Welcome to my first posting of a MAN CRAFT! Having done a scientific online survey of a large number of randomly chosen males, I can state with certainty that most men are highly attracted to bacon in pretty much any form.
Oh hell, I’m not an idiot. I knew that without conducting any kind of survey, and so did you. Now let’s do something about it.
Technically speaking, any craft could be a man craft. (But not a MAN CRAFT – those are a particular kind of craft. Those of you familiar with LoadingReadyRun, imagine Morgan vanHumbeck doing an episode of Man Cooking. That’s the voice you should be reading those words in.)
As I was saying, I’ve heard a lot of guys lately insisting that they can knit too, you know. Why, I hear some of them even know how to cook and do laundry! Seriously, if a woman can use a drill, a man can use knitting needles. Or a sewing needle. Even a shrimp peeler.
This craft takes one of those men-can-do-it-too crafting techniques and makes it not merely manly, but MANLY.
Allow me to introduce you needle felting. Wherein you take some raw wool and a small, very sharp barbed needle, and you repeatedly stab the one with the other. HOW COULD THIS NOT BE AWESOMELY FUN AND AWESOMELY MANLY??
What you will need (don’t freak out at the couple of weird items listed – I’ll explain them & where to get them. I swear this is a simple and inexpensive craft.)
– foam (2 squarish pieces at least 1 inch thick and roughly 5 or 6 inches wide. Larger is fine. If it’s 2 or more inches thick you only need one piece.
– duct tape (if your foam is less than 2 inches thick)
– raw wool in reddish-brown (bacon-coloured), white and a tiny bit of pale yellow (optional) (You can find this online – various companies and also some Etsy sellers carry it – or in yarn, wool and even some craft shops. Your best bet is corriedale wool – originally from New Zealand. It’s the best value (ie: the cheapest) and usually comes in a large variety of colours. It’s great for needle felting.)
– 2 medium felting needles (as you can see from the photo, these are particularly long, sharp needles, with barbs on the ends. You can find them at many crafting stores such as Michael’s, Hobby Lobby and Joanne’s, or at a wool or yarn shop. For this project you’ll only need a medium sized felting needle, but get two, in case one of them breaks. It happens, especially when you’re first getting the hang of needle felting.)
– a small sewing needle
– straight pins (that just means normal stick-stuff-together pins, the ones people use in sewing projects.)
– white thread
– reddish-brown thread (to match your bacon-coloured wool)
– scissors (adequate for cutting fabric)
– snap fasteners (also inexpensive, available at dollar, craft and fabric stores. Alternately, you could use velcro, but it might make a mess of your wool, and it’s more of a pain to hand sew to things.)
– felt (in black or another colour of your choice. It’ll form the bracelet’s backing, on the inside. You can get 8.5 by 11 sheets of coloured felt for about 50 cents in dollar and craft stores.)
– a large pan, basin, bowl etc. – something with a wide, flat base is best (alternately, you can just use your sink)
– dish soap
– a sushi mat, bubble wrap, or something else that’s flat and a bit textured
Ok, I know that seems like a long list, but it’s all pretty inexpensive stuff, or stuff you probably have around the house already.
There are 3 parts to this craft. While it seems like a lot of instructions, all these steps go by pretty quickly, especially once you get the hang of them. So while there are a lot of steps, it’s still (I swear) a relatively simple project. As well as completely awesome.
Part 1 – needle felting
1) Start with your foam. If you got two pieces less than 2 inches thick each (or one piece that you’ve cut in half), stack them and put duct tape around the edges to hold them together.
2) Gather your wool rovings. You’ll want to start with a few strips of red and a few of white. This stuff pulls apart very easily. Lengthwise, you can either cut it or pull it apart. You’ll want to start with a length a couple inches longer than the circumference of your wrist, so the bracelet will fit properly when you’re done.
3) Lay strips of red and white down on the foam. You can alternate the colours, criss cross them, whatever. It’s meant to look like bacon, so you decide what that means. Put as much fat (white wool) or meat (red wool) as you like in your bacon.
4) Take your felting needle and start jabbing it into the wool. The needle will catch on the wool as you pull it out, essentially weaving the wool into itself.
The #1 rule of needle felting is: never take your eyes off the needle. It’s sharp. It’s barbed. You don’t want it in your finger. Trips to the emergency room are not manly, they’re a pain in the ass. And they tend to piss off your girlfriend/wife/mother. As does bleeding on the carpet.
5) Continue jabbing at the wool. You’ll pretty much continue this until you’re satisfied that your wool looks like a strip of bacon and is well stuck together. You can add more white or red as you wish, where you wish. Throw in a tiny bit of yellow, or, if you want really crispy-looking bacon, some black along the edges.
Do not turn the felt over and jab from the other side. It’ll make both sides look a bit off, with awkward bits of felt sticking through at odd angles. With this project, there is a definite front side and a back side.
If you feel your bacon is too thin, or there’s not enough wool on the underside to get the fibers to mesh, simply put some more rovings underneath the strip of bacon and jab them into place from the top side.
You can pick up the strip of rovings every so often so it doesn’t get too stuck to the foam. Tug it gently and it’ll come right up.
6) Tuck the ends under and jab them into place. There, that is some technical jargon for you. Really though, just tuck ’em under and stab with your needle till you have nice rounded or squared-off ends. Make sure your bacon is the right length for your wrist. It needs to overlap by an inch or so in order to put the fastening on.
Part 2 – wet felting
1) Get a flat-bottomed basin or pan big enough for your bacon. If you have a sushi mat or some bubble wrap or something else with texture (that can get wet), put that in the bottom of the pan. If not, don’t worry, this should still work ok.
2) When it has been sufficiently needle felted, put your bacon in the pan.
3) Pour a bit of dish soap on top of your bacon. Not too much. A little goes a long way. And you can add more if necessary.
4) Pour a bit of hot water on top of the soapy bacon. Again, not too much. You want the bacon to be wet through, but not drowning.
5) Rub the bacon with your fingers, working up a lather. Gently but vigorously – those are the adjectives here. Yeah yeah, you know what I’m talking about. The idea is to further lock the various fibers together. You don’t want to rub so hard as to pull things apart (unlikely anyway – the wool should be fairly well intertwined by now) or mess up your design, but you do want to really get all those fibers further intermingled.
6) Turn the bacon over and rub the other side. If you have it, the sushi mat/bubble wrap/other textured surface will help with the whole mix-the-fibers-together process.
You only need to do this a couple times on each side. You’ll probably feel the bacon getting thinner, but that’s ok.
7) Rinse out the soap with cold water. Squeeze your bacon out. You can wrinkle it up and give it a good squeeze – it shouldn’t hurt your project, fragile as it may feel at this point.
8) Pour hot water over the bacon. Squeeze it out.
9) Alternate steps 7 and 8 – cold and hot water – two or three times. This helps the wool to shrink and really lock into place.
10) Squeeze your bacon out and hang to dry. It’ll need at least a couple hours (depending on thickness) to dry completely, maybe longer. I leave mine overnight. You can use a hairdryer to speed the process if you’re getting impatient.
Part 3 – making it wearable
1) Pin your bacon onto a piece of felt.
2) Cut around the edges of the bacon, as closely as possible.
3) Sew snap fasteners (or velcro) onto each end. One gets sewn onto the felt at one end, the other is sewn to the bacon on the other end. You can sew through both layers (bacon and felt) if you wish, but it won’t look quite as clean.
Depending on your tastes and the size of your bacon slice, you can use two small fasteners or one larger one.
4) Using your bacon-coloured thread, sew around the outside of the bacon, attaching the two layers.
I use the red thread for the outside bits of bacon that are, in fact, red, and switch to white anywhere that has white “fat” along the outside edge of the bacon, so that the thread is as invisible as possible. Whether or not you want to get that nitpicky is up to you.
Part 4 – wear with pride
And wait for your friends to gasp, “Is… is that… bacon?”
[Note: Yes, I do have some of these bacon bracelets for sale in my Etsy store, just in case you don’t actually want to make one yourself, or in case you wish to support yet another semi-employed not-quite-starving artist.]
And feel free to get creative outside of the bacon mold. You can use different colours for nice, abstract wrist bands, or try out patterns and images.