Sunday, June 29, 2014

Crochet Tutorial: Interlocking Loops

A few weeks ago I shared with you dearies my little loopy loo cushion I had made with some chunky yarn. I am still seriously digging the texture of this cushion, and it so simple to make that it took me no time to whip up a sample and write up some instructions for you.

In my cushion I used chunky yarn, but this will work with any thickness, really. In this sample I'm going to use regular old worsted weight and an H hook, and I'll be writing in US terms, so keep that in mind if you're used to UK directions. You'll need to know how to chain (ch), single crochet (sc), and change colors (if you want a stripey effect--this could actually be really nifty in a solid, too, as the texture is what stands out more than the yarn).

I suppose in theory you could use any multiple you wanted as long as you kept things evenly spaced, but I'm using a multiple of five to keep it simple. I recommend making a swatch first when learning a new stitch, so this will be a good size for that before you embark on more adventurous hooking endeavors.

So, to start chain 25. Then insert your hook into the first chain (see where my needle is below) and do 5 sc.

Chain 10. Then sc 5 more, leaving that loopy chain bit swinging free and easy.

In this photo I didn't ch 10 yet, but my needle shows where you should carry on with your sc after you have.

Carry on this way, doing 5 sc, then chaining 10, then 5 sc, and so on all the way across. You'll be stitching into each chain stitch but you'll have long loops like the below at regular intervals.

So that's row one. When you get to the end, chain 1 and turn. Insert your hook into the first stitch like I have pictured below.

For row 2 we're going to sc our way back across the row, but we're not going to throw in any chain loops. So you'll do 5 sc and then you hit your chain. What do we do here? Tuck the loop away from you, pretend it doesn't exist, and just keep on going with your sc, until the end of the row (see below). Chain 1, and turn.

Rows 3 and 4 will be the exact same thing as row 2--sc in each stitch across, and ch 1 at the end before you turn. So those first four rows are the first section finished. The first row is all loopy, and the others are solid single crochet. The back should look nice and solid--

--and the front will look loopy--

If you're working solid, you'll be starting a new section (you might want to use a stitch marker to mark the first row to keep track of things). If you're going stripey, you'll need to attach your new color now.

Then repeat the whole thing. Sc 5, chain 10, sc 5, ch 10, all the way across for the first row.

Then do 3 rows of sc. Easy peasy, right? After the second section is done you'll have this on the back--

--and this on the front.

Attach your next color (or keep going if you're going for the solid look). And repeat those 4 rows again.

It's a little too early in the year for candy corn :) so I'm doing one more section before I show you how to finish it off. If you're making something larger you're obviously going to keep working the stitch pattern until your piece is the desired size. For the last section that you stitch, you do the first three rows in the pattern, then hit the pause button.

We need to interlock our loops so it looks nice and neat instead of like a hot mess. So, take the second loop (in my case the orange) and loop it through the first (the yellow).

Then take the third loop (white) and loop it through the second (orange). Keep going that way, with each loop linking into the one below until they're all hooked up.

Pick your hook up again, as we're going to lock those loops in place. You simply single crochet across, but every fifth stitch you incorporate the loop into your sc. So you'll sc 4 stitches, then in the 5th you'll put your hook through the sc stitch (as you normally would) AND the loop (see below), yarn over and pull through 2 (the loop and the stitch), then yarn over and pull through two again. Work across the row this way, taking care that your loops don't become unlinked.

When you reach the end of the row, all of your loops should be nice and secure. My piece looks like this from the back:

and like this from the front.

I suggest weaving in your ends as you go as it makes the task so much less daunting that way. This stitch produces an effect similar to the Jacob's Ladder afghan pattern some of you may be familiar with, but I find it easier to link the loops on one side like this.

For my cushion that I made, I stitched up a piece in this pattern the same way Lucy at Attic 24 did for this cushion. At the start I measured my chain against the pillow form I was using until it was the right width, and then stitched. I ran out of yarn near the button flap so it's a little shorter than perfect, but I love the effect of alternating the colors every row (which was forced by a yarn shortage) as it reminds me of a bracelet or a belt or a headband or some accessory I had in seventh grade or thereabouts. I did my button holes the same way as Lucy, but I added an extra row, so I had five rows in the buttonhole section instead of four, with the buttonholes in the center of that strip. Before I stitched my buttonholes, I laid out my buttons in a way that I liked and just fudged with my stitch math until everything was nice and even (it took a few tries and some ripping, but it's not a big piece so it wasn't a bother). I just really wanted all the buttons to be visible instead of the end ones hiding to the sides like in the first cushion I made.

Obviously I love color so that's always my first choice, but I'm thinking in just the right shade of gray or cream this would look like a nifty chunky sweater pillow (gift for a guy, maybe? Christmas is less than six months away, just sayin').

So there you have it. It's a lot of pictures and words because that's how I roll, but it really is super easy. Once you've gotten the hang of my mumbo-jumbo above, you can just follow these directions:

Chain in multiples of five.
Row 1: Starting with the first chain from the hook, sc 5. Ch 10. Sc 5, ch 10. Repeat until the end of the row. Ch 1, turn.
Row 2, 3, 4: sc straight across, chaining 1 at the end of each row before you turn.
Change colors every 4 rows, unless you're going for the solid look.
When you come to your last section, stitch as per the pattern for 3 rows. Pause. Link your loops. Then, in your final row, include the chain loops as part of your sc every 5th stitch.

If you have any questions please let me know and I'll do my best to help you out. Happy hooking!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What's This Decision: Blocks 9 -12

Hola, mis amigos! You know what's hot? Hot glue. Oh, that's obvious, you say? They should not sell those guns to the general public. I feel that I, as well as society, would be safer if I had a real gun instead of a glue gun. At least I can commit the perfect crime with my left hand and never be found, as I do believe I have obliterated the prints. This is why I sew, folks.

Speaking of sewing (like that segue?) I've got four more blocks to share with you. They're pretty random this time.

My favorite subject in school was always history, and I questioned the American educational system when we always skipped the Wild West and the cowboys and Indians stuff and went straight on to other stuff that wasn't nearly so interesting. I had big plans of moving to Montana, living on a ranch, and getting married on horseback. Those youthful fancies have fled, but my love of history still goes strong. These fabrics are all made for each other--this one is my ode to the pony express in fabric form. True story: in sixth grade we had to give a speech on how to do something or how something works. Some kids made French toast, some made paper flowers. I explained how the pony express worked. Because that's how I roll :)

"Mortimer, do let's leave the noise of the city and take a drive to the countryside."
Fun fact: in the twenties it used to be a thing to graffiti all over your car with pictures and phrases that were popular at the time. Can you imagine doing that today? Watch 'Cheaper by the Dozen' (the original one with Clifton Webb) to see what I mean. And also because it's an adorable film.

As long as it's raining you might as well cuddle up under an umbrella and recite love poems to each other, amiright?

Measure twice, cut once. And press, press, press for a professional finish.

These seem like a lot of fun when I'm stitching them up, but incredibly mundane as I'm writing them out. Good thing I'll be looking at this quilt and not writing about it when all is said and done.

And as far as measuring twice goes--I think I could go so far as to say I'm a pretty good seamstress. I can work most things out and I've made enough mistakes to know what not to do. So if someone could explain to me how it took me three nights to shorten a pair of curtains, but half an hour to make a sunglasses case and some bias tape I'd love to know.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Thwip: Baby Backpack

A few weeks ago we were asking my sister what A-train wanted for his birthday. And she responded with suggestions of things he "really wanted." One of the things was a backpack, so I asked her what she was visualizing with that as my wheels were turning. She described her image, and then said that he loves helping her pack his bag when they go somewhere, so she thought he might like his own bag to carry. After my heart stopped feeling squeezy from the cuteness of that statement and the resulting image, I told her I would make one for him. Usually I try and draft my own patterns for things, but sometimes I just don't feel like it, and this was one of those instances. Besides, for a few years I've wanted to make the Made by Rae Toddler Backpack, but didn't have a reason to. After a quick trot to Joann's I was stupid eager to get started.

I tried to find some good, solid train fabric but couldn't find anything just right, so went with Spiderman, which he loves. He was playing with his little friend Noah, who was acting like a monster (I don't mean behavior-wise, I mean in a role-playing sense, hahaha) and A-train flung out his hand and said "Thwip!" which is what Spidey does, I guess, to tame evil-doers. I tried to cut the fabric so as many 'thwips' as possible were visible.

Doesn't piping just make everything better? I had a bit of a time getting this gusset in just right. I greatly dislike when I buy a pattern and there's that 'just make it fit' statement thrown in there. If I'm paying for something I do so because I expect it to fit already. But truly that was the only glitch in the making of this--the rest went together as smooth as silk, and was actually quite fun to make.

I discovered at an unfortunate time of day (i.e. the stores were closed) that I had not a lick of bright blue thread. I did have about four spools of red, though, so the loop and straps all have red thread, and I do love the look of it as I actually managed to not make a sloppy job of straight lines.

I wish you could see the teeny cuteness of these straps in real life. I stopped to take a picture to send my sister because they were just that adorable (due to the size--I'm not patting myself on the back here, haha).

Are you ready to see the whole thing?

The pattern called for a canvas fabric to be used, but there's nothing cute in the stores, and I hesitate to buy certain things online if I've never used them before. So I used regular quilting cotton, interfaced with Shape Flex 101. Then I threw in a layer of craft-weight Pellon #50 sew-in. It gave it a nice structure without making it too bulky as where the straps, gusset and bag front/back come together it gets layer-licious, especially with the piping.

I also added a lining to it. It was a little fiddly doing the hand-sewing bits as it was a weird angle, but it's in there nice and tidy. Usually I purchase YKK zippers and replace the standard pull with a longer one, but this time I used Coats and Clark. I can't replace the pull on those as they don't fit proper, and the pull seemed so teeny, so I went scouting for a cute zipper pull. I tried for Spiderman, but I didn't need a set of five superhero pulls, so I went another route when I came across a shop that offered the below--

When my sister and BIL Matt were teaching A-train to say his name he'd say "Mac-n-cheese" when he got to his last name. Every time. So stinkin' cute. So you see why I had to get the above, right?

Gusset-fitting issues notwithstanding (and it wasn't really a major ordeal, more like an annoyance) this was a lot of fun to make, and quite easy. It's a good thing I got distracted by other projects, as this is one of things I feel like I could just keep going and going with until I had fifty bags and no toddlers to foist them upon.

It looks so teeny in actuality, but so big on a tot. I'm glad I went with Spiderman, as he'll probably outgrow trains before he outgrows the bag. But if he doesn't I'm fine with making more.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Two Fingers Old

A certain little boy I know turned two over the weekend. And you've never seen a two year old more excited to have a birthday. I am not kidding. The other day we were babysitting and the ice cream truck came by. He had a good old time telling people he was two and was going to have a "Thomas birfday." Little ones are so fun at birthdays and Christmas. When they get to be teens (or close to it) they're all "Can I just have my gift? And don't kiss me."

As the babycakes loves so many things, but especially trains, my sister went with a Thomas the Tank Engine (Thomas and Friends? What's it called these days?) themed party. My brother in law Matt built a cupcake stand for the oodles of cupcakes my sister made. The picture doesn't do it justice and I didn't get a shot of the whole thing because you would have seen my piles of crap works in some form of progress, but it was stinkin' adorbs.

Technically speaking I could not tell you how he did this. I know there was foam, cardboard, paint, washi tape, and a wooden train he painted. I have no idea how he put this tiered contraption together as I couldn't take it apart to figure it out as it was holding the cupcakes (and oh my word were they delicious!).

This little lovebug loves singing happy birthday. To others, to himself, for no reason other than it's Tuesday and he already sang 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' four times. Look at the joy on this boy's face:

And the pride when he blew out the candles (after clapping his hands and saying "Yay!!! I did it!!!"

And then, the presents. Every one elicited either an "Oh, yeeeeaaahhh!" or an "Open it!" My favorite was this reaction--an "Oh yeah"--

--followed by--

--playing with the tissue paper. In his defense, I really like that paper too :)

I got him a game for his Leap Pad, a little set of books (I always try to make a book part of a kid's gift), and a backpack that I made for him that you may have seen in progress on Instagram.

He kept trying to see what was on his back and turning around to see if it was still there. It was absolutely precious, and made the making of it so worth it. It's getting its own separate post as I've never made one before and I love things in miniature and I just want to yak about it a bit.

He was holding a balloon when it flew away, and then wanted to release the others. I know that environmentally speaking we were naughty in letting this happen, but as they flew away he waved at each one and said "Bye bye, balloon!" and sometimes "Have a nice trip!" We were overcome by the cuteness, so fingers were crossed for whales and birds and other creatures we hope we didn't impact negatively.

When I was little I used to hate letting balloons go. Not so a whale wouldn't choke on it if it landed in the sea, but because there was something so sad about it. I still feel that way, like a tiny bit of joy has flown away, unreachable, gone, never to come back. (Well, when you put it THAT way, Bee...)

Ah, childhood. When nothing is sad, and everything is a joy, like discovering the boingy reaction that happens when you snap the clothesline--

I took the babycakes inside to watch Peppa Pig and try to get him to nap a bit, but the others who have a hardier constitution and who can actually play racquet sports worked up a game of badminton.

I would have played, but last weekend when I did play I was subjected to constant reminders of my ineptitude. That's OK, I'm fine with being the family seamstress. And I love snuggle time with the tot (and Peppa Pig) so I feel I got the better end of the deal...

So that's that. Later, taters!

Friday, June 20, 2014

What's This Decision: Blocks 5-8

Ahoy ahoy! I was going to wait until the weekend to post a few more blocks, but I've got a birthday bash for a certain two year old (!!!!) to attend and I didn't want to forget to post. I know you're all on the very edge of your seats waiting for more.

When I was in sixth grade (1989 to be specific) I fell in love with this TV show called 'The Young Riders.' It followed the adventures and exploits of a group of Pony Express riders. I was absolutely obsessed with this show and taped every single one. Even though they finally all came out on DVD I still have the cassettes, as I so vividly remember sitting in front of the TV on Thursday nights, trying to get my timing just right on the record button so as to omit the commercials. When I saw that center fabric, which is the oath any riders had to take, I had to have it, and the postmark fabric is because, well, they delivered the mail across the country. The TVs don't have quite the impact I wanted--I should have put them as the outside triangles so they could be bigger, but it's fine. And as a fun fact, I'm pretty sure the TV we had in 1989 looked like that one :)

"I worked all day. I want to sit here with my beers, and watch Dr. Who! I don't think that's too much to ask!" This block could also be known as "That tardis fabric was pricey and I needed to use the scraps"  :)

This one is my homage to the James Herriott-inspired TV series "All Creatures Great and Small." The seventies TV, the adorable lambs (don't you think lambs have an unfair share of cuteness?), the grassy pasture...I've seen a few episodes of that show and it kind of really looks like this :)

And this block is for every kid who's ever heard the words "Will you turn off those video games and go play outside?"

The next blocks will be fairly random. I think I made those when I was getting tired...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

W(hat's) T(his) D(ecision): Blocks 1-4

Ready to see a few quilt blocks? I figure that four blocks are enough to not make your eyes glaze over while I explain my thinking behind their making. I do realize that the whole economy quilt along craze is done and over with and soooo last quarter at this point, but I like to catch some trains later than others as I feel like the project appeals to me much more when the idea just seems....right. Sometimes I'm so eager to do something I jump right in and either get bored or regret my fabric choices, so waiting felt just right. Anyway, the tutorials I was coming across were for blocks that were too small or too large, or had such weird cutting measurements that I knew I would go slightly mad. After poking around a bit, I found this post that shows you how to make an economy block in any size by first going over the math (ick, no thanks) and then providing a handy cheat sheet. I decided on seven-inch (finished) blocks because the cutting measurements are whole numbers, and because (as an afterthought) I realized that my only square ruler is 7 1/2 inches. Meant to be. There's a bit of trimming involved but I sincerely do not mind it one bit. OK, onward.

I'm going to go through in the order I made them, so here are the first four.

This one is obvious. It's a school block. A larger middle section would have been nice for this one as there was a goat in the classroom and that's what they're all looking at. But I kind of like that only I (and now you) know what all the fuss is about up there. The surrounding black fabric is a chalkboard print (which I later found in green, too). The letters I had leftover from something or other and fit right in with this one. 

This one? Well, clearly those adorable little guys are late for school because they were playing football. Now they have to go to the blackboard and write out "I will not be late for school" twenty times in their neatest writing or else. In the chalkboard fabric on the lower right--see where it says 'It looks like...' It got cut off (obviously) but the rest of that sentence is '...a toe.' It looks like a toe. That's what that says. I don't know what is supposed to look like a toe... I hope that the designer worked that oddity in to see if anyone would notice. I love stuff like that.

These kids are the teacher's pets. They finished their blackboard math problems first, so were able to go to the library and help the librarian make sure the books were all in ABC order. After that they became the class bad-asses because that was the most boring task imaginable.

"I want you to write....a theme. 'What I Want for Christmas.'"
This is my A Christmas Story block. Ralphie's notebook that he wrote his essay in was red, and the envelope has some similar wordage to the Red Ryder compass in the stock theme that earned him a C-plus. I just love these colors together!

So that's the first four. These get more interesting as we go along--I tried not to duplicate blocks, and some came straight out of my tired brain that just wanted to make one or two more to have an even number of blocks (anal retentive, anyone?) before I called it a night.

I haven't laid these out in any way, shape, or form, so I have no idea what this is going to look like. I just keep adding to the pile. I thought I might make it a throw and then got excited as I'd be about halfway done already. But I don't know if that'll be enough. I am honestly having a lot of fun making these, even with all the trimming and pressing. It doesn't seem like work this time around.

More to come soon! And I've got a few other projects going that I'm excited to share. See you soon!


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