I adore quirky statement pieces, and fabric is a very overlooked jewelry option for those without the equipment to do things like metalworking, laser cutting, and ceramics. I've also been intrigued by the idea of T-shirt necklaces in the past, but had previously failed to make them look like anything more than scraps draped around my neck. Giving the strands a design purpose via a charming little character was the solution!
This adorable squid is a great project for beginners and pros alike, since the techniques and tools used are pretty simple. It also gives you the opportunity to re-invent your favorite old T-shirts that you can't bring yourself to get rid of into unique jewelry that can continue to make you smile without cluttering up your closet.
Step 1: You Will Need
1 sheet Craft Felt
1 Old T-shirt --Preferably a color close to your felt. Thinner, well worn shirts tend to work best.
Thread in a contrasting color
Needle and straight pins
Rotary Fabric Cutter
Cutting Surface (such as a self healing mat or craft cutting board)
1 light colored button
1 smaller dark colored button --This will be layered on top of the light button to create an eyeball.
Fabric Glue --I used Crafter's pick for its thick and controllable consistency. Use whatever you like as long as it dries clear.
Toothpick or Craft Syringe --for fine glue application
Pencil and Paper
Step 2: Creating the Pattern
Keeping the squid's shape simple will lend a cute aesthetic to the piece.
Sketch a rounded cone shape.I suggest the length be approx. 4 inches so the felt head doesn't totally overwhelm the piece or become heavy.
Add 2 rounded eye sockets in the lower third of the cone shape. I traced a nickel to get a nice size and consistent curve. One of these eye sockets will house your button eye, and the other will read as a bump representing the eye that is turned away from us.
Cut your pattern free from the paper. To ensure perfect symmetry, you can fold the paper in half and cut along one edge of the squid outline.
Step 3: Felt Body Pieces
Trace your body pattern on to your felt 2 times. These will be the front and back of the squid.
Use fabric scissors to cut out your felt shapes.
Use needle and thread to attach your larger, light colored button within one of the eye sockets. Make sure to set the button slightly in from the edge so it is framed by the curve of the felt.
Now layer the darker, smaller button on top of the first button. Using a contrasting thread will create a nice little X or dash within the eye, which contributes to the cute, hand-crafted look.
Load your needle with thread that contrasts your squid body color.
Go around the border of the body with a decorative running stitch.
Secure thread on the back of the felt piece where it will later be unseen.
Step 4: T-Shirt Tentacles
Lay your scrap T-shirt out on your designated cutting surface.
Use your rotary fabric cutter to slice 1/2 inch strips across the torso of the shirt. If you want to be technically correct, squids have a total of 10 limbs. You may choose to do more or fewer dependent on the size of your squid's body. You just want to make enough so that the bottom edge of the body looks filled out.
Bundle your T-shirt strips together and then pull to stretch. The strips will lengthen and the edges will roll under to create nice rounded rings.
Put the rings over your head to test the length. If you want a long, draping necklace, you may choose to use the rings as is.
If you want a shorter necklace, use the rotary cutter to split the rings. Now you can re-tie the rings together at the length you prefer and snip away the excess tails.
Step 5: Sculpted Tentacles
Adding some tentacles with shape and curve will add life to this piece. Odd numbers almost always look more pleasing within a design composition, so aim for 3-5.
Cut 1 or 2 more rings from your T-shirt, then snip them in half to get long, straight strands. Pull to stretch as you did before.
Lay a strip raw edges up (where they curl together). Gluing on this side will help your spirals come together more neatly.
You can apply your fabric glue with a toothpick, or for greater control you could use a disposable syringe. For those new to using syringes for craft glue application, follow the steps below:
Remove the plunger from your syringe.
Squirt a little adhesive into the vial. You won't need very much for this project. I used Crafter's Pick, which is a clear drying multi media adhesive.
Replace the plunger.
Use the syringe tip alone or pop on an even finer metal tip for tiny jobs. You're ready to go! I like these because they give you very fine control of the adhesive and you won't be huffing fumes as you would with an open glue container.
Starting at one tip, apply a 2 inch line of fabric glue to the top edge of one strand.
Spiral the strand back on itself to create a coil. Repeat as needed to achieve the size of coil you want, leaving at least 1 inch of T-shirt strand free at the end.
Crafter's Pick is very thick and sticky, which helped the coils maintain their form while drying. If you use a different adhesive that is not holding the structure on its own, you can use pins or tape to secure the coil until the glue sets.
Merging different sized coils together, descending large to small, creates a very pleasing organic form. Apply glue to the back of one coil and press it on to the negative space just below another. Grouping tentacles in this way allows your fabric pieces to support each other, giving the piece structure. I suggest making a group of 3-5 coils for a 4 inch squid body.
Step 6: Suction Cup Beads
The final touch on the squid is to create little suction cups on the sculpted tentacles. Colorful seed beads are the perfect size and shape.
Using your toothpick or precision syringe tip, dot glue along what would be the underside of your coils. Apply a seed bead to each glue dot, laying it flat so the hole looks like the center of the suction cup. Do no more than 3 dots at a time so your glue doesn't toughen up before you can apply a bead. Allow glue to dry until clear
Wash metal tip immediately after use if you want to save it! Have a toothpick or wire on hand to clean adhesive out of the hole. Depending on the type of adhesive you use, you may also be able to salvage your plastic syringe for another time (most say "one time use" on them, but if you CAN recycle, why not?). For example something like Elmer's glue will soak away with water. E-6000 will not come out and you'll just need to use a fresh syringe next time.
Step 7: Assembly
First you will attach your group of coils to the body.
Flip the Front half of the body over to reveal the inside.
Apply fabric glue to the loose ends you left on your tentacle coils.
Press the loose ends to the lower half of the squid body. Allow to dry.
Sandwich the T-shirt rings between the front and back body pieces. If you have knots to conceal, put them inside the squid body.
Pin the body pieces together.
Using a matching thread color, use an overhand stitch to sew up each side of the body. Leave the top of the cone and the bottom edge of the body shape open. Note that to do this you will gather the strands coming out the top of the cone more tightly, while the strands coming out the bottom of the body will be more free flowing.
Now use your fingers to straighten the T-shirt strands coming out the bottom of the squid body, so that your sculpted coils can rest flat on top of them.
Gently lifting your coils out of the way, apply a thin layer of fabric glue to the T-shirt strands.
Press the coils down in place. Allow to dry thoroughly before wearing.
Doing this gives your coils a structured base and also ensures that your T-shirt strands stay locked in place. Any knots you have hidden inside the body stay hidden.
Step 8: DONE!
Now that you've mastered the Squid you can experiment with different colors and sizes to create one of a kind accessories for all the ocean enthusiasts and funky fashionistas in your life. Try using strands from a tie-dye shirt or rhinestones instead of seed beads to create even more fun variations.
If you enjoyed this Ible, consider sending a vote in the Jewelry Contest or the Full Spectrum Laser contest (getting a laser cutter could open a whole new world of squiddy possibilities). If you make your own squid or up cycle your old tees in another way, post it below in the comments!