Thursday, November 30, 2017

Personalized Ballet Bears

For the first time, my 13-year-old daughter's ballet teacher asked her to assist with the kindergarten class and she has loved it. She comes out of there with a smile from ear to ear and stories about how cute the little dancers are.  This weekend is the annual Christmas Tea at the ballet school.  She wanted something to give each of her little dancers.  She had her second knee surgery of the calendar year about three weeks ago, so she has missed her little class and is so excited to have something to give them.

I needed an idea that wouldn't mess up my Christmas budget.  I started by going to the Dollar Tree.  I had hoped to find girl elves that I could personalize with heat transfer vinyl and my heat press, but a happy accident happened:  they had no elves.  They had bears!  I had hoped for all polar bears, but I was happy to find what I did and noticed that their cheap little raggedy scarves were barely attached.  That sold me.  I knew I could take off those scarves and make these into ballet bears for the little students.

I picked up a 25 yard spool of sparkle tulle and a 5 yard spool of 5/8" wide grosgrain ribbon at the craft store.  I use 3 yards of tulle for each bear and just under 30" of ribbon that I trim down after I tie it on the neck for each bow.  The GREAT news is that this time of year is the best time to get that for half off so that put my supply budget at $4.  That meant I could make six personalized gifts for a total $10.

For each 3 yard length of tulle, I folded it in half, making it 3" wide.  I put the fold side under the presser foot of my sewing machine and zigzagged gimp cord on top.  (Perle cotton and buttonhole twist can also be used for this.) This is the method I use to gather stuff.

It makes it really easy to gather quickly--- just make certain that the stitching clears the cord and never catches it!  I leave a short tail at the beginning and leave a short tail at the end.  The stitching doesn't even have to be perfect.  The tutu is so tightly gathered that uneven cord application will never be noticed because the cord never shows.

After stitching, I hold the cord and draw up the tulle, keeping it from twisting.

I put a tutu on each bear, using the gimp cord to tie it on.  I make several knots and trim the excess length of cord right off.  It is so full and fluffy, it stays put with no other stitching needed.

Next I am ready to stitch on my ribbon.  I think there is something really special about personalized stuff.  It is my favorite thing to take something inexpensive and transform it into something no one can buy off the shelf.  I love that the tools in my craft studio afford me that.

I opened up my Embrilliance embroidery software.  Using the list of names the ballet school owner texted me, I used a free BX font that was created by Lisa Shaw.  I originally picked it up off the CME Magazine website, but Lisa has it on her blog and that makes it easier..  One thing I know for sure:  stitching on ribbon without a basting box is a disaster... but with a basting box, it is perfect every time.  I highlighted the first name and, in the software, I clicked the utility tab and chose "Baste Design."  I continued all down the virtual hoop. That put a basting box around each word, just as I need it to keep even tension on the stitch area of each ribbon.

I printed out my design (that's just done by clicking the 'file' on the toolbar and clicking 'print').  That allowed me to put my ribbon over each word to make sure the basting box would fit inside the width of the ribbon.  For the names with the "g" and "y",  had to adjust the height of the name.  This font resizes and adjusts just fine.  I simply removed the basting box for the specific name and then used the handlebars to squish the text so it would be less tall. I highlighted the name and gave it its basting box back.  The program automatically sizes the basting box to the adjusted design size.

Next, I printed my design again because I needed the corrected copy and I went to my light box.

I hooped tearaway and marked my cross-hairs on my hoop using a pencil.  I extended the cross-hairs on my printout to make it easy to match up over the light box.  I used tape to hold the ribbon in place.  I used about 30" of ribbon for each name even though I knew 22" would be the final length.  I wanted a little wiggle room even on the end by the name.  It is much easier to trim down than to keep having to re-adjust the bow!  I pinned the ribbon out of the way and stitched.  (Little note from me on this-- make certain that your first needle prick on each basting box is going in the ribbon.  Stop your machine and move the ribbon a teeny bit if you need to because having the basting box around each name is just that important!)

Then I simply removed the basting boxes and tore the ribbon free from the stabilizer.  I tied a bow on each bear and trimmed the ends.  They each seem to have a little personality.  I guess that is the silver lining of cheap bears:  the lack of quality control means they have unintended expressions.  Ha!

This one has an attitude!  I think he's a boy and hates his outfit but don't tell Lydia.

Right now, my Dollar Tree also had Nutcracker storybooks so I also got one of those for each student.  We find out at the Christmas Tea what ballet the students will be performing in June.  We did the Wizard of Oz last year, Sleeping Beauty before that, Alice in Wonderland before that.  It is different every year and this will be the 10th one my daughter dances in and hopefully her knee will finally be healed and healthy and for that we are so excited. 

Mentioned on this post:

Thank you for checking my blog post!  Happy holiday crafting!

But wait! There's more! Click 'older posts' above!

But wait!  There's more!  Click 'older posts' above!