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Week 12: Rag Quilt

This week I wanted to make something for Alexis, my two and half year old.  Rag quilts – they’re quick and easy and they take everything you know about traditional quilting and throw it out the window.  I whipped this one up in less than a day.

First, I picked up some cotton flannel at the fabric store.  I wanted one of the squares and the back of the quilt to be a solid pink color, so I bought three yards of that and a yard each or a light stripe, dots, and elephant print.  Some of the tutorials I’ve seen for these call for using batting between the squares, which also means sewing an ‘X’ in the center of each square.  I skipped this step entirely and used a second layer of pink flannel both for additional warmth and also more fringe-y raggedy goodness.

I squared up my fabric and cut out 6″ blocks.  My quilt is 8 blocks wide by 6 blocks high, so I cut 48 each of pink backing and middle, and 12 each of my four front blocks.

I started by laying out rows of backing, topped it with rows of the middle fabric, and then finished with the pattern blocks on top of that. 

Starting at the bottom right corner, I grabbed two blocks, held them WRONG sides together (see what I mean about quilting rules be damned), and sewed along one side with a 3/4″ seam allowance.  The I grabbed the next two and sewed them together, and so (sew) on until I had one complete row.  Notice that there’s no pinning involved yet?  Once I had all six rows done, I pinned two rows, again with the WRONG sides together.  I made sure to pin and open each seam so that I could sew over the top.  The bundle was sewn with a 3/4″ seam allowance.  I repeated this until the entire thing was assembled.  I don’t have pictures of these steps because my camera battery decided to crap out mid-project and I was done by the time it charged.

Now for the tedious part – cutting all of the raw edges of fabric to get that rag look.  Longest part of the project, and my hand is STILL sore, but totally worth the effort.

Here’s what it looks like before washing.

And here’s the finished product.  Lex adores her new blanket.


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This week I made another project for Ava.  It seems like the newest baby is always the one that ends up as the focus of my crafting efforts.  There’s just so much adorable baby stuff out there that I can’t stand it.

These are reversible Mary Jane baby booties.  I love that there are no raw edges on the inside like some other patterns.  The pattern is available from Sweet Pea Patterns on Etsy.  It was super easy to follow with lots of photos and options for the ribbon tie, strap closure or elastic.

Here’s what the reverse looks like.

Ava seemed to enjoy them.  I had a hard time getting a photo of her wearing them because she decided to try to jump as my husband was holding her up.

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My youngest munchkin doesn’t have much hair yet, and in an effort to keep people from mistaking her for a boy (how many boys wear pink outfits?), I whipped up a little flower headband.  I like this design because the elastic is wide enough that it doesn’t leave a dent in her head but not too wide that it engulfs her skull.  I got the elastic from Bitsy Bands, and they’ve got tons of different styles.

Gather up some felt and elastic.

Cut out three 2.5″ circles from your felt.

Cut a spiral into each circle, leaving a little oval shape in the very center.

Starting at the outside edge, start rolling your felt.  I sort of squish it down between my fingers as I roll so that it spreads out the petals a little.  When you get to the end, use a little blob of Fabri-tac on the bottom to hold the petals together, and press the oval down to cover it.

Repeat with the other felt spirals and then cut out a rectangle of green felt.  This serves two purposes – it acts as a backing for your flowers, and you can trim the edges into leaf shapes.

Cut out the leaf edges and glue your flowers to the center.  Sew your elastic securely.  It doesn’t have to look too pretty because your flower cluster is going to cover it. 

I used a little embroidery floss to sew the cluster to the headband.  You can also cut a small oval of felt and glue it on to cover the sewing, but I didn’t bother.

The elastic is super soft and stretchy, and when I popped this onto Ava’s head and she didn’t even notice it. 

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My tiniest clone is just about seven months old and still hasn’t popped a tooth yet.  She’s been drooling at a rate of about 3 gallons per hour though, so I think she’s getting close.  Bib changes are pretty frequent around here, and I knew it was time to whip up some new ones when I found myself reaching for a Christmas bib because all other options were in the wash or soaked with drool.

Gather your supplies.  You’ll need:

  • Fabric of choice (a fat quarter will make four bibs)
  • Cotton chenille stripe fabric
  • a glass or other round 3.5″ object
  • velcro
  • a sewing machine

Layer your fabric and chenille, right sides together and cut it to 8×10″.  Be sure when you’re lining it up the the fabric and chenille in the directions that you want them.  I like my chenille stripes to be horizontal, and for this bib, I wanted the fabric stripes to be vertical.  The longer length is the vertical measurement.

Use your glass (mine was my beloved Yuengling lager pint glass) to trace rounded edges at each corner.  Center the glass about 1.75″ down from the top edge and trace a circle.  Trace a line from the middle of the top edge into the circle. 

Now start cutting.  I like to throw a few pins in the layers to keep them from slipping around. 

Once all your cuts are made, it’s time to sew.  I pinned the edges and sewed all around with a 1/4″ seam allowance, making sure to leave about a 2-3″ opening along one side so you can turn your bib inside out.  I used a pencil to get into the corners when I turned it inside out because the top pieces can be a little tricky.

Fold the edges of the opening under and pin in place, then press your bib.  Add the Velcro and top stitch with a narrow seam allowance around the edges.

The great thing about this bib is that you can use the chenille side for very heavy droolers, or the fabric side for the more fashionable baby.  If you want to make several at once, you can layer, trace and cut them all at the same time, just be sure the right sides are together because it makes it easier to line up to sew.

Here’s Miss Ava modeling her new bib.  It took about 4 seconds for her to drool on it.  🙂

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Bonus post!

A few years ago, a friend asked me to crochet him a blanket with the Penn State logo on it. I’m ALWAYS a sucker for a challenge and I set out to find a way to do it. After a lot of trial and error with some graph paper, I came up with a suitable graph pattern.

Once I figured out HOW, I used the same concept to create the pattern for my love afghan. That pattern is available here as a ravelry download if you’d rather cut right to the chase.

I used the same technique to make a custom blanket for a boat.

And initial baby blankets.

And a wedding gift for my sister.

And a personalized afghan for an etsy customer.

Yeah.  I’ve made a few, so…how the heck do you do it?

1.  What are you making?

The first thing you need to do is visualize your concept. What are you making?  What are the dimensions? Will it have a border? Now – make a sketch of what you have in mind. Add the dimensions. For example, let’s make 3’ x 2.5’ baby afghan with a granny border.

2.  Consider the details.

I want the granny border on my afghan to be about 6” all around, so I added those measurements to my sketch.  That will bring my central area to 24” x 18”.  This will be my actual “canvas” size.

What’s going on your canvas?  For this tutorial, I’m going to use my daughter’s name.  How do you want it to look?  There are tons of free fonts available, but the easiest way to start is to use basic block type letters.  Consider the orientation.  I want the name to be centered on this afghan, and I want to leave some space around the edges of the name so that it doesn’t bump right up against the border.

3. Crochet a sample swatch.

I like to stick with an ‘H’ hook and worsted weight yarn when I’m doing these types of projects because of the color changes.  If you use a larger hook, the weave will be loose and won’t conceal the carried yarn as well. Crochet a single crochet sample square about 5” x 5”.  Cut a piece of paper 4” square and lay it on top of your swatch.  Count the number of stitches across the top of the paper, and the number of rows along the side.  I ended up with 11 stitches and 13 rows for a 4” square.

4.  Calculate your stitches and rows.

Going back to my sketch, I see that the afghan will be 24” x 18” BEFORE I add the border.  (Width in inches/4) x number of stitches across your 4” swatch = the number of stitches across you’ll need, in this case (24/4)x11 = 66 stitches.  So, to start your pattern, you’ll need to chain 67 stitches, and then work 66 sc across the chain.

Now for the height – (Height in inches/4) x number of rows in your 4” swatch = total rows, or (18/4) x 13 = 58.5, rounded to 59 rows.

66 Stitches, 59 rows – this is the total size of the “canvas” area.

5.  Make your graph.

There are two ways to do this.  If you have graph paper handy, tape a few sheets of it together.  I prefer to use Excel and resize the cells into little squares, that way I can add numbers along the edges so I know exactly how many rows and stitches I have at a glance – in this case, 66 wide x 59 high.  I resized the cells to 15×15 pixels and formatted them with the dotted line outline.  I reduced the margins, changed the layout to landscape, and set it to print on a single page. If your afghan is larger, you’ll want to set it to print on several pages and tape them together or risk going blind looking at those tiny squares.  Each square represents one single crochet.

Print out your graph.

6.  Chose your font and print your wording.

I like to create my word in Photoshop because I usually have to manipulate and stretch it to fit.  Thicker, bold fonts work well.  Remember – you’re essentially drawing with little boxes, so if you use a very delicate, curly font, you’ll see a lot of distortion and pixilation when you actually crochet it.  For this example, I used Garamond font and increased the font to fill the page.  After I printed it, I went around the edges of the letters with a marker to make them a little thicker.  My printer also decided to run out of ink, hence the messy fill job with a marker.

7.  Trace your pattern onto your graph.

For this step, line up your graph paper on top of your lettering.  Be sure to leave some space around the edges so that the word isn’t scrunched too close to your border.  I like to leave a minimum of five stitches or five rows on the sides, top and bottom.  Once you have it positioned to your liking, staple the pages together so that they’re not sliding around.  Use a pencil to lightly trace the outside edges of the letters onto your graph paper.  You might have to hold the pages up to the light to see through your graph.

8.  Fill in your graph.

Now comes the tricky part.  You’ll want to blacken the squares that are inside of the outline.  For curves and angles, you may need to finesse it a bit to make it work.  A rule of thumb that I use is that if at least half of the square is within the border, blacken it.  I like to start in the center of the letters and work outward, making adjustments as I go.  I use the outline as a rough guide and sometimes make little changes if something looks off.

And there’s your template!

Great!  Now what?

Remember how many stitches across you had?  I’ve got 66, so I’ll start by making a chain of 67 stitches.  Single crochet back across the chain.  This is row 1 of your pattern which you’ll work from bottom to top.  As you come up into your pattern, you’ll be changing colors.  Each box is a stitch, and the blackened boxes are your second color.  When you come to the new color, work your stitch as normal to the last step, then drop your first color, pick up your new color, and finish your stitch.  Continue sc until your next color change.  Crochet over the TOP of the old color so that you can carry the yarn along under your stitches so that it stays hidden and you can pick it back up at the next color change.  Once you’re done you can add the border of your choice to finish it.


UPDATE – August 30, 2013

Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve had a ton of interest about this post and lots of questions.  I decided to make a video which shows how I do the color changes as well as how I carry the yarn.  You can find the video here –

I’ve since also added the alphabet graph pattern to my crochet shop.  I includes all 26 capital letters already graphed out for you.  You can find it at hookaholicpatterns.etsy.com

I’m also going to address some of the questions I’ve gotten here:

Your blankets are beautiful! I would love to make one. The directions are going right over my head. lol. when you switch colors, do you tie the new one onto the old like when making a regular blanket? Or do you just start crocheting with the new color. Thank you.

I never tie any of my yarns – it makes an unsightly knot and weak spot.  I work the stitch to the last step and then pull the new color through.

 What do you mean “carry the yarn”?

I like to carry my main or background color from end to end, meaning that when I come to an area where I need to change to another color, I work OVER the yarn which essentially conceals it, locks it under the stitches and carries it along until I’m ready to use it again.  I generally only carry this main color to avoid adding bulk and weird puckering to the blanket.

 I am sitting here with my graph and my swatch. I’ve crocheted the first several rows. Now I’m up the to color changes and I’m having a freak out moment over turning my work. I’m assuming you never turn? Do you work left handed to go back acrosd or do you fasten off and start back over on the right side every time? Hoping this isn’t a horribly dumb question. Thank you in advance for your much awaited reply!

 You absolutely turn your work!  When you first start your graph, you’ll begin in the lower right hand corner of the chart and work to the left.  When you get to the end of the row, turn your work and then work the next row of the chart from left to right.


Steph- any chance your Penn State pattern is for sale? My sister-in-law is an alumni, and I’d love to add that to a baby blanket for her baby on the way! Let me know, thank you so much!

Unfortunately, no.  Due to copyright/trademark considerations, I would not be able to profit from selling the pattern.  To be honest, I didn’t save the graph from the pattern. 😦


I am having trouble when it comes to making a chart to make a longhorn for the Texas Longhorns. Do you use just regular graph paper like you can get at Wal-Mart? If so, it just doesn’t seem to be enough squares for me to make the graph. I am making a very large blanket…about 10′ x 8′, so I need a big longhorn. Lol.

You could use regular graph paper if you have some.  If you need more squares, just tape a few sheets together until you have enough for your chart.


Looks awesome! Thank you for the information.. I have a question.. In the sample you have 6 lines but have written 13 rows.. I’m confused. Please excuse my ignorance.

What you’re seeing is actually two sets of stitches – one going one way and then the other above of it when the work is turned. 



Would you graph a custom pattern for me for a charge?

Depending on the pattern and how complicated it is, I would need a few hours to create a pattern, and transfer it into Excel to make a PDF file.  Because of the cost consideration of time involved, I am not currently taking orders for custom patterns.


Hi am try to do a blanket using a graph my blanket is going to be all black with a oakland raiders logo on it and so i was wondering if i should do the whole blanket in single crochet or should i do hdc.i need help.

Well, that depends.  Keep in mind if you make the graph using perfect squares and then decide to do your afghan in hdc, you’re going to distort and stretch your image as hdc stitches are taller than sc stitches.  If you use an Excel spreadsheet to elongate your stitches, then yes, you can make it in hdc.  Several of my afghans are done in hdc because I like that they’re faster to complete.  Just my preference, but I do have some others that are done in single crochet.  You’ll be able to get a more detailed image with single crochet.

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Who has two thumbs and is a week late on this blog?  THIS CHICK!

I’m finally sitting down with my coffee and cranking out this post while the kids are in bed.

Have I mentioned that Pinterest is the devil?  Well, it is.  It’s the Mother Time Vampire, enabling craft addiction.  I love it.

Anyway, over the weekend, I made not one, but TWO baskets. 

The first was inspired by this tutorial by Design Sponge.  There’s never a shortage of packing materials around here and the finished basket just looked so awesome that I had to try it.

My paper strips were a bit shorter, so my basket is a bit more shallow.  That’s fine, because what I really wanted was a place to store some spare diapers and wipes.  Also, because the strips were shorter, I fashioned a kind of rim around the top since there wasn’t enough strip left to tuck inside.  I just used a double length of paper strip, folded it lengthwise down the middle, and hot glued it over the top edge.  Fast, easy, cheap.  That’s my kind of project.

The second basket was based on The Stitchin’ Chicken’s fabric basket/bucket tutorial.  I was digging around in my fabric stash (which is pretty lean compared to the yarn stash), and found two fat quarters left over from the puff quilt project.  Once I actually squared the pieces up, they measured 20″ x 16″.  I cut a piece of kraft paper to that size and then experimented with folding up the edges until I found a depth that I liked. 

 The sides were about 4 1/2″ high.  I cut out a square of paper 4 3/4″ (the 1/4″ was for the seam allowance), and used the square as a template to cut the corners of the fabric and batting so that I ended up with a kind of  cross shape.  And then I followed the tutorial (minus the handles).  I couldn’t decided which pattern I liked better on the outside, so after fiddling around with it for a bit and turning it inside out and back I few times, I learned it didn’t matter.  Once sewn, you can flip it inside out to whatever color suits your mood or decor that day.  I want to make lots and lots of these and drop them all over the house to catch clutter, toys, hair bands, and all the other stuff that five kids strew around the house.  Our stairs are abnormally wide, so I might make a few for every other stair.

Next project – um….who knows?  Hopefully it’ll be within the next day or two if I’m not too busy trolling around on Pinterest.

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Week 4: Granny Square Purse

Another week, another project.  Actually, two projects!  I was really excited about this one.  A few weeks ago, I picked up the purse handles on one of my trips to Joann Fabric.  (Yes, it’s an addiction.  No, you’re not allowed to judge.)  A friend of mine also posted a link on my facebook about making your own fabric garment labels.  I’ve never used labels for my hats because aside from being expensive, attaching them seems like a pain, and I suspect that most parents would probably cut the scratchy thing out before it even made it onto their kid’s head.  Anyway, I figured I’d give it a try for this particular project so that I could “brand” the purse.

First things first – the labels.  I whipped up a little graphic in Photoshop, then copied it to a new document and spaced out each label.  I chose to use color just to see how it would turn out.  Next, I took some plain white cotton fabric that I’d prewashed and ironed, and I cut it to 8 1/2″ x 11″ to match a sheet of paper.  I used a glue stick to stick it to the paper (a little dab’ll do ya), then I loaded it into the printer and said a prayer.  The fabric and paper did slip a bit going in, but all the labels printed onto the fabric.  I used a hot iron to set the ink and cut the labels to size, leaving a little room around the edges for stitching.  I’ve heard this method will only work with natural fibers because the ink will bounce right off synthetics.  I think it was beginner’s luck.  I fully expected my printer to jam.

The purse – Granny squares come in about a billion different varieties.  I strayed from the traditional square in favor of a floral motif.  I’m hung up on pink and green lately, so I incorporated the colors into the flower.  I used a size F crochet hook because I wanted the squares to be a bit more compact and dense without a lot of large holes.  I used the join-as-you-go method to join the squares together to form the body of the purse.  That was the easy part.

I wanted to line the bag and add a little pocket.  Have I mentioned my lack of sewing experience?  I learn as I go.  Sometimes it works, sometimes…not so much.  I used the bag as a template to cut the fabric to size.  I had a nice chunk of striped fabric leftover from the puff quilt project, so I used that.  Once it was cut to size, I folded the edges in about a 1/2″, pressed them and then sewed them.  For the pocket, I sewed two pieces of the fabric, right sides together, turned it inside out, pressed it, added my label with a zigzag stitch, then sewed twice around the edges with different seam allowance to attach it to the lining. 

I’ve never tried to sew fabric to a crocheted piece.  I couldn’t find my black thread and decided to use the pink that was already in my machine.  Not a great idea.  I had a few places where the bobbin thread kind of looped out on the front and it just looked…ugly.  I ripped it out and just hand-stitched (rather sloppily), the liner into the bag with black emroidery floss.  I added the handles last, but to be honest, they’re too big for the bag.  I think if I make another, I might try some kind of yarn handles instead.

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