11 December 2013

DIY: stichable state art

CRISIS AVERTED: Our Christmas presents for our family finally started arriving yesterday. Well, some of them. Some of my family will get Christmas presents this year! Some may just get a smile. But a big apologetic one!

Since we’re in almost-last-minute-(at-least-for-overplanning-anxiety-brain-people-like-me-because-two-weeks-might-as-well-be-two-hours) mode, it might be time to start making gifts. And if you’ve got a few extra hours to spare, I’ve got a homemade gift for you to try – or make for yourself and enjoy in your own home!

The inspiration came, years ago, from this pin. I wanted to remake it, but with Tennessee (duh) and the heart in Nashville (double duh).

I have to confess, I’m an awful blogger because I can’t tell you where that project came from. I believe it was from an Etsy shop, but I pinned it from a blog who ended up moving her domain and now my pin link doesn’t work and I don’t know where it came from and I AM SORRY, FELLOW CRAFTER.

This is why I shouldn’t take years to do a project. Also, I guess, why you should watermark your photos (says the blogger who never watermarks anything)!

Back when we lived in Nashville, I had a square of scrap wood (leftover from the laundry room remodel) and a bunch of extra nails and I was totally ready to tackle this. But... I never did. And then we moved and I threw that scrap wood away and the idea was indefinitely back-burnered.

BUT! While trying to complete my 2013 intention to do 13 projects from my YHL book, I saw “#118: Sew a pattern into card stock”. And that abandoned project, buried in the back of my brain, resurfaced with a new plan!

First things first, though: I needed to make a digital pattern. And for that I needed an outline of Tennessee. Thanks, NOAA!

I just copied the image into Illustrator, blew it up, and traced it. If you don’t have Illustrator, you can trace it in PowerPoint or any other free image editing program. Or even just adjust the original image to the correct size, print it out, and use it as a stencil! Make it work for you. Oh, and the heart in the center is free-handed.

For my version, I tinkered with the dotted-line settings in Illustrator...

...to make evenly-spaced dots all around the state.

Finally, I reflected the whole image, so I could stick it on the back of a piece of cardstock and use it as a template for the front. Then I counted the dots and figured out how many Tennessee dots would connect to a heart dot... if that makes sense? Based on the number of dots around the state outline and the number around the heart, I needed to stitch into the same spot in the heart six times for every tick around the state.

Just to check, though , I virtually stitched the entire design on the computer, because I am nuts and over-plan things. (See: above note about “last minute Christmas gifts”, two weeks out). It wasn’t totally necessary, but it did show me dots I shouldn’t use (marked with X’s) and dots I should combine (circled), and it showed places where I should tweak the rule to make the lines radiate out symmetrically.

Once I had my pattern, it was time to translate it to real life! I printed it out and taped the design, lines and all, to the back of a piece of cardstock, pre-trimmed to 8 by 10 inches:

And then I punched holes through the template with a safety pin.

Technically it was a diaper pin, which I used because it was a large gauge and also because it was the first safety pin I found. That’s... not weird at all, that I have thirty-year-old diaper pins just laying around my home?

After I punched all the holes, it was time to sew! I used medium-weight string, heavier than embroidery floss. Since I didn’t have a large quilting needle, I used one of those needle-threading thingies to “sew”.

Until it broke, when I tried to pull the string through a hole that already been sewn through five times. Then I used another. And IT broke. Finally I crafted a large gauge needle from some craft wire I had, because I am industrious, cheap, and will do anything to avoid going to the craft store just for a stupid quilting needle.

There’s no real trick to sewing. You don’t even have to make sure you count correctly... it just needs to look nice. So even if the back is kind of a mess...

Just make sure the front looks great and you’re good to go!

I wish these photos could convey the texture of this thing. If I were smarter, maybe I’d have spread out the dots a bit more in the northeasterly region so there wouldn’t be such a pile-up of thread. But at the same time I’m a little grateful that I didn’t because I LOVE that. I can’t help but touch it. It’s raised and orderly and so soft and luxe!

Petting your crafts is weird, I know. I KNOW. But you’d do it too.

Because the texture is one of the reasons this makes me so happy, I couldn’t put it behind glass! I took the glass out of the frame for easy softness-access.

I think making these for Christmas presents is a fantastic idea – especially for people who love geography-based art as much as me! If you’re tight on cash but have a little extra time, have at it! Here’s what it’ll cost you:

Time spent:
Probably about three hours total – an hour or so to design it, and a couple more hours to stitch it. If you’ve got a few television shows you like watching, you could knock this out in an evening. I don’t really watch television and have trouble sitting still, so it took me a week of working on it, off and on. For a shorter project, space out the dots along the outline for fewer stitches. I do think it would have gone faster if I had a quilting needle, too.

Cardstock: already owned
Thread: $3 purchased for this project a few years ago (when I was going to try my hand at the nail version)
Misc. supplies (computer + printer, scissors, tape, safety pin, wire to craft into a needle): already owned
Total cost: $3

$3 for meaningful art, heck yes!

I’m glad that this project finally came to fruition after so many years of bubbling around in my brain. Plus, I knocked out another YHL project before the year’s end! So although I’m going to keep this one for myself... hooray for cheap, gift-able art!


Tina said...

I'm happy your heart is still in TN and on display in your home. :-)
I know a man who can customize a frame or make one from scratch to spec. And he works for cheap. CHEAP.