Tuesday Needlework: Using Crochet in Sewing

Crochet in all of its variations was traditionally used to make lacy items that women then added to clothing and accessories. Over the years it developed into doilies and bed spreads, clothing, and much, much more. I didn’t learn about thread crochet until I was about 19 and saw a beautiful Barbie Doll wedding dress in an issue of Crochet World. My first lessons in crochet had used worsted weight yarns to make afghans and later on bed doll dresses. I wasn’t taught the nuances of correct gauge and yarn weights or that there was so much variety for this form of needlework. Once I started buying these magazines, though, I realized the possibilities were  nearly endless.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I honestly believe there are uses for crochet that are more appealing than others. I don’t care for crocheted clothing. But I DO love the look of crochet in other applications. I also like to go back to the roots of an intended use for a technique. So when I was planning the skill-builder sewing series I decided I would also make some of the lace accessories used in the patterns. Unfortunately, it’s hard to actually find some of the materials because the book is more than 20 years old. Which also justifies making them.

For the pincushion we need a 4″ crochet doily as an applique. You can find these in some craft and sewing stores or online, but it is difficult to find the right size. My best argument for creating my own is that I know where my labor is sourced from.

I used e-patternscentral.com to find my doily, but a web search would also turn up some really great patterns. I used pattern #13 from the book Miniature Doilies. This is what I ended up with! It took me about 1 hour to finish, which I did while waiting on my kids to get their teeth cleaned. Good way to spend a dental visit.

Doily #13

Doily #13

We’ll be discussing making entredeux on our next Friday Tutorial. Entredeux is French for “between two” and when used in sewing is a bit of lace or decoration that goes  between two pieces of fabric for stability. I hope you’ll join me in learning how to make this beautiful traditional decoration and for our Skill-builder sewing series.


Crafty Monday: Painting Curtains

Last week I wanted to blog about my adventure in expanding my overly small bedroom closet. My closet is in the smallest bedroom of the house. Inside the closet, is a fireplace. No, not the front of it, but the entire back of it. It is actually a faux fireplace which faces my craft room. Made of marble, concrete, and plaster, it’s not something that can be removed to make closet space without contractor! So I needed another solution.

Total Closet Size

Total Closet Size

It didn’t work out as planned, but I DID get a few things done to it. The big plan was to move the closet rod to the outside of the closet and hang the clothes in front of it. I didn’t really want a big metal rod hanging there with all of the clothes out in the open. The serenity of my bedroom is something I thoroughly enjoy, but this was not conducive to that serenity. So I was also going to put a curtain in front of the clothes. Simple, right? Well, as I explained in the previous post, it wasn’t all that simple because I didn’t allot enough time, nor did I have all the proper materials ready. *Sigh* This is the bane of many DIY projects.

But I DID have a plan, and I wanted to finish it. First of all, I needed curtains. So what does a crafty sewist do? Ah, yes, I’ll make them. And I did. I measured top to bottom and used a 60″ wide piece of off-white cotton lining I had bought to reupholster a couch. (Couch left, meaning I had 10 yards of this stuff available.) I cut and sewed them, making a simple header style curtain that could have grommets.

Then I started looking at all of these beautiful curtain panels online. You know, the ones that cost well over $100 each? They were embroidered and woven with beautiful scenes. My plain white curtains just didn’t measure up. I decided to paint my curtains. I played it smart this time, though, and made a sampler to try out some techniques.

Cherry Blossom Test Panel

Cherry Blossom Test Panel

Using the “make cherry blossoms with a soda bottle” pin as inspiration, I tried using the method they had. Ok, soda bottle didn’t work out so good. The ones I had, made flowers with spaces way too wide between the petals. So I took out my paint brushes and made little circles with them. Then I added some other colors to the branches and flowers, to see what I like best. Getting a little input from the husband, we went with the pink blossoms lined with a dark pink shade. Now I also had a painted panel I could frame and use to decorate the room! Yay, me!

A couple of days later I laid out my curtain panels and began to decorate them like I had the test sample. Not only was it fun, but I felt really good with paint on my hands and the smell in the air. I used acrylics with a little bit of water. The paint did seep through the fabric a bit, but I had covered the table with some craft paper beforehand. Once it had dried, I pulled it up. It stuck just a little bit, but no big deal.

Here are some progression pictures for you:

Creating the branches

Creating the branches

Branches done, ready for blossoms

Branches done, ready for blossoms


Painting on blossoms


More blossoms


Shading the blossoms

I love how they turned out! I put one across the bed to let it continue to dry, and instantly decided I needed a quilt that matched. One thing leads to another, and I have plans for my first painted, whole cloth art quilt. I love DIY.

Saturday Musings: Resolutions Report

So how have your new year’s resolutions been going? Have you had successes or failures? Are you still working on them and not giving up, or did you call it quits by January 15?


I have to say, I’m actually pretty happy with what I’ve done so far. I had a lot of plans and resolutions, and I’ve tried working on some of them throughout this month. I posted about also keeping up and organizing my blog better. I haven’t given up on any of them, except maybe the Christmas craft one. I’ve been doing other crafts, though, so I can’t say it’s entirely a loss.

My list of resolutions was to

1. Learn to spin by wheel and spindle,
2. To make at least one Christmas craft every week  
3. To save money 
4. Spend more time doing outdoor activities such as gardening, hiking, biking, camping, etc. 
5. have all of my Christmas shopping done by November

While I have not yet attempted spinning, I did finish watching my Craftsy class Spindling: From Fluff to Stuff. I took a lot away from the class and have two skeins of roving and a spindle ready for when I have a moment to try it.


Saving money? Yes and no. I’m trying the 52 week savings plan and hoping that I can keep up with it. The first few weeks after Christmas are always very tight for us financially. Which is why I’m trying to save money. So if I can break the catch 22, I’ll continue to save. Power bills go up from the cold, we have bills that have piled up because we bought Christmas instead, and my husband loses a good chunk from not working overtime on the holidays. I DID catch up and threw a little extra in the savings account last week, though!

Did I mention it’s been cold? With ice piling up this last week, I’ve been a little hesitant to go outside and attempt any activities. Brr. Biking in 23 degree weather? No thanks. It will get done once it heads back up to the 60s and 70s, though.

FreeDigitalPhotos.net/ Paul Brentnall

Of course, along with those bills in January, I really haven’t done any Christmas shopping, either. But I have Pinterest lists and ideas, and getting ready to do a few layaways. I still have 10 months.

One of the things I’m most proud of, however, is that I have kept up on my blog posts for the past 3 weeks! I’m so excited about some of the things we’ll be doing. I really hope that you take the time to try out some things I post about and that this blog will become more interactive. If you’ve missed any of the posts, just click on the page links in the header and find what interests you.

I did dispose of my intent to do a blog for Sunday. A day off sounded much better. It also gives me a day to work on the rest of the week’s posts. I’ve missed the deadline on a few, but the posts are there!

So I’d love to hear how your resolutions are coming along. Did you lose 2 lbs? Get something organized? Spend some time with family? Attempt a new craft?

Please comment below and let me know how you’re doing! The worst that can happen is you’ll get encouragement to keep on going.

Friday Tutorial: Finishing the 2 at a Time Hats

We’re nearing the end of our hats! This week we’re going to finish them up and learn how to decrease stitches using double knitting. You may want to use a cable needle or stitch holder of some sort, as you will need to move stitches around to do the decreases. Once I’ve made a few decreases and they get closer together, I will usually just move all of the stitches from one hat to a new set of needles to “hold” it and finish them separately. This works out pretty well and is a little less stressful. However, it doesn’t work so well when you’re working the heel of a sock, so i’m going to explain how this is done – just in case you want to do it.

The pattern tells us to knit 6 and decrease (knit together)2. So for our hats, we’ll knit the first 12 stitches (6 blue, 6 orange) and then slip 1 blue stitch.

Slip 1 blue stitch

To get your stitches next to each other you need to drop one orange (back) stitch from your needle, work the knit 2 together with the blue, then place the dropped stitch back on the needle to knit two orange together.

move 1 orange stitch to holder
Move blue stitch back to working needle, knit 2 together
Slip orange stitch back to working needle

2 orange together

 I usually just hold my dropped stitch in my left hand, work the k2tog, then place it back on the needle. However, you CAN use a small cable needle here or a juice pouch straw or something to hold that stitch if you’re afraid you can’t keep it from dropping and running. We want to be careful we don’t knit a blue and orange together either. That defeats our whole purpose.

holding dropped stitch 

If you want to separate the hats to make the decreases, you will need a circular needle or another set of dpns to hold the stitches on one hat. It doesn’t have to be the same size, as you’re just holding them and can move them back once you complete the first hat.

Working in reverse of our cast on, slip 1 blue stitch to the working dpn. Slip 1 orange stitch to the holding needle. Keep slipping stitches until they are all moved. Pull the inside hat up through the top of the outside hat and lay aside to work later.

Finish your hat as directed in the pattern and voila! you have a hat to share and one to keep. Or give both. Or whatever. I hope you had fun with this tutorial series and learned a lot. I also hope you try this technique with other applications like sleeves and scarves. If you would like to donate your extra hat, would you consider donating it to my charity Warm Up the Boro? I collect donated hats and scarves and hand them out in our community during the cold winter months. You can find out more on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/warmuptheboro.

As always, please post pics to the Flickr group

Sewing on Thursday: Skill-builder Series Introduction

Most of us buy a sewing machine with a singular goal in mind. Learning to sew probably tops the list for those that don’t know how. We want to make things. Awesome things. All those things we see on Pinterest! So we buy a sewing machine. And it sits in the corner. Because we can’t figure out how to thread it. Or use it. And all those things we had dreams of creating sit in the corner with it. Or fill up our Pin boards.

Bone needles

Which brings up the question, how did people learn to do things before they had the internet? It was passed down from generation to generation. First, people learned to create by hand. They used bones, animal guts, and eventually iron needles.

They passed these techniques down and future generations improved on them. Then in the 1800’s the first functional sewing machines were built, but were failed enterprises because of fears the “machines” would put tailors and seamstresses out of business! Elias Howe received the first patent on a working sewing machine in 1846, upon which Isaac Singer stole used Howe’s patented mechanism to make a foot treadle machine that became wildly popular. Bellis, Mary. The History of the Sewing Machine. About.com http://inventors.about.com/od/sstartinventions/a/sewing_machine.htm

My circa 1908-1913 Singer Treadle – needs work, but I love it

As everyone was trying to invent the machine, seamstresses across the world were still teaching their daughters the “old ways” of mending, stitching, sewing, and embroidery by hand, in preparation for running their own households. Mothers would sit their daughters down and show them a stitch, then give them instructions to create sample pieces. As the girls worked on their sample pieces, they would create works that blended all of their stitches and lessons together. These became known as samplers and some were quite valuable later on.

So with the background lesson, we come back around to using a sewing machine. Mothers don’t always set their daughters down and teach them to sew anymore. Grandmothers may live somewhere far away, have passed away, or never learned themselves. So arts start to disappear. Thankfully, we DO have the internet and books. Lots and lots of books.

I love finding vintage sewing books. They are chock full of information that you can’t even find on the internet today. One of these books that I found I have treasured for a long time. It’s called Creative Machine Stitchery and is published through Better Homes and Gardens in 1985. I’ve been wanting to work through it bit by bit and teach myself some new things, making a sampler and putting it to good use.

Amazon.com Widgets One of the lessons in the book is on using your machine’s potential. Aha! This is sounding good enough to do a skill builder series on!

Sampler pockets for sewing basket

I’m finally going to go through this book step-by-step and share what I learn with you, hopefully teaching you some things along the way and helping you to use that machine sitting in the corner. There are a few lessons and projects that I will not be using, but I’m choosing the ones that I think will help improve and teach sewing. Here is the outline and what you have to look forward to:


1-6: Sewing samplers to create sewing basket pockets
You will learn to create various size zig zags, openwork, puffing, couching, smocking, and faux French hand sewing.

7: Assembling the Samplers

8:  Fabric Collage Pin Cushion
We will learn how to do a little pit of applique to make a pin cushion to hang off of our sewing basket sampler.

9. Making a Rug out of Yarn – on the sewing machine
This is one of those very interesting techniques that have been rediscovered and are very exciting for me!

10. Using the machine to stitch on canvas
We’ll use our machines to make needlepoint-style stitches on canvas


These are the materials needed for the first 8 lessons. The other two I’ll give you plenty of heads up for as we get nearer.

  • 1/4 yard each of 3 different fabric colors (they use ecru, off-white, and cranberry)
  • 1/2 yard muslin
  • 1/2 yard quilt batting
  • 3 colors of sewing thread to match your fabrics
  • polyester fiberfill
  • 1 package pre-made binding for pockets, 2 pkgs. pre-made binding for alternating pockets and to join pockets. (you can also buy a little extra of your 3 materials to make binding)
  • 17″ 1/4″ wide lace
  • 8.5″ of 1.25″ wide lace beading (I’ll be doing a crochet lesson on this before we get to it, so if you can crochet it, don’t buy it! Same goes for the doily. I’ll be making mine, but not sharing the lesson.)
  • 17″ entredeux (french lace that goes between panels. I will also be giving a lesson on how to make this homemade, but it may be worthwhile to purchase it.)
  • 1 yard Belgian lace
  • Lace doily (very small, for pincushion)
  • cording of various thickness
  • flower applique
  • typing or stabilizing paper
  • marking pen
  • elastic sewing thread
Ok, so here’s your chance! Let’s do this thing and learn how to use that machine!

Quilting on Wednesday: Preparing for 2014 Block of the Month

We are one week away from the 2014 Block of the Month! I hope you have your supplies gathered and have visited the website. If you haven’t heard what we’re doing yet, visit the link above. We’re building an attic windows block, which I hope will be a bit more advanced than a four or nine patch, a little challenging, but not overly so.

I plan to continue working on the skill builder series for our Wednesday quilting posts. I hope you will join in with me, as we both learn!

Tuesday Needlework: Yarn Bombing

Obviously I knit and crochet. Obviously I love yarn and many things made from it. I think it is an art form that some master with skill. I find value in wool, cotton, and natural materials gathered, spun, dyed, and distributed. Obviously I think yarn bombing is the biggest waste of time, energy, talent, and yarn that ever existed. Yep, I said it. It’s a waste. I’m a huge fan of art, too. Creating it and distributing it and appreciating it. In a wide variety of forms. But to me, yarn bombing is a desperate cry for nothing better to do with one’s time than make tubes to tie on trees.

It looks terrible. Nature can never be improved in any way by knitting something to put on it. And defacing someone else’s art (statues, sculptures, etc.) by putting YOUR yarn on it is sacrilegious. It irritates me in ways I can’t even explain. Especially when I see these long works that took hours to make (and who knows how much wool and/or polluting acrylics) draped over some bush in the park, doing nothing more than interfering with natural beauty and wildlife. And why in the world would it make any kind of a statement to cover a bridge in yarn? The whole thing just grates on my nerves and I want to scream, “DO SOMETHING GOOD WITH YOUR TALENT! If you want to use up yarn and time, do it for a good cause!”

Then, I seen this:

My Facebook was blowing up with it! Not only was it being shared by every single knitting group that I like, but my friends were also sharing it. According to CTVNews this yarn bomber was leaving notes attached that said to “take the scarf it you need it!” Wow. I’m already impressed. No name was associated with it, just a good Samaritan. THIS was impressive. THIS was important. THIS was worthwhile. 
I run an organization called Warm up the Boro. I collect and make hats and scarves to donate to the needy in our community. I’ve been doing it for a little over a year now, and we just had our first distribution. It’s been difficult to get donations locally, so I have some plans to try and expand it. BUT! I wish you could’ve seen the faces of those that got their new hats this past weekend. Many were overjoyed and enormously thankful. 
Donation day. We had already given out a bunch of hats!
Part of our collection! 
No, I didn’t yarn bomb, but I can see the potential in this! Whoever did this doesn’t care what your circumstances are, here is a free scarf. This was done with intent and purpose and a great outcome. 
Now, before someone jumps down my throat about my OBVIOUS hatred of yarn bombing, let me say that I DO know that some of these other works are donated to shelters and such after the bombing. That’s great. I really can’t say anything bad about that. My distaste comes from those that just leave it. I’ve never met a fire hydrant that needed a scarf. Not. One. Although a dog could probably see some wiping value in it. 
Now about knitting and crocheting food…

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