Adding a Crochet Motif to a Favorite Bag Pattern

I often crochet different motifs when I find interesting free patterns on the internet so I can see what they look like, how difficult they are, and to try them out for future projects.  I recently came across a motif I really liked and I thought the sample I had made would look nice inserted into some sort of cloth handbag.  I did some searches for instructions for doing this, but didn’t come up with much.  The instructions are probably out there, but sometimes it can be hard to know the right words to use for searching for that sort of thing.  I’ve been thinking about the best way to go about this for the past couple of weeks and came up with the following method (which I am writing out here for myself as much as anyone, since I don’t always remember quite how I worked something out).

I started by choosing a pattern to use as a beginning place.  I have made several different versions of the 241 Tote bag from Noodlehead.  Because I like the shape and size of that bag, I decided to use that as my starting place.  The front panel is made from a pattern piece that is cut on the fold, so I drew both halves to have one flat piece to work with.  I also measured my motif (a free pattern from here) and made a paper template that was just the tiniest bit bigger and decided on placement on my flat pattern piece:

I decided I like it placed on the diagonal best, so I cut that area out of my flat pattern:

I then cut out the pattern piece from my outer fabric, interfacing as called for in the pattern and a piece of thin muslin. I traced the cut-out square directly onto the muslin, which would become my facing:

I pinned everything together really well (outer fabric, face up, with the muslin on top) and stitched directly on the line I had drawn:

I then cut out the center section of the square, clipping to the corners:

Then, I pulled the muslin facing fabric through the square to the back:

I then pressed this well and top-stitched on the right side to hold everything in place:

I then hand-sewed the motif into the opening:

I then added a backing layer, using the same outer fabric I had chosen for the bag. I zigzagged all around the outer edge so I could easily treat this as one piece while I followed the instructions to construct the rest of the bag:

I did choose to leave off any outer pockets, but I added them to the inside lining,  I discovered that in this pattern it works really well to use the outer pocket pieces inside the lining.  I chose to zigzag a little piece of elastic to gather the inside pocket a bit- it works really well to hold things like my phone, lip balm, etc:

I can’t wait to use this bag- I always like it when a project ends up working out at least a little bit like I imagined it  would :).


More Rice Resist Dyeing

I have talked about my experiments with rice resist dyeing before. I am working on some projects for a local art show where all participants will work in a 6 inch by 6 inch format.  I have had a lot of ideas for this, jotting down lots of notes and trying out different ideas.  On a whim, I decided to try some rice resist dyeing again and found it hard to stop, creating a lot of pieces to choose from.  I proceeded pretty much like before, although this time I soaked all of my base fabrics in a soda ash solution and hung them up to dry before applying my rice resist.  Some of them were dyed a couple of times before reaching this point.

Out of laziness, I decided to try an even simpler resist process.  I happened to have some brown rice flour for cooking, so decided to see how that would work.  I added 1/4 cup to 2 cups of water.  I brought it to a boil and then turned it down to a simmer, stirring the whole time for just 3-5 minutes.  I used this (and I’m sure lots of similar products would work equally well):

I like  using the rice paste hot, so when I put it into a squeeze bottle (a funnel helps with this), I had to hold it with a hot pad to apply it my fabric:

It is amazing what a zen-like state can come from applying the rice resist to fabric and just seeing where the design wants to go.  Here is one example:

I let the fabric dry in a sunny window- usually overnight was long enough.  I then mixed up some dye concentrates and mixed them with alginate thickener I had mixed up.  With each piece, I chose different colors, sometimes more, sometimes less, building them up over the fabric.  Here is a progression of colors added to one piece:

A lot of times at the end, it all looked sort of muddy like this:

At this point, I covered the piece in plastic and let it sit overnight.  My house is pretty warm right now, so I didn’t need to add any heat while the fabric batched.  I got into a routine each day of alternating steps between new pieces.  My favorite part of each day was first thing in the morning.  After doing the urgent morning chores (like taking the dog out and letting the chickens out), I would run my batching fabric under a quick rinse, squeeze it out and then scrape away the rice resist (I have been using a plastic store club card) to see the first peek at what the patterning will be like on each individual piece.  It’s never the same, and almost always surprising.  Here is a first peek at one:

After this, I give the fabrics a rinse, soaking them for awhile in cool water, and then finally washing them in hot water with textile detergent to get out any excess dye.  Now, I get to decide which sections of my pieces will be used for the show- I have one more week to get everything mounted and ready, so I made myself a deadline of today for being finished with all of my dye work.  I made a viewer I will be using to choose my 6 inch sections- it’s really high tech : )

Here are a few of my finished pieces from the past couple of weeks, waiting for me to choose my favorite sections to show:

Packing Tape Transfers with Original Images

I am in the process of working on a project, in that time when I have some general ideas but don’t know quite where it is going to go yet.  Yesterday it occurred to me that packing tape transfers might be a good addition to this project. (I posted the how-to’s of packing tape transfers awhile ago, and one way I used them.) In the past, I have used found images from magazines but for this project, I wanted to use my own.  I ‘m not sure why I haven’t thought about doing that before.  

I started with an image I had of doily I had recently crocheted:

I knew I wanted to manipulate it, but my computer is a chromebook and I don’t have access to any sort of fancy software.  I usually just use free programs and generally don’t do much more than crop images, so that works fine.  For this image, I used picmonkey and basically just clicked around on different effects until I got to this:

This was interesting, but still not quite what I wanted.  I really wanted the reverse of this.  It’s possible that picmonkey can do that, but I wasn’t able to figure out how.  I did a search for programs that would allow me to create a negative image and found the free program lunapic.  It had an option for making a negative, but I found it also had an option to create a coloring book image.  I had pretty much what I was looking for and was able to use the eraser tool to clean up some random smudges I didn’t want.  My final image looked like this:

I was able to take this image and made a sheet of doily images of different sizes.  I printed off my sheet of images on a black and white laser printer and then used them just like I used the images found in magazine pages.  Here are some of the transfers decorating the back of my chromebook:

And this is one of the images over some of my hand-dyed fabric, which is the way I ultimately want to use this technique:

I really love that this image was created from my original handwork, but is used in a completely different way. Now that I know that my little idea from yesterday works,  I’m looking forward to trying this with lots of other images to combine into some of my current projects.  So many possibilities are floating around in my head.  

Snow Dyeing- In Memory of My Sister

Yesterday, I woke up to a world that looked like this:

This was significant to me for a few reasons.  It was late March, and we’ve had a very mild winter.  The only other frozen precipitation we have had this winter was some freezing fog and one wet snow followed very quickly the next morning by several inches of freezing rain, creating sheets of ice.

I have seen blog posts about snow dyeing for the past few years and have wanted very much to try it.  Last winter, our only snow came around Thanksgiving, when I was busy with family plans and the holiday.  I assumed there would be more snow later for snow dyeing if we were already getting it so early, so I didn’t take the time then to try it.  We had no more snow last winter.  We’ve had no more this winter, either- sheets of ice just wouldn’t work.  I had decided that it probably wasn’t going to happen this year, and I could just push it once again to the back of mind and hope for snow next year.

Also, another part of this story is that my youngest sister, just 37 years old, passed away very unexpectedly this past Saturday.  Karissa adored snow and was as excited as a young child whenever there was any.

When I saw the snow this morning, it felt like it was connected to Karissa somehow- a gift from her.  I realized immediately that it looked like snow that would work well for snow dyeing, although I also knew that it was going to be warming up quickly, so I would need to get started right away.  It seemed like a lesson about that, too:  don’t put off anything meaningful that you can do today.  I have some regrets about things I’d put off with Karissa.  She had asked me to knit her a pink hat and we’d chosen a pattern and yarn and I hadn’t gotten to it yet.  I thought there would be more time, but there wasn’t.  I felt like the unexpected snow this morning was her saying that it was okay, that she understood, and she was giving me a gift of something she loved that she also knew somehow I had been wanting.  She gave me a beautiful scene to wake up to and  an opportunity, but I had to take it right now, so a reminder to try to do that, too.

So- I worked quickly.  I took the dog out and then started soaking some fabric in soda ash solution while I grabbed a quick bite to eat.  I then mixed up some dye, using Fuchsia, Golden Yellow, and Strong Navy (all from  Dharma Trading).

I didn’t bother with folding any patterns, but just sort of scrunched the fabric up on screens suspended over basins to catch the drips.  Everything was starting to drip outside, so I knew I didn’t have much time and just kept everything simple:

I then filled up a bowl with snow and piled it on top of the fabric:

When there seemed to be enough, I poured on the dye colors randomly.  It sort of looked like a giant snow cone pile to me:

I let it sit outside for a couple of hours, and as the temperature rose, the snow started to melt and drip through.  I brought it inside to let it finish melting.  When the snow had all melted, I wrapped it in plastic and let it batch on top of my warm clothes dryer.  I don’t know if I needed to do that, since I have seen instructions where there doesn’t seem to be a warm batching time, but I decided to do it anyway since I knew it couldn’t hurt anything.  I then left it overnight. This morning, I rinsed it and ran it through the wash with synthropol as I usually do.  This is my final result, which I love:

Here are some closeups of a few of the sections which show a little more of the detail:

I loved getting to try this and I will always think that this opportunity was a gift from sister.

Experimenting with Rice Resist Dyeing

I have experimented with different dye resists in the past, but it’s been awhile.  Last week, I read an article that mentioned in passing using rice baby cereal as a dye resist.  Although it didn’t include instructions, it made me want to experiment and see how it would work.

The first thing I needed was rice baby cereal.  I didn’t have any and could have gone to the store to get some, but I like to use what I have on hand.  I googled “how to make rice baby cereal,” and came up with a pretty simple process.  Basically, just buzz some rice in your blender to turn it into a powder and then add water and cook it.  I only had brown rice since that’s mostly what we eat.  I didn’t know if it would work as well for this, but I decided to try it.

My powdered rice in the blender:

I then had to decide how much water to add.  I started with 1/4 cup of rice powder and 1 cup of water.  I brought it to a boil and then reduced to a simmer, stirring it with a whisk.  I ended up adding more water until I’d used 2 cups and it looked about right to me. I cooked it for probably ten minutes, total. This is, of course, completely subjective:

I then put it into a squeeze bottle and applied it to my fabric, which is just plain white cotton.  A few pictures:

The next part was actually the hardest.  It took only a few minutes to squeeze on the rice paste, but it took two days for it to dry completely.  I’m sure this would be faster if it was not cold, foggy winter in a house where we don’t turn the heat up  very high.

When the rice was finally dry, I mixed up some dye (procion mx that I get from Dharma Trading, along with most of my basic dye supplies).  I thickened it with alginate and also added some soda ash solution, since I didn’t use fabric that I had pre-treated with soda ash.  I mixed up just enough to use in a short time, since with the soda ash added, there is a pretty short working time.  I usually try to use it all within an hour, if not less when I work this way.  A picture:


I used a sponge brush to paint this on to the fabric.  Since this was very experimental, I used just two colors, fuchsia and sky blue, and sort of just mixed them as I went:

Next, I had to batch them somewhere warm.  I often use a heating pad to batch in the winter, because for sure my house is not going to ever be above 75 degrees in February, and dye needs at least that temperature.  I realized that it was pretty warm on top of the dryer in my laundry room, so I decided to try batching them there, making sure to keep laundry going to keep the dryer running, which was also good for my laundry :).  I covered everything in plastic and left it alone overnight:

The next day, I rinsed everything out quickly in warm water.  I wasn’t sure if the rice resist would all just wash out, or what- as I said, I had no instructions for this :).  It seemed to peel off pretty easily, and I found that it could be removed very easily by running the edge of a spatula over it, so I did that:

I then did my usual cold rinse and then a hot wash in the washing machine.  My final results:

I am happy to say that my experiment worked and was fun.  I know I will be doing more in the future.  It actually took only a very short amount of time, although that time was spread out over several days, so it isn’t an instant gratification sort of project.  I have some new ideas to try with this soon.

January Hat and Mittens

When I started making this set, there was snow, freezing rain, and ice.  As I finished them up, that was gone.  Yesterday it was back to the low 60’s, not really hat and mittens weather.  I’m pretty sure that we will still have at least one more blast of winter that will allow me to wear them.  If not, I’m all ready for next year…

Some details about these:

Both are made of Chroma yarn from Knitpicks.  I had never used it before and love the softness, the slight fuzziness, and the patterning of the colors.  This colorway is called U-pick, which I think is either discontinued or will be shortly.  There are still lots of other great colorways, but I liked this one because I thought it would go with both my purple coat and my brown one.  I used worsted weight for the mittens and fingering weight for the hat.

I made the mittens first:

These are from a really basic, simple pattern that I’ve had forever from Cottage Creations (they don’t  have a website, but  a lot of yarn stores seem to sell them- I love and have used many of their patterns).  These are from their “Projects for Community Knitting” booklet.  The ribbed cuff continues up into the thumb and they were really easy and are very comfortable to wear.

I then moved on to the hat:

I fell in love with this hat when I first saw it.  It is from Tangled, a web magazine dedicated to those who like to both knit and crochet.  Some of their patterns are for sale, and others like this one for the Tessellations Hat are free.  They always have a lot of fun designs.  I found this one through their blog, which can be found here or from their main web page.

I absolutely loved crocheting this.  I adore granny squares and double crocheting is my very favorite thing to do- there is a rhythm to it that isn’t there for me in any other stitch.  It may be weird to have a favorite stitch, but there it is.  I also love the way this pattern takes advantage of the slow color changes in the yarn.   Sewing it up was even fun and it was quicker to make than I thought it would be.  It’s probably sort of an eccentric hat, too, which I also like :).


Knitted Hat

I don’t really do resolutions for the New Year, but I do sometimes have a few ideas for new goals.  One of mine for this year is to be a little better about documenting more of the projects that I make.  We will see if it really continues, but I’m at least making a start at that now.

This is the first project I’ve completed in 2012.  It probably shouldn’t really count, as it was meant to be a Christmas gift.  As I didn’t start it until December 23rd, I knew it probably wouldn’t actually get finished until the quieter days of  January.  I gave it away yesterday, so now I can post the picture of it:


It’s a simple hat from one of the independent patterns at Knitpicks (found here: )

I loved the construction- the cable band was knit first, and then stitches were picked up for the rest of the hat.  I’ve been mostly crocheting lately, so it was fun to knit something again and remind myself that I can still do that :).

Fabric Postcards with Packing Tape Transfers

I mentioned in my last post about making packing tape transfers that I thought I might use them in a postcard swap from ihanna’s blog.  Very frequently, when I enter something like this, I end up making something very far away from my original idea.  In this case, though, I went with what had been my first idea.  The pile of postcards above are my result.  Here is an overview of how I put them together.

First, I made several packing tape transfers- check out my previous post linked above for the details.  I then pulled out my big box of hand-dyed fabric scraps left over from previous projects, dye experiments, etc., and tried to match them up with the transfers that I had.  I decided to go with a size of 4-1/2″ by 6″ and cut out what would become my base, some stiff interfacing.  I used non-fusible Peltex because that’s what I had ( I challenged myself to use only materials I already had in the house for this project):

I then cut out the fabric for the front and back of each postcard as well as a small piece of off-white muslin that I decided to use as a frame for each transfer.  Because each transfer varied in size, I hand-cut this.  Here’s a stack of all of the materials for one postcard: address-side fabric, Peltex, front fabric, muslin and packing tape transfer:

After cutting everything out, my first step was to use a couple of strips of Heat and Bond to adhere the main fabric to the Peltex.  This might have been a good place to use fusible Peltex or even full sheets of Steam-a-Seam or Misty Fuse, but once, again, I was determined to use just what I had on hand:

I repeated this with the rectangle of muslin, which I placed by eye.  I like general symmetry, but I don’t like it to be too perfect, so I don’t really measure most things like this:

I then placed the transfer on top:

For some reason, I forgot to take pictures of the next step, but it’s easy to explain.  I sewed around the packing tape transfer through all of the layers using a small-ish zig zag stitch.  I then switched thread colors to add a bit more depth and sewed around the outside of the muslin with a zig zag stitch.

At this point, I wrote  the addresses on my postcard backing fabric.  I wanted to do this before I sewed it all together so that if I made a mistake, I wouldn’t have to take the whole postcard apart to fix it.  In the past, I’ve also made fabric address labels that I ironed on after the postcard is all sewn together, but I didn’t want to do that this time. Once again, I ironed a couple of strips of Heat and Bond onto the postcard base.  Before doing this, I put down a piece of parchment paper so that there would be no chance of having the packing tape transfer melt or stick to my ironing board cover.  I don’t know if it would have really been a problem, but I didn’t want to take a chance.

I then sewed around the entire postcard with a wider zig zag stitch.  Here’s a close-up of one with all stitching finished:

A picture of all of the postcard reverse sides:

Here are a few pictures of the postcards a little closer-up:

These were really fun to make and now I just need to get some stamps to get them in the mail in the next day or two.   I’ve also been enjoying looking at all of the links showing the creativity of some of the other people participating in this swap. Check out the link to ihanna’s blog at the top of this post  to see the blogs of other swappers and a flickr pool of some of the images- lovely eye candy to me!

Packing Tape Transfers

I recently heard someone mention “Packing Tape Transfers” in passing on an internet list.  It seemed assumed that everyone knew what that was, but I had never heard of it.  After some googling, I figured out the basic principle (which is very simple!) and began experimenting.  This is the sort of craft I love because it’s easy, I already had all of the materials needed, and the result can be used in many different ways.

The materials:

Packing tape and magazines

I read in a few places that you should use pages from good quality magazines, but I’m not really sure what that means.  Some that were very glossy that I would have thought were high quality didn’t do as well as some that were more matte made out of recycled paper. I also successfully made one out of a cartoon on very low quality newsprint and another from an image on my power bill.  All I can really recommend is to experiment and see what happens.  You really won’t be out much if an image fails.

First, find an image you like and cover it with packing tape.  This image is from an ad in Mary Jane’s Farm magazine, which happens to make very nice transfers.  The packing tape is just regular old packing tape available everywhere.  I’ve used two different brands and both worked fine.

Next, trim the paper to match the tape and smooth down really well.  I use a combination of pressing with my fingers and also passing over it a couple of times with my grocery store club card:

Next, put the images in a dish of water.  I read all different lengths of time, from 15 minutes to an hour.  I usually leave them soaking for half  an hour or so.

The next step is my favorite part.  Gently rub off the paper from the back.  I usually do this one time and then soak it in fresh water and go over it one more time.  Some papers almost dissolve and others take a bit more work.

And finished- You can see how translucent the finished image is.

I usually give them one final rinse and then allow them to dry spread out on a dish towel.  Sometimes when they are dry there may still be little bits of paper and sometimes I re-soak them and other times I leave it as it doesn’t seem to make that much difference.  Sometimes there is still just a bit of stickiness on the transfers, so I store them in a single layer and then roll them up in wax paper.

Here is a recent batch:

These can now be used in a variety of ways- glue them to paper, use them in scrapbooks, cover a journal with them, or as my current plan is, sew them to something else.  I’m participating in a postcard exchange and plan to layer these with some of my hand-dyed fabrics and stitch them all together.  I made a sample out of a transfer I didn’t particularly love to make sure it would work.  In this sample, I sewed the transfer to a piece of muslin that I’d bonded to a piece of heavy interfacing (Peltex).

If I like my final results and end up going with this for the postcard exchange (organized by ihanna’s lovely blog), I’ll post them here.  And if I go a completely different way for my postcards, I’ll post that here, too :).

Shibori Stitched-Resist Hearts

A couple of weeks ago, there was a prediction that we would have some significant snow within the following week.  I was looking forward to that because I wanted to try snow dyeing.  We had a decent amount of snow in November, but at that time I was too busy with holidays and activities to pull out all of my dye supplies.  As the approaching storm got closer, the predicted temperatures got warmer and warmer and in the end all we had was rain.  Still, I felt like playing with dye, so I turned to my old favorite, stitched-resist shibori.  I decided to make hearts, which I plan to use in some future projects.  They are really quick and simple to stitch up.

To start, I cut a heart shape out of an old bill to use as my pattern.  It’s close to  3 inches x 3 inches in size:

Next, I folded my fabric in half and traced around the heart.  I like to use Crayola’s washable markers- I’ve never had a problem with them washing out of my cotton fabrics.  I then drew two more hearts freehand.

I then threaded my needle with a double strand of Dual Duty Button and Carpet thread.  It’s a little heavier and sturdier than many other threads and is also easy to find in chain fabric stores.  I stitched a simple running stitch over each of the lines I’d drawn.  I knotted the beginning of the stitching of each row, leaving the other ends loose for now.  Here’s the side with the lines:

Here’s the other side, which shows the stitching a little better.  I don’t particularly try to be even with the stitches:

Next, I pulled all the stitches tight and knotted the doubled ends together that had been left loose:

I then dyed the fabrics.  After dyeing, I usually give them a cold rinse and soak and then carefully clip and remove the threads before giving them a final washout of the excess dye- and yes, my fingers are still faintly purple from this today.

I used three different fabrics for this batch of hearts. Some was dyed golden yellow (and over-dyed fuchsia red), some was left white (dyed with blue-violet), and some was multi-colored (over-dyed with strong navy).  All of the dyes I use are fiber reactive procion dyes from Dharma Trading.

Original fabrics:

Finished hearts, ready to use for appliques, to be further embellished and/or pieced into other projects:


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