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Week 6: Felt iPad Sleeve

I am horribly, terribly behind in my blogging.  I have projects coming out of my ears and little time to photograph and blog about it, so I’m going to post not one, but TWO different projects today.  First up – the felt iPad sleeve.

I was recently out of town for a week (part of the reason I’m so far behind, along with a wholesale order for 52 hats) and found that I needed a quick and easy-to-make sleeve for my iPad.  I had felt and a half hour of time and whipped one up. 

First, I layered four pieces of felt.  I was limited with colors, and I decided that black would be a good choice so any travel grime didn’t show as much.  I also decided that I needed a double layer of felt, so I went with two pieces of black, and one piece each of red and yellow.  Then I set the iPad on top and trimmed the felt to 8.5″ x 11″.

For embellishment, I traced some rough flower shapes onto the black felt (on the wrong side), and trimmed them out.  I found a real time-saver was to fold the felt lengthwise down the center of the flower petal, and then cut a sort of crescent shape.  Just be careful you don’t cut into the next petal (which I did on one piece…that landed in the scrap pile).  I positioned one of the flower shapes at the edge because I wanted to use the button as part of my closure, and then I sewed the buttons to the center of the flowers. (Forgive this next photo – I was rushing and not paying attention to my camera skills, not that I have any camera skills to speak of…sorry.)

I layered each black outer piece on top of the colored felt and used Fabric-tac to adhere them and then used embroidery floss and blanket stitch to sew three sides together.  That was my first time doing blanket stitch – it’s not my prettiest work, but I wanted something fast and that did the trick.  Finally, I sewed a piece of emboidery thread to the top edge and knotted the end so that I could wrap it around the button to close the sleeve.

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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.

 

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.

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.

Week 3: Hexagon Yarn Wreath

Yarn wreaths.  They’re everywhere.  Handmade goodness to match my decor for every season and holiday?  Sign me up! 

I’ve wanted to try one for a while but have been thwarted by the idea of wrapping, and wrapping…and wrapping, through the center of a wreath.  Let’s not forget that I’m a huge fan of convenience and immediate satisfaction.  I’ve seen some industrious crafters use pipe insulation as a wreath form with some undesireable results.  The insulation offers little support and ends up distorted.  I think I’d have a stroke if I spent all that time dickering around with the wrapping only to come back the next day to a twisted mess of a wreath.

We recently built a pole barn on our property and I found a piece of pipe insulation laying in the garage.  Hmmm.  How do I turn this into a wreath?  Better still, how do I make it easier to wrap?  I had my husband pick up four pieces of pipe insulation in various widths.  Total investment – under $10, which is a lot more economical than the $5 styrofoam forms I’ve seen at the craft store. 

The insulation stood in the corner of my dining room for a few weeks.  Every so often, I’d take a length and twirl it around, trying to imagine how to work this flimsy stuff into a nice, circular wreath.  And then a though occured – what it…it wasn’t a circle?

I let the idea stew for a few days, and eventually came up with a plan.  I would make a six-sided wreath from the pipe insulation, but I’d work it in two halves to speed up the wrapping process.

Here’s how I did it.

First, I selected the 3/4″ insulation and cut it into six eight inch lengths.

Then, using my handy cutting mat with the angles already marked, I snipped each end at a 60 degree angle.  The part was a bit tricky.  The insulation is circular and wants to roll, so you have to be sure your angles match up on each end or you’ll end up with a twisted wreath.

Next, I glued three of the pieces together at the mitered corners and repeated with the other three pieces.  At this point, I used some packing tape to further reinforce the corners.  If I had duct tape handy, I would have used that instead, but I worked with what I had.  I laid the tape across the joint, and then cut a line up the center toward the joint so that I could wrap the tape neatly.  (The red marks show where I cut.)

I decided to nip off the corners a bit to reduce the bulk and aid in wrapping, and then I added more tape.

Here are the two halves of the wreath, ready to be wrapped  (this was before I nipped the corners).

Once I had the frame assembled, it was time to wrap.  I chose a chunky acrylic yarn in a creamy color, figuring that the chunky yarn would make for faster wrapping.  I started about two inches from the end, and wrapped, and wrapped…and wrapped.  Every ten wraps or so, I stopped to snug the yarn together so that the pipe insulation didn’t who through, and then I stopped a few inches from the end.

I glued, taped and trimmed the remaining corners, finished wrapping, and then glued the yarn ends on the back to secure.

I cut some simple felt flowers and leaves, glued the center of an old button to the flower, and added some sheer yarn as a hanger.  Ta-da! 

Week 2: Puff Quilt

This week I decided to tackle one of the more complicated projects on my list.  A few months ago, I thought (with way too much optimism) that I would attempt one with no pattern and little sewing machine experience.  Six squares in, I realized it wasn’t going to happen.  FAIL.

I bought my sewing machine on clearance about 10 years ago when a local fabric store was going out of business.  It’s a very basic Janome machine – perfect for me because I don’t know how to use any of the fancy features on the more expensive machines anyway.  I made a pillow and then the machine sat idle for the next ten years.  My experience with sewing was limited to what little knowledge I picked up in my sixth grade home ec class.  I finally pulled it out again last year when I tried to make a pillowcase dress for one of my daughters.  I’ve picked up little projects here and there but the puff quilt is by far the most ambitious sewing project I’ve ever attempted.

When I first saw one of these on Pinterest, I was hooked.  I scoured the web for a suitable pattern.  I wanted the squares to be, well, SQUARE, and not rounded like some of the biscuit quilts I’ve seen.  I thought about pulling together different tutorials and cobbling together my own pattern, but let’s be honest – I don’t have enough sewing or quilting experience to try to reinvent the wheel.  I stumbled upon a pattern by Honeybear Lane that looked exactly like what I was hoping to achieve.

The pattern looked pretty simple and straightforward with lots of photos and easy-to-follow steps.  I spent WAY too much time at the craft store selecting the material.  (Confession:  I loved every minute of it.  I could spend DAYS looking at fabric.)  I had my youngest daughter in mind and wanted to pull together some pink, green, black and white.

The pattern was so ridiculously easy to follow and saved me countless headaches that I would have had from trying to go it alone.  The minky fabric – that’s a different story.  I mumbled a LOT of foul words under my breath as I fought with it.  I had to dismantle my sewing machine to clean out all of the lint it left behind.

The trickiest part of this project was the border and the binding.  The binding ended up a bit twisted despite my best efforts to pin it properly.  I think I didn’t stuff the quilt inside it enough, and I also didn’t use a walking foot (trust me, it’s on my wish list now).  The entire project took less than a week to finish, and that was working on it for only a few hours here and there.

I really, really want to make a queen sized version for my own bed (ya know…in all that spare time I have with five kids running around.  Yes, I said five.  Yes, I know I’m crazy, thanks.), but there are a few things I’d do differently.

  • As much as I love the look of the minky, I would skip it.  The chenille was easier to work with but was bulky and hard to handle at times.
  • I’d use a little less stuffing in the puffs.  I had a difficult time trying to muscle them together.
  • I’d consider making larger squares for the puffs on a larger quilt.
  • When I sewed all four sides of each border piece, they twisted slightly.  Not sure if that’s because I didn’t use a walking foot or if my stitches were too close or just a product of my own inexperience, but I might attempt to sew only the edge of the border that meets the quilt edge and then sew the binding and outside edge of the border all at the same time.

Want to make one for yourself?  I’d highly recommend Heidi’s tutorial from Honeybear Lane.

Okay.  So I couldn’t wait until January to start my challenge.  Like everything else, once I get an idea in my head, I can’t let it go.  There are no shortage of ideas clanging around in this head…just a shortage of time.

Crochet is my first love.  Not long after I learned, I jokingly told my husband that I wished I could make a living from crochet.  Thanks to etsy, that dream became a reality.  It’s the perfect job – I work from home around my kids’ schedules and my couch is my office.

I make a LOT of hats.  I’m also a big fan of ease and immediate satisfaction.  I like being able to make something QUICK without too much fuss.  This little chunky beanie is the perfect project for that.  The hat can be made in about 15 minutes and is a great blank slate for embellishment.  I decided to try a felt flower this time because I love the crisp lines in contrast to the softness of the crochet stitches. 

Enough chatter.  Let’s get down to business.  I’m splitting this into two parts – the hat and the flower.

SIMPLE CHUNKY BEANIE

MATERIALS

  • Bulky weight acrylic yarn (I used Deborah Norville Premier Serenity in Pristine)
  • Size P crochet hook
  • Yarn Needle

 SIZES

            0-3 months (3-6 months, 6-12 months)

 NOTES

            Pattern is worked in joined rounds. 

 The first ch3 at the beginning of each round counts as the first dc.

 PATTERN

 Ch 4.

 1:  Make 9 (10, 11) dc in fourth chain from hook. Join with sl st to top of first dc.

 2:  Ch 3, dc in same space.  2dc in each st around.  Join with sl st to top of first dc.  20 (22, 24) sts

 3:  Ch 3, dc in next st and in each st around.  Join. 

 4:  Repeat previous row 2 (3, 4) more times.

 Finish off and weave in loose ends.

Pretty easy, right?

And now for the flower.

FELT FLOWER TUTORIAL

MATERIALS

  • Craft Felt
  • Embroidery floss
  • Embroidery needle
  • Scissors
  • Button

First, I cut the felt into three circles of increasing size.  The circles, once cut into petals, will nest inside one another.

Next, I cut petals into each circle.  I just freehanded this part, but you can use a template it that’s easier.

I also cut out some leaf shapes and then I stacked the petal layers on top of one another. 

I sewed on the button using embroidery floss and I also added some veins to the leaves, and then I sewed the leaves to the flower.

And finally, I sewed the flower to the hat.

That’s all there is to it.  Enjoy! 🙂