Monday, December 16, 2013

Wrapping it up: Packaging and Branding

JeanineDesigns gift wrap with coffee flower

Soon after I began selling my creations online it became apparent that I needed to put thought into packaging and branding. This was made abundantly clear when I asked a friend what she thought of my packaging and she said, "Ehn."

Around this time I ordered a necklace online. It arrived in a lime green gift box, with a black ribbon, and a logo sticker, in a black gossamer drawstring bag. It was like a club to my head. No matter how cool my item was I clearly needed to step up the wrapping.

As I thought about choosing a box, a coordinating ribbon, adding a logo, picking all the bits and pieces, I realized that, even if I chose recycled materials, I would be sending out paper-goods that would just be thrown away. All my work on branding would be lost and the materials would become landfill. And that really bugged me. 

But what if I could make the box worth keeping? What if I could make the function match the purpose, the item, even the customer. And most importantly, what if I could make the customer say, "Wow!" when they opened the mail. What if I could make them gasp?!

JeanineDesigns group photo of custom gift wrap
So that is what I try to do, and packaging has become another part of my artistic process. I designed a round jewelry box made from recycled cardboard that I'm able to produce and customize yet still have a recognizable look. I use what I save, scrounge, or have collected: cardboard, paper, vintage fabrics, ribbons, botanical embellishments, a flower made from the aluminum lid from coffee... I heap a palate of materials on the table and each box is an improvisation, my flourish at the end.

JeanineDesigns Read Write Bookmark in Book Box
Some packages, and products, become too time consuming to be viable. Case in point, is this embroidered reversible bookmark encased in a 'book' box with hidden magnetic closure. The embroidery is freestanding lace with many color changes and it takes a long time to stitch out. It took so long to make I could never sell it and make a profit. I gave it to my best friend.  While each box is special, I am inspired by my relationship to the buyer and love customizing them and imagining the reaction.

JeanineDesigns Steak Coasters
The packaging for my steak coasters came quite easily. I only needed to save up meat trays and hand draw a label for the look I wanted. Later I switched to a bio cello wrap so that the customer could more easily store the steaks in the original packaging. 

JeanineDesigns Log Coasters
The recycled cardboard packaging for my log coasters has evolved over time - starting rustic and square, then round, and now it is a log and I am very pleased with this final design.

JeanineDesigns Bee the Change necklace and box
Several years ago I created a pattern for a hexagonal box but it didn't quite gel until recently - when it came together with a design for a new pendant charm called Bee the Change. This recycled cardstock box was waiting for the product. I've left the outside simple. The surprise here comes on the inside, where the bee is displayed on a handmade flower - all from recycled materials, of course.

JeanineDesigns custom gift wrapping
Several people have suggested that I sell my packaging. I am looking into some machinery for that, as there is a limit to what I can do with an xacto knife.  But right now I'm happy dressing my creations in custom wrapped boxes. I wrapped up this gift today. I like the way it came together. It is unique, pretty, unusual. Or pretty unusual. It is my brand. And it is not "Ehn".

Monday, January 28, 2013

For Valentines: Four Deeply Cleft Hearts

The heart symbol dates far back in history,
and has obvious anatomical references
yet I imagine that the cleft in the heart symbol
recalls the permanent psychological mark
that love makes upon us all
No matter what kind of love it is,
Love's effect is profound and deep.
And there are many kinds of love.
Or four, so thought the Greeks.
This olive branch had a scar
that made me think of Cupid's mark.
It ran just long enough to carve these four
Deeply Cleft Hearts.


“I love you”. This heart is plump and full: representing home and family. Its shape solid, for stability, hinged for openness, a latch for security. It's metal is sterling.



Representing passionate, sensual desire: two wafer thin mirror image hearts, both concave and convex, ultra smooth beautiful nudes which can be worn in a variety of positions.



Affectionate love: that which is loyal and virtuous to family and community. Made to honor those who are generous with love and time, this heart is large and ornate with brass - symbol of heart's capacity, and bold, busy lives.


Natural affection, like parent for a child. This heart's shape speaks of youth and playfulness. Inside, a line of copper represents familial love shining upon a growing seedling, and forms a place for a tender secret.

See more detailed photos of Deeply Cleft Hearts in my shop.

Process Photos and Details


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What Wood You Do...

...when stymied by a project that completely stalled your studio output? While working on a beautiful dress, I got stuck on how to engineer the back closure. The lack of human model makes a fitted dress difficult, and since sewing is usually a sequential process - until I figure it out, I can't move forward. I didn't know what to do.

And then I saw the log pile from the olive tree we had to cut down. I began chopping away and immediately felt such freedom, cutting away intuitively, letting the material have its say. Before I knew it, I was sitting in a drift of sawdust and I'd completed about a dozen hairsticks. Feeling very encouraged, next I made some wild sculptural rings, and then a heart-shaped ring box/saltcellar of which I'm quite proud.

I know this departure might seem strange, especially considering my blog's title, but I've always worked with a variety of materials and techniques. And wood is a fiber, after all. And I figure I come by it naturally: my grandfather, father, and brother have all worked with wood. I wish they'd been around to teach me about working with wood and share the joy of making. I've thought of them a lot as I've been carving.

Norwegians’ have traditional wedding spoons, carved by suitors and used by the bride and groom at the wedding reception. These beautiful carved spoons are connected by a chain and are all carved from one piece of wood. I wanted to challenge myself to carve an interlocked form, and pay homage to my heritage but with a contemporary Scandinavian feel, encompassing concepts and beliefs which are important to me.

I started carving, with love and good intentions, and "Unity Chains" were the result. I've made several in this series. These are pendants of two unique, interlocked links carved from one piece of olive wood: symbols of love, peace, commitment, and interdependence; and metaphor for celebrating individual uniqueness and the strength, and flexibility, found only in unity.

Here is the finished Unity Necklace and the piece in process below:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sheer Tea Party Madness

I found this wonderful square tablecloth at an estate sale. It was in perfect condition, with it's original tag in place identifying it as a cotton organza: the sheerest I've ever seen and crisp as a dragonfly's wing. Too bad that the matching napkins to this set, imported from Switzerland and sold at Sears, are long gone.
The white cotton corner appliques of a sail boat on embroidered waves, the scalloped edge, and the whisper of blue green all suggested a light as air design. Please note, I've been unable to capture the lightness of the color but it is the merest breath of green. The fabric is also a bit challenging to work on - hence the title of this article.
I toyed with many ideas on how to treat the neckline, and finally settled on an edging of bamboo/silk blend yarn because it would mimic the texture of the existing scalloped edging and help support the neckline without getting too heavy. I top stitched the yarn in place first, stabilized just outside the yarn with a thin bead of Fray Check, clipped the curves, folded the fabric in, pressed and trimmed it close.

Of course, I tested my process first, you must always do that, but when working with re purposed fabrics, sometimes there's not much scrap to work on. Here's all I had to test stitch length, width and tension on!
I stitched over the pressed edge with a stitch that goes left, center, and right to secure the edge. Here you can see the resultant texture, which mimics the existing edging. You can also see the loop I left for the button hole. I thought I was being so clever.
Since this yarn is a bit fuzzy and that, I felt, would worsen over time, I decided to work a button hole stitch in silk over it by hand. I double threaded up a needle in silk thread, took two stitches that took 5 minutes to untangle and get smooth, and said... naaahhhh.
And I cut that bad boy off.
Sometimes I get so wrapped up in trying to figure out everything in advance, only to find that I should trust that I'll figure the best solution when I get there and charge ahead. The easiest, simplist and most elegant solution for this situation turned out to be a hand-tatted button loop.
A quick dive into my button stash turned up 4 possible choices of vintage buttons from my collection, I settled on a sweet glass pearl button made in Germany (far right in photo), and sewed it on securely with several strands of YLI silk thread.
A needle-tatted loop is easy to do once you get the motion down. After a couple securing stitches, take a small stitch, inserting and exiting the needle at the points you want the button loop to begin and end - but don't pull the needle through yet. Tat over the needle  (Here's a nice video) and when you pull the needle through a loop will form. At left, I am comparing the length of the tatting to the button to estimate the length needed.
After pulling the needle through, you continue to tighten up the circle until you get to the size you need for the button. Be sure to try the button. You can easily spread out or compress the tatted stitches as needed. Once it is the right size, secure with a few stitches and a knot. I used multiple strands of YLI Silk for strength.
Here you can see the finished edging, button and button hole with the delicate finish I wanted.
Here is the Finished Top , shown with my beaded lace top underneath. You can click on any photo to enlarge.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Shaping Vintage Textiles

Constructing clothing from vintage linens is sewing in reverse. Instead of starting with a pattern and cutting whole cloth, here you drape with pieces and parts and try to make a cohesive whole. I try to honor the beauty of the original textiles and handmade laces that I use. But I also want my garments to have shape which means darts. Here is a way to work a bust dart into a print and maintain the pattern. You can also use a similar technique on laces.

I position the vintage laces and linen, a Stevens Linens Calendar Towel, so the print lies on the body the way I want.  

I can see the gape on the side where a dart needs to be.

I fold up the end of the dart and see that it will end in the bird nest, so I cut around that design element.  

Here you can see where it will be stitched down in a new location.

Here is the finished hand stitched dart.

Of course I had to do the same thing on the other side, this time cutting around a cherub's head.

I used a combination of invisible stitches, embroidery stitches, and even darning to blend the new dart into the design. Here you can see some darning in process, as I weave the needle back and forth to strengthen the fabric.

Both darts were worked completely by hand and the effect is just what I wanted: soft shaping on the front and no interruption in the pattern.
Adjustable snapping shoulder straps and side ties, and other fun features complete this summery blouse which you can see at left, (in photos taken before pressing, sorry) and the  Finished Blouse Here.