Friday, August 31, 2018

Dikya D.I.Y.

I've loved the sea, and nearly everything in it, my entire life, but there are a few tentacle-having friends that hold a special place in my heart; one being the Jellyfish.  Apparently, if Jellyfish show up in your life they are there to teach avoidance of danger, mistakes, and pain ... Possibly by stinging the hell out of you until you finally get it?

So, around eight years ago after seeing something in the background of a photograph of a woman's studio space I decided I needed to create a bloom of jellyfish for my nephew's sea-themed bedroom.  Years passed, and after seeing several people's creations (especially Sayuri Sasaki Hemann) but few attempts at any DIY tutorials, I'm coming at you with my straightforward method for low-cost, high-impact fiber art jellyfish.

For any needle-craftsperson, fiber artist, textiles artisans, or hobbiest crafter the necessary supplies should be pretty easy to come by.  Without further ado...

Here's what you need:
  • Organza fabric of your choice
(the amount is really up to you, but half a yard will give you a robust swarm of jellyfish) 
  • Novelty yarn (think scraps!)
  • Pinking shears, or candle, or both
  • Coordinating thread
  • Sewing needles
  • Beads of your choice 
Here's what you do:
  • Begin with cutting your fabric into uneven strips of varying widths.  I cut across the fabric from selvedge edge to selvedge edge, which is particularly helpful on delicate fabrics that tend to fray because the edges have already been "sealed" during production. For mine, the long, dark strips vary from 1/4" - 1/2", while the lighter strips start at the top measuring 1 1/2" - 3" and work down into a pointed tip.  The Circles that will become the "bell" of the jellyfish measure anywhere between 4" - 8" across.  Cut 2 of each for each jellyfish you intend to create (for larger jellyfish with bells measuring 6" - 8" you can increase the number of fabric tentacles for a full, and proportionate look).  
  • Zigzag (pinking shears) or burn the edges of your strips.  Both keep the fabric from fraying, while burning adds the extra crinkle that will make your jellyfish look more jellyfish-y.

  • Work out your colorway.  It's very easy to change the look and outcome of your jellyfish collection just by changing a few colors of your chosen yarn.  You can use the same fabric combinations for all of your creations, and they can end up vastly different from one another, just by switching up a few yarn selections, so, no you do not have to buy up an entire fabric store worth of organza to get different results!
  • Start cutting!
Checklist - 14 strands
24 inches: 2
42 inches: 2
46 inches: 2
48 inches:1
54 inches: 2
56 inches: 3
64 inches: 2

 (List of exact yarns above, in order left to right: Bernat Boa & Lion Brand Fun Fur, Lion Brand Fun Fur & Moonlight Mohair, Lion Brand Fun Fur & Lion Brand Vanna's Glamour, Lion Brand Incredible, Lily Sugar n Cream: 2, Lion Brand Fun Fur & Martha Stewart Glitter Eyelash, Lion Brand Fun Fur & Martha Stewart Glitter Eyelash ... granted, a lot of these are discontinued, and while you can find some skeins still floating around online marketplaces, this is just to give you a close look at what went into this project, and inspire your own creativity in selecting your materials)

  • Once you've got everything sorted.  Bundle 13 strands, and pinch in the center, using your one strand tie the bundle together with a sturdy knot.
  • Combine your large organza strips by slightly overlapping the tops (the wide ends), and securing with a stitch.

  • Do the same for your thinner strips.  Lay them in an X shape over your large tentacles, and securely stitch in place near the center
  • And once more, now with the center of your bundle of yarn matched up to the center of your fabric tentacles.  Stitch firmly in place, and finish with a sturdy knot. 

Bead placement
  • Now it's time to create the bell shape, in order to add it to the body of your jellyfish.  To do this, take one of the two circles you cut out and burned, or zigzagged earlier and run a simple straight stitch around the circumference about 1/4" in from the edge of the circle.  Gently cinch until a bulbous, or bell shape starts to form.  Knot, and work the stitches evenly through the fabric until you're satisfied with the shape. 
  • Assemble your cnidaria by knotting a length of thread at the end and running it up through the layers you just created: yarn bundle > thin tentacles > large tentacles, and now the "bell".  This is where I add a medium sized, clear bead to create space, volume, and movement in the tops of my jellyfish, and finally the second circular layer of fabric.  Run your needle, and thread back down through all of your layers, and bead, back up once more, down again, and knot.  
  • *Optional* Embellish the tentacles with beads, or other found objects for added interest, or use as or in part of a sea-themed dream catcher.
  • To suspend your creation, a thin 10 - 15 pound test fishing line will do the job.  Knot the end (especially helpful if you know fancy knotting techniques!), or tie around a medium sized bead so the knot won't pull through your layers of fabric and yarn, run the line up through the layers the way you just did with sewing thread, and create a loop at the top.  That's it!
  • Finding your own style... Now that you see how it all comes together, and how simple it is (even though this post is wordy, there are really only 4 steps, and the whole assembly process aside from burning the fabric takes less than 5 minutes) you can decide how plain or gaudy you want your creatures to be.  Search around for different types of jellyfish.  For a fluffier Portuguese Man of War, or the Black Sea Nettle look, simply run a straight stitch up the length of your pointed organza fabric strips and gather the material down your thread, or add bits of mesh, and tulle to the collection of tentacles.  For the South American Sea Nettle, you could skip the yarn altogether, and use more organza strips for more light catching shimmer and translucence.  For the appearance of movement, use wired ribbons, or soak a selection of your materials in, or spray with fabric stiffener and shape on a protected surface, and let dry prior to assembly.  If you're minimalist, pare down the 14 strands of yarn.  If you want your jellyfish to feel at home in your country cottage, swap out the shiny organza for your favorite quilters' cottons torn into strips of varying widths and throw them through a wash & dry cycle to fray them up, and consider combining with bits of lace.  The point is, this post is just the jumping off point (plus, I know someone out there is going to do something remarkable with a set of fairy lights).
If you've created an entire bloom of jellyfish, and are eager to suspend them together, or are creating a mobile for a child's bedroom, THIS might be the "how-to" you're looking for.