Saturday, January 24, 2009

Winter Blahs - And a Recycled Craft

Around this time of year I get antsy. I want to do all sorts of things, but the snow and cold prevent me from doing many of them. Fortunately, I am a crafty person, and I find ways to keep busy. Some of my favorite winter (i.e. can't leave the house) pastimes include reading, knitting, crafting, sewing, decorating, and cooking/baking.

A few weeks back I decided I wanted to try Martha Stewart's doily snowflake project. I started collecting vintage doilies, and finally got around to the crafty part of the project today.

What I loved about this project most was that nearly all of the supplies required were vintage (i.e. recycled!), budget-friendly, or things I already had on-hand, and the finished results can be reused in many ways. (The only item I didn't already have besides the doilies was fabric stiffener.)

Stiffened Doily Cascade

a few vintage doilies, as many or as few as you like - I spent about $12
fabric stiffener - generic brand, $3.99 at Michael's Craft Store
sponge brush - 50 cents
fishing line - free (if you can bum some from a friend who fishes), or $3-$4
a few small nails, like for hanging pictures on walls

I love Martha and her cohorts, but I felt some essential tips were left out of the instructions on the page (link provided above). I thought I'd also provide an idea of how much this project might cost.

1. First, while the page did suggest to use "fabric stiffener", I'd never heard of such a thing and didn't know where to find it at my local craft store. I wandered the aisles and eventually found it in the paint section.

2. I decided to use a sponge brush primarily because I already had a few on hand, but later determined that it was definitely the right choice as I imagine the bristles of a real brush might get caught in the intricate work of more delicate doilies while brushing them with the fabric stiffener.

3. I squirted a bit of the fabric stiffener into a plastic container, laid the doilies carefully onto a sheet of waxed paper, and then brushed it onto one side of them.

4. In the future, I would probably choose to wash and iron the doilies before trying to arrange and stiffen them. I will also probably stiffen both sides - the second side after the first side is dry. Martha's site says you can iron them after they're stiffened, and I might try, but I perceive that ironing them beforehand might have made it easier to arrange them the way I wanted.

5. I found my doilies on Etsy, but you can also find them on Ebay and in vintage shops or your grandmother's house (ask before taking any!). If you're ambitious you might even try crocheting a few of your own. As I plan to hang them in my window, I looked for doilies between about 4" and 10" in diameter, and I liked them in white or off-white, but you might choose colored ones or dye them yourself (in tea, beets, turmeric, or bright colored dye - all-natural, of course). Martha also says you can do this project with paper doilies, but they're not all that durable, and they're probably not recycled/reused.

6. My doilies were different thicknesses of thread. The ones made from thicker thread appear to require more fabric stiffener, but they may also prove more durable overall. I also found that doilies with ruffled edges or raised elements (flowers, etc.) were more tricky to flatten into shape while brushing them with the stiffener. I'd recommend simpler designs that you know will lay flat, or just enjoy the natural variation that occurs when you try to flatten an otherwise three-dimensional object. ;) I did find that I was able to manipulate the doilies into the shape I wanted after they were saturated with the stiffener (but still wet).

7. I keep some cheap thin fishing line around for beading and other crafts, and I find it's perfect for hanging crystals and other things that I don't want to use colored string or ribbon for. If you can bum some off a friend who fishes, then it will be free. Otherwise, I think a roll is about $3-4, and you can store it for future projects. I think I purchased mine at either a Walmart or Target a while back.

I plan to hang these dried "snowflakes" using the fishing wire and small picture nails in my front window. Seeing them when I come home or looking out through them at the blankets of white stuff covering the entirety of my outdoor surroundings might make the winter seem just a little less bleak. :)

(Waiting for doilies to dry. Will post pic when they're done.)