Saturday, 27 July 2013

Just because it says "Christmas ornament"...

...doesn't mean you have to use it as such. 
I made this decorative ball this afternoon, from pages from a European road atlas, 
following these instructions.
It looked so good hanging in my window that I think I'll leave it there.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Crochet a basket from fabric yarn ("farn")

To continue on from my last post:

To make a basket similar to this one, you will need:

Fabric yarn. I can't give you exact yardage, but I used approximately half of what I got from the duvet cover, which was 135 x 200 cm, cut into one long continuous strip about 2 cm (4/5 inch) wide.
Big crochet hook. I used a 10mm for this project, but would have used my 12mm hook if I had been able to find it.
A smaller crochet hook, e.g. a 5mm. For finishing.

slst - slip stitch
ch - chain stitch
sc - single crochet (I'm using American terms)
dc - double crochet

Beginning round A: Make a magic ring and make six sc in around it. Pull to close.
Beginning round B: Make 6 ch and connect with a slst into the first ch.

In both methods make sure you leave a tail of at least 5 cm in case the hole in the middle ends up too large and you need to fill it.

You will be working in a spiral, i.e. you do not finish each round with a slst but continue working sc's. To mark where each round begins, either use a stitch marker or just eyeball it from the location of the tail.

1. Make 2 sc in each ch around (12 sc).
2. Make 2 sc in the first sc, 1 sc in the second sc, repeat around (18 sc).
3. Make 2 sc in the fist sc, 1 in the next 2 sc, repeat all around (24 sc)

You now have the beginnings of a bottom for your fabric basket. To adjust the size:

Depending on how large you want the basket to be, continue by increasing the number of single sc's between sc by one for each round you make so that, e.g. you make 2 sc and then 3 x 1 sc in the fourth round, 2 sc and then 4 x 1 sc in the fifth round, and so on. This particular basket is made with a total of 7 rounds for the bottom.

You can stop after this, and you will have a trivet, or you can continue increasing the number of single sc's between the sc's with two sc's until you have a rug.

To make the sides:
Continuing in a spiral, stop increasing and work one sc in each sc until the sides are high enough for your taste. If you want the delimitation between the bottom and the sides to be less rounded and the basket more cylindrical in shape, work the first round of sc's in the back loops only.

To make the scallops:
Chain 3, make 4 dc in same sc. Connect with slst in 3rd sc from the sc you are working in. Repeat around. If it looks like you will have a gap of one or two sc at the end, adjust by connecting the last one or two scallops one sc less or one sc farther from the sc you are working on.

You can also make a handle:
Make 3 ch in the last sc worked, dc in the next sc, turn and continue this way until the handle is long enough. Then connect to the opposite side with 2 slst.

Finish off and hide the ends. The small crochet hook is good for threading ends into the finished work. Carefully snip off any frayed threads and corners that might stick out (this will mostly be on the wrong side of the piece, i.e. the inside of the basket).

Use as you please. If you chose the fabric sensibly, you will be able to throw the basket in the washing machine if it gets dirty. I'm sure I don't have to stress that this is important if you plan to keep food in it, especially food that can leave crumbs trapped in between the knots (e.g. bread) or leak stains in the the fabric (e.g. fruit).

Monday, 15 July 2013

How to make fabric yarn for crochet, knitting and weaving

You may have noticed that the sock yarn I wrote about in my last post was shown reposing in a fabric basket? Well, I made that basket, and I also made the yarn. These baskets are super easy to make and you only need to know three basic crochet stitches to make them: chain stitch, single crochet and double crochet (I'm using the American terms here. Click here to see the equivalent British terms). In fact you only need to know two stitches if you can make a magic ring, and only one stitch if you can make a magic ring and want to skip the scalloped edging. (I ran into some problems with the magic ring - the fabric wouldn't cooperate and so I ended up doing it differently, but maybe you can do better).

A couple of weekends ago I sat down with an old duvet cover, a pair of scissors and a seam ripper, because I intended to use every last centimetre of the fabric. Actually, I ended up cutting off the side seams because they had white selvedges, but other than that I did use every cm.
Anyway, I tore it down into strips to make fabric yarn - and last weekend I made the basket from about half the yarn and will either make another basket from the rest, or I might make several fabric trivets or a small floor mat from the rest.

This post will be in two parts: How to make fabric yarn, and how to make the basket.

To make fabric yarn:
You can make fabric yarn out of any kind of fabric that can be torn or cut into strips, as long as it isn't unwieldy in some way, for example very stiff or thick or liable to easily fray into shreds (e.g. fake fur, some types of brocade and very coarsely woven fabrics). If you plan to make lots of it, I recommend using something that can be torn easily, because tearing is faster (and more satisfying) than cutting and for woven fabrics means there will be less fraying than if it is cut. I used the aforesaid duvet cover, which was 100% cotton, but linen and rayon and blends thereof will also tear easily (as long as it isn't stretch fabric, in which case I'm afraid you'll have to use scissors).

If you plan to use velvet, felt, fleece or knit fabrics, e.g. jersey, you will need to cut it. You don't even have to be content with making fabric yarn: you could just as easily make plarn or use old pantyhose and/or nylon stockings. I, however, am going to give instructions for making fabric yarn from tearable fabrics.

Folks: This is what happens when you always wash your duvet
covers right side out: lint collects along the seams
New fabrics will inevitably have selvedges. Often they are the same colour as the fabric, in which case just use them as part of the yarn, but if they're a different colour you may want to cut or tear them off and discard them or use them for something else.

If you're making this a true recycling project as I did, e.g. by using a duvet cover, a bed sheet or an old tablecloth, chances are your fabric will have hems and possibly selvedges (which will generally be a part of a hem). For selvedges, see the above advice, but if there are hems you need to rip out the seams and unfold the hems (you might need to iron them out).

It is generally best to cut the fabric generously, because the narrower the strips are, the more they will be liable to tear when you start working with them. For this project, the strips were about 2 cm (3/4 inch) wide. If you use the imperial measurement system, just round that up to an inch. Measure the width of the first strip (I use the width of two fingers as a gauge) and make a cut about 5
cm long. Then firmly grip each side of the cut and start tearing. Stop around 2 cm from the end and make another cut 2 cm from the first tear and repeat until you run out of fabric. You can trim the points at the turns, but they will generally disappear into the crocheted piece and those that don't can be trimmed after the fact. (If you plan to use the fabric yarn for weaving, I recommend rounding the points, as they will be much more visible than in crochet).

This is about 1/4 of the duvet cover.
The whole thing would have made a ball
as big as a basketball.
Now it's up to you whether you wind the fabric yarn into balls or not. If you want balls, you may want to shorten the strips because yarn made from a very large piece of fabric, e.g. a large bed sheet, will give you a ball large enough to be difficult to work with (they look cool, though). I prefer to layer the fabric yarn into a small box and pull it out of that as I work, because it puts less of a strain on my hands than pulling it off a ball. If you aren't using it right away, however, I recommend winding it up into a ball or onto a dowel or something of that kind, to prevent tangling.

Whichever method you use, I recommend trimming off the inevitable frayed threads first. Just strip them off the sides by hand and when you encounter resistance, trim them with the scissors, close to the fabric. The tangled threads can then be used to stuff small toys.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Recycling socks

I have a habit of throwing all my single socks and socks with holes into a basket and keeping them, the former because many of my black socks are the same type and I like to have spares, and the latter because some time ago I acquired the darning mushroom shown on the left. I wanted to try and see if I could use it to repair some of my favourite fancy socks.

Eventually, even with many of the single socks paired off, the basket filled with coloured socks with holes and black socks that either had holes or couldn't be paired off. I looked at it one day and came to the sudden conclusion that although some of my favourite coloured socks had ended up in there, it might still be years before I felt like sitting down and repairing
old socks, especially ones from which, it turned out, there exuded a slight whiff of sweaty feet despite them being supposedly clean. So I decided to use them for something else instead.

I did a web search for upcycling projects using old socks and came across instructions on how to make sock yarn - sarn - which looked interesting. I already knew how to make fabric yarn (I wonder if English-speaking crafters call it "farn" in keeping with sarn and plarn?), but had not considered making it out of socks. But why not?

It also gave me an idea and I sat down to make sarn from the approximately 30 or so socks that I had accumulated. Now I just have to get going with my project: to use my slightly smelly old socks to crochet...
what else:

I will report back when they're done.