December 18, 2014

Quick project tutorial: Record yarn bowls!

If you follow me on instagram, you may remember my excitement when I hit upon this idea many months ago:

Made a broken record into a yarn bowl! It's not perfect, but I think this concept could be awesome with some practice!

(caption: Made a broken record into a yarn bowl! It’s not perfect, but I think this concept could be awesome with some practice!)

A photo posted by Lee Meredith (@leethalknits) on

I had a broken record, so I made it into a bowl, but with a hole chipped out of it, and then I realized… I could thread yarn through the hole and use it as a yarn bowl!

Experimented a little more with the record yarn bowl idea - eeeek it's working!! Needs a bit more perfecting but I'm loving this idea! Thinking about both a blog tutorial and selling them around Portland... Fluevog store event is off to a great start! Fun to mix all my samples in with the fancy shoes. Come by before 9 if you're in portland!

So then I played around with the concept, made a bunch to bring to an event where I was selling things, but in the end decided it’s not something I’m going to make to sell as a regular thing.  Shipping would be annoying, and I wouldn’t be able to sell them for much since they do break pretty easily if you drop them, so they’re not like a long-lasting high-quality item (I sold them for $6 at the event, just a fun cheap impulse buy kind of thing).  They totally function as yarn bowls, but not to the same extent as nice ceramic bowls, since they are very lightweight and bounce around if the yarn ball pulls.

Record Yarn Bowl

What they are is a fun thing to make in 5 minutes for yourself and for knitting friends!  They are SO quick to make, and cheap if you have access to vinyl records no one wants to listen to (thrift stores, record store 50 cent or $1 bins, or sometimes records stores have free boxes in the front to give away crap nobody wants) – I imagine this being an easy project you can make a bunch of one afternoon, and bring them to your knit night to pass out for everyone as a fun holiday gift, or just for the heck of it!

Record Yarn Bowl

So, here’s what you need:

  • A vinyl record (one that’s too scratched up to listen to, or that no one would want – don’t melt anything good, it would make me cry!)
  • Scissors (big ones that are okay to use for this kind of thing, not nice ones obviously)
  • An oven
  • An oven-safe bowl
  • Gloves (things will only heat up to around 225 degrees, so knit wool gloves should be enough to protect your hands, while letting you use them) or oven mitts
  • Optionally, another bowl or two for shaping your yarn bowls into different shapes and sizes

Record yarn bowl tutorial shot

Before I make a bowl, I usually wash the record, with dish soap like a dish – it’s much easier to wash a flat record than to clean the bowl after it’s been made!

Record yarn bowl tutorial shot

Heat up the oven to around 225 degrees (anywhere from 200-250 should be fine). Turn your oven-safe bowl upside down, and place the record on top, then put that in the oven:

Record yarn bowl tutorial shot

While it’s in there, put on your gloves and get your scissors ready…

Record yarn bowl tutorial shot

Leave it in for about 2 minutes, or until you see it melt down over the bowl.  Don’t leave it in extra long, as it may get too melty and fume-y.  If you take it out as soon as it’s soft, the fumes shouldn’t be bad, but of course keeping the room ventilated is a good idea!

Record yarn bowl tutorial shot

So, take it out, and immediately make your cut, to form your hole for the yarn to go through.

Record yarn bowl tutorial shot

There are lots of different ways you can do this – the simplest is as you see below, just a straight line diagonally into the edge:

Record yarn bowl tutorial shot

Once the cut has been made, it will already be starting to harden back up again (by the time I took that above photo, it was already hardened), so put it back on the upside-down bowl and back into the oven for another couple minutes.

Record yarn bowl tutorial shot

When it’s re-softened, take it out and put it inside a right-side-up bowl (either the same one you’ve been using in the oven, or a different one), and form your bowl shape, and your yarn hole.

Record yarn bowl tutorial shot

For the bowl shape, remember your yarn needs to fit in there, so it can’t be crazy wavy in and out (which is how the record will naturally want to bend).  For the yarn hole, if you made a cut like the one pictured, then spiral the strip into a tube.

Record yarn bowl tutorial shot

For other kinds of yarn holes, just remember you’ll want to be able to get the yarn in and out, so make a hole with a slit or opening of some kind.  After the tutorial are lots of photos of different bowls I made while experimenting, so you can get ideas for different kinds of holes.

Record yarn bowl tutorial shot

Once things are formed, just hold it all in place how you want it for about a minute, and then it should be hardened up and finished!  If you mess it up somehow when forming the shape, just stick it back in the oven for a minute to re-soften.

Record yarn bowl tutorial shot

Here’s that finished bowl in action!

Record yarn bowl tutorial shot

You can also form bowl shapes around the outside of an existing bowl, if you want a different kind of yarn hole – I think this one was made that way, so it’s wider / more open:

Record Yarn Bowl

So that’s it, so easy and quick!  Now here are a bunch that I’ve made!

Record Yarn Bowl Record Yarn Bowl

Record Yarn Bowl Record Yarn Bowl

Record Yarn Bowl Record Yarn Bowl

Record Yarn Bowl Record Yarn Bowl

Record Yarn Bowl Record Yarn Bowl

Record Yarn Bowl Record Yarn Bowl

Record Yarn Bowl Record Yarn Bowl

Record Yarn Bowl Record Yarn Bowl

Record Yarn Bowl Record Yarn Bowl

Record Yarn Bowl Record Yarn Bowl

If you make some bowls, I would love to see them!  If you post a photo on instagram, @leethalknits to show me, or tweet @leethal, or add photos to my old leethal flickr group :)  Have fun!

Filed under: general crafts,gifts,home stuff,quick project,tutorials — leethal @ 11:10 am

January 16, 2014

Reconstructed hooded cardigan, with cuff tutorial!

New cardigan!

I started this project back in October of 2012, worked on it a little bit then, a little bit last spring, and then picked it back up and finished it over the last couple of weeks, finally!  Hooray!  I’m so excited to show it to you now!

New cardigan!

I got this ill-fitting but beautiful hand knit cardigan at a thrift store (4 years ago – wow time flies!), knowing I’d someday fix it up and make it wearable:

original sweater original sweater

Once I had my vision, deciding to use a heavier weight yarn for additions (around aran weight, versus the original sweater in maybe sport weight, I’d guess), and picking out this recycled sweater yarn (the same used in these either/or mittens), I got to the deconstructing.  I carefully removed all the edgings, one step at a time, and picked up stitches to knit on my new edgings.  On some parts I could use the actual live stitches, and on others I picked up stitches from sides.

sweater reconstruction close-up

It was all improvised, but I’ll tell you what I can, based on my crap memory and examining the piece now…

The first edging made was along the bottom – I unraveled those stitches, picked them up, decreased across to get a good stitch count in my heavier yarn to match up, and knit 1×1 rib for a few inches.

sweater reconstruction close-up

Then I picked up a chunk of stitches along the back of the collar, and began knitting those (also in 1×1 rib – all of my additions are 1×1 rib), picking up an extra couple of stitches every time I reached the end of a row.  So this resulted in short-row shaping, making the back of the collar the widest.

sweater reconstruction close-up

Once I had picked up down through the yoke, a couple stitches at a time like this, I picked up all the way down to the bottom on each side, ending the short row shaping for now.  I picked up the stitches closer together than I probably should have; I wanted the collar and front panels to be squishy and not pull in.  In the end, I see that I could have significantly reduced my picked up stitches along the fronts, and it still wouldn’t have pulled in, but it’s okay.

sweater reconstruction close-up

So then I knit around all these stitches (oh so many!  It took like an entire episode of a show to knit 1 row, as I’m extra slow in 1×1 rib) until the narrow front parts were a couple inches wide.  Then I made the triangle pockets on each side, using short rows:

sweater reconstruction close-up

After the pockets were done, I headed back up to the top and made the hood, shaped with short rows and decreases.  It turned out weird, and I learned from my mistakes for next time.  I like it enough to not frog and re-knit (omg the thought of taking it apart now that it’s all finished is awful) but it’s definitely not the best hood ever.  But hey, it functions!

New cardigan!

Basically, I decreased 4 stitches on every other row, because it was starting out so huge, so I thought that would be good, but I should have decreased 2, that would have made for a much nicer shape.  Lesson learned, and passed on to you.

New cardigan!

Once I finished the hood shaping, I knit back down to the bottom, and worked one last full row all the way around, then bound off.

One final row, then I bind off 289 1x1 rib stitches and am done with this long-term project! So excited to show it to you soon!

To finish the pockets, I folded them over to make a straight line with the edging above, and sewed them along the bottom.  I thought this would be it, but then they looked weird and needed to be stabilized, so I sewed them shut a couple inches on the tops and a couple inches on the bottoms, and now they are perfect!  Love them!

sweater reconstruction close-up

Lastly, the cuffs.  I actually took process photos so I can give you a full on tutorial for the cuffs!

Cuff tutorial step

Recycled sweaters are like snowflakes, every one is unique (not really), so this is how I did mine, but if you try to do the same, you’ll need to adjust according to your sweater’s specifics.

Cuff tutorial step

First, I tried unraveling the cuff from the edge, but, sadly, my particular hand knit sweater was knit from the cuff up, so it wouldn’t unravel.  Most recycled sweaters will unravel starting at the cuffs, so it will usually be much easier than this was.

Cuff tutorial step

Since I couldn’t unravel it, I grabbed my scissors and chopped it off, a few rows above where I wanted to pick up the stitches – I didn’t want to cut right up to the row I was going to pick up, and risk cutting too much, but this was kind of an unnecessary step, as I just ended up cutting again.  I could have picked up the stitches first, then cut once.

Cuff tutorial step

For your cuff project, you can either unravel all the way down to where you want your cuff to start, or cut it mostly off with scissors, then unravel the last couple rows, as that should normally work, with most sweaters.

Cuff tutorial step

I picked up my stitches, cut the rest off, picked off all the little bits of yarn stuck in there from cutting it, and had the stitches on the needles ready to knit – small needles, sized to match the original sweater yarn (not my heavier yarn).

Cuff tutorial step

Here is where I actually made a mistake with this cuff.  I made my first cuff over a year earlier, and had forgotten the details, so I slightly messed up on my second cuff.  I knew I had to decrease around, to get the stitch count down to match my bulkier gauge, so for the second cuff I decreased around during the very first round:

Cuff tutorial step

But this resulted in the cuff pulling in a bit at the join.  Damn.  Oops.  For the first cuff, I’d done it the right way: first, knit all stitches for one round in the new yarn, onto the bigger needles to match the new yarn.  Then, on the second new-yarn round, decrease around as needed to get a good stitch count in the new gauge.  This will prevent the join from pulling in.

Cuff tutorial step

Once the stitch count is right, work around (in 1×1 rib or the cuff stitch pattern of your choice) until it’s as long as you want it.  My cuffs are about 5 inches, around three times as long as the original cuffs on the ill-fitting cardigan.  Much better!

New cardigan!

So that’s that!  I chose not to put in buttonholes, since I wasn’t sure how the fit would be and I figured I could add closures later to fit best.  It works well closed with a shawl pin like you see at the top, or with 1-inch round pins like this:

New cardigan!

But I do plan to add some kind of permanent closure at some point; I’m thinking maybe a buckle of some kind, or toggles… we’ll see.  It’s fine for now!

New cardigan!

At the time when I first started this project, I began contemplating the idea of writing an ebook/collection of sort-of-patterns for this kind of thing – tutorials for taking apart reclaimed sweaters and knitting on new parts to make them into awesome new items.  The patterns would be better than this (this was an improvised experiment – if it was meant to be an actual design, the hood and other elements would be better!) and there would be lots of different kinds of projects, and different elements that could be mixed and matched together (like, pick your favorite pocket type, and collar type, etc).  Anyway, I currently don’t have solid plans to make this project happen, but I am still considering it for the future.

If this is something you’d be interested in, please let me know!  Either by commenting on this blog post, or by commenting over on the ravelry project page.  If there does seem to be a significant amount of interest, then I will start thinking about it for real and planning it.  Thanks!

Filed under: clothing,knitting,thrifty finds,tutorials — leethal @ 5:25 pm

December 17, 2013

Block puzzle tutorial!

A couple years ago, I made a gift for Disney princess loving Alicia, using wood blocks and pages from thrifted books.  I photographed the steps, and then forgot to blog it!  So here is how I made it – it only takes a few hours, so you have plenty of time to make one for a kid gift this season (I’d love to make one with something other than princesses, like baby animals, or cats, or pretty much any kind of animals…).

Or, you could make one bigger with more pieces (and/or harder by mixing up the blocks, as explained below) for an adult version, with like photos of yarn, or photos from a trip you took together… oh shoot, I’d never thought of that until right now – now I want to make a trip photo puzzle!!

Princess gift block puzzle

So, you need wood blocks (I got these at Michael’s), pictures to use (my princess pictures came from some cheap thrift store books), a paper cutter (or scissors if you’re careful, in which case you also need a ruler), Mod Podge and a brush for the Mod-Podge-ing, newspaper or something to protect your work surface, and optional Sparkle Mod Podge if you want a glitter finish.

Princess gift block puzzle

I started by making a template for the pictures; I used the cardboard packaging from the wood blocks, cutting the piece of thin cardboard to the size of the blocks all together in a rectangle:

Princess gift block puzzle Princess gift block puzzle

Then I used the template to cut out my pictures to that size:

Princess gift block puzzle Princess gift block puzzle

So now I had pictures of the exact size of the blocks all touching:

Princess gift block puzzle

I used four pictures, to make the puzzle a bit easier than if all six sides of the blocks had pictures, since she was pretty young when I made this.  Pictures on all sides of the blocks (six pictures total) would make for a harder puzzle.

Princess gift block puzzle

I carefully measured and cut the pictures into squares the size of the blocks (if you’re using a paper cutter, you should be able to measure directly on the cutter – if you’re using scissors, then you’ll need to measure with a ruler).

Princess gift block puzzle

Be careful with your measuring and cutting so that you don’t accidentally cut the wrong size for some reason (I don’t remember why this happened!) and ruin your picture, so that you have to find another princess picture to replace it:

Princess gift block puzzle

So, once I cut a picture in both directions, I had a puzzle picture like this:

Princess gift block puzzle Princess gift block puzzle

Now I Mod Podged those squares of pictures onto the blocks:

Princess gift block puzzle

Princess gift block puzzle

Here’s another decision you can make.  I wanted the puzzle to be easy for the young kid, so I kept the first puzzle in order, turned each block the same way, and glued on the second picture in the same order, so that once she solves the puzzle for one of the pictures, she can then flip all the blocks in the same direction to see the next picture, then the next, then the next.  If you want a more challenging puzzle, you can scramble up the blocks so that you have to solve each one separately.  There are actually two more levels of difficulty – you could either flip all the blocks the same direction, then glue the pictures on in random order, all on the same sides, or you could glue them on random places and random sides, so the puzzles for each picture all start from scratch.  Just make sure you glue one square per picture onto each block.

Princess gift block puzzle Princess gift block puzzle

Repeat for each picture until all the squares are glued on:

Princess gift block puzzle

Princess gift block puzzle

Because this was a gift for a frilly little girl, I chose to add sparkles to the whole thing at the end:

Princess gift block puzzle

I don’t remember exactly, but I’m guessing I covered five sides with the sparkle Mod Podge, let them dry overnight, then sparkled up the sixth side the next day.

Princess gift block puzzle

Finished sparkly puzzle:

Princess gift block puzzle

Tah dah!

Filed under: general crafts,gifts,tutorials — leethal @ 10:56 am

July 2, 2013

leethal Adventure Knit-a-long! Get ready… get set…

It’s now beginning, the leethal Adventure Knit-a-long!  (on rav)  I was vague and cryptic before, but now I can tell you more details!  The pattern collection is inspired by Choose Your Own Adventure books, and each part is delivered as a printable, foldable 8-page booklet:

Adventure knit-a-long booklet!

(Each part is also in a screen-reading friendly format in the pdf file, so you don’t have to print it if you don’t want to.  Also, the printable booklet comes in both color and black & white versions.)  The booklet pages are numbered, and each new part will start where the last one left off, so that they can all combine into a choose your own knitting adventure book when the knit-a-long is over.

Adventure knit-a-long booklet!

The whole thing is adventure-in-the-woods themed, so you’ll be given options like what tree would you like to climb?  Then you’ll be told which page to flip to for your chosen option.  Of course, if you want to make sure to choose the knitting option that you’ll like best, you can just read through the booklets and see what kinds of stitch patterns there are to make informed decisions.  The titles of all the options (like the tree names, in that example) are just like code names, so the stitch patterns aren’t trying to look like what they’re called.  It’s all just for the fun of the adventure!

Adventure knit-a-long booklet!

For this first booklet, you’ll just choose your path, which is the type of item you want to make (each with a color code name – there’s the Aqua Passage, the Orange Trail, the Green Byway, and the Gold Route), pick your yarn, and you can cast on to be ready for knitting to start next week.  (I copied all the path info into the ravelry pattern page if you want to know more about the items before committing to the knit-a-long.)  You’ll also be given all the abbreviations that will be used in multiple parts throughout the sections.

On next Friday, July 12th, the second booklet will go out, pages 9-16, with the first section of knitting.  (A reminder: right now, the whole adventure collection is $9; when each knitting section goes out, it’ll go up $1, ending at $12 when the KAL is over.)

I made this video to introduce you to the Adventure KAL (on youtube here), and to show you how to make the booklet (there is also a photo tutorial below, if you learn better with photos/text than with video).  Watch how silly I am as I constantly move my hands!

So, if you have the pdf and are ready to make your first booklet, here’s how!  It’s very simple, but it is important to be precise with your folding and cutting, as sloppy folds/cuts can become exaggerated in the booklet and make for an uneven, messy looking book.  So just take your time, use a table, and match up those edges when you fold.

Edit 7/03:  I’ve added some new how-to notes on the webpage for if you are printing something different from centered on letter size paper (so mainly for if you’re in Europe and using A4 paper, and/or if your printer printed the page super off-center).  Basically, you’ll need to trim excess white space from the edges as needed to make the folds line up with the booklet pages, but check out the webpage for photos and details (down on the right side, below the drawings).

How to fold the Adventure KAL booklets - 1

All you need are your printed page and scissors (and a flat table-like surface).  For all the initial folds, do not crease hard yet – these folds may need slight adjustment in the final booklet, so it’s best to leave them kind of loose.  Just fold with your fingers and don’t crease hard yet.  First fold lengthwise, which may or may not be right along the printed line – the important thing is for it to be exactly straight across your paper, so as long as that’s true, it’s okay if it doesn’t line up with the printed line.

How to fold the Adventure KAL booklets - 2 How to fold the Adventure KAL booklets - 3

Now fold in half widthwise:

How to fold the Adventure KAL booklets - 4

And then fold each of the outer edges up to that widthwise fold line, dividing the page in quarters (or eighths because of the lengthwise line):

How to fold the Adventure KAL booklets - 5 How to fold the Adventure KAL booklets - 6

Now your page should look like this:

How to fold the Adventure KAL booklets - 7

Keep it folded in half widthwise, and carefully cut from the fold along the lengthwise fold line, up to the next fold line.  This should be approximately along the printed line, but again, the important thing is for it to be exactly along your fold lines, since your printer might print slightly off-center.  So, this cut will make a slice across the center of your page…

How to fold the Adventure KAL booklets - 8

…so when you open it up it looks like this.  After cutting, fold it back along the lengthwise fold, so the centers will be folded outwards from the folds you’ve already made:

How to fold the Adventure KAL booklets - 9 How to fold the Adventure KAL booklets - 10

Now find the cover page, and fold the whole thing around so that the cover is in front (the abbreviations on back, for this first booklet).  Push and pinch all the pages into place, lining them up as neatly as possible, then hold them in place and crease everything now.  Use your surface and fingernails or something hard (I use the handle of my scissors, since my scissors are right there) to really crease the inner and outer edges into place.

How to fold the Adventure KAL booklets - 11 How to fold the Adventure KAL booklets - 12

So when you’re done, your booklet should look like this!  The tutorial might make it seem hard or complicated, but it’s really simple; I’m just sharing the tips I’ve learned from making several sloppy looking books first before figuring out how to neaten them up!  Once you’ve made a couple, it should be quick and easy for you!

How to fold the Adventure KAL booklets - 13

So that’s the booklet; as for the knitting – that’s still a mystery for now!  I am making 8 different samples, to test everything out well and show lots of different versions.  I’m making solid-color samples, multi-colored samples, leftover scrap-busting samples, two samples along each path.  I’ve put most of them in my ravelry projects, with photos of the yarns I’m using, and notes saying which path each is along – as the adventure continues, I’ll update with more photos and I’ll say which options I used for each one.

adventure yarn! adventure yarn! adventure yarn!

adventure yarn! adventure yarn! adventure yarn!

I’m really excited about everything I’m seeing so far in the forums, and just about the general fun adventurous mood of the whole thing!  I had this idea a few months ago, have been hard at work ever since, with kind of tunnel-vision on all the stitch patterns and stuff, so it’s awesome to be starting the social part and seeing it more for the fun project I envisioned in the first place (if that even makes sense)… Basically, yay adventure knitting, and I hope you are excited too!

Oh yeah, side note that has nothing to do with the KAL… Were you into Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid?  My brother Matt was really into them, and I liked them too, although I didn’t read that many because I felt like most of them were for boys and I cared too much about gender crap when I was a kid, I guess.  Looking at them now online, they totally don’t seem gender-specific, but I would look at Matt’s books and think they were, I dunno, I was a silly kid.  But I do remember my favorite one – it was Magic Master, about a magician!  Nerdy!  In trying to find that book online, I discovered that there are tons of fake Choose Your Own Adventure covers out there, like this Cabin in the Woods one!  I wish it was a real book, I would read that so hard!  So that’s fun.  Okay that’s all :)

Filed under: books,knit-a-longs,knitting,self-publishing,tutorials — leethal @ 12:20 pm

May 14, 2013

New leethal knits technique tutorials!

So after I finished all my recent style/layout updates, I worked on improving my techniques tutorials section… including the addition of video!  Yeah I know, knitting tutorial videos are nothing new and I should have started doing it long ago, but now that I have a quick+easy camera I plan to make more…

So I got all set up with an official leethal YouTube channel and uploaded my first video – let’s see if it’ll embed into my blog…

If you can’t see that here, just head to the youtube page or my cabling tutorials page – it’s a 9 minute long how-to on cabling without a cable needle, showing several different stitch counts.  Please forgive all the moments of blur and stitches being worked off-screen – it was my first time using my new i-camera so I’m just getting used to it, and I was too eager to get this how-to made so I didn’t want to re-shoot everything over again… my videos will get better with practice!

In addition to the video, I made a new tutorial page for locking in carried yarn strands, while working with stripes over several rows, and/or stripes together with short rows.  These are the techniques which are used in my Short Stripes Trio patterns (tutorials are included in those patterns) but they can be used in pretty much any project in which you want to carry yarns neatly along the back side and avoid lots of ends to weave in.  The techniques might seem kind of complex at first, but once you pick up the needles and actually do it, it’s quick and easy!

leethal knits tutorial photo leethal knits tutorial photo

I’ve also added other tutorials over the last several months, which I think I forgot to ever mention in the blog, so I’ll mention them now!  I have tutorials for grafting both with stockinette stitch and with garter stitch…

leethal knits tutorial photo leethal knits tutorial photo

…crochet provisional cast-on (below), and my older tutorials include the aforementioned cabling without a cable needle, twisted stitches, and make 1 increases.  (Get to them all here.)  If there are any of these that you’d reeeeally like to see a video for, let me know and I’ll see what I can do!

leethal knits tutorial photo leethal knits tutorial photo

That’s my only announcement for now, but I’ll be releasing my new cabled shawl pattern later this week!

Simple Biratu Shawl

In case you missed it, I now have a mailing list (sign up on the leethalknits home page), so you can hear when I release new patterns without having to check the blog (or twitter, or ravelry…).  Hooray!

Fully Cabled Biratu Shawl

(More peeks at the new shawl are on flickr if you want to see more!)  Happy Tuesday!

Filed under: knitting,,tutorials — leethal @ 11:29 am

February 15, 2013

Convertible cowly sweater vest made from recycled sweaters!

I made a thing!  My now-functioning studio made me itchy to make stuff, so the other day when I should have been working at the computer all day, instead I did a little digging through my reclaimed sweater stash, and made this!  What is “this”?  It’s a convertible cowl-neck sweater vest slash cowl slash shirt slash skirt…..?  It’s a simple concept that I came across on pinterest/ravelry and have been eager to try out ever since!

cowl neck sweater vest thing cowl neck sweater vest thing

cowl neck sweater vest thing cowl neck sweater vest thing

First, to give credit… that pin which first introduced me to the idea had no source (the original wrong source led me to the pattern-less rav project page which helped me reverse engineer the shape; I’ve since edited the pin source and description), so I did some reverse google image searching and found that the pin image is a garment by Elementum, and can be seen in this video (4:40 minutes in).

A major design element of the inspiration garment is that it’s oversized – the baggy size is part of what allows it to be worn comfortably in all the different positions.  Well, I wanted to try the idea, immediately, with what I had on hand.  And what I had on hand were a couple of fitted-sized sweaters.  So my version is the same concept as the inspiration, but fitted, for a pretty different look.  (I plan to make another in the future, appropriately oversized.)

Also, one of the sweaters I had in my recycling stash had a kangaroo pocket, which I thought would make the garment even more awesome, right?!  Well, sort of; it also makes it less versatile.  So, don’t necessarily follow my every move with this tutorial – if you want the most convertible, comfy finished result, then go for big sweaters with no pockets.  If you like mine exactly as it is, find a fitted sweater with a kangaroo pocket and you’re good to go!

A few more words on what to look for in your reclaimed sweaters… Sweaters knit seamlessly in the round would be ideal, but are rare to find at thrift stores, as almost all mass-produced sweaters have side seams.  Seams aren’t a huge problem, but the more clean / less visible the seams, the better your garment will look worn in all the different possible positions.  (It would also be easier to make without seams.)

Your two sweaters should be as close as possible to the same width – if one is a bit bigger than the other, then the slightly bigger one can just have slightly bigger arm-hole parts, not a big deal.  But the closer in width, the better.  As for gauge / stitch count – if you have two sweaters in the same gauge, the same width, for the same (or extremely close to the same) stitch counts, excellent!  This would take some serious thrift store luck to happen though.  Probably, the two sweaters you use will be different gauges, for different stitch counts.  You’ll just need to do a little math to work decreases around the smaller gauge one so that they end up with similar stitch counts, it won’t be too hard.

A couple last notes – if you’re not a knitter, you can do this project without any knitting, by sewing everything together instead.  It won’t be as neat, but it will work.  Stitch around the armholes carefully so no stitches unravel, and sew the edges together (instead of grafting) securely, so everything stays together and nothing unravels.

If you are a knitter, and you’d prefer to just straight up knit this entire thing, that should be easy enough!  You can see the shape here, a big tube with two big holes.  Go for it!

Lastly, if you feel guilty using perfectly good sweaters for craft materials, then look at thrift stores for sweaters with stains or holes… flawed old used clothing at a thrift store is unlikely to be bought and appreciated by normal (read: non-crafty) shoppers, and if you craft with it, you’ll be giving it a brand new life!  Crafting with reclaimed materials from thrift stores is a win-win for everybody, the way I see it!  It’s not like there aren’t plenty of clothes still remaining on the racks for shoppers in need of cheap duds.

Now, on to the tutorial!

You need:

  • 2 reclaimed sweaters, which are not felted (this means you can see the individual stitches, and will be able to unravel them and knit with them), as close as possible to the same width (around the body, under the armpits) – for my sample, one sweater is stockinette, and the other is ribbed; this worked nicely, but is not necessary, they can both be stockinette or both be ribbed (see notes above for sizing info)
  • scissors
  • 2 circular needles, sized to work with the sweater gauges
  • paper and pencil, and a calculator, to figure out and make note of your numbers
  • a yarn needle for grafting

(I used a weirdly shaped sweater which had already had one arm removed for another project, and a sweater from my crafting stash that I got super cheap from a thrift store because the previous owner had sloppily cut the collar off to give it a scoop neck.)

Start by cutting straight across each sweater under the armpits.  To make the right shaped garment, one tube should be shorter than the other; my orange sweater happened to be significantly shorter than my grey sweater, so I just cut under the armpits of both.  If they are the same height, and/or if both your sweaters are big and oversized, cut one of them further down so that it’s shorter than the other.  (Exact measurements are up to you!)

cowl neck sweater vest thing cowl neck sweater vest thing

If cutting across stockinette stitch fabric, turn the sweater inside out, as it will be easier to cut perfectly straight across using the reverse stockinette stitch lines as a guideline:

cowl neck sweater vest thing

Now you have 2 knit tubes, hopefully the same width, one a bit (or a lot, your choice) taller than the other (kangaroo pocket optional):

cowl neck sweater vest thing

For each tube, stretch it out, to loosen up the stitches, then unravel the top 1 or 2 rows.  You’ll end up with a pile of little yarn bits, as a result of cutting across, and the top row may have been snipped into accidentally.  I find it’s easier to get the stitches onto the needle if I unravel 2 rows – those little yarn bits tend to stick in there when you rip out the first row, then they generally fall out with the second row.  Once you’ve unraveled a row or two, and are left with a clean line of live stitches, slip all those stitches onto your circular needle.

cowl neck sweater vest thing

Be careful to pick up all stitches in the seam area so they don’t end up unraveling later – you’ll probably need to do some extra snipping or fiddling around to get every stitch on the needle.  If you end up taking out part of the seam stitching, that’s fine, as you can re-seam it up when you’re weaving in all your ends.

Hold on to the yarn strands that you unravel, as you’ll use them to finish the armholes and graft.  You can also rip out a couple rows worth of yarn bits from the unused part of the sweater, if you need extra yarn.

cowl neck sweater vest thing

Here’s when you’ll have to deal with stitch counts and gauge issues… I didn’t take photos of this part for my project, and it’ll probably be different for you anyway, so you’ll just have to figure it out for yourself with your particular sweaters.  My fine-gauge orange ribbed sweater happened to be almost exactly twice as many stitches as the chunky grey sweater, making the math easy for me – I doubled up the yarn (held 2 strands together) and knit around, decreasing all stitches, for one row around the orange sweater, k2tog every stitch.  It was 2×2 rib, so I k2tog the 2 knits, then k2tog the 2 purls.  I could have k2tog the knits and p2tog the purls, but since I knew it would be grafted in stockinette, I just knit all the decreases.  I did this at a loose tension, so it wouldn’t pull in.  If you don’t luck out with such as even ratio of stitches to decrease, decrease evenly around one tube as needed to give your two tubes close to the same stitch count.

cowlneck sweater vest thing

Now you’ll need to do a little math.  First, you’ll need to figure out how big you want your armholes, and therefore how big your connected parts will be.  The armholes should be big enough for your head to fit through, so at least 22 inches or so around, stretched.  Each tube will have a line of stitches bound off for each half of each armhole.  Make sense?  So, each bind-off section should be approximately 11 inches (or more) across.  (My sample, because the whole thing is so fitted, has smaller armholes – approximately 10 inches across each part, stretched, and juuuust barely fits over my head.)

Count all the stitches across, from seam to seam.  Usually the stitch count will be slightly different on one side from the other – write everything down.  My notes as I worked are shown below.  My orange tube had 79 stitches on one side, 75 on the other; my grey tube had 71 stitches on one side, 69 on the other.

Determine how many stitches will be joined – the stitches not in the armholes.  In the above sketch, this is x (x is the same on all sides of both tubes).  This measurement depends on your total tube width, but it should be somewhere around the width across (when laying flat) minus 11 inches or so (armholes)… or somewhere near 2/3 of the total width.  If your stitch counts for each side are all odd, choose an odd number, if they’re all even, choose an even number; if they are different, then you’ll need to adjust by having slightly different armhole bind-off stitch counts as needed.  I decided my joined stitches would be 43 stitches (odd number).

Now, for each side (4 sides total – 2 tubes, 2 sides each tube), subtract the joining stitch count from the total stitch count, and then divide each of these numbers in half.  (You can see in my notes, 79 minus 43 is 36, in half is 18; 75 minus 43 is 32, in half is 16, and so on.)  These numbers are your bind-off stitch counts for each side of the armholes.

If you like algebra, then using the labeled sketch above, you need to find y and z values for each tube (different for the 2 tubes).  x is your joining number (which you just decided) – so, total stitch count on the y side, minus x, divided by 2, is each y; total stitch count on the z side, minus x, divided by 2, is each z.  y + z is the total armhole length (for the one tube – the y+z numbers for the two different tubes added together makes total armhole circumference stitch count).

project sketch planning

Now that you know the stitch counts, make the armholes.  On the first tube, with needle points at the seam, looking at the wrong side, slip the correct number of stitches to begin first armhole – slip the number that corresponds with the side you’re on.  (Eg: with my numbers, if I’m slipping into the side which has 71 stitches across, then I need to slip 14 stitches for that section of the armhole.  Or, using the variables, if you’re slipping into the y side of the tube, then slip y stitches.)

Knit across all armhole stitches – so, knit to seam, then knit correct number of stitches on other side of seam.  (For mine, if I slipped 16 stitches, then I knit across those 16, then I’d continue knitting 18 on the other side of the seam.  Using the variables, if you slipped y, then knit the y, now knit z.)  Now bind off those just-knit stitches, loosely, purlwise – I recommend the decrease bind-off method.  *Purl 2 together, pass just-purled stitch back onto left-hand needle without twisting it, repeat from *.

Repeat this for all 4 armhole parts, slipping stitches around the circular needle to get from one to the other.  Keeping those center live stitches on the needle for the next step…

cowl neck sweater vest thing

Now you should have two tubes that look like this, all 4 of those rows of stitches between bound-off parts with the same stitch count:

cowl neck sweater vest thing

All you need to do now is graft those live stitches together, for a nice, clean join!  If your tubes’ sides each had different stitch counts from each other, join the two sides which had higher stitch counts, and the two sides which had lower stitch counts.  Hold the 2 rows of live stitches together, needles parallel, wrong sides facing, and thread some of the extra yarn (whichever is the more sturdy, less breakable yarn of the two) onto a blunt yarn needle – try to use a length of yarn at least 4 times as long as the line of stitches.

Head over to my (brand new!) full step-by-step photo tutorial in my knitting tutorials for grafting instructions.

cowl neck sweater vest thing

Once that’s done, on both sides, all that’s left to do is sew up any holes you might be left with (around the seams, maybe), and neatly weave in all those loose ends:

cowl neck sweater vest thing

And here is my finished piece, shown inside out and folded sideways, and then right side out after washing:

cowl neck sweater vest thing cowl neck sweater vest thing

And all the ways I can wear it!  The standard way places that kangaroo pocket kind of awkwardly… I can pull it down when I put my hands in it:

cowl neck sweater vest thing cowl neck sweater vest thing

The length is better with the cowl neck around my shoulders:

cowl neck sweater vest thing cowl neck sweater vest thing

It’s a better look with the pocket hidden in back (proving that the pocket wasn’t the best idea…)

cowl neck sweater vest thing cowl neck sweater vest thing

I love it as a cowl!

cowl neck sweater vest thing cowl neck sweater vest thing

And then some of the other ways the inspiration piece was worn… I didn’t even bother photographing it worn upside down, since the small, fitted orange section as the body looks ridiculous.  It doesn’t work so well sideways, because of both the pocket and the fit (or in the kind of halter top style):

cowl neck sweater vest thing cowl neck sweater vest thing

But, because I made mine smaller and fitted, it can be worn a couple extra ways – as a skirt:

cowl neck sweater vest thing cowl neck sweater vest thing

…and as a weird tube sweater thing, haha.  I had fun playing around with the different ways.

cowl neck sweater vest thing cowl neck sweater vest thing

Anyway, conclusion on my end, try again with bigger sweaters and no pockets, and it should be awesomesauce.  If you use the tutorial to make your own, I’d love to see it!  I have this flickr group that I tend to forget about, but you can stick a photo in there to share!  Happy crafting!!

Filed under: clothing,general crafts,knitting,tutorials — leethal @ 8:45 pm

October 10, 2012

Knitting technique tutorials, new charts, and other knitting stuff!

I haven’t talked about knit stuff in awhile, and a lot is going on!  (And I won’t even talk about my sweater yet, that will be its own post later.)  Since I got back from our trip I have been knitting and working on knitting/pattern-related stuff nonstop!

new design

In newest news, I’ve just started up a new section of my knit websiteleethal knitting technique tutorials!

I started out with some make 1 increase tutorials (including right & left, and purl-wise both ways), beginning with a simple one to figure out my layout template and stuff… then this morning I just updated it with a cabling without a cable needle tutorial!

leethal knitting tutorials

I’ve been putting photo tutorials in a lot of my pattern pdfs for awhile now, and a few months ago I started thinking, there’s no reason for those tutorials to be exclusive to the patterns – people don’t buy the patterns for those tutorials, right?  They are just like an extra bonus.  So, I might as well re-post them on my site for all to see!  I put the effort into making the how-tos, I’d rather more people get to use them.  So yeah, the m1 tutorials were first made for Either/Or, and some were also included in the current mystery knit-a-long pattern; the cabling tutorials were first made for Freewheelin’, and some were also included in Wobble Bass.

More tutorials from patterns which will make their ways into this section include twisted stitches, crochet provisional cast-on, weaving in your ends while knitting, grafting… and then more in the future… I’ll mention in the blog when I add new tutorials over there.

leethal knitting tutorials

Another thing I’ve just completed is updating the charts on a couple of Remixed patterns.  When I designed Wobble Bass, I made a new cable chart font for it, which looks much nicer than what I’d used for cables in the past, as well as for twisted stitches.  So, I updated the charts in Wild is the Wind (on ravelry):

new hat design!

Here are the old chart symbols versus the new chart symbols:

new cable chart font new cable chart font

And I updated all the cable charts in Freewheelin’ (on ravelry):


A bit of one of the old charts versus a bit of one of the new charts (the charts aren’t smaller, it’s just the way I cropped the screenshot):

new cable chart font new cable chart font

The original charts worked fine, but these should be a bit smoother and easier to follow, making for a more pleasant knitting experience!  Enjoy!

In other knitting news, the mystery shawl knit-a-long is in its second week right now, and going very well!!

sock weight mystery!

There are 79 projects on ravelry (at the time I’m writing this) and lots of them have spoiler photos, so click over there, or to the spoiler forums, if you want to see how it’s looking!  I won’t show any spoiler photos here, but you can also click over to my rav project pages for my 3 samples – in Anzula worsted weight, in Black Trillium sock weight, and in Cascade aran weight – to see my section 1’s.  I’ll post my section 2’s on Sunday night when I release section 3.

If you like what you see, there are still 3 sections left after this, so plenty of mystery knitting still to go if you join now!!

leethal mystery shawl knit-a-long! sock weight mystery shawl

Besides all that knitting-related stuff, I’ve also been actually knitting a ton!  I am working on a stranded colorwork design, something I’ve done very little of in my 10 years knitting.  So I spent many days figuring out the best way for my hands to hold the 2 strands at once and work a colorwork design – one strand in each hand does not make my hands happy!  Ouch!  What ended up working best is holding both strands in my right hand, one over my first finger and the other over my middle finger… It’s tricky at first (and at second, and at third), but after several days of practice I got much better and faster at it, loosened up, and my hands stopped hurting.  Yay!

I don’t want to show you too much of the design yet, since it’s still in the beginning phases, but here are some super-cropped peeks of my colorwork:

swatch extreme close-up swatch extreme close-up

And I’ve been working on another pattern as well, which is also still in the very early stages, swatching and note taking, more swatching and more note taking… Here is some swatching in progress (in lovely Knitted Wit yarn left over from this hat):

new design

One last bit of news – I’m excited to be a part of the Woolly Wormhead blog tour, for her new book Classic Woolly Toppers!  So in a couple weeks that’ll be happening… I’ve never been part of a blog tour before, so it should be fun!  And if you read my blog, there’s a good chance you like to knit hats, so yeah, good stuff!

I think that’s all my knitting news for now.  Happy knitting, dear readers!

Filed under: knit-a-longs,knitting,,Remixed,tutorials — leethal @ 2:05 pm

January 27, 2012

Pendleton scrap blanket (and matching pillow)!

Awhile back, Susan blogged about a blanket she made with scraps from the Pendleton Woolen Mill Store, I thought it was fabulous, and Pete completely fell in love with it.  He’s been a bit Pendleton obsessed since he started getting really into men’s fashion a couple years ago… So we started taking trips over to the store and grabbing good looking scraps whenever we found them.  And then when the holiday season started, I took a couple secret trips by myself and gathered enough material for a giant blanket gift!

Pendleton blanket

I never scored like Susan did, with the super cheap precut sample cards, but I got mostly the thick, blanket quality wool pieces, so our double layered wool blanket is thick and heavy and WARM!  My blanket ended up costing more like $40-50, with all the by-the-pound thick scraps (as opposed to Susan’s amazing $12 creation, which is more what I was hoping for when I decided to go ahead with the project), and it took several days of work, with my limited sewing experience, but it was so super worth it all!  Once of my favorite things I’ve ever made!

Of course, most of you don’t have access to Pendleton wool scraps, but this same basic project can be done with recycled wool clothing (like plaid shirts and skirts) from thrift stores, or with felted sweaters!  So, I’ll tell you how I made mine…

Pendleton blanket

I started by cutting all the pieces in blocks to make strips of all different widths.  I cleared my living room floor to spread the project out and plan out the blocks as I cut.  After I took the above photo, I decided to make it a bit bigger, so I added more blocks to each strip.  Then I stacked each strip in order, and lined them up so I’d know how they were meant to be sewn together:

Pendleton blanket Pendleton blanket

I sewed each pile together into the strips, just as I’d laid them all out before, with a basic straight stitch, right sides facing.  As I finished sewing each one, I laid it back out on the floor, to keep everything in order:

Pendleton blanket

Then I ironed all those seams open on the back of each strip:

Pendleton blanket

I used the wool setting, with maximum steam…  Here are the seams before and after ironing:

Pendleton blanket Pendleton blanket

The strips after ironing:

Pendleton blanket

So then I sewed all the strips to each other.  Starting at one end, the first to the second, then the second to the third, and so on, until the whole thing was one big piece.  Careful to keep the ironed seams flat when sewing over them:

Pendleton blanket Pendleton blanket

Here’s the whole thing after that step:

Pendleton blanket

The next step, of course, was to iron all those seams, completing the top layer of my blanket:

Pendleton blanket

Then I made my lining layer.  I didn’t have any one piece large enough for the lining, but I did set aside a few of the largest scraps to piece together for the back side.  Once the top layer was complete and I measured it, I figured out exactly how to put the large pieces together to make a block of exactly the same size…  There’s a screenshot of my iPad app where I worked out the measurements, just for fun:

blanket planning Pendleton blanket

(All those numbers are inches; after it was finished, the final blanket measurements ended up being a bit over 6 feet by a bit over 5 feet.)  I sewed those together and ironed the seams, and then I had my lining:

Pendleton blanket

I laid out the lining with the top layer on top, right sides facing…

Pendleton blanket

…got the layers all smoothed out the best I could, and pinned the edges together:

Pendleton blanket

Then I sewed all around the edges, leaving about a foot open to turn it back right-side out.

Pendleton blanket

After sewing, I trimmed some parts where the edges didn’t line up perfectly, and clipped the corners to minimize bulk.  Then I turned it right-side out, ironed the edges well, and hand-sewed the part that was left open.

Pendleton blanket

Lastly, I sewed around the whole thing, about 1 1/2 inches in from the edge:

Pendleton blanket

I thought about different options for connecting the layers – tying or quilting or something – but with my lack of experience with this kind of crafting, and with how much I loved the blanket as it was, I didn’t want to risk messing it up.  It functions perfectly as is, so I don’t see any reason why the layers need to be attached…

Pendleton blanket

So there it is!  Pete’s giant Pendleton blanket!  I made it for him, but it happens to be huge enough to keep both of us warm at the same time – I’m sneaky like that!

Pendleton blanket

Some more beauty shots…

Pendleton blanket Pendleton blanket

It’s hard to tell the thickness and weight of it by the photos, so just trust me, it’s big and heavy!  I love it so much!

Pendleton blanket

And then, there’s more!  With some of the extra scraps, I made a pillow to match, before I started sewing the blanket, to kind of practice.  I wanted to make sure I knew the best way to sew and iron the seams before starting the blanket, so I cut these extra scraps, to fit a cheap Ikea pillow…

Pendleton pillow

…sewed them together…

Pendleton pillow

…ironed the seams…

Pendleton pillow

…and sewed on the two overlapping pieces for the back:

Pendleton pillow

And tah dah!  Pillowcase!  This project took about a half hour, so I definitely plan on making more of these!

Pendleton pillow

On the pillow:

Pendleton pillow


Pendleton pillow

And the back side:

Pendleton pillow

So that’s everything, except for one last note.  Throughout all the steps…

Pendleton blanket

…Banzo had to claim the wool as her new spot.  And now, of course, it’s her blanket.  I may have made it for Pete, but we all know who it really belongs to!

Pendleton blanket Pendleton blanket

I’d love to see if anyone uses my process to make a blanket from recycled clothing fabrics!  Just be careful if you make one with sweater pieces – the stretchiness will make the seams buckle if you don’t figure out how to best sew them (I know from experience as a self-taught sewer, and have never really figured out the best way to avoid buckling).  Sewing with the woven wool was still tricky, as the different scraps had varying amounts of stretchiness.  I had to figure out how to hold the 2 pieces with different tensions to make the seams even… But I made it work in the end.  Yay!

And just so you know, I’m writing this post curled up on the couch with the blanket over my legs, and the kitty curled up at my feet.  We are both very snuggly and warm!

Filed under: general crafts,gifts,home stuff,portland stuff,tutorials — leethal @ 12:46 am

January 25, 2011

Ten minute no-sew recycled t-shirt bag!

Tutorial time!  I got a gig teaching a recycled t-shirt project at the library a few months ago, with a request for a recycled tee bag – the only bags I’d made from tees in the past had required sturdy sewing, and I didn’t want hand-sewing to be the only thing holding the bottom closed in a class version of the bags, so I started brainstorming about some kind of hand-sewing-friendly or no-sew bag idea…. and here’s what I came up with!

No-Sew T-shirt Bags! No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

The simplest version of these bags is great for smaller tees, or the more light-weight kind of girl-tees – just turn the bottom of the shirt into a drawstring and tie it closed!  As you can see, even with a not huge tee, this will still leave a significant hole in the bottom of your bag, but for purposes like grocery shopping, this size hole shouldn’t really matter…

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

But to make smaller holes, just make more than one of them!  Here’s a bag bottom with 2 holes:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

And now for the actual tutorial – for this one, with the step-by-step, I will be making the bottom with 3 holes.  So, start with a t-shirt that you don’t wear anymore, or a fun one you found at a thrift store.  Besides a tee, you’ll also need scissors and a safety pin.  That’s it!

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Cut the sleeves off, but try to make a somewhat straight line, and go in a bit from the seam – these lines will be the sides of your straps:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Cut some strips from those sleeve pieces – about half an inch wide, the length of one time around a sleeve is good, and as many strips as the number of holes you’ll be making in your bag bottom. (I’ve made bags with 1, 2, and 3 holes, but I haven’t tried more than that.)  Pull the ends of the strips to stretch them out and make them curl in:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Cut the neck out to become your bag’s opening – the way you cut this can depend on your tee’s picture (if there is a picture), and also the shape you want your bag.  Just make sure you cut a big enough opening to fit things through, for a functional bag:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

You could make it rounded, V-shaped, or squared like this one:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Now the top/straps part is done, time for the bottom.  Snip slits in the hem part of the tee bottom – as many slits as you want holes.  3 slits, below, is for 3 holes, for a single hole, like the yellow one at the top, just cut one slit, and for 2 holes, snip 2 slits.  The slits should be equally spaced from each other, but the spacing doesn’t need to be exact – I just eyeballed my slit placement, no measuring:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Now stick a safety pin through the end of one of those strips you made, and start running it through the hem, through one of the slits:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Run it through to the next slit (or all the way around and back to the beginning, if you’re making a single hole) and pull the cord so it’s centered-ish:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Tie the hole closed as tightly as you can, and tie a tight knot:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Now repeat those steps for the remaining sections, one slit to the next, tie tightly.  This is after the second hole is closed:

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

For an ultra sturdy bag bottom, tie one cord strand from one hole together with one strand from the hole next to it, tightly, and repeat for each strand (as many of these knots as the number of holes you have; ignore this step if you’re making a single hole), so that the holes are all tied to each other.

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Now, you can choose whether you want the t-shirt cord ties hanging down at the bottom, or hidden on the inside.  To hide them inside, bring them through the center, then tie bows on the inside so they don’t fall back through.  Or, tie bows on the outside if you prefer (or you could just cut the cords short and skip the bows):

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

My finished Sonic bag!

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

The 1-hole version of this project takes more like 5 minutes, but the more holes you have, the longer it takes (by a few minutes) – it’s my favorite kind of project: 100% recycled materials (in this case, just the tee and nothing else!), minimal tools, quick+easy, and a super useful finished product!

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

I made these for everyone in my family as extra bonus xmas gifts – my mom just told me she’s been using hers all the time and they are stronger than she would have expected.  I even used my family’s bags to wrap their gifts in, to save on paper wrapping waste and because it looked fun!

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

I failed to show you this idea before the holidays, but you can always save it away in your memory (or bookmarks) for your next gift-giving occasion.  I hope you love this project as much as I do!  Now go and make lots of them so you’ll never be without a reusable shopping bag again!

No-Sew T-shirt Bags!

Filed under: general crafts,gifts,quick project,tutorials — leethal @ 3:56 pm

November 8, 2010

Lace Stenciled Framed Song Lyrics! (+our wedding music)

If you’ve been following my blog, you know how I made 60 of these painted frames with song lyrics for our wedding decorations/favors…


Well, a lot of wedding guests loved them and took one home, but we had a ton left at the end of the night, which we boxed back up and took home with us…

wedding framed song lyrics!

So we now have 30 of them hanging on our big white living room wall!  Yay!!  There are several duplicate lyrics, some of which I already changed out to engagement photos, but once we get our wedding photos I’ll switch out some more lyrics with photos (but just a few, because we love the look of the lyrics!):

wedding framed song lyrics!

So, hey, you want to know how to make these yourself?  It’s a pretty simple project, but a bit time (and space) consuming… Well, that’s if you’re making 60 like I did… If you just make a few, it shouldn’t take long.  (This project was totally inspired by Mark Montano‘s Big Ass Book of Home Decor and Mark’s love of spray paint!)

I made 2 different types of painted frames: textured frames that were just plain spray painted, and smooth(ish) frames that were painted with lace used as stencils.

Your first step is to take a trip to your local thrift store (or several of them) and find frames – whatever sizes you want (mine were 3×5, 4×6, and 5×7), either textured to do the simple version, or plain untextured frames to do the lace stenciling.  (Of course, you can do the simple version with plain frames too, if you want to.)

wedding framed song lyrics! wedding framed song lyrics!

For the textured frames, simply take out the glass/backing (be sure to keep track of which goes with which frames), lay the (clean) frame down on a protected surface (like newspaper) in a ventilated space (I did it all outside, but breeze/wind makes it tough – an open garage would be ideal – either way, wear a face mask when doing lots of spray painting!), and spray (as the spray paint can instructs).

I did them in batches of 6-10 at a time – sprayed 1 coat over them all, then went back with a 2nd coat over them all.  Be sure to get the sides (unless the frame has an interesting edge and you choose not to paint over it).  After letting dry for 5-10 minutes on the newspaper, I transferred them to an outdoor table to dry completely (or, until bringing them inside for the night).

wedding framed song lyrics!

For the lace stenciled frames, there are a couple extra steps.  You’ll need: spray adhesive, spray paint, plenty of space to work, and lots of newspaper to cover your work surface, and a face mask for safety so you don’t breathe in all those glue and paint fumes.

And then the lace itself – find vintage doilies, curtains, and other home decor items from thrift stores, with interesting patterns.  I’ll show you lots of examples of different kinds of lace used as stencils, in a minute…

wedding framed song lyrics!

  • First, spray the lace with a thin coat of spray adhesive (with it sitting on newspaper).
  • Stick the lace onto the frame, as you want it placed – be sure to stick it all down the best you can.
  • Spray a good thick coat over the frame through the lace stencil.  (At first, I was doing 2 coats, like with the plain painted frames, but sometimes the lace would become un-stuck after the first coat, so the second coat would make it blurry.)
  • Let dry for a minute or so, then carefully lift off the lace (you don’t want the glue to stick it on there permanently!), and lay it flat somewhere to dry (you can use the same pieces again later).
  • Let dry completely as the spray paint can instructs.

wedding framed song lyrics!

Here’s what my yard looked like during this project:

wedding framed song lyrics! wedding framed song lyrics!

And some of the stenciled frames, drying:

wedding framed song lyrics!

I really like how the textured frames look too!  We ended up taking home mostly stenciled frames, which I’m happy about, but I might thrift for some more frames like those crazy curvy designs below and make more of those:

wedding framed song lyrics!

Here are a couple of the textured frames we did take home – that green one is one of my absolute favorites!

textured painted frame textured painted frame

Note – you can click on the pictures to go to the flickr pages and read what songs the lyrics came from, if you’re curious.  A couple more simple textured frames:

textured spray painted frame textured spray painted frame

And some close ups of the lace stenciling over a couple different kinds of frame surfaces (the one on the left is some kind of coated fabric surface, and shiny metal on the right):

lace-stenciled frame lace stenciled frame

And now to show you all different kinds of lace options…

lace stenciled frame lace-stenciled frame

These 3 (above and below) are stenciled with doilies – the above/left frame is the doily pictured in the above/left of the photo, and the other two are the same positions as well.

lace stenciled frame lace stenciling

Below, these are stenciled with pieces of vintage lace curtains (I think, maybe tablecloths?) that covered the whole frames…

lace-stenciled frame lace-stenciled frame

You can see how the lace on the left, with the fine mesh, made a more subtle, textured pattern when painted through (another example here, and one that didn’t turn out so well here), and the lace on the right, with the big holes, made the more graphic, bold design.

lace stenciling lace stenciling

Another big lace curtain, cut into pieces for these…

lace stenciled frame lace stenciled frame

…laid over partially for the purple one, and over the whole frames for the other 2 (green above and blue below).

lace stenciled frame lace stenciling

And then, a messed up, weirdly shaped piece of lace, that I cut into different sized pieces, around the curved shape of the lace design…

lace-stenciled frame lace-stenciled frame

You can see how the same lace can look different when used on a shiny painted surfaced frame (above, orange), or an unpainted wood frame (below).

lace stenciled frame lace stenciling

And lastly, I got this big Noah’s Ark themed kid’s room decor lace thing, which I cut into all different kinds of pieces…

lace-stenciled frame lace stenciled frame

…since there was so much going on, I could get lots of different looks out of the same lace item.  See those square parts, the top edging with the long curved rectangle shapes, and then all the curves and different hole designs in the pictures…

lace stenciling

lace stenciled frame lace stenciled frame lace stenciled frame

So, all the frames above and below here came from that same lace thing, cut and placed different ways (I obviously really like the squares).

lace stenciled frame lace stenciled frame

Look at your local thrift store for lace in the home decor section, with tablecloths, with dishcloths, with curtains, on end cap sections… I find lace in weird places sometimes.  If you try out this project, I’d love to see your frames!

Oh, and a side note, just a reminder that my October club ebook includes 7 of my favorites of these lyric artwork things for printing out.

If you want to make your own, it’s easy if you have a photo editing program that can do text (and some experience using it) – just download some fun fonts (some of my favorites for this project are Bleeding CowboysAngioma1942 ReportBenny BlancoVNI-Thuphap, Schneller), type your favorite lyrics, with the text box set to justify, and mess with the text size, letter spacing, line spacing, etc until it looks good.

wall of framed song lyrics

Because it somewhat relates… want to know about the music we played at our wedding?  We spent tons of time putting together playlists – an hour of songs to play before, and about 3 and a half hours worth for after.

The ceremony was bookended by The Magnetic Fields – It’s Only Time for walking down the aisle, and The Book of Love walking back down after we were married.

I love the whole playlist, but I’ve put together kind of a best-of that’s 1 mix CD length:

  1. The Book Of Love / The Magnetic Fields
  2. We’ve Only Just Begun / Grant Lee Buffalo (covering The Carpenters)
  3. Ceremony / New Order
  4. The Best Is Yet To Come / Tony Bennett
  5. Hazy / Rosi Golan feat. William Fitzsimmons
  6. Lovin’ You Lots and Lots / The Norm Wooster Singers
  7. I’ll Be Your Mirror / The Velvet Underground & Nico
  8. Summers / Loney, Dear
  9. I Found My Way / Dusty Springfield
  10. Our Love Is Here To Stay / Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
  11. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) / Marvin Gaye
  12. Top Of The World / The Carpenters
  13. Darlin’ Companion / Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash
  14. The Greatest Sum / The Avett Brothers
  15. Grow Old With Me / John Lennon
  16. Fly Me To The Moon / Julie London
  17. Pop Goes My Heart / Pop
  18. I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) / The Proclaimers
  19. The Very Thought Of You / Elvis Costello
  20. On The Radio / Regina Spektor
  21. Take Me / Karen Dalton
  22. All I Want Is You / U2
  23. It’s Only Time / The Magnetic Fields

I had to put some boundaries on it in order to cut 4 1/2 hours down to 80 minutes – many of the songs played at the wedding were songs that Pete or I had put on mixes to each other when we were first dating, so since those already existed on mixes, I left them off of this mix (mostly).  A lot of the songs have a specific memory for us, or some reason for being on this mix beyond the song itself.  And then, I just tried to make it a good quality mix, lots of variety, ups and downs, etc.  A glimpse into our wedding soundtrack.

wedding framed song lyrics!

And lastly, about wedding music, my brothers played a set for us!  A medley of some favorite tv theme songs (including My So-Called Life and Pete & Pete) and a fantastic rendition of I’m Gonna Be (which is why that song made the cut onto the wedding mix)!  It was so good!! Yay!

Filed under: general crafts,home stuff,music,personal,tutorials — leethal @ 2:37 pm

August 15, 2010

My New Fabric-Covered Box Drawers!

I did a project yesterday!  And it turned out even better than it looked in my head!!  Isn’t it the best thing ever when that happens?!

fabric drawers!

Our house is extremely (embarrassingly?) Ikea-heavy with the decor… so I’ve been trying to find ways to personalize our Ikea, make our home more us.  I got these awesome vintage handles from Portland vintage-stuff-shop Smut (So Many Unique Treasures) awhile back, for some other project that didn’t really happen… so they were waiting for the perfect use…

fabric drawers!

And then in the move, we discovered that these boxes we were using from Pete’s work fit exactly perfectly into this shelving unit!  The idea turned out so well that you totally can’t tell they’re just old cardboard boxes behind those fabric fronts:

fabric drawers!

So, I’m going to show you how I made them, but you may just want to use some concepts with different kinds of boxes and a different kind of shelving unit to fit your own home needs…

For each drawer, I used:

  • a cardboard box that fits perfectly into the shelf space
  • a piece of fabric about an inch longer than the front of the box on all 4 sides
  • a vintage handle
  • screws to fit the handle, and washers for each screw
  • a hot glue gun
  • a box cutter, scissors, a screwdriver, and embroidery scissors

Start out by cutting the three (side and back) top flaps off the box.  Don’t cut off the front flap, the flap attached to the side where the fabric will be going.  I’ll talk about what to do with that flap later…  Then decide on handle placement, poke holes where the screws will go, and stick the screws in through the back, so the front looks like this:

fabric drawers!

Center your fabric piece on top of the box front, then use your embroidery scissors to cut little holes where the screws are.  Push the screws through the fabric, so it looks like this:

fabric drawers!

The screws holding it in place will help keep the fabric all lined up while gluing.  I glue the edges down starting with the bottom center, work my way outwards, up one side, up the other side, then the top, starting with the center again.  I glue a couple inches at a time, squeezing the hot glue along the fold of the box, then press the fabric down from above the fold, around the corner down to the cut edge of the fabric, so the glue spreads out from the box fold to the fabric edge.  Make sense?  The great thing about using hot glue is that by the time you finish one side and start gluing the other side, the first side is cooled enough that you can pull it taut, smoothing out the fabric nicely.  Once the sides are all glued down, you can go back and smooth the corners down well with some extra glue:

fabric drawers! fabric drawers!

Now take out those screws for putting in the handle.  There are a couple different ways to deal with the top flat.  For the first box drawer I made (the orange+gold patterned one), I just cut off the top along with the other flaps, and wrapped the fabric around the top.  Sadly, that made for a not-straight top edge, which I’m sure will bother me forever… So for my second try, I cut the flap off with a couple inches attached, then I folded that bit over and taped it down.  I did this before the fabric-gluing step, by the way…

fabric drawers!

And, for these first two drawers, this is how the handle was attached in the back – an extra piece of cardboard for extra strength, washers, screws through all the layers to the handles…

fabric drawers!

So then for my last drawer, I realized I could just not cut the front flap at all, fold it down, and use that flap for my extra cardboard layer.  Duh!  It was easier in theory than in practice – the flap doesn’t like to be held down flat like that (when I was first trying to get my holes placed, pre-fabric-gluing, I ended up pushing the entire screw and screwdriver through both cardboard layers – washers are important here!).  So, it’s a bit tricky, and requires some effort and patience, but it works out great in the end – straight top edge, extra strength where the handle is attached, simple construction…

fabric drawers!

For that last drawer, I used a square of fabric that happened to be the exact size as the box front, so no extra to fold around the edges.  When gluing the top edge of the fabric down, be sure to account for the top flap being folded down, so you don’t stretch the fabric unevenly after gluing.  And, a top view of the handle:

fabric drawers! fabric drawers!

Tah dah!  I love them so much!  Plan on making more, as soon as Pete brings more of these boxes home from work!

fabric drawers!

Now we just need to figure out some awesome things to fill all those empty shelf squares…

fabric drawers!

Filed under: general crafts,home stuff,tutorials — leethal @ 1:42 pm

August 4, 2010

Sideways Edge Cast-On, a knitting unvention! plus, Swerve!

Edited 9/21/2015: I’m not changing this post at all, just want to add this bit to say, in the 5 years since I wrote this post and designed the couple of old patterns mentioned in the post below, I’ve gone on to design MANY more patterns using this kind of technique, so here’s a list of some of my favorites if you want to check out the technique in action in different ways!  Links are to the ravelry pages; all the patterns can also be found on  (I may come back here every year or so and add some new patterns to the lists.)

Some form of the sideways edge cast-on technique is used in…

So I just released a new pattern (Swerve!) and you’ll notice how the cuffs and hands are knit in opposite directions (or, perpendicular directions really) – but hey guess what!  There’s no picking up stitches and no seaming!  How is that so, you might ask… well, I’m about to show you!  I have been doing a ton of experimenting (ohmygosh so much) over the last several months and I want to share with you everything I’ve discovered, learned, ruled out, with all of my trials and errors…

Swerve fingerless mitts!

The method – which has existed, of course, as all knitterly things have, and I have just unvented, as the great Elizabeth Zimmermann liked to say – I am calling the sideways edge cast-on, because edges (cuffs, brims, etc) are what I’ve been using it for and what it seems great for.  However, if you are an experienced and clever garment knitter, you may figure out how it could be used for joining sections of sweaters (casting on the sleeve stitches as you work the body, perhaps? maybe, maybe not?) or other purposes beyond edges.

My how-to, notes, etc in this post can be used by designers, of course, but I think it spreads further than that – if you are a knitter who hates picking up stitches, you can take any pattern that involves a sideways brim/cuff/etc and calls for picking up the stitches, and convert it to a sideways edge cast-on instead!

A quick note to new knitters:  since this post is going to be crazy long as it is, I will not be describing what I mean when I say things like “kfb”, “turn”, etc – you can use sites like, knitty, and just plain google, to figure out what things mean if you’re not yet familiar.  Sorry, I just don’t want this post to turn into a book!

And an extra note (edited to add this): if all this that follows seems over your head, you should know that when the technique is used within a pattern (like in all the patterns listed at the top), it is not challenging at all really – it’s just increases and plain knitting, and there’s no need to understand this post first, pretty easy peasy once you get started!  Remember, all knitting is is pulling loops of yarn through loops of yarn with needles!

Below is an example of a version of the method having been worked as a hat brim.  While the technique can be used with any kind of stitch pattern (plenty of stockinette swatch examples coming up soon), garter stitch is an excellent fabric for the edge/brim/cuff/whatever for two major reasons:  texture and stretchiness.  As you’ll see soon, different kinds of bumps and things are created by the “casting-on” of new stitches as the edge is worked, so garter stitch is great at hiding those.  And the stretchiness – you can achieve different effects with your edging by adding different amounts of cast-on stitches, and garter stitch will stretch to adjust to the ratio of stitches to rows that you choose….. more on that in a minute…


The “cast-on” stitches in this method are essentially taking the place of stitches which would otherwise be picked up along the side of the edge piece, with “cast-on” being in quotations there because the stitches are actually added with increases, then left behind with short rows, waiting for you to come back to them later when the edge section is finished.  (I’ll stop it with the quotations now – from this point on, know that cast-on stitches are referring to the stitches you’re adding along the side.)

Now, what was up with that “ratio of stitches to rows” issue mentioned above?  Well, if you’re familiar with picking up stitches along the side of knit fabric, you know that it’s usually not just 1 stitch picked up for every 1 row.  It could be, but a standard ratio for stockinette knitting is 3 stitches for every 4 rows.  When working the sideways edge cast-on, you’ll be adding stitches every time you turn your work, so you need to account for the row working up to it, and the row coming back down – adding 3 stitches for every 4 rows means adding 3 stitches every 2 times you turn your work (or 1.5 stitches per turn).  There are different ways to deal with this, which I’ll go into later on.  (If you need a ratio other than that, or 1 stitch to 1 row, or 1 stitch to 2 rows, such as 2 stitches to 3 rows, you’ll need to do the math to find that you need 4 stitches to every 3 times you turn, and adjust the increases accordingly.)

Now, wait, you (hopefully) have an understanding of how this method takes the place of picking up stitches, but how does it actually work?  Here’s what you do:  work whatever brim, cuff, edge you want sideways (in the above examples it’s the garter stitch cuff and brim), and each time you turn at the side which will become the cast-on side, you increase 1 or 2 stitch(es) and leave it/them behind, using short rows – next time you work up the edge, turn your work before knitting (or purling) the new stitch(es) you just added. So, as you work across sideways, there is a trail of stitches remaining unworked at the edge of each row, forming a new cast-on edge. When your cuff/brim/edge is complete, join around if you want to start knitting in the round (or not if you’re working flat), either bind-off or graft/3-needle bind off the working stitches up the side, and start working across all those top cast-on stitches.

I’ll move on to a photo step-by-step, for you visual learners, but first, a couple more notes… When I say edge stitches I’ll mean the stitches in the cuff/brim/whatever (like the garter stitch stitches in the examples above) – this number of stitches always stays the same, even as you add more and more stitches along the side (which are the cast-on stitches).  It’s not totally necessary, but this technique is made easier by using a stitch marker.  Later on, I’ll simplify the specifics of different variations without mentioning the marker, but just know that sticking a marker in your work (before increases happen – usually at 1 stitch less than the edge stitch number, as you’ll see below) will help you keep track easily so working the edge will become somewhat mindless knitting.

Now as for these how-to photos (well, scans, actually) below – remember, this version being worked in the pictures is one of many, as the point is to show you a visual of how stitches are added along the side.  After the process shots, you’ll see a bunch of different swatches which have been worked differently, but always with the same concept of adding stitches at one end, then leaving them behind.

So, start out by casting on the number of stitches in your edge – you may want to use a provisional cast-on so you can graft or 3-needle bind-off later if you’ll be working in the round.  In this example, my edge number is 6 stitches, and after casting on I knit one row, then purled one row to get started (these starting rows can change depending on pattern specifics), followed by my first increase row, so the beginning goes:

  • Cast-on 6 stitches.
  • Knit 1 row.
  • Purl 1 row.
  • Kfb, place marker, k to end.

And now it looks like:


So, the marker is set up at 1 stitch before the final edge stitch (the piece will always be: 5 stitches, then marker, 1 last edge stitch, then all the cast-on stitches).  Next is my first wrong side row, which will always be the same (work the edge stitches, then turn):

  • WS row:  Purl to marker, pass marker, p1, turn.

…followed by the right side row which increases by 2 stitches.  To get a ratio of 3 stitches added for every 4 rows (that’s 2 turns), I’ll be switching between adding 2 stitches and adding 1 stitch, every other turn.  The first increase was by 1, so now I’ll be knitting into the front and the back, to add 2:

  • RS row1:  Kfbf (below, left), pass marker, k to end.

Then repeat the wrong side row, and work an increase row which only adds 1 stitch, so the next 2 rows go:

  • Repeat WS row.
  • RS row2:  Kfb, pass marker, k to end.

Now just repeat those four rows – WS, RS 1, WS, RS 2 – across the whole edge section.  Below, right is what the piece looks like after working a kfb in a RS row2 after a couple of repeats – see how those increased stitches are becoming a cast-on row along the top:

ProcessScan02 ProcessScan03

After a little while, once completing a RS row (working to the end), the work will bunch up on the straight needle, since the stitches are going in two different directions (below, left).  If you’re working on a circular needle, you can move the work up to the cord and see how the cast-on stitches line up across the top, while the edge stitches go down the side (below, right):

ProcessScan04 ProcessScan05

If working a pattern which is telling you to pick up a certain number of stitches along the edge, then you’ll want to simply count the cast-on stitches and stop with the edge when the number reaches the picked-up stitches number – example:  In Alexandra Virgiel’s Coronet hat pattern in knitty, you’re told to pick up 84[90, 96] sts from edge of band, approximately 2 sts for every 3 rows.  (Of course, this is a different ratio than what we’ve been working in this sample, so for this pattern you’d need to work two RS row2’s in a row, then one RS row1, so you’re adding 4 stitches for every 6 rows, or 3 turns.)  So, work the edge (“band” – in the cable pattern) until the cast-on stitches reach 84[90,96] stitches, then you have your the base of the hat cast on – no picking up needed!  (There’s a little more to altering a pattern than just what I’ve said – you’ll need to figure out specifics, like how to begin, yourself.)

When the stitches reach whatever number you’re working to, either bind-off the edge stitches, or join around (if working around) and 3-needle bind-off, or graft, or whatever you want to do with the edges of your sideways edging (below, left).  Now start working those cast-on stitches – either start working in the round, or just start working across.  In this case, I’m working flat, so I purled across the first row, after which my piece looked like that, below, right:

ProcessScan06 ProcessScan07

If you’re working around, there’s no purl row necessary, of course – simply join around and start knitting!  (This will make some variations below much easier, as you’ll see soon.)  And below is my little swatch after working several rows upwards… from this point one, now that you know the concept of working up the edge stitches, turning and increasing (or sometimes increasing and turning), and working back down to the end, I’ll be simplifying instructions to tell you different kinds of increases you can use, etc.


A different way to get a ratio other than 1 stitch to 1 row or 1 stitch to 2 rows is to add extra stitches across the top when working your first row into the cast-on stitches.  This makes working the edge easier (no keeping track of whether you’re supposed to be kfb‘ing or kfbf‘ing) and makes for a different look when you’re finished, as you can see below.

Now in all my experimenting, I’ve tried this several different ways and learned – when adding stitches along the top during your first row working those cast-on stitches, using a kfb increase, or the type of m1 increase where you simply twist a backward loop onto the needle, will leave you with huge holes along the edge!

The only kind of increase I know that works when adding stitches along the top is the m1 increase where you pick up the strand going between the two stitches and knit (or purl) into the back loop.  So, when I say m1, that’s what I mean, when I say m1-p, I mean to purl into the back loop.

Below is a simple and effective way to work this type of sideways edge cast-on – work the edge like the above method, except just kfb’ing after every time you turn, leaving 1 stitch behind for each turn (ratio = 1 stitch per 2 rows).  Then the first time you purl across them all (if working flat), work the row like so:

  • [Purl 2, m1-p] repeat across row.

If working in the round, it’s even easier, since m1’ing knit-wise is easier to do than m1-p’ing – just [Knit 2, m1] across the first round.


Here is yet another way to achieve the 3 stitches to 4 rows ratio – adding stitches on either side of the turn, before the turn every time and after the turn only half the time.  The swatch below is worked like so:

  • WS row:  Purl edge stitches, m1-p, p1, turn.
  • RS row1:  Sl1, k to end.
  • Repeat WS row.
  • RS row2:  Kfb, k to end.


Here is another way I tried, which didn’t work so well, leaving a weird loose row above the edging…  It’s a variation on the example two up – the “m1-p every 2 stitches across the top” version.  Since m1-p’ing is kind of annoying, I thought, if working flat, maybe I could just purl across the whole first row, then [knit 2, m1] across the next (right-side) row.  Here’s the result:


A side note – when first starting, you might want to think about where you want your yarn end, depending on if you’ll be using it to sew up the seam or anything;  you may choose to start with either a RS row or a WS row after casting-on, which would leave the yarn end on the opposite sides of your edge (like you might notice on the above two swatches, which started with opposite rows).

Ok another issue – in all the above examples, the row working up to the turn has been the wrong-side (WS) row, with the RS row working down from the turn.  I decided this is ideal after much swatching and experimenting – when I first started playing with the concept, I was working the row up to the turn as the RS and coming back down was the WS.  Here is an example, the swatch below was worked like so:

  • RS:  Knit edge stitches, turn.
  • WS:  Kfb, purl to end.
  • First row working across cast-on stitches:  [Knit 2, m1] repeat across.

You’ll see how all those bumps are left on the right side – and I know I kfb on the wrong side here, leaving extra bumps, but pfb’ing is not much better…


So how about trying a way with less bumpy increases?  Here’s another variation I tried – looks pretty cool, I think, but still a bit busier than the methods which treat the going up row as the WS…  It’s worked like so:

  • RS:  Knit edge stitches, m1, k1, turn.
  • WS:  Sl1, purl to end.
  • First row working across cast-on stitches:  [Knit 2, m1] repeat across.


What if you need to work at a ratio of 1 stitch to every 2 rows (maybe because your body will be a lace pattern, or something)?  Awesome!  That makes things much simpler and neater looking, since every turn will be identical, with no extra stitches needing to be added later.  Work any kind of increase method you like, just adding 1 stitch for every turn.

If you are experienced with short rows, you may have been thinking, shouldn’t I be wrapping my stitches each time I turn?  Well, I’ve played around with that, oh yes I have.  In the adding 1 stitch per turn example below, wrapping the stitches (as you can see on the left half of the swatch) worked out pretty nicely, actually, though not necessary…


…but after much experimenting with normal 3 stitches to 4 rows types of patterns, I’ve concluded that wrapping stitches is no good!  Below, you’ll see 4 different trials using wrapped stitches to close holes caused by using the m1 type of increase where you twist a backwards loop onto the needle (I call m1-loop) – I figured, this kind of easy increase usually leaves a hole when used in a sideways edge cast-on, so what if I close that hole by wrapping the next stitch?  Well, yeah, no holes, but I think every version (working the wraps together with the wrapped stitches, or not; adding extra stitches while working the edge, or while working into the first cast-on row) looks pretty bad:


This isn’t to say you shouldn’t play around with wrapping stitches if you want to… I’ve tried it with a normal kfb increase method as well – it looks fine, but just isn’t needed, so what’s the point?  I’d rather not bother wrapping if I don’t have to, you know?

Ok now I’ll move on to some garter stitch edge stuff… remember how I mentioned the stretchiness of garter being perfect for this technique?  Here’s what I meant…

Adding just 1 stitch per turn (1 stitch per 2 rows) makes for a thick, unstretched, squishy edge – great for a cozy warm hat brim or cuff:


Adding 3 stitches for every 2 turns (3 stitches per 4 rows) gives you a slightly stretched garter stitch edge – perfect for an elastic-y brim or cuff that will stay put and be fitted:


And adding 2 stitches at every turn (1 stitch per 1 row) will make a very stretched edge with a flared out body/main section – excellent for a slouchy beret type hat:


The other garter stitch benefit I mentioned above is the texture – it doesn’t matter so much which variation you choose to work with garter stitch (the same would go for seed/moss stitch, or any other stitch with lots of purl bumps, etc) since those bumps you see in all the stockinette examples above will be hidden in the texture.  But, the WS/RS thing will matter a little – below you can see the difference between treating the working up to the turn side as the RS or the WS.  One version isn’t clearly bad, but I do much prefer the side working down from the turn as the RS (like I talked about above) – I think the join between the edge and the body is nicer looking and more seamless (that’s the version on the right):

GarterSampleSide1 GarterSampleSide2

Phew, this has been long – I hope you have a good grasp of the technique and can take it into your pattern altering and/or designing!  (Be sure to comment here and show me your results! Fun!)

If you need a more hands-on way of trying it out, my new mitts pattern uses the method – with a garter stitch cuff, adding 1 stitch per turn, then m1’ing every 2 stitches around the first row into the cast-on edge.  Here’s what the cuff looks like after working the edge stitches, before turning:


And below, you can see what it looks like after working down to the end (if this was a circular needle, the cast-on stitches could curve around the cord); then what the cuff looks like after seaming up the side with a 3-needle bind-off, ready to work the first row into the cast-on edge, in the round:

mittscuffprogress2 mittscuffprogress3

And, the finished mitts!  (One size too big for me!)

Swerve mitts

Self-striping yarn is fun with this technique, making it super clear that the work is in different directions:

Swerve fingerless mitts!

Check out the Swerve pattern details on my site or on ravelry – it’ll soon be part of Knit Picks’ Independent Designers Program.  As you’ll see on the pattern pages, the price will be dropping after September 1st, but for right now, $1 of each pattern sold gets donated to the Pancreatic Craftacular, so you can feel good about your purchase! (Edited in 2015 to remove prices which are no longer applicable.)

Oh yeah I almost forgot: thanks to Mary-Heather for the great name idea!  Get your swerve on!!

Swerve fingerless mitts!

I’m also currently working on a set of hat patterns, all with garter stitch brims – the plan is to have 3 different brim types (which are the three different ratios of stitches to rows that I talked about above with garter stitch) and 3 different top decrease designs, and then for all the variations to be any-gauge and interchangeable (like, choose brim type #2 worked extra wide, with top style #1, in this yarn that’s a weird weight, measuring to get the sizing all perfect as you go)!  Exciting!

Update: the hat pattern set has been released! Custom Tritops!


By the way, striping between 2 colors is a fabulous way to easily keep track of your increases when switching between adding 1 stitch and adding 2 stitches at each turn along the edge – just know that color #1 always increases by one, and color #2 always increases by two!


So, you can see the whole different ratios making for different levels of stretch thing in action with these examples – that top hat was worked with 1 stitch added per turn, for a thick, squishy, unstretched brim.  The hat below was worked with 2 stitches being added at each turn, causing the body of the hat to flare out above the brim, and the brim to stretch and hold on to the head, all elastic-y:


And now that I’ve said everything I can think of to say about this technique that I’m so excited about, I’ll talk a little more about the whole “unventing” of it… I had this brainstorm (“Couldn’t I use increases and short-rows to add stitches along the side of a hat brim, for a sideways edge and a round body?”) about 6 months ago, and started swatching right away, super excited about the discovery.  The more I played, the more excited I got, and I started asking my knitting and designing friends if they’d ever seen it done before, everyone saying no (I even asked here on the blog awhile back)… But, I knew, it’s been done before, of course it has, it’s just not publicly known in the current knitting world, so I was pretty darn excited to share it with you!

As Elizabeth Zimmermann said, “…I can’t imagine that I alone unvented [the technique], but I certainly discovered it in my own brain single-handed.”

The maybe ironic-ish thing about that quote specifically (from page 74 of Knitter’s Almanac) is that she is talking about her sideways edging type of bind-off (don’t know if there’s an official name for this technique) which is basically the exact opposite of the sideways edge cast-on.  You knit an edge onto a piece while binding off at the same time by decreasing the last 2 stitches of each row together… I feel like if I had known about this method, it would have led me right to my discovery (which, chances are, EZ herself used at some point or another, I’d guess), but I didn’t learn of this bind-off until some of you readers mentioned it back in that blog post when I asked you about the cast-on.

Aaaanyway… that’s just kind of a random side note.  I want to quote EZ talking about unventing since I love her and the way she writes:

Do you mind the word ‘unvented’?  I like it.  Invented sounds to me rather pompous and conceited.  I picture myself as a knitting inventor, in a clean white coat, sitting in a workshop full of tomes of reference, with charts and graphs on the walls.  Not real knitters’ charts, which are usually scribbled on odd and dog-eared pieces of squared paper, or even ordinary paper with homemade squares on it, but charts like sales charts, and graphs like the economy.  I have a thoughtful expression behind my rimless glasses and hold a neatly-shaped pencil.  Who knows but that I don’t have a bevy of hand-knitters in the backroom, tirelessly toiling at the actual knit and purl of my deathless designs.


But, unvented – ahh!  One un-vents something; one unearths it; one digs it up, one runs it down in whatever recesses of the eternal consciousness it has gone to ground.  I very much doubt if anything is really new when one works in the prehistoric medium of wool with needles.  The products of science and technology may be new, and some of them are quite horrid, but knitting? In knitting there are ancient possibilities; the earth is enriched with the dust of the millions of knitters who have held wool and needles since the beginning of sheep.  Seamless sweaters and one-row buttonholes; knitted hems and phoney seams – it is unthinkable that these have, in mankind’s history, remained undiscovered and unknitted.  One likes to believe that there is memory in the fingers; memory undeveloped, but still alive.

LOVE.  (from Knitter’s Almanac, July chapter)

And, I want to thank the designers group on ravelry for reminding me of EZ’s term, which I’d forgotten, and pointing out some places where the sideways edge cast-on technique has, indeed, been used before.  It is a method commonly used in machine knitting, it turns out, or something very similar at least; Iris Schreier used the method in her Diagonal Triangle Tank design from 2006; Lucy Neatby has used it, or something like it, and surely there are many more instances.

I am surprised that it seems most knitters (myself included) have never seen it done before, and I hate picking up stitches, so I’m so happy to have finally experimented enough to be able to share it with you!  I really hope my explanations and ramblings made sense.  Enjoy!!

Filed under: knitting,self-publishing,tutorials — leethal @ 7:45 pm

June 8, 2010

Dry Erase Magnets tutorial, plus other magnet ideas!

Dry Erase Magnets!

Look what I made yesterday!  I had this brainstorm about making dry erase magnets back when I was making magnet projects for the May club, but I was just going to try it with white paper, for a plain white background… then I saw this tutorial via Craft: and thought of using images for the backgrounds!  Now I have a great looking note-taking station on my fridge!

Note taking magnets! Note taking magnets!

First you’ll need a basic flat magnet – freebie promo magnets work fabulously.  If you can find an image that’s light and low-contrast enough that you’ll be able to see notes written over it, then you just need glue (glue stick works well) and packing tape – higher quality, thick tape is ideal, as opposed to the really cheap, thin type.

tutorial photos

Cut the image (could be: magazine/book picture, photograph, printed out image, etc) into a rectangle a bit bigger than the magnet.  Glue it onto the magnet, then trim the paper neatly around the edges.  (Now it’s probably good to let the glue dry, but I didn’t because I was anxious to finish and see how it worked!)

tutorial photos tutorial photos

Smooth a piece of packing tape over the front – as you can see below, my packing tape was just a wee bit more narrow than my magnet… Since my magnets are thin and easy to cut with scissors, I decided to trim the magnet to tape size, but you can also deal with this problem by layering another piece of tape to cover the whole surface:

tutorial photos

Trim the tape around the edges and your functional dry erase magnet is complete!

If you want to use an image that’s too dark/bright/high-contrast for the writing to be clear on top, then you can add an extra step to make it work…  You’ll just need tracing paper or tissue paper (or some other kind of paper that’s translucent enough for the image to show through, but will dull it enough so the writing will be clear), plus basic white glue (or Mod Podge will work) and a brush for the glue:

Dry Erase Magnets! tutorial photos

Complete the first couple of steps from above – cut out the image and glue it onto the magnet – then spread out white glue over the top of the image (photo is before spreading it out with the brush):

tutorial photos

Now smooth the tracing paper or tissue paper over the top… I used tissue paper because it’s all I had, but I’d expect tracing paper to work much better, since it wouldn’t tear nearly as easily.  On my first try, I attempted to smooth out the tissue with my fingers, ended up tearing the paper badly, and had to peel it off and start over.  So, just smooth it out the best you can without ripping it:

tutorial photos

Then trim the edges, add the tape over the top (after the glue is dry would be best), just like the first version above, and there you go!  By the way, both of my images came from an old yarn company catalog – great source for background images!

Dry Erase Magnets!

To complete your refrigerator’s dry erase station, you’ll need a clip magnet big and strong enough to hold a dry erase marker, and if there’s a spot where you can stick a piece of paper towel to use as an eraser, excellent!  Or, you can make one of these awesome fridge tin pen holders by Not Martha!

Note taking magnets! Note taking magnets!

And then my other note-taking magnet idea – this one needs no tutorial because it’s so simple – chalkboard magnet!  Buy some chalkboard paint at your local craft supply store (I used this kind), follow the instructions on the container to paint over your basic flat magnet, and tah dah!  Love it!

Chalkboard Magnet!

And then going back to my club magnet projects to finish things off… I mentioned these over here, but not in any detail.  I used a simple foam stamp (from the dollar section at Joann, impulse buy!) to stamp designs onto old book pages, then cut out the shapes and layered them on the magnets:


You could use the same concept with drawings over the book pages, or you could layer pictures from magazines or photographs over the text background… this one is a rectangle of book page with a stamp on it, then another cut-out stamp design layered over that.  I like the look of the text going in different directions on the 2 layers:


Then the final magnet idea, also from the club, was record album artwork magnets – no instructions needed, just cut out a piece of old album cover and glue it onto the magnet:

magnets! magnets!

If you make over some reclaimed magnets using any of these ideas, I’d love to see them!  Happy crafting!

Filed under: general crafts,home stuff,quick project,tutorials — leethal @ 7:23 pm

May 31, 2010

Make a scrap-yarn-wrapped branch decoration!

yarn branch art piece thing

While flipping through The Big Ass Book of Home Decor a couple weeks ago, I came across a project like this – yarn-wrapped twig arrangement.  I felt like I’d seen similar projects online too, like it wasn’t the first time I’d seen a branch wrapped in yarn, but now I can’t find anything in blog-land (at the bottom, I linked to some other related projects that I did find!)… Anyway, mine is a bit different from the book project, so now I’ll share it with you!

yarn branch art piece thing

I wanted to use a glue gun, but some crafty items got temporarily lost in the move and my guns were nowhere to be found, so I came up with methods that use as little glue as possible.  Some glue was necessary, so I used Aleene’s Tacky Glue, which worked very well.

All you need for this project are some branches/twigs (the size and amount that you want for your vase or other arrangement plan), yarn leftover scraps, glue, and scissors.

yarn branch art piece thing

You can barely see, but I tried out something with the solid blue yarn that I thought would look cool – as I was balling up the yarn, I tied knots in it all throughout, which made little bumps on the branches.  It would indeed look cool, I think, if I did more; if you make knots, make them super frequently (like every 4-6 inches or so).  I think I knotted the yarn an average of every 18-24 inches-ish, and that makes the knots pretty far apart on the branches, oops!

howto00 scrapbranch2

To make the scrappy version, you’ll need a bunch of yarn bits around 1-2 feet long.  For either version, to start wrapping at the bottom of your branch, wrap the yarn around itself a couple times then start wrapping upwards.  I found no need to knot or glue the piece at the bottom, just holding the tip down and overlapping it in the first wraps worked out well.

To change colors, when you have about 3-4 inches of your first color left, hold the tip of the next color alongside the branch.  Wrap the last 2-3 wraps of the first color around the end of the next color:

howto01 howto02

Hold the end of the first color against the branch, and start wrapping with the next color over the first color, wrapping over the tip to hold it down:


When you reach the end, cut the yarn when it’s wrapped all the way to the top, then unwrap a couple times around, dot some glue on the branch end, and wrap back over the glue.

To wrap the offshoots, the number one rule is be careful – they can be easy to snap!  Either wrap up over the offshoot and back down to continue upwards, like the red yarn above, or you can wrap the end of a new color into the base, continue up the main branch, and then use that new yarn for the offshoot.  The neatest way is to wrap up the offshoot just like the rest of the branch is wrapped, and glue it off at the tip, but on smaller offshoots you can wrap up loosely (further apart wraps), then wrap back down to the base, normally, so it’s double-wrapped and there’s no need for gluing the end.

closeup2 closeup1

By the way, I do recommend doing this project over newspapers – the little twig dust gets everywhere on your workspace, so newspaper makes for easy cleanup!

If you do snap an offshoot after wrapping, like you can see I did below, you can glue it back together, twisting it to get the wrapping back in place as much as possible.


So, just keep on wrapping until you’ve wrapped all the branches you want…


Then arrange them in a vase, or whatever (some kind of wall art arrangement could also be rad looking):

yarn branch art piece thing

I had a fun time photographing mine, it’s so colorful and fun!  I love how it turned out!!

yarn branch art piece thing

I made this one for our bathroom, which is white and boring, so now it’s cheery and colorful! Yay!  If we had some kind of entry area, this might be a great piece for that (bigger and crazier, perhaps)…

yarn branch art piece thing

So, as I was searching around to see if other crafters had made similar projects, I found some fun other ways to decorate with branches/twigs… I super love Betz White’s pussy willow rainbow, made with felt balls.  I also love the idea of pom poms on twigs, like Apartment Therapy shows here, and row home living shows here.

yarn branch art piece thing

Other ideas: branch jewelry holder, cherry blossom branch, and cherry blossom branch lights!  I think I see a roundup developing here…..

yarn branch art piece thing

It’s a fun project, I’d love to see photos if anyone does it!  The scrappy branch is my favorite for sure – I love that I found a use for some of my scrap jar yarn!!


Filed under: home stuff,tutorials,yarn — leethal @ 1:02 pm
Next Page »
Proudly powered by wordpress 4.8 - Theme by neuro, customized by leethal