Friday, November 18, 2011

Holiday How-to Series / W3: Homespun Holiday Garlands

Echinops and AsterWelcome to the third week of the Holiday How-to Series here at Echinops & Aster! First I'd like to say a big thanks to everyone who has been following along thus far. I have really enjoyed reading your comments and appreciate your support! Next week will be the final posting in this series and there will be a great giveaway from Sew Lux Fabrics to look forward to, so thanks for joining me!

This week I have a tutorial that is perfect for bringing family and friends together for some crafty fun and would be a great project to make over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The Homespun Holiday Garlands are a fun, colorful project that even the kids can get involved in, allowing both crafting pros and the more inexperienced makers to join in and even learn new skills.

Homespun Felt Bauble Garland

Both garlands are constructed so that different hands can work on various steps while still producing a beautiful result. All of the techniques used for each step in this tutorial are also geared towards beginners or those looking for a more relaxing (and simple) holiday project. In this very detailed tutorial there are instructions to make two garlands: the first using crocheting skills and a bit of stray yarn to make a scalloped garland (with jingle bells!) and the second using scraps of colorful quilting fabric to make a fluttering, fringed garland. I have tried to make the tutorial as detailed as need without being too wordy, but do let me know if you have any questions about the instructions.


Tools and Materials*:

- For the Crocheted Chain Garland:
           - 20-30 feet of stray yarn or a partial ball (acrylic works well, think Red Heart)
           - Crochet hook (I used size 5mm on worsting weight yarn)
           - Perle cotton or cord for stringing
           - Scraps of felt sheets (to cut out 1/2" and 1" circle spacers)
           - Foam snowflakes (I found mine at a big-box craft store) 
           - Small jingle bells
           - Seed beads around 1/8" in size (or big enough to allow a threaded needle to pass through)
           - Sharp embroidery needle (for stringing)
           - 1" Felt balls (I used 20)

- For the Fabric Fringe Garland:
           - Strips of scrap fabric (at least 1/2" wide and 6" long)
           - Pinking shears or a pinking rotary blade (if you would like your fabric scraps not to fray)
           - Perle cotton or cord for stringing
           - Sharp embroidery needle (for stringing)
           - 1" Felt balls (I used 12)

- For Felt Balls**:
           - Felting needles
           - Wool roving for felting in assorted colors (I use Corriedale fiber, in 4oz balls)
           - Padded surface or foam block to felt on
           - Leather thimble (optional, but provides some extra protection from the needles)

*Just as a quick reminder, when working with kids, it's always important to make sure that you provide appropriate supervision/instruction and gauge each child's individual ability to handle tools like scissors and needles before getting them involved with those steps.

**You can also purchase your felt balls rather than make them. There are a number of shops on sites like Etsy that sell these in small and large lots.

Homespun Felt Bauble Garland

Needle Felting the Balls

Needle felting, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is a versatile craft that allows carded wool (pre-spun stuff), known as roving, to be shaped into all kinds of dense forms and sculptures. It uses specialized needles with barbs to grab and lock the wool fibers into place as the needle is quickly and repeatedly stabbed into the roving. The needles used in this kind of felting are VERY SHARP and the process of stabbing the wool happens VERY QUICKLY, so its important to be focused and careful when felting. 

This is also the one step in the garland making process that I would say requires a more steady hand, so I would NOT give this part of the project to your kids to work on or even to your accident-prone aunt if you're going the collaborative route. Wearing a leather thimble, like the kind made for embroidery, works well for me to provide a little extra protection from the sharp needle. 

Finally you can also wet felt, using water and a bit of hand soap to lock the fibers together. I find that when I wet felt, I always need to do a bit of needle felting on top after drying to smooth the surface and fix cracks, but this is a great option for those of you may not want to work with a needle as much. I find that both methods require the same amount of time to make a ball, although there is some extra dying time to throw in for the wet method.

Needle Felting

(1) Pick a selection wool roving in your chosen colors and (2) grab your foam pad, needle, and one ball of the roving. (3) Gently tease the tail of the roving apart to make a fan and (4) carefully pull out a larger piece of roving (about 7" long and 3-4" wide) and two smaller pieces. (5) Start to roll the larger piece of roving into as tight a ball as you can. (6) Wearing your leather thimble, if you have one, start to stab the ball in a controlled motion, going all the way through the ball, just touching the foam below. Rotate the ball in your fingers slowly as you go making sure to felt the entire ball. 

(7) Once the ball starts to feel and look more dense, roll it between your palms to help smooth the ball and encourage a rounder shape. (8) Repeat steps 6-7 until your ball is dense enough (i.e. you won't be able to squish it down and it will feel springy to the touch). You'll notice that the surface of the ball might be a little rough. 

(9) This where we will take our smaller pieces of roving that we pulled and use those to smooth the surface and if needed build up the ball to make it the correct size (you may need to pull a bit more roving if this is the case). The size we are aiming for is between 1" and 1.25". Start out with one of the smaller pieces and carefully tease it apart making a halo of fiber the you will gently roll across the surface of your ball. (10) Using your needle, just stipple the new fiber on to your ball making sure to get the edges well to blend in. You may need to repeat this step with your other piece of roving to get a nice smooth surface. You will have a finished felted ball! To make both garlands you will need to make around 32 balls depending on your spacing.

Making the Crochet Chain

(1) Gather up your yarn, bells, crochet hook, and embroidery needle. (2) Start threading your bells onto your yarn, pushing them towards the ball end as you go. I used 10 bells to make my garland.


(1) We'll start making our chain by doing a slip knot onto your crochet hook. First wrap the yarn around your index and middle figure as shown leaving at least a 12" tail. (2) Take the yarn in your right hand (ball end) and bring it under and through the loop between your fingers on your left hand as shown. (3) Slip the yarn off of your fingers and you should have a knot like the one shown in picture 3. (4) Your crochet hook goes into the loop NEXT to the knot. Tighten the loop around your hook and position the yarn on your hand as shown to begin stitching (wrapped around your pinky and looped over your left index finger).

(5) Holding the tail end of your yarn with your middle finger and thumb, twirl your crochet hook to the right (counterclockwise) while feeding your yarn across the front of your hook as shown. (6) Catch the yarn laying across the front by twirling your hook clockwise back to the left while pulling down, making sure to grab the yarn using the nose of your hook. Pull through the loop (created by your slip knot) on your hook. You have made one chain stitch. 

Slip Knot and Crochet Chain Stitch

(7) Continue steps 5-6, counting your stitches as you go. (8) To begin your crocheted chain you will make 12 chain stitches, stitching your first bell into the 12th stitch. Simply push the bell right up to your hook and (9) pull your yarn down through the loop on your hook, over the bell, thereby stitching it into your chain as shown. (10) You will then make 24 more chain stitches, making sure to capture your second bell into the 24th stitch. Continue this pattern, making 24 stitches between each bell, until you reach your final bell. After you have stitched it into the chain make 12 more stitches and bind off by cutting your yarn at the ball end (leaving a 16"tail). Taking that new tail, slip it through the loop on your crochet hook and pull tight.

Constructing the Crocheted Scallop Garland

(1) Now that you have made (or purchased) your felt balls and crocheted your chain, you can start assembling your garland. Gather up 20 felt balls, your jingle bell chain, the foam snowflakes, seed beads, perle cotton or cording, and your felt sheet scraps. From your felt scraps you'll want to cut 20 1/2" circles using regular scissors. I made mine by cutting 4 circles each from 5 colors, making 10 pairs of colored circles (this may be confusing, but I think it will make sense as you look through the rest of the instructions). I also cut 10, 1.25" inch circles using pinking shears out of the same felt.

(2) To start stringing you chain, you will want to cut a length of about 8-9 feet of perle cotton or cording. In the first stitch of your crocheted chain, slip your needle through the chain (under the "V") and make a double knot on top, leaving about a 12" tail. (3) Within 1/4" of your double knot, make another double knot on your perle cotton or cording and string 3 seed beads. (4) Pierce your foam snowflake and string it next. String three more beads behind it.


(5) Pick out a set of the smaller felt circles and string the first one, followed by the first felt ball. (6) Next string one of the larger, pinked felt circles, followed by the second felt ball. (7) String the second smaller felt circle followed by 3 more beads, another snowflake, and finally three more beads. Make a double knot at the end. (8) Slip your needle through your crocheted chain again (under the "V") from botton to top, this time half way between the first two bells. Make sure that your chain is not twisted, then pull up the slack in your stringing material until your chain is about 1/4" from the last double knot you made to secure your beads. Repeat steps 3-8 until you have strung all 20 of your felted balls and the entire length of your chain. Your Crocheted Scallop Garland is complete!

Constructing the Fabric Fringe Garland

Out of the two garlands, this one is the easier one to make. (1) You will need a stash of long fabric scraps. I used some that I had leftover from squaring-up yards and from selvages. (2) Cut these into smaller strips ranging between 6" long and 8". Fold each strip in half (press the fold if you like) and using your pinking shears, cut around the three non-folded sides. Make about 2-3 dozen of these strips depending on how long you would like your garland to be. 


(3) Cut a 7 foot long length of perle cotton or cording and string your first felt ball, leaving about a 12" tail. (4-6) Start attaching your fabric strips by making a running stitch through the top of the folded end of your fabric. (7) Keep adding fabric, mixing your patterns and colors as you go. (8) Add felt balls every 5-7 inches in-between the fabric strips. Once you have strung all of your felt balls and strips, makes sure your fabric is evenly distributed (not too crunched) and then double knot on each end of the garland right next to each felt ball to secure. You are finished! 

Feel free to add pics of your completed Homespun Holiday Garlands to the Echinops & Aster Flickr group and if you get a chance let me know how you liked the tutorial!

Homespun Felt Bauble Garland

This tutorial is for personal, non-commercial use only. All text, diagrams, and photographs belong to Jenelle Clark.
 Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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  1. Such fun garlands! I love the idea of the crochet chain garland, and may try that when I get a few minutes to spare. So interesting to see the needle felting explained, too! I've always liked the looks of felted items but haven't really taken the time to figure it out! Thanks!

  2. The garlands are adorable! thanks for the tutorial - I am looking forward to doing the felted balls and I love the crochet chain!

  3. What cute garland! So clever and new. I love all the different things you put on it.

  4. Great tutorial! This garland is so sweet! I saw you up on Quilt Story! Congratualtions!

  5. These are the cutest garland! Great tutorial and so creative!

  6. I love these - so colourful and perfect for the whole autumn/winter period. I want to start one right now! Thanks so much for the inspiration.


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