Simple Weaving

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At a friend's house in middle school, I played with one of those little looms that kids used to make potholders. I don't know how I'd never encountered one before, but I was enamored by the way a simple over and under pattern with stretchy fabric loops could hold together to create something so thick and sturdy. 

Since then, looms and weaving have fascinated me. The end result seems magical. But beyond making a multi-colored potholder, I always considered weaving something that was done only on giant expensive looms by people with exceptional skill. I sought them out at craft fairs. I watched women in a dark little shop in Guatemala, adeptly sliding the shuttle back and forth. 

I actually considered buying a loom once when a coworker told me his mom was selling one (after I went on about my desire to one day weave), but I ultimately passed, primarily because of my penchant for purchasing craft-related things and then allowing them to languish. 

So when I started to see these weaving projects on the internet a couple years ago, I was intrigued. But it took me a while to jump on the bandwagon, mostly because the weaving I'd always appreciated was functional - making scarves or blankets or rugs. The artsy little wall hangings popping up on every craft blog seemed a bit weird to me. 

And then Elise Blaha Cripe created a massive one, and it triggered again that fascination with all things woven. Since then, it's been on my never-ending crafty to-do list, and I got very excited when I saw some tutorials for weaving without purchasing a loom (see purchasing penchant, above).

Last weekend I finally sat down with all the materials, created my little cardboard loom and got to sending that yarn back and forth. 

Oh boy, is this addictive. I wove for four hours straight, until I was finished. I couldn't stop. The  motion is meditative, like knitting is and crocheting has been for me. 

I used this tutorial and this tutorial primarily.



I'm pretty sure I completely screwed up getting it off the loom. The stitches are inconsistent, the fringe point is a little off-center, and I messed up a couple rows without realizing it. But I love it in spite of its imperfections. Or because of? I love it mainly because I so loved making it. 

The lighting in this room is terrible, so the pictures leave a little to be desired, but as I sit here on the couch, I'm looking at my weaving, my ticker tape quilt, my instagram magnets, and my rag quilt and feeling so much gratitude for materials to craft with, working hands, and a home to display the things I've made. 



p.s. You are so loved.


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A Crocheted Blanket for Hamlin Fistula

A couple of years ago, I started crocheting this blanket after reading Half the Sky and then learning about an organization in Ethiopia - the Hamlin Fistula - that treats women who are suffering from obstetric fistulas, a medical condition that occurs almost exclusively in developing countries as a result of poor access to health care.   In Half the Sky, the stories of women with obstetric fistulas, most often caused by prolonged labor without medical intervention but sometimes also caused by rape or sexual abuse, touched me deeply.  I found myself thinking about them all the time, and when I talked to my sister about it, she pointed me toward Hamlin Fistula

When women arrive at the hospital, often after a long journey, they are given a hospital gown and a hand-knitted or crocheted blanket.  They use the blankets on their beds but also wear them as shawls, and the blankets are theirs to keep forever.  Crocheting a blanket feels like such a small thing for such a big problem.  And yet, perhaps the best we can all do is start where we are - find a way to share our individual gifts with people who can benefit from them.  I hope that the woman who receives my blanket finds warmth in it.  And I hope that one day I will be in a position to do more for her and for all of these women.

After I finished, I discovered that they are only able to accept blankets in January and June because of storage issues where they receive mail. Since I missed the January shipment date, I'll be mailing this in June. I thought I'd pass along the information on making a blanket in case there are any other knitters or crocheters out there who would be interested in doing so before June (obviously, much faster than me). Please let me know if you do.  If you're not a knitter or crocheter but would like to donate to Hamlin Fistula, you can do so here.  And even if you're not in a position to make anything or donate, I encourage you to read about Hamlin Fistula - it is an inspiring organization. 


Amy Palanjian's So Pretty Crochet

I'm so excited to share with you a new crochet book from my friend Amy Palanjian.  If you've been in need of some yarn-y inspiration (or even if you haven't), you're going to want this book. 

As soon as I saw the cover, I knew I was going to love what was inside.  The gorgeous, feminine take on a traditional crocheted item, with its soft scalloping and the perfect addition of a simple lambskin bow is indicative of what's in store once you open the pages.  Each piece - by twelve different artists - is perfect in its intentionality.  And there's not a single afghan among them.  Though many of the creators were taught and inspired by mothers and grandmothers, the crochet projects featured are decidedly modern.

The innovation in this one category of craft speaks to our growing need to balance our modern, busy lives with physical handiwork.  More and more of us feel a deep need to make things with our hands in order to feel grounded in the rest of our lives.  It helps us to feel a sense of accomplishment - to calm our minds with deliberate (and often repetitive and soothing) work.  Considered this way, the act of sitting down to crochet a new necklace or a table runner is almost an act of self-preservation.  And increasingly, it's a way to show the world who we are and what we're capable of - on our own creative terms. 

Amy begins the book with a brief introduction to crochet, definitions of some of the basic terminology, and a quick run-down of the various options in yarn weight. And then she gets straight to the really good part.  From necklaces and wrist cuffs to nesting bowls and rag rugs, the pages are filled with stunning photographs and patterns that will make you want to pull out your crochet hook right. now. and start creating an accessory that will turn heads. 

But the book isn't all pretty pictures.  Amy shares a bit of the story behind each artist.  When you've picked a project and you're ready to sit down with a ball of yarn, you'll know who created that pattern, where she lives, and why she crochets.  In the blog world, we have always felt a connection to the creator of the patterns we love, but that has remained somewhat absent from traditional how-to books.  Thankfully So Pretty Crochet crosses the divide by providing insight into the artists' lives alongside instruction.  

One word of caution for the beginner crocheters out there - the book is not geared toward novices.  While Amy points readers to several websites and youtube videos that offer instruction, the patterns themselves require at least a basic familiarity with crocheting and handling a hook.  There are no step-by-step diagrams or mid-process photographs.  As someone who taught myself to crochet with a book, I always think it's good to start off the learning process by working through a bunch of the basic stitches so that you're not completely learning a new stitch each time you try to pick up a new pattern. 

So Pretty Crochet concludes with a section on where to source yarns, particularly if you're interested in organic or specialty yarns, which will be helpful for those who are looking for something more special than what their local Michaels carries. 

I'm guessing that once you finish the book, you'll be itching to go buy yourself some pretty skeins and start planning out a project. I know I've set my sights on one of the necklaces.  Or maybe that awesome braided bracelet. Or the flower headband. 

There are so many options, it's hard to choose. 

Amy has certainly put together a book that will make you excited to grab your crochet hook and make something so, so pretty.


*I was not paid for this review, but I did receive a complimentary copy of the book. 

Needlepoint Save the Date: Exploit Your Dog

About a year ago, I saw this bandana, made by my friend Caitlin, featured on I knew I wanted to make something like it, but I'm not so great with cross-stitching. And I love the look of appliqued fabric with stitching around it. 

Also, I didn't want to wait to see it around cute little Jammer's neck until our wedding day. 

The solution? Make a needlepoint version for the save the date. 

So I started. 

Using regular ol' Microsoft Word, I picked a font that I liked and printed out our initials and the date the size that I wanted for the bandana. 

I pulled out a bunch of scrap fabric and chose some prints that I thought went together for the letters. 

Using tracing paper and a pen, I traced the outline of the letters onto my chosen fabrics. 

After cutting them out, I cut out some light-weight fusible interfacing in the same letter shapes and ironed it onto the fabric according to the instructions. 

I placed the letters onto my fabric, using a straight edge to arrange them, and then ironed them onto the plain fabric I was using for the bandana. 

From there, it was time to put the fabric in an embroider hoop, pick a coordinating-color embroidery thread, and begin doing a blanket stitch all the way around each letter. 

I included some pictures of the blanket stitch process, but if you need a great tutorial, I'd check here

Once I had completed blanket stitching all the way around all the letters, I was ready to move on to the date. 

I measured the letters on my fabric and the numbers on my original print-out to find the exact center of each. 

Once I'd lined it up, I traced the numbers onto my fabric.

And then used a basic back stitch for them and sewed a couple buttons in between the numbers. 

The final step was to cut out the fabric into the bandana shape. I used another of Jammer's bandanas as a template. 

And there it was. 

Originally I planned to take a picture just of Jammer with the little needlepoint bandana around his neck, but those pictures just weren't doing it for me. 

He looked so somber that I felt like we were inviting people to our funeral instead of a wedding. 

We decided that we had to get us in the picture somehow. 

This was our first try, but in order to get our hands in the picture the way we wanted, the letters on the bandana were too small. 

But luckily we landed on our final version, with Jammer looking like a stern butler but us looking joyful in the background: 


Crochet Neverending Work in Progress

Afghan 1

I mentioned yesterday in my crochet tutorial post that I am the slowest crocheter in the world. I challenge anyone to try to prove me wrong. 

In support of my case, I present you the afghan that I've been crocheting since April of last year.  Of course, in all honesty, I haven't been crocheting every moment of every day since then.  I mean, I've slept and eaten and gone to the bathroom.  And I guess I've worked and moved twice and taken the dog for walks and gone on vacation.  And started planning a wedding and blogged. Okay fine. I haven't actually been crocheting that much since I started it, but even so, when I am crocheting, it's the slowest crocheting out there.

Part of the hold-up is that I have a problem following directions. I started making this afghan to send to the Hamlin Fistula Relief and Aid Fund. I was planning to make a giant granny square blanket, but then after getting about 30 rows into it, I realized that they actually wanted rectangular blankets instead of square ones (though they've now modified the directions to include square blankets).  So I had to come up with a new plan, preferably without backtracking on the work that I'd already done.

What I came up with was a plan to make four smaller granny squares to put on the ends of the larger square I had already completed.

Afghan 2 I attached the smaller squares to each other using the invisible joining method, and I'll use the same method to attach the smaller squares to the large square. Then I'll crochet a border all the way around.

And then I'll block that sucker to try to straighten things out a bit. It'll be my first time blocking anything, and I'm a little nervous about how it will all work. But it's definitely necessary for this blanket, since it's gotten all wonky and will likely get more so as I attach the smaller squares.

Of course, none of this will happen while I'm studying for the bar, but once I take the exam (on Feb 28), I suspect I could complete the blanket in about six episodes of Downton Abbey (the best way to mark time).  So hopefully I'll be sending off a completed blanket this year. And then it'll be time to start on one of the projects I posted yesterday for the next year or two.

Do you have a craft project you've been working on for ages?


25 Can't-Miss Crochet Tutorials

Lucy Bag-1
I'm nothing if not a peruser of crafty blogs, and while I am the slowest crocheter in the history of the world (meaning that you rarely see finished crochet projects from me), I adore looking at other people's crochet projects.  They inspire me to sit down with a crochet hook and some soft yarn so that I can make something beautiful.

So before this cold weather is all gone, I sat down and pulled together some of my favorite crochet tutorials on the web - the ones that I pine over, the ones that get me to sit down with my hook in the hopes of one day finishing the project I'm working on so that I can move on to something else!  

Here is a collection of 25 crochet tutorials that inspire me and keep me adding to my yarn stash.

For Beginners


If you've never picked up a crochet hook, don't despair.  I taught myself to crochet using a book called Learn to Crochet in Just One Day.  I sat down on a Saturday and worked my way through.  I did end up as the slowest crocheter in the world, but hey, speed is overrated.  Nowadays, there are so many fabulous tutorials on the web that you don't even need a book.  Here are five web tutorials (or tutorial series) that will teach you all the basics and get you comfortable enough to move on to some lovely projects.

Crochet School from Craftyminx
The Humble Granny Square from Renate Kirkpatrick
The Meaning of Pattern Symbols from Le Monde de Sucrette

For Baby

Bitter Sweet

If you're anything like me, everyone you know is pregnant.  And by "know," I mean everyone whose status updates pop up on your facebook page.  That means it's time to start whipping out those baby blankets and softies for baby showers and welcome-to-the-world gifts.  You won't go wrong with these adorable tutorials.

Amigurumi bird from Bitter Sweet
Penguin bowling pins from Bitter Sweet
Everyday is a New Sweater Day sweater from Yarny Days 
Little Christmas socks from Le Monde de Sucrette

For Home

Crochet with Raymond

More than knitting, crocheting is known for the things you can make to spruce up your living space.  You might cringe at the thought of crocheted accessories if all you remember is the scratchy mustard, brown, and army green blankets your grandmother made.  But the modern world of crochet is filled with bright colors and interesting designs that can fit into any design scheme.  Try out one of these to add a little homemade charm to your living room.

Pillowcase Crochet Border from You Go Girl 
Blanket stitch tutorial from You Go Girl (base of the pillowcase crochet border)
-    Cup Cozies from All About Ami
Grandma All Round Granny Square from the Royal Sisters  
Flower coasters from Versus Mag 
Hexagon How-to from Attic 24
Lotus Mandala Prayer Flag Bunting from Crochet with Raymond 
Crocheted rope basket from Making Chicken Salad- 
Granny stripe blanket from Attic 24 
Rag Rug from Sugar Bee Crafts

For You

People Webs

And what's the point of all this crocheting if you can't make a little something nice for yourself?  These projects will keep you toasty warm this winter (especially if your winter's going to last into April like mine probably will!)  If spring is fast-approaching for you, then you'll have plenty of time to work on these for that first nippy night next fall.

The Lucy Bag from Attic 24 
Granny Square Cowl from Crochet with Raymond
Crochet boot cuffs from Compulsive Craftiness 
Shell cowl from Persia Lou 
Chunky circle scarf from People Webs

If those tutorials don't have you running for your crochet hook, then I'll have to assume crochet just isn't your thing.  For those who are bookmarking and pinning these projects with a wild look in your eyes, I'd love to hear about (or see pictures!) of what you're making.


Cardigan Makeover

Ever have an article of clothing in your closet that's perfectly functional but a little bland?  I have a black cardigan that I've owned since I was four.  Okay, maybe not quite that long, but it's been with me for at least ten years.  I'm sure that for some of you, once a sweater hits its golden years, it's time to send it out the door and do some shopping.  But I'm trying to cut back on my spending these days.  And it's still my utilitarian dream sweater: black, so it goes with everything; 3/4-length sleeves that don't make me too hot; slightly stretchy; not at all itchy; and it still has all its buttons.  Also, would Laura Ingalls throw a good sweater out just because it was boring?  Just sayin'.

Sweater Before
You can't tell from this photo, but it's really faded.

So here's how I took my plain ol' faded cardigan and remade it into this snazzy number:

This sweater is the bomb diggity
You can't argue.  It's snazzy.

First, I went all double, double, toil and trouble on it and dyed the cardigan with basic Rit dye. 


It went from sort of black to jet black.  Perfect. There may or may not have been a brief terrifying moment when I thought I had dyed little black dots in the bathtub from the sweater dripping dry.  Thank goodness for bleach.

Anyway, after the sweater was dry, I sketched out a quick design of flowers.  I actually didn't end up keeping to this design much, but it gave me confidence for the actual embroidery part.

Tailor's Chalk

I knew I wanted embroidered flowers, but I thought traditional embroidery floss might not show up well and also might give the sweater more of a country-sweet look than I was going for.  So I opted for a simple thin satin ribbon, purchased from Michaels for $1.99, along with a yarn needle.

I used a lazy daisy stitch for the flowers.  You can find basic tutorials for the lazy daisy stitch here and here.  But essentially, you bring your needle up through the fabric at point A.

You pull the thread (or ribbon) almost all the way through, leaving a tail or knot on the wrong side of the garment, and then thread the needle back through point A.  Don't go all the way, though.

Lazy Daisy 1

Leaving a loop of thread on the right side of the fabric, bring your needle up on the inside of the loop (B)
Lazy Daisy 2

And then down right on the outside of the loop (C).  It's a little difficult to see with black on black, so I recommend visiting one of those tutorials I mentioned above.

Lazy Daisy 3

When you're finished, you have a lovely little flower like this.

Flower 2
Sweater After

And then several flowers (and one episode of Little House on the Prairie) later, you've turned a drab sweater into a unique and stylish cardigan.

I wonder what I'll make next

Hmm....what am I going to embroider next?

Any items in your closet that need a pick-me-up?


Linked up today at

Work - Craft Balance: Fail


In my "real life," I'm a first-year associate in at a very large law firm.  If you've never known a first-year associate before, this means that I spend many, many hours at work crying in the fetal position doing important intellectual things.  I always begin the day with ambitious evening plans to finish my craft projects or begin new ones.  Sometimes I leave the office at a semi-reasonable hour, and I actually do get a little crafting time in the evening.  But often, and more so lately, I'm too zapped when I get home to do anything but stare mindlessly at the television.

Combine that with my penchant for projects that take approximately 75 times longer than I think they're going to take, and sharing any brilliant creations with you guys is proving difficult.

But because I REFUSE to believe that I will not at SOME point finish these things, I'm giving you some teasers of what's to come.


Applique Applique 3 Book Paper 2 Felt Circles 2 Afghan

Well, that last one's not really a surprise, but it is in my regular craft project rotation.

So, get excited about the ta-da moments to come.  Let's cross our fingers that they aren't too far off!


A Little Hooky Inspiration

I've been working on a blanket to send to the Hamlin Fistula Relief and Aid Fund forever.  Seriously, I just can't seem to finish this one.  There are so many projects on my plate right now that every one of them is getting short shrift.

Just to give you a little size perspective - it's not that big.

But Alice over at Crochet with Raymond has inspired me with the completion of her jaw-dropping Gypsy Caravan Blanket.  The colors are so cheerful, and she always manages to make crochet look like the most modern of art forms - like the way she uses the gray borders around each square here.  So far removed from the dated green, brown, and burnt orange afghan of my childhood. I can't imagine anyone not immediately stashing these images in their own crochet inspiration file. 

Hopefully those pictures will give me the swift kick in the rump that I need, and I'll be getting hooky with it (yes, I did) in no time at all.

For those who don't crochet, I've got an exciting post coming up in the next few weeks that will get you started!  So tune back in!


Hooking With Purpose

Lately life has been pretty much all about me.  At least, my life has been.  I've been adjusting to my new job and settling into what seems like a long-overdue venture into adulthood.  I'm 30 and feel like I have my first real job, which isn't entirely true but also isn't entirely inaccurate.  I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want my life to look like, what I want to aspire to, what my dreams are.  I worry about waking up one day and realizing that I  have allowed my life to happen rather than caused my life to happen.  

There's nothing inherently wrong with all of this worrying and daydreaming, but it can be exhausting.  And I can very easily forget two things: 1 - I'm incredibly blessed, and 2 - there are a lot of people out there in the world who don't get to luxuriate in planning their "perfect" life.   

Several months ago, I wrote about a book that my sister had given me for Christmas, and I wrote about how I was going to make a blanket to send to a program in Africa that provides medical services and support for women with fistulas, a debilitating condition (if left untreated) that is often the result of obstructed childbirth and sometimes rape.  Well, in the new job happenings and navel gazing, it moved to the back burner.  But recently, after some days of feeling particularly self-focused, I put my foot down - both of them really, one after the other, as I headed to my local yarn shop and picked out some colors that I hoped would bring cheer and comfort to whoever wrapped themselves in them.

It may take me a year, but I look forward to one day sending a package off to another woman who may, with the help of some truly amazing people, be able to sit with a blanket around her shoulders and spend at least a moment thinking about what might make her happy.  


KTMade Christmas: Part II

So, when I mentioned previously about the project that I was finishing on Christmas Eve, this was it.  Once I allowed myself to relax about all of the yarn ends that needed to be tucked in enough to actually look at the afghan, I was so ridiculously excited about how it turned out.  Look how gorgeous it is!

I wanted to make my mom and her husband an afghan that would look at home in their house, which is decorated in a fairly contemporary fashion with some deliciously rich-colored walls.  Bold colors and a modern look were an absolutely necessity - not always an easy feat with a crochet project.  When I found this pattern from Ravelry, I knew I had hit gold.

Sometimes I am so delightfully surprised about how all of these projects come together.  You start with a few balls of yarn and a crochet hook, and then you end up with something truly magnificent.

Most of my projects started out with big plans and then had to be downsized once I got closer and closer to the holidays. This afghan was the exception.  I made the hexagons with five rounds instead of the seven in the pattern because I was using a big crochet hook (size I) and fairly thick yarn - the luscious Blue Sky Alpaca Organic Cotton - so I thought that it would still be big enough to act as a blanket.  Boy was I wrong.  I finished my 39 hexagons, laid them all out, and it was barely big enough to act as a baby blanket.  After allowing myself a few minutes of total panic and some tears, I regrouped and started making more hexagons.  Even after several more hours of crocheting it seemed like no matter how many I made, there weren't enough to make it into a usable afghan - until Navah got home.  She had been away for the weekend, but her fresh eyes upon coming home made all the difference.  I had been attempting to keep the hexagons in the same shape distribution as the pattern, but Navah moved them all around to make the blanket into a rectangular shape instead of a square shape.  Tada! An afghan!

I think my mom and her husband loved it.


The Lucy Bag

I loved crochet from the beginning.  It was like a moving meditation for my hands - sitting on the couch with my crochet hook working away, I felt so calm and relaxed.  I still do.  Focusing on those movements of the hook gives the rest of my active little brain a chance to breathe.

I can't remember what inspired me to learn to crochet, but the summer after I graduated from college, I bought a book from Michaels - Learn to Crochet in Just One Day.  And learn to crochet I did.  I sat myself down on the couch one Saturday and spent the whole day figuring it out, making one little swatch after another. A swatch of single crochet, a swatch of double crochet, and so on.  I made a giant afghan that summer - acrylic yarn in deep, dark colors I would never choose now.

With graduate school and work and then law school and various other endeavors, I lost touch with my crochet hook and got into other things.  About six months ago, Lucy of Attic24 reintroduced me.  I came across her blog in my ever-constant looking at all the glorious craft blogs out there, and I was immediately drawn in by her gorgeous crochet work.  She brings such a joyful spirit to her crocheting, and every picture made me want to buy a giant bag of cheerful yarn and just get going.  So I did.

I made this delightful bag from a pattern on her site - to hold my yarn stash, and just looking at it makes me smile.

So many happy colors!  I've been so grateful for the inspiration as I dreamily plan my next creations and snuggle down into the couch to give my fingers some work and my brain a little breathing room.