Memorialize a Loved One with Crochet.
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!