conversation starter, in addition to helping you feel productive and pass the time. You and your child can also make friends because of knitting! You could join a knitting club, or attend The Handwork Studio’s classes or camps, and unite with others around a shared love for the craft.Two children (girls) smiling with knitting projects

Whether you or your kids wish to start a new activity, make some friends, strengthen your brain, or simply feel good, knitting is a great solution. You and your child can even improve your bond by learning to knit together by getting your own knitting materials and watching The Handwork Studio’s knitting tutorials. If you are stuck on how to approach teaching your child to knit, check out this article for some tips and tricks to make the process as seamless and happy as possible. Summer is also a great time to try something new, acquire a fun, useful skill, and make memories that your family will cherish forever!

 Two children (girls) smiling with Wonder Knitters

 

Image Descriptions
Image 1: Stock photo of knitting needles and yarn
Image 2: Child smiling with Wonder Knitter
Image 3: Two children smiling with knitting projects
Image 4: Two children smiling with Wonder Knitters

 

 

 

Tags: Summer Camp, Knitting, Fun, Summer, Handwork, Inspiration, Kids Activities, Health Benefits, Health

Summer: Let Kids Relax and Get in the Flow with Ancient Japanese Braiding

Posted by Cameron Lee on Sun, Jul 01, 2018 @ 10:06 AM

Another school year ends, and another summer begins. Suddenly kids are hanging around the house without the daily routine of school and after-school activities, and they may complain that it is too sunny and hot to go outside. Everyone has experienced this phenomenon, whether you are a parent or a kid yourself, and it is easy for kids to get stuck in the endless cycle of sitting in front of the TV in the air-conditioned family room all day, eating snacks and losing all that fantastic free time they were so highly anticipating while still in school.

So many kids spend too much time watching TV or on their phones, letting some of the greatest joys of this time of year pass them by. Having so much time on your hands can seem like a negative when you’re not sure what to fill it with, and although electronics and screen time are a child’s first go to, they can quickly become overused, and prevent kids from participating in activities that they don’t have time to explore during the school year.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that kids should be immersed in activities the first day after school ends - nobody wants to go from the stress and strict routine of school to another strict routine. Summer should be a time for kids to alleviate stress, learn something new, and find tColorful marudai kumihimo braidsheir flowengaging in an activity or passion for which they have so much love that they don’t even notice the time passing.

Being in flow, or experiencing that sense of overwhelming joy that comes from doing something you are really passionate about, is something we don’t incorporate enough in our daily lives, but that can easily be remedied. Activities like kumihimo, an ancient form of Japanese braiding, can help kids find their flow, learn something new, help with fine motor skills, and forget all about that summer slump. Kumihimo dates back well over a thousand years and was traditionally used by Samurai warriors to hold their armor together and provide a grip on their sword hilts. It was even used to prevent tea from being poisoned!

Although handmade kumihimo became less popular over the years as Japanese braiders invented machines to do the braiding, the art is still practiced in Japan (and all over the world) today. People still use kumihimo braids to tie down the wide sashes called obi that go on kimonos and to tie their haori jackets. At the same time, people like Martha Stewart are featuring kumihimo in their magazines and blogs, explaining how to use a kumihimo disc, the modern version of the traditional marudai and takadai stands used to create the braids. 

Kumihimo braid bracelets

Kids can even learn how to do kumihimo themselves through The Handwork Studio’s YouTube channel and at our summer camps. Summer is a time for kids to challenge themselves to try new things and learn new, fun skills, and kumihimo is a great place to start. It is educational, engaging, and kids become a part of an ancient history of Japanese braid-making when they try their hands at the art. Kumihimo braids can be used for all sorts of awesome things like shoelaces, bracelets, necklaces, and bookmarks, and it

Kumihimo braiding discwill feel great for your kids to be able to wear or use something they made. Once they become a master at the braiding technique, they can even try out more complicated and colorful patterns!

So, once again, if your kids are bored at home, watching too much TV and stuck in ruts, you should encourage them to learn kumihimo. Whether they try it on their own by ordering some of our kumihimo materials and following a YouTube tutorial or come to one of The Handwork Studio’s many locations and participate in our summer camps, your kids will find passion in kumihimo, find their flow, and make the most of their summer! 






 

Tags: Kumihimo, Summer Camp, Kids Camp, Fun, Summer, Handwork, Inspiration, Kids Activities