Jun 022018
 

It’s funny how a jar filled with sequins can evoke memories. When I completed several greeting card projects last year that included sequin-filled shaker windows, I was reminded of the time not long after we married, when my husband was stationed at Coronado’s naval base in southern California and I worked part-time at a local store called Cora Mart, located on Orange Avenue.

Cora Mart, which closed its doors in 1996 after more than 30 years of business, was an old-fashioned general store where you could find anything you needed except groceries. There were probably fewer than half a dozen aisles in the store, but their shelves and unpainted pegboards were well-stocked. Cora Mart was like a miniature department store without the frills. There were no display windows, no air conditioning, and no carpeted floors. The linoleum tile floors were cracked and faded, and the register counter at the front of the store was crowded with candy, gum and baseball cards. Needless to say, this was not the age of bar codes, so if a product wasn’t marked with a price, you’d ask a fellow clerk who might or might not know where to look it up—or you’d simply make up a reasonable price on the spot.

At the back of the store you’d find fertilizer, weed killer and garden tools, hardware, hammers and other implements. Another aisle sported storybooks, games, puzzles, toys, baby clothes and diapers. There was a household section stocked with towels and wash cloths, pots and pans, dishes, kitchen gadgets, stain removers and a smorgasbord of household cleaners. Another area was geared toward home dec—lamps, clocks, picture frames and doilies. And then there was the drugstore section with its first aid supplies, aspirin, wart remover and Pepto Bismol lookalikes. My favorite aisle, of course, included fabrics, buttons, rick rack and lace trims, sewing notions and craft supplies.

Among those craft supplies was the most beautiful collection of sequins I have ever seen. Sure, you’d find round or faceted sequins and star-shaped ones, but I recall shiny slivers of plastic shaped like tiny crescent moons, leaves, wreaths, pine trees, flowers, butterflies, birds and so much more. When I crafted my shaker card windows and filled them with sequins, I wished for more than circles or stars.

This afternoon I decided that it might be fun to make my own sequins. Equipped with a Die-namics Sequins die, some leftover Oil of Olay packaging in gold and silver plastic, as well as some Elizabeth Craft Designs Shimmer Sheets in such yummy shades as Australian Opal Gemstone, Pink Iris, Blue Iris and Imperial Garnet Gemstone, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

My first roll of the die through my Big Shot crackled and crinkled like a champ, but the results were less than spectacular. I think more than half of the sequins cracked and flew off into multiple directions, but what was left could still be used for shaker windows or card embellishments, as long as you weren’t planning on sewing them into place. The die couldn’t seem to punch holes through the sequins, at least not consistently. I suppose I could have punched holes one sequin at a time with a paper piercer or sewing needle, but the word that comes to mind is labor-intensive.

Then I tried the Shimmer Sheets, and these were less of a failure, probably because they were thinner than the plastic packaging and were actually designed to be cut with craft dies. I’m not sure the sequin die I used was designed to cut Mylar, however. In fact, the die packaging reads, “Die-namics will cut through: card stock, thin chipboard, ¼” cork, felt, acetate, sticky-back canvas, fabric, denim, sandpaper, 2 mm craft foam, wood veneer paper, photo magnet sheets, and MORE.” Acetate seems like Mylar, but you’ll notice that Mylar was not on the list. Many of my sequins were missing center holes, and I struggled to remove the Mylar film from the die shapes. Hmmm, I thought, I think I know why people purchase sequins instead of making their own.

On the other hand, if you watch a video titled DIY Paper Sequins on thefrugalcrafter channel, you’ll see that Lindsay Weirich gets good results with a hole punch, paper piercer, wooden dowel and shiny card stock. Who knew?

My handmade sequin-making experiment, however, made me wonder how industrial sequins are made. Certainly, I can’t beat the speed at which the sequins are punched in the short video shown below:

According to Smithsonian’s A History of Sequins from King Tut to the King of Pop, written by Emily Spivack, the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 revealed gold discs sewn on his garments, suggesting wealth. The intent, presumably, was to prepare him for a financially-secure afterlife. These gold discs were likely an early version of sequins, a word whose origins go back to the Arabic word “sikka,” which means coin or minting die. Over the ages, writes Spivack, coins or precious metal discs continued to be sewn onto garments. Even Leonardo da Vinci was fascinated by them, and in his day, women wore dresses called gamurra that had metal discs sewn onto them. One of da Vinci’s many sketches was a diagram for a sequin-producing machine, although the machine itself was never built. In the 1400s, gold coins sewn onto garments in Venice were called “zecchino.”

Yesterday’s metal discs are today’s plastic sequins, spangles, paillettes or diamantes—each looking somewhat different. Sequins typically have a center hole, while spangles have a hole at the top. Paillettes are large and flat, and diamantes are artificial, glittery or ornamental gems. What they share in common is that they can be sewn onto garments, shoes, bags and other accessories.

A Brief History of Sequins points out that the coins originally sewn on garments were heavy and eventually migrated to shiny, lighter-weight gelatin discs in the 1930s that had a tendency to dissolve when exposed to heat. The gelatin itself came from animal carcasses, according to 5 Sparkling Facts About Sequins, and was rolled into sheets from which the sequin shapes were cut out. Sometimes the pattern of the dissolved sequins on the garments of a dancing couple told a story, which explains the then-popular phrase, “missing sequins could tell tales.” A Brief History of Sequins explains that the non-gelatin version of sequins came about, also in the 1930s, when Herbert Lieberman, in partnership with Eastman Kodak, created sequins from acetate stock. In the 1950s, when Dupont invented Mylar, the fragile acetate sequins were coated with Mylar, which made them more durable. Today sequins are usually made from plastic.

I began this post, reminiscing about the variety of sequins I was able to purchase in the late 70s and early 80s. Today you’ll usually find round, star or heart-shaped sequins at your local Joann’s, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby or Walmart stores. Looking for something outside the norm? You will probably need to shop online, although fortunately you don’t have to look overseas. The alphabetical list below is not an endorsement of any particular site; it simply represents a starting point for more unique sequins. When searching for such sequins, it’s helpful to look under “shapes.”

If there is a shop where you have discovered interesting sequins, please share your information in the comments below.

© 2018 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Share
Apr 032017
 

I read with interest that this past Saturday, April Fool’s Day, was International Tatting Day. No kidding. Now, I realize this may not be momentous news to you, but since tatting is on my list of needlework techniques to learn (yes, it really is), I had to look up who started this special day. And for those of you who don’t know what tatting is, it’s a type of lace created by a series of knots and loops using a shuttle that looks like a little boat. It’s not surprising, then, that in Germany tatting is known as Schiffchenarbeit, or “work of the little boat.”

This beautiful ebony tatting shuttle with rosewood inlay, crafted by Banyek in Hungary, is available on Etsy. Tatting shuttles are typically available in plastic or metal at your local fabric store or needlework shop.

Here’s a photo of a tatted Christmas ornament I bought some years back.

But before I researched the answer to who started International Tatting Day, I couldn’t help wondering whether there are also special days for crochet, knitting, weaving, embroidery and other fiber arts. Here’s what I learned; you can visit the links to learn more about each fiber craft celebration:

But back to my question about tatting—when did the annual celebration begin, and who started it? According to an article titled International Tatting Day, the holiday has apparently been around for 44 years, and it’s a day when tatting enthusiasts introduce the art to newbies, and eat chocolate. I guess that’s as good a way as any to start a tatting club!

If you missed International Tatting Day, as I am afraid I did, you can still catch up with more experienced tatters everywhere by stopping at your local grocery store for your favorite chocolate (mine is Lindt Classic Recipe Hazelnut).

Then, enroll in a Craftsy video tutorial called Shuttle Tatting with Marilee Rockley, and settle in for a nice, long watch. Alternatively, you can enjoy both a glass of wine and a bar of chocolate while browsing through Karen Cabrera’s library of YouTube tatting tutorials some Friday night when you’d rather stay home. If you’re not feeling that ambitious, you can still enjoy some chocolate and browse through these photos of tatted items available on Etsy—probably nearly as satisfying!

Clockwise, from top left: Tatted lace bracelet, by BardarSvetlanaLace / Tatted earrings with beads, by DescoTru / Tatted lace collar, by Felt Zeppelin / Tattered heart ornaments, by SnappyBirdCrafts

Clockwise, from top left: Tatted snowflake, by GracesLaces / Tatted bridal necklace, by Silhuette / Silk bridal purse with tatted lace, by Silhuette / Cotton bridal handkerchief with tatted edging and hand embroidery, by LaceAmour

P.S. Writing this post was more enjoyable than cleaning up the dishes after tonight’s dinner.

P.P.S. All chuckling aside, I do believe we fiber crafters take secret glee in having our own special crafting calendar. If you know of other fiber art holidays, please add them in the comments below.

© 2017 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Share
Jan 262017
 

It’s not yet Valentine’s Day, but in every gift store, flower shop or Hallmark aisle you’ll see reminders. On Etsy, where handmade items are king, you’ll find heart motifs being featured everywhere (and in this post, too). Valentine’s Day is an international holiday when couples celebrate romance with candy, flowers, cards, candlelit dinners and other exchanges of affection. From Australia to Taiwan, in Around the World you can read about how Valentine’s Day is celebrated.

Butterflies and Heart Soaps, sold by thecharmingfrog, https://www.etsy.com/listing/71351221/butterflies-and-heart-soaps-butterfly

I was surprised to learn, however, that the origins of this annual holiday can be found in a pagan practice in ancient Rome. According to National Public Radio writer Arnie Seipel in The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day, Valentine’s Day may have begun when “men hit on women by, well, hitting them.” Seipel explains that during the feast of Lupercalia, a goat and a dog were sacrificed, and their hides were used to whip women. For some strange reason, women were said to have believed this whipping would increase their fertility. The rite was followed up with a lottery in which men were paired up for the night with women—and sometimes longer, if the match was a good one.

Lupercalia Print, 5×7, sold by CaitlinMcCarthyArt, https://www.etsy.com/listing/191474289/lupercalia-print-5×7

Flash forward to the 3rd century, when the Emperor Claudius II executed two men named Valentine—one a priest and the other a bishop—resulting in their martyrdom which was subsequently commemorated by the Catholic Church on St. Valentine’s Day. When Pope Gelasius II combined St. Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia in the late 5th century with a festival intended, ironically, to get rid of pagan rituals, the event became a drunken, theatrical celebration of “fertility and love,” says Seipel. About the same time, the Normans celebrated Galatin’s Day, which sounds a great deal like Valentine and means “lover of women.” You can begin to see how Valentine’s Day evolved into the celebration of love that it is today. Thankfully today’s holiday is a shadow of its original self.

White Ceramic Heart Bowl, 3 inches, sold by JDWolfePottery, https://www.etsy.com/listing/97433389/white-ceramic-heart-bowl-3-inches

It wasn’t until the 13th century, according to History.com’s History of Valentine’s Day, that Valentine’s Day became associated with love and romance, also the same time in mid-February when birds were believed to mate. According to Borgna Brunner, in Valentine’s Day History, a UCLA medieval scholar named Henry Ansgar Kelly claims Geoffrey Chaucer is behind the mating birds story. In 1381, he wrote a poem that celebrated the engagement between Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia. He linked the engagement, in his poem, with a feast day named “The Parliament of Fowls,” or the mating season for birds.

For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.

Felt Love Birds, sold by TextilePlatypus, https://www.etsy.com/listing/253795817/felt-love-birds-pure-wool-made-in-canada

By the 17th century, couples in Great Britain began exchanging letters or handmade cards that featured lace, ribbons, cupids and hearts. The tradition spread to the U.S., where purchased Valentine’s Day cards appeared in the 1850s when Esther Howland began mass-producing them. The commercial side of Valentine’s Day kept growing until now, when 62% of couples celebrate it with candy, flowers and other items. Between candy, jewelry, and flowers—more than 220 million roses, in fact—Americans spend more than $20 billion on Valentine’s Day every year.

Dried Flower Heart Wreath, sold by roseflower48, https://www.etsy.com/listing/266459789/dried-flower-heart-wreath-spring-wreath

Although sellers and shoppers alike realize there is much commercial profit to be gained on Valentine’s Day, somehow that doesn’t seem to detract from the desire to celebrate the holiday. Year-round, hearts have become symbols of love, affection, unity, strength and even sympathy. But on Valentine’s Day, hearts represent a special celebration of love.

Leather Wedding Guest Book, sold by creating, https://www.etsy.com/listing/103277651/large-leather-wedding-guest-book-tree-of

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Share