I’ve mentioned before that I am trying to use up my much too large yarn collection. While I’m not near the end of it yet, I had noticed I was getting more and more partial skeins and bits and pieces. I also had a collection of swatches, unsuccessful design WIPS and projects that were abandoned when I realized I didn’t have enough yarn to finish. So I took some time this weekend to work on my scrap yarn stash. I pulled out all the scraps, partial WIPS, design fails and swatches of yarn that had been discontinued. Everything was frogged and balled up. I’ve been inspired by Grace’s Bits and Bobs Mother Bears so I put all the tiny scraps in one bin and the even tinier ones in another. I’ll need to make a magic ball with them at a later date. It was like going down memory lane frogging some of those items. Some dated back to my very first published design, theI Do Blanket, where I was working out different ways to attach the rings.
I’m excited to have this section organized. When a yarn is discontinued, I won’t use it for a new design. The discontinued yarn is what I use when I make Mother Bears or other small items for personal use. Having them all together and ready to use will make it a lot easier when I’m ready to start a new project. I haven’t yet dived into the partial skeins, unsuccessful design WIPS, abandoned projects or swatches of current yarn, but I’ll get to it. For now, they are in the appropriate stash box with full skeins of the same yarn.
I belong to a few groups on Ravelry. I love how groups have themes and I love when someone in the group starts a thread with a theme. In honor of Earth Day, one of the groups started a thread called Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and I was super excited to see what others would post. I wasn’t disappointed when KristyRecycles posted about three hot pads she made out of tarn (T-shirt yarn = tarn). While I have seen a lot of projects made with recycled t-shirts, I was really touched by her motivation for the project.
After my Grandma past away (a few years ago), my aunts, mom, and I were going through her things. Any t-shirts that didn’t have a side seam I took home and made tarn out of. When not working on it, I kept it in a sealed bag so that her smell stayed on it. I made these hot pads from one of the shirts, and gave them to my mom and 2 of my aunts for Christmas.
I asked Kristy if she would like to interviewed for my blog and she graciously said yes. Please read about this eco-concious crafter.
How long have you been crocheting and/or knitting?
I have been crocheting for 33 years, knitting for 17 years, and weaving for 24 years.
Was your grandmother a crafter?
My grandma was a quilter and a sewer. I own a couple of quilts that my great-grandma pieced from my mom and her siblings’ clothing, and my grandma quilted. My grandma sadly had to stop sewing when her arthritis got to bad. When she passed away, the family agreed that I could keep her mother’s singer sewing machine, because I am the only quilter in the family (blood relative that is…and it’s a very large family). One of my childhood memories is of her letting me raid her fabric stash, which I made some Barbie clothes and clothes for myself from.
What was your inspiration to make the hot pads from your grandmother’s t-shirts?
The day after her funeral, my mom, some of my aunts, and I went to her trailer and were going through her bedroom. We were sorting items to be given to different family members, to be donated, and things to be thrown away. There was a shirt that didn’t have any side seams, which is perfect for making tarn (t-shirt yarn) from. I asked if I could have it, which got a few surprised looks from my aunts (because who asks to keep a brown t-shirt). When I told them that I planned on making something from it, then they put aside all of her t-shirts for me to pick through before adding them to the donation box. Sadly I think that that was the only non-seamed shirt in the bunch.
Do you use the hot pads or gift them?
I was only able to get 3 hot pads out of the tarn that I had made, so I was only able to gift them to my mom and 2 of my aunts. My mom is one of 8 surviving siblings, so I had some unhappy family members that Christmas.
How else have you incorporated Reduce, Reuse, Recycle into your crochet or knitting?
For Reduce, I try to only buy yarn and craft supplies as I need it and not buying it just because. The exception to this is souvenir yarn, but I do have a go-to pattern for that yarn (and I usually make it soon after the purchase).
For Reuse: I do a lot more sewing projects under the Reuse heading, but I think that my use of scraps might fit in this group. Not only do I save all of my “too small to use” scraps of yarn, but my friends and crochet students save theirs for me as well. On a weekly to monthly basis I use them as stitch holders. Around Christmas I put them into clear ornaments and give them to friends and family. During the off season, I like to add them to shadow boxes to make fun pieces of art for my home.
After Christmas I like to crochet around my Christmas cards and turn them into ornaments. It’s a great way to have the card and to see them (and the sweet words written in them) every year. I use the inside of the card as the back of the ornament.
One trick that I learned from some knitters at the yarn shop that I use to work at (and which I have passed on to a lot of other people) is to reuse the plastic bread tags to wrap up my yarn tails so that they stay out of the way. This prevents me from accidentally working with the tail instead of the ball of yarn. I make a lot of amigurumi which require me to start with a long tail to use when the section is finished (for sewing with).
I’ve used found sticks for weavings and for coiling string and embroidery floss around. I have also used cardboard food boxes to create the cards used in card weaving, and shuttles for weaving with. Once I even made a weaving shed out of a coral box.
For Recycle: For a while recycling was a big part of my crafting world. I even had a local t.v. show based on it. I use recycled materials in all sorts of crafts. For knitting and crochet I mainly focus on making and using plarn (plastic bag yarn) and tarn, plastic bottle caps, metal jar lids, plastic bottles, pull tabs, plastic bottle rings, corks, and toilet paper tubes. I have knit and crochet plarn bags, a hat, and an amigurumi jellyfish. I really like spinning with it, especially plying novelty yarn that I no longer care for with it, because the crochet bags from it look really cool. Since moving to California I haven’t made any plarn, because plastic bags are hard to come by here. With tarn (t-shirt yarn) I have crochet bags, a walker bag, hot pads, and a rug. With the pull tabs I have crochet bracelets, purses (one used over 800 tabs), earrings, flowers, and garland. With plastic bottles, I have crochet drawstring bags where the top is crochet and the bottom is the bottle. I have also made a tool caddy out of several 16 oz soda bottles. With the plastic bottle rings (that are just under the bottle cap), I crochet around them to create mini wreath ornaments and brooches. Those rings and the pull tabs also make great ways to hang the wreaths that I have made. I have knitted little hats and outfits to put on the wine corks so that they look like little people. My husband and I don’t drink, but I have a large collection of corks because of friends and family. Right now I actually keep them and the pull tabs in shadow boxes so that they can serve as a fun decorations until I get around to crafting with them. Last but not least are the plastic bottle caps and metal jar lids. I don’t actually knit or crochet with them, instead I make pincushions out of them which I used daily. The caps and lids are the base of the pincushions. I sew felt around them, and have the stuffing (inside of felt) on top of them. The jar lid ones I use for my sewing pins, and the bottle cap ones I use for my yarn needles. The bottle cap pincushion that looks like a mushroom is the one that is in my yarn tool kit that goes in my current project bag. I like to make hat ornaments with the toilet paper tubes. They aren’t knitted or crochet, but they do use yarn and make great gifts for my yarn friends.
How else have you memorialized someone with your crochet, knitting or other crafts?
A friend had asked me to use her grandmother’s nightgowns to make pillows for her and her family members as well as 2 little purses for her daughters.
I’ve used the buttons off of my grandpa’s shirt to use as eyes on a sock plushie for my youngest son.
When my grandma passed away, I got back most of the things that I had made for her (crochet and sewn). In a way that is a memory in and of itself. Every time I see them I think of her.
In college we learned how to make paper. I embedded some childhood family pictures in the paper. You could still see the image.
I have a box of t-shirts that contain their own memories that I plan on turning into a quilt.
A few years ago I started knitting a California King sized afghan. It’s one of my movie watching projects. Each colored stripe is a whole skein of yarn. It is actually inspired by a crochet afghan that I remember my mom making for years when I was a kid. She would crochet the length of the blanket until she ran out of yarn, and then she would start with another color. It became this warm colorfully striped afghan on my parents’ bed. She still makes versions of this on a wooden knitting board. She doesn’t really care about if the colors match or even if the yarn weight is the same, its about the process for her (about relaxing). I can’t be random like her, but this afghan is an ode to her.
Once I did an exquisite corpse drawing of my grandma with family members. I’ve drawn and painted lots of pictures of friends, family, and myself over the years.
I still think of a college friend every time I look at some small woven bags that I made in college, because I used her waste yarn (cut from the warp) from a hand dyed floor loom project that she did. I used my tiny table loom to weave the scraps with.
I have also dedicated several bears for the Mother Bear Project to family and friends. The one most like the person is my Swiss Bear, which is named after my dad. Once he saw the picture of the bear with his forever friend, he asked me to make him an identical one for his birthday.
What is your environmentally favorite crafting item (crochet/knit/other)?
My favorite one to craft with are pull tabs. I love it when people don’t realize until closer inspection that that’s what the metal part is. But the 2 things that I use the most when crafting are bread tags and my bottle cap pincushion. They are a staple in my yarn tool bag.
What else have you made with tarn?
Here is a link to the tarn items on my project page. There aren’t too many things, because shirts that work the best, and that you don’t mind cutting up, are not usually easy to come by. I have made a large market bag (my favorite one to use), hotpads, a walker bag, and a rug. Surprisingly the tarn rug is not very absorbent. I do plan on making a dog toy out of tarn in the future.
Any tips or tricks when working with tarn?
When making tarn (t-shirt yarn), look for a shirt that does not have a side seam (see the first 3 images). Also when it is time to cut the inch of the un-cut t-shirt so that you have a continuous piece of yarn, I like to lay that part on my leg so that the cut lines are very clear (See images 6 & 7). A suggestion when making the tarn is to make it outside while wearing clothes that you don’t mind changing out of afterwards. This is because little bits of the t-shirt (like fuzz) go all over the place, especially when stretching the tarn and winding it into a yarn cake.
Thank you Kristy!! Kristy is VERY EXPERIENCED in the world of eco-crafting. She sold her eco-crafts at different craft fairs for years, had an environmental local tv show for a few years, ran her town’s Earth Fair for 5 years and several years ago was the runner up in an environmental contest run by TerraCycle!
Bringing Your Own Utensils has Never Looks So GOOD!
Do you remember when you were a kid and you always wanted to be first in line? We all did because we all thought being first was the most important and no one wanted to be last. The truth is in grade school it didn’t matter who was first as we were all important. However, when it comes to the three R’s; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, while they are all important, REDUCE is probably the most important. While all three are necessary in helping our planet, recycle should be your last resort as recycling requires energy. If we reduce our consumption of items, there’s less to recycle. And if we reuse what we have, there’s less to recycle. Less to recycle means less energy used. While recycling is good, it would be best of we all had less to recycle. Make sense?
So, what’s that got to do with a crochet blog? Well, I’m passionate about two things, crochet and the Earth. And when I can combine the two, I’m a real happy camper. So I’m super excited to share with you how I have figured out how to reduce my use of disposable, single use plastic.
One day I was eating lunch out at one of my favorite casual dining restaurants (Moe’s) and as I was picking up a use once and toss fork, it hit me how wasteful it was. We all know there’s too much single use plastic trash in this world and I knew I needed to come up with a way to bring my own utensils for this type of dining. When I got home I pulled out my eyeglass case pattern sample and voila! it was the perfect size. I placed a variety of forks, spoons and knives in a ziploc bag and placed them in the eyeglass case. The eyeglass case, now a utensil case, went right into my purse. The plastic bag keeps the utensils clean while the soft cushioning of the crocheted fabric keeps the plastic from breaking. Going forward, I will always have clean utensils with me and do not have to use the restaurant’s wasteful, disposal utensils. And when I use one of the utensils, I just wrap the dirty part in a napkin and bring it home to wash. My choice is to use plastic ware in my utensil case, however, you could easily use your regular flatware. You just may need to make your case a little longer to accommodate the longer knives.
You can find out more about the Eyeglass Case crochet pattern here: Pretty in Pink
I’ve been super busy lately working on my house. So busy that I’ve had very little time for crocheting. I started painting in May, 2018 and have been working on a number of rooms since. Last November my dishwasher completely fell out of the cabinet when I opened it. The plywood under the laminate had disintegrated where it was attached to the countertop. It was then that we decided it was time to update our 1999 kitchen. I gave myself a tight budget and began planning. I knew I needed new counter tops but wasn’t sure what to do about the cabinets. They were structurally in great shape but the finish had begun to wear out. I didn’t want to paint them and not crazy about sanding and staining. After much interwebs searching, I learned about using Briwax to darken oak cabinets. This was the answer I was looking for. (Check out this post for more info.) Briwax is AMAZING stuff. It stinks horribly but the smells goes away quickly. I LOVE the satin like finish. And the slight darkening is exactly the look I wanted.
Door on right after treated with Briwax, door on left before.
My new counter tops arrive January 10 and that weekend I began working on the transformation. I worked almost every Saturday since and FINALLY finished Sunday, April 14. FOUR MONTHS! Over that time we installed new counter tops, new sink, new faucet, new kitchen light, new cabinet hardware, new counter chairs and new curtain panels. I refinished all the cabinets, painted the walls, trim, windows and doors in my kitchen, dining room and great room (they are all open together), stained five curtain rods/hardware and painted two ceiling fans. Phew! It was a lot of work but I am so pleased with the results. As soon as we finished rehanging the ceiling fans, I sat down and began crocheting some dish cloths for my pretty kitchen. 🙂
I’ve posted before and after photos below. I hope you like the transformation. I wish I could say I was done with the painting, but I’m not. I’m more than half way done with the “to-do” list but a lot more to go. When we replaced the kitchen counter tops, we also replaced the vanity tops in two of the bathrooms. So…my next project will be the hall bath.
And here are the dishcloths I made 🙂 Click on the photo for the pattern.
Grannies, aka granny squares, are the epitome of the awesomeness that is crochet. They can be big and bulky, fun and quirky and even sleek and elegant. I remember the first time I saw a granny square. It was one my sister made. She signed up for a beginning crochet class at the local library the summer she was 10 years old. Once a week that summer she rode her bike back and forth to the library to learn the craft. One of the items she made was an afghan for her bed. The afghan was a giant, purple and white granny square. I loved it. And in true big sister fashion, she shared with me the skills she had learned. We had some challenges, one was our age and two, she’s a lefty and I am a righty. While I managed to learn the basics I never really did much with crochet back then. Over the next couple of years my sister’s interest in crochet faded. Fast forward 40+ years and I’m crocheting constantly now. And I have never forgotten that amazing gigantic purple granny square.
So what is the secret to great grannies?
1. The beginning. My preferred method is to use a magic circle/adjustable loop to start a granny. This method allows you to pull the center tight. Unless, of course, you want a space in the middle then, by all means, start your granny with a joined loop of starting chains. It is your granny so start it the way you like for the look you want!
The granny on the right was started with the magic circle/adjustable loop method. The granny on the left was started with chaining four and then joined to form a ring. Neither have been blocked.
2. Yarn and hook selection. While granny squares are versatile and look great in any yarn or thread, it is important to always work with a hook that is appropriate for your yarn. If your hook is too small for the yarn, your granny might cup, curl or lose the defining spaces. If it is too big, your granny may be floppy, sloppy, or be too holey. You also want to use a yarn that is appropriate for the project. If you are making a scarf or a baby blanket, use yarn dk to aran weight. If you are using your grannies in a dressy headband, you may want to use thinner, delicate yarns like fingering or lace weight.
The granny in the middle was crocheted with the yarn label’s recommended hook size. The granny on the left was crocheted with a smaller hook while the on the granny on the right was crocheted with a larger hook. Neither have been blocked.
3. Color selection. Ahhh, this is where the granny square shines. There are infinite possibilities for the colors of your granny. Use up scraps and make each round a different color.
*TIP! Vary the corner where you add and end your new yarn. This will prevent all the ends from being woven in at the same location.
So how do you know which colors work well together? Some people are gifted with an innate ability to blend colors. Other people need assistance. If you feel you are one of those who needs help grouping colors together, try what I do…learn by what others have done! No need to reinvent the (color) wheel. Take a look at other crocheted projects and see what color combinations appeal to you. Find something you like and make note of it. Find something you don’t like and make note of that too so you don’t make the same mistake.
Dora’s UnSquared Granny Scarf. She used up three different color changing balls of yarn (Boreal in Fireweed, Beaver and Taiga). Every other round is solid off-white to tie it all together. Perfect! Ravelry members can view her project here.
Another option to use are free online sources. Do an internet search for “color wheel” and you will find a number of sites dedicated to helping you select colors that look great together. A couple combinations are contrasting colors; opposites sides of the color wheel, monochromatic colors; different values of the same color, and analogous; colors that are adjacent on the color wheel. The better you understand the color wheel, the easier it will be for you to visualize colors for your projects. Once you select the colors you like, do an internet search for “random stripe generator”. There are a number of these available online for free. Some are simple and some are complex. Play with them and get some ideas of how you want to space out your selected colors.
Last, in regards to color, remember to have fun with it. If you are making a project with a number of grannies, make each granny slightly different. For example, maybe you picked out four analogous colors for a granny square blanket. One option is to make a number of small grannies, randomly using only three of the selected four colors for each square and then stitch them all together. If you are staying within the same color scheme, the squares do not have to be identical to work well together.
4. Blocking. Yes, this is an important step and should not be overlooked. You should block your grannies. This will give them shape. And if you are joining grannies together, you want them to be consistent in size. This will make it a lot easier to join. A simple way to block your grannies is to block them all together, one on top of the other. And remember, always block your squares with a method that is appropriate for your yarn.
*TIP! Measure the distance between your blocking pins for a perfect square.
Get creative. You can make so many different things with the simple granny square. Whether you choose to make one gigantic granny square or join many grannies together, the possibilities are endless. Make a pillow, an afghan, a scarf, a blanket edging, a headband, a bag, a belt or a baby blanket. Who knew you could make so many beautiful items out of something so simple?
PS: Once you’ve mastered the Granny Square, have some fun and try patterns that use the iconic granny formula but mix it up a little.
Who knew a secret society of knitters and crocheters actually existed!
Well, maybe not too secret. A few days ago, my husband and I spent the day in Rome, Georgia. I’d never been there before and was looking forward to checking it out. There’s a bridge with 1000’s of love locks, a fantastic historical grave yard where a former first lady is buried, and a cute historic downtown. When we first arrived to the downtown area I got so excited because I had finally found my first, real live yarn bombing! The town has two bicycle sculptures, one at each end of the historic district. Both had beautiful crocheted “spokes”. And some of the lamp posts were covered with bright stitches. I loved seeing it. I used to think yarn bombing was a waste of good yarn and stitches, but seeing it has changed my mind. It was beautiful.
I asked a woman in town who was responsible for the artwork but she didn’t know. She said it gets changed out a few times a year and commented how nice it was to see the different colors. I then reached out to another person. I won’t say who or how because I don’t want to get anyone in trouble for revealing secrets. What this person told me really caught me off guard. She said the yarn art was created by a secret knit and crochet society called the Knitterati. I honestly didn’t know if this individual was serious or messing with me. Was this group the fiber version of the Illuminati made popular by Dan Brown’s novel, Angels & Demons? Was this woman nuts? So I asked if she was able to give me a little more information about this secret society. Turns out the woman wasn’t nuts. She was super nice and explained the group does a lot of charity work throughout the year in addition to their colorful installations to the downtown area, that they always get permission to do the installations and that there is a group in Atlanta also known as the Knitterati. And, well, it turns out they aren’t too secret after all considering they have Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RomeKnitterati/ 🙂
I really loved seeing how the knit and crochet artwork made such a difference to the look of this small town. And I wish it wasn’t a two hour drive each way. I would love to participate, that is, IF I could learn their secret handshake. Just kidding. I don’t know if they have a secret handshake. But maybe they have secret stitches. 🙂
Anyone in the north Georgia/Dahlonega area want to start a secret knit and crochet society? My youngest already came up with our name, IllumiKNITti.
A few months ago I found out about the Mother Bear Project. If you haven’t yet, check it out. I have made four bears so far and plan to make more. They are adorable, fun and quick to make, and serve a great purpose. There is a group on Ravelry that focuses on making bears for the Mother Bear Project, Mother Bear Project. It is in this group that I met Bitsy and Bobbie, two bears knit by Grace (uknowmeas on Ravlery). I was completely smitten when I saw these two bears as they are not only adorable and made for a wonderful cause, but because Grace made the bears with scrap yarn. And with a sense of humor, aptly named them Bitsy and Bobbie for “Bits and Bobs”. I love it! I asked Grace if should would agree to an interview for my blog and she graciously said yes.
How did you find out about the Mother Bear Project and how long have you been making bears? How many bears to date?
I learned about Mother Bears from a blogger Compassionknit and decided to look into it, in May of 2017. I have made 186 bears for MB and about 11 for others.
WOW! 186 bears for Mother Bear Project and 11 others. That’s a lot of bears since May 2017! Bitsy and Bobbie are Scraptastic! Is this the first time you have used scrap yarn on a project? If no, what else?
No there are a couple of other bears out there made of scrap and I make scrap shawls and or blankets all the time. I usually crochet the shawls and blankets. In my projects bears 151 thru 154 are all scrap sweaters, and bear 127 is all scraps.
Bear #127 made of scraps as well. “Jo”
Please describe your process to save the scraps and then knit with them.
I almost like knitting with scraps more then knitting with a fresh new skein. I knit what I want out of the skein, hank, ball whatever the put up is and then I have a bin I put the leftovers in. These go to bears, sometimes there is enough left over for an entire bear, sometimes I need to stripe or helical knit the bodies to use more then one color. When I have little bits left over 6” to about 3 feet, I roll them up in a ball and just keep adding to it. I just slip knot them, the knots wind up inside the bear. I keep the ball next to my chair and it grows, then when I decide it is large enough, I combine it with a fingerweight yarn and start a bear. This gives it continuity and strength and I do this with the blankets and shawls too but then I will use worsted weight.
What is your motivation for using your scraps? general thriftiness? Eco-conscience? other?
I just hate to see anything go to waste, although thriftiness plays in too. I also love to play with color and I think the randomness adds to the bears personality.
Do you have a preference of crochet or knit?
I do both although I prefer knitting, it fits better with my sense of orderliness and neatness. I like the density of the fabric or the flow of lace that knitting creates
When you aren’t stitching Mother Bears, what do you like to knit or crochet?
Everything–I am very charity minded, partly because of the undeniable need but also because my family just doesn’t want anymore hand knits LOL so I knit hats for Linda’s Hats for Hope, shawls for any place that can use them, toys for a children’s support house in the neighborhood, and still the occasional scarf, mitten, fingerless glove or baby gift for the aforementioned ungrateful family (again LOL).
Thank you so much, Grace! Your bears are adorable. And I’m sure your family loves all your handcrafted gifts :).
If you haven’t checked out Mother Bear Project, please do. It is a wonderful charity that is dedicated to providing comfort and hope to children affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations, by giving them a gift of love in the form of a hand-knit or crocheted bear.
Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day here in the United States. This is a day that is known as a Day of Service. You can honor Martin Luther King by serving your community. Whether your community is local or global, you can make a difference in someone’s life by volunteering your time. So if you are not able to go out and support a local cause, consider putting your knitting or crochet skills to service and make a bear or two for a child who could use a little comfort in his or her life.