Sunday, January 29, 2012

Creativity and Repurposing: A Purse for Mama & a Stick Horse for Grasshopper

Since deciding we'd make our Christmas gifts this year, I've had so much fun getting back into being creative on a regular basis. Add in a little under-employment with very little money and you've got the makings for wanting to pretend that I'm living in a chapter out of the Little House books. It's actually quite fun.

I had this sweater from Land's End, a three quarter sleeved, navy blue, cable knit, cotton sweater that I no longer wore. I had tried to consign it, but they didn't want it. I donate a lot of clothing, but decided to hang on to this item. I'm glad I did. One rainy day I was in the mood to make a purse for myself. Originally, I was going to use a wool one that I could felt, but I've donated so many wool sweaters that the only ones I had left are ones I'm quite attached to and still wear. Then this navy sweater came into view and I formulated a plan to use it even though I'd have to change my original design, as you cannot really felt cotton.

I decided to use a scrap piece of yellow cotton broadcloth I had to line it. Because I would be using a sweater that would easily unravel once cut, I decided to completely sew it to the yellow lining and then begin forming the bag. I wish I'd taken pictures of the process, but will try to summarize quickly.

The torso of the sweater became the body of the purse, with the hemline forming the bottom of the purse. The arms were used to make a shoulder strap. If I did this project again, I'd use cording to make the shoulder strap and thread the cording through the sheath I made out of the arms. That way the strap wouldn't be so stretchy. I used ribbon to make the drawstring, although I imagine I'll need to replace it with something stronger eventually. It turned out to be a really cute, functional purse. And I love that it only cost me my time.

I've been wanting to make a stick horse for Grasshopper for quite awhile. At Christmas, I ran out of time, plus I'd made him so many other things. But a chance find of a bag of stuffing at a thrift store for $1 and a rainy Sunday afternoon turned out to be the perfect motivation to get me started.

First, I gathered my materials from around the house. Twine and leather cording leftover from a church project, the stuffing/quilt batting from the thrift store, scraps from my cable knit sweater purse project, old buttons, ribbon and thread from my sewing box, sand paper, a scrap of dowel rod leftover from a closet building project, yarn leftover from a scarf I'd made Grasshopper last week, and a wool sock all completed my supply list. (I had purchased a package of wool work socks for my husband when we were first married but bought the wrong size. Since I waited too long to return them, they were just hanging out in my cedar chest for something. Today turned out to be at least a partial answer to what I will do with them.) After that, I just gathered my sewing tools and cleared off the kitchen table so I could get to work.

First I had to sand the bottom of the stick and a bit on the side where some splintering had occurred.

Then I stuffed the toe of the sock with as much stuffing as it would hold up to the heel. I wrapped quilt batting around the first six inches of the dowel rod and stuffed it carefully into the sock up to the heel. Then I packed bits of stuffing all around that until everything was firm and filled out. I took twine and tied it tightly around the bottom of the sock to secure it to the dowel rod, wrapping it around a few times and tying a few knots. After that was secure, I took a long length of leather cord and wrapped it once and tied a good knot, leaving a four inch length to help me with my end knot. Then I wrapped the long cord around and around until the length was nearly used up and finished with a secure knot, trimming the ends.

Two wooden buttons made eyes. At this point, my son named the horse Pete and then went to take a nap so Mama could finish "helping Pete the horse be born".

The leftover scraps from the arms of my sweater were perfectly shaped for making ears. I sewed them together and turned them inside out. I did not trim the edges after sewing, because I knew the added bulk would help the ears be more stable and give it good shape.

Then I sewed the bottom edges closed using my machine.

After that, it was time to hand sew them to the horse. I placed them on a slight curve so they'd stand up well.

It was at this point that I wondered if Pete would turn out looking more like a donkey, but I knew the hair would help a lot. Always have faith in the hair.

Here is a picture of the completed forelock. It took a bit of trial and error to figure out how I wanted to attach the hair. I had read one blogger's idea, but her entire horse was sewn by machine, and that method was not going to work for me. So I came up with a workable solution that reminded me a bit of a hair weave.

To help illustrate my solution, my husband took a quick video of me attempting to explain what I was doing.

Grasshopper was certain his horse needed a bridle and not just reins, so I devised something out of grosgrain ribbon and two buttons. I made two loops - one for the horse's mouth area and one for just behind his ears. I slid those on him and then threaded the rein length of ribbon through both sides of each loop, pinning them carefully and being sure to leave a good length. Because the loop by the mouth easily could come off, I was able to machine sew the two pieces together. But the loop just behind his ears would not have been easy to come off, so I hand sewed it and then covered up my work with a cute button on either side.

The finished product. I was so excited with how it turned out. It took a few hours from start to finish. It is utterly adorable.

Pete and I went into Grasshopper's room to wake him up from his nap. He was so excited to finally see Pete "finished being born", and immediately took him out to the living room to hold him and introduce him to the world. (And yes, he's sitting on a crib mattress in the middle of our living room. We have to drag it out from storage almost daily so he can use it as a trampoline. My child may not have been much a crib sleeper, but at least we have gotten lots of use out of the mattress.)

All in all, I'm thrilled with how both projects turned out. They were both fun to design and make. The satisfaction gained from using items found in our little abode is also very nice. January has been a month of creating memories without spending money, and I have to say that it has been so very fun.


Layla said...

"Pete" is utterly adorable! And I love the purse. You are incredibly creative and talented...I can't sew a dern stitch.

Kathy said...

Nice job on both! I really like that you thought to use the arms for straps. The sock horse is very deluxe I think. Little house on the prairie days rock!

Kork said...

That is awesome! I LOVE that fact, I have one of those sweaters gathering dust in my closet right now that I may just have to make into a bag...
Too bad I don't have any of the things for the stick horse, and I only envision my children beating one another with it...
I love it!
And you know what? I think creating memories and special things with what we already have in our possession is a HUGE lesson for all of us to learn.