make it happen.. Pillowcase Dresses

Ok,  these aren’t really a knitting project.  But these cute little dresses require no more sewing skills than seaming a sweater.  And, because they are easy to make and transport, they’re perfect to send on humanitarian aid missions – these are headed to Haiti next month.  I had such fun making them I’m including a how to:

Materials:

1 standard sized pillow case – the brighter the better.  Gently used is ok too, what better way to recycle?

1/4″ -1/2″ Elastic – about 7″ per dress.

3/4″ – 1″  Ribbon  – about 1 yard per dress.

Needle, thread, straight pins and 1 safety pin.

Ric-Rac & other decorations (optional).

Step One:  Lay out the pillow case so that the pillow opening will become the bottom hem of the dress.  Next, you’re ready to cut the armholes.  Here is the .pdf template for the armholes.  Be sure you print it at 100% scale so the dimensions are correct.

pillowcase dress template

Once the armholes and the top seam are cut, double fold a 1/4″ seam along the arm holes (fold 1/4″ , iron, fold over 1/4″ again) and a 1 1/2″ seam at the top.

Now, stitch up those armholes and then the top seam.  You’ll need the 1 1/2″ seam to thread the ribbons through.

Here’s where you can have a little fun.  Add ric-rac, buttons, fringe or any other trimmings your heart desires.  Then, select a matching ribbon and cut two 16″ lengths of ribbon.  You may want to burn the edges of the ribbon to keep them from unraveling.

Attach the ribbons to a 7″ piece of elastic with straight pins and thread the first ribbon through the top sleeve.  A good trick:  attach a safety pin to the end of the ribbon you’re pulling through.  It gives you something to hold onto while you’re pulling it.

Last step:  stitch along the open edge of the top sleeve to attach the ribbon and the elastic to the dress.  I learned the hard way to keep the straight pin in until you’ve got it all sewed together – that elastic will try to escape.

Now,trim any loose threads, take out your pins, tie up those ribbons and admire your finished product.

These make a great service project and they’re simple enough that even kids can help make them.  Try forming an assembly line with a cutting station, an ironing station, a sewing station, and a ribbon cutting and threading station. You’ll be amazed how quickly they go.  I’m glad to know these dresses are going to girls who really need them and I hope they’ll enjoy wearing them as much and I enjoyed making them.

A Wild Wooly Weekend

Do you know where your yarn comes from?  Well, I do now. Last weekend we took a much anticipated (as anyone who’s talked to me in the last week can attest to)  field trip to the Woolly Weekend at Shepherd’s Cross Farms.  Shepherd’s Cross is a working sheep farm in Claremore, Oklahoma about 30 miles northeast of Tulsa.  The weekend illustrated the  “sheep to shawl”  process of shearing, carding, spinning, and weaving wool.   Here are a few of the highlights:

This place is absolutely beautiful.  It looks just like the pictures of farms I used to draw when I was a kid (minus the weird horse-shaped blobs).

First up,  a little sheep shearing.  I couldn’t believe how fast the process was.  It took all of about 10 minutes to shear off all her wool – and in one piece!  I can’t even peel an orange in one piece.

Here they are showing off the new spring haircuts.  These guys won’t be the only one’s sporting a buzz cut to survive the Oklahoma summers. Next, the wool is washed in an industrial washing machine and left to dry on baking racks.

After the wool is dried and cleaned, it’s ready to be carded.   It’s run across a wire bristled wheel (kind of reminds me of my dog’s brush) to align the fibers and remove clumps before it goes to the spinning wheel.

The spinning process was pretty fascinating.  The wheel had a simple foot pedal to control the speed, then she just held a piece of carded wool and pulled strands toward the wheel while it spun it into a single ply yarn.  She managed to make it look so easy I’m tempted to go back for one of the spinning classes they offer.  They also have monthly knitting, crocheting, spindling, and wet felting classes.

Their website is www.shepherdscross.com and if you’re ever in this part of the world, I recommend a visit.  You can also buy some of their homemade yarn on etsy at www.etsy.com/shop/shepherdscross.    Speaking of shopping….

Yarn, roving, quilt batting, homemade knits, wine, sheepskin rugs, natural lamb meat, and just the right amount of kitschy knick-nacks. There was plenty to see before heading outside to enjoy all of the natural beauty this part of the world has to offer.  There’s a reason they call it ‘green country’. I think the sheep at Shepherd’s Cross have pretty deluxe accommodations.

Then, it was time to pack up my purchases, wave goodbye to our  new sheep friends,  and head home to start planning what to knit.  I think this yarn will felt beautifully and I bought some roving to try my hand at wet felting.  There is something so simple and satisfying about buying the materials to do what you love from people in your community.  I learned so much this weekend and I’m inspired to know even more.

A woolly weekend indeed.

Holy Cuffs

All finished making the holy cowl and scratching your head as to what to make with the leftover yarn?  Look no further.

Grab that skein of Lion Brand Natural Choice Organic yarn (these are in mustard),   Size 10 straight needles, and a darning needle.  They’ll be finished before you can say “Did I really just watch back to back episodes of America’s Next Top Model?”

Cast on 20 stitches (with a single strand) and follow this stitch pattern:

Row 1:  K1 ( yo, k3tog, yo, k3).  continue () to last 7 stitches. yo, k3tog, yo, k4.

Row 2: Purl

Row 3:  K4 (yo, k3tog, yo, k3).  Continue () to last 4 stitches.  yo, k3tog, yo, k1.

Row 4:  Purl

Continue rows 1-4 until the cuffs measure 7 inches long.  End with a Row 1 or Row 3.  Bind off.

Fold the cuffs in half with the right side facing in and stitch a seam from the bind off edge for 4 1/2″.  Leave about 1 1/4″ opening in the seam for a thumb hole.  Then stitch the rest of the seam.

I wore mine last night with the cowl and a friend told me I looked like a knitting super hero.  I’ve been called worse so I’m taking it as a compliment.  While they may not be the most practical accessory,  they’re a perfect use for leftovers and I think every good knit should be part of a matched set.

Happy Earth Day!

That’s right, today is the 40th annual Earth Day.  While I think that environmental awareness warrants more than 1 calendar day a year, it’s a good day to think about our priorities and lifestyles and see where we can make an improvement.

Knitters already understand the value of making something yourself by hand instead of buying  the cheap imported alternative, but here’s a look at how we can reduce, reuse and recycle even more.

Reduce our yarn stash, never!  But we can reduce the use of pesticides, virgin materials, and synthetic fibers in our yarn.  Step one:  look  for natural fibers like cotton, wool, alpaca, bamboo, linen, flax, soy, tencel, hemp, plant fiber, angora or cashmere.  These come from natural sources.  Avoid fibers like acrylic, polyamide, acetate, nylon, and microfiber.  These are all man made (read:  petroleum based) fibers.  Natural fibers are more expensive, but they made for a much nicer finished product.

Here are some other symbols to look for when choosing yarn:

FSC – the Forest Stewardship Council certifies forests that are responsibly managed and replanted.  When you see this symbol on your yarn, you can be sure that the fibers used to make it were harvested correctly.

Organic – The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates what can and can’t be called organic.  When you buy organic yarn you’re supporting farmers that grow their crops without petroleum based pesticides and fertilizers.  It’s better for the surrounding water supply and it’s better for the farmers that produce the crops and their families that live on the farms.

Fair trade certified.  This is one people don’t talk about as often, but it’s one of the most important.  In a global economy like ours, a lot of the products we use, including yarn and fibers, are imported from other countries.  Fair trade certified products mean that the artisans that make those products are paid a fair wage for their craft and not exploited.  Fair trade websites like thehungersite.com sell yarns, but if you look around at your local yarn shops and craft fairs your likely to find fair trade products.  And if you don’t, go ahead and ask about them, they may be happy to source them for you.  It feels great to support other artisans like yourself.

Think local.  It makes sense, when you buy locally made yarn, you’re supporting agriculture in your community and reducing the amount of fuel needed to transport it.  Alpaca farms are popular across the country and many make and sell their own yarn.  Check your local co-op or agri-tourism website to see if anyone in your area makes yarn.

Reuse – I’ve seen all kinds of ingenious ideas ideas for reusing things like t-shirts, plastic bags, and even newspaper into yarn.  Here are links to a few tutorials:

http://www.myrecycledbags.com/2007/02/17/instructions-for-cutting-plastic-bags-creating-recycled-plastic-yarn/

http://greenupgrader.com/2138/handspun-recycled-newspaper-yarn/

http://www.craftpassion.com/2009/05/recycle-tutorial-making-of-t-shirt-yarn.html

And,  let’s not forget – good old fashioned frogging.  Visit your local thrift store and find an ugly sweater made of beautiful yarn and start unraveling.  You can wind it onto a spool or into balls and let it air for a few days then start recreating.  This is probably the cheapest and greenest way to find beautiful yarn.  The thrift store is also a great source for purse handles, buttons, and other notions.

I’m starting to find a lot of great recycled options in the yarn aisle.  From recycled cotton to wools and silks, this is a great way to support the recycling industry.  It’s great to recycle, but unless we buy recycled products, there won’t be any incentive for people to keep doing it.   Here are a few ideas on how to recycle your own leftovers:

Gift wrapping.  I love the idea of using the leftovers from a knitted gift to wrap it.  It’s like giving them a little sneak peak of what’s inside.

Pom Poms.  Tie them onto a tree branch in a pretty vase, string them together and decorate a kid’s room,  or just use them to drive your pets crazy.

Knit a small square to add to a patchwork charity quilt.

Or, just donate them to a friend with kids or a local school or camp.  It’s amazing how many craft projects they can come up with to use them.

Well that’s it.  Happy Earth day to everyone! Let’s all make a small change to make the planet a better place to live.

Holy Cowl!

An oversized organic cowl for the unexpected spring cold snap.  Ours conveniently fell this weekend.

“a cowl”           “a what?”        “a cowl.”       This seems to be the beginning of every conversation I have  when I wear a one.  Apparently the term is unique to the knitting world.  Either way,  I think they’re one of the best accessories ever invented.  I usually tell people ‘it’s like the best part of a scarf’.  And it’s true – all the neck warming with no loose end to keep track of.   And even better, this one’s organic.   It knits up in just a few hours and I like the big size and chunky pattern.

Click here for a downloadable .pdf file –   Holy Cowl

I had just enough left over to knit a pair of wristlets to match.  I’ll get those posted soon.  Enjoy!

Sale Alert!

It’s springtime in Oklahoma, and the wind that’s sweeping down the plain is bringing 80 degree temperatures.  I love this time of year but it’s no time to be in the house knitting wool sweaters.  So thank you Michaels for your timely sale on Lily’s Sugar and Cream cotton yarn.  This week all colors are on sale for $1.oo (regularly $1.79).  I stocked up and I’m excited to start my spring/summer knitting.  Here’s what I’ve got planned for it:

Dishcloths and washcloths – this is what this yarn was made for.  The perfect hostess gift for summer barbecues.  Maybe a few for mom  for Mother’s Day.

Baby hats – because there’s nothing cuter than a baby in a knit hat.  And because I guess I’m getting to be that age where everyone you know is having a baby.

And maybe a spring beret for me, because Mary Tyler Moore has always been, and always will be a fashion role model for me.

Happy Spring and happy knitting.

Grace’s Slanket

First of all, I would like to thank my friend Abby for having the cutest baby in the world, and for taking these photos of her in her slanket.   I’d also like to thank Grace for inspiring me to learn how to knit for myself.  This was the first pattern I ever finished on my own and although it could never be as cute as Grace, it came out pretty well.

The real pattern name is the ‘Hooded Carrying Bag’ by Debbie Bliss http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/hooded-carrying-bag

but we named it ‘the slanket’ after Tina Fey’s version in our favorite TV show, 30 Rock.

Here is baby Grace in all her snuggly glory:

This was a good pattern for relative beginners.  Just lots of garter stitch (which I happen to love the look of), a little shaping, learning to pick up stitches for the hood and plenty of seaming.  The only real trick was getting the zipper sewn in.  Just a  note:  this pattern runs big!  I made the newborn size and Grace didn’t fit into it until she was almost 5 months!

The yarn I used was Serenity Chunky by Deborah Norville and it worked perfectly with this pattern.  A great little baby shower gift for a great little girl.  Thanks again Grace.

The Weekender

Perfect for weekend getaways or carrying around a knitting project in progress.  Here’s how I did it:

Materials:   Size 13 straight needles and Size 13 circular needle (approx. 16″)

2 – 3 skeins Lion Brand Thick and Quick yarn,  Citron.  I used two here.

Gauge isn’t too important – any super bulky yarn would work.  The size just may vary a little.

Here’s the pattern in a .pdf     The Weekender

Cast on 27 Stitches onto the straight needles.  Knit in garter stitch (knit every row)  until the piece is 4″ long.  Bind off.

Using the circular needles, pick up 72 stitches (27 each long side, 9 each short side).

Knit the 72 stitches and place a marker after the last stitch is knit.  This will be the row marker. Start a new row every time you pass the marker.    After you’ve placed the marker, join to knit in the round and start this pattern:

Row 1:  Knit two together, yarn over. – repeat until you hit the row marker.

Row 2: Knit.

Continue this pattern until the bag measures 16″ from the base.  End with a knit row.

Take out the marker and start a rib.  K2 P2  until the rib measures 1 inch.  Bind off in pattern.

Add handles and start planning a weekend getaway.

shopping list

Knit for the greater good!  My favorite website, thehungersite.com is a non-profit website that partners with Mercy Corps, Feeding America, and Millenium to fight poverty and hunger around the world.  All you have to do is click the site daily and  the site’s advertising money goes directly to these charities.  1 click daily equals one cup of food for a family in need.  It couldn’t be easier.

They also have a store that sells fair trade, eco friendly and women made products and with every purchase they donate even more food.  I buy a lot of my clothes and jewelery from them but they now have yarn!  And of course, it’s totally eco friendly and supports local artisans.  Here’s my shopping list:

Recycled Silk – hand made in Tibet and Nepal and now on sale for $6.95.  I’m ordering 3 – 85 yard skeins.  Right now I’m thinking they’ll become a carpet bag purse,  but ask me 3 days from now and that will change.

Banana Fiber yarn – yeah, I’m as curious as you are.  Apparently the banana plant fibers are dried and spun into yarn.  Anyway, they’re on sale for $11.95 an 85 yard skein and I’m ordering two in black.  Maybe an interesting cowl?

Nothing like yarn shopping and making the planet a more equitable place to live at the same time.  More details to follow on these unique purchases.  But seriously – go to the hunger site – and click, every day.

a knitter’s best friend.

“oh, he won’t be any trouble” – famous last words.  When my sister agreed to take pictures of my recent projects at the park, I’m sure she didn’t plan on my dog Gibson playing as big a role in the photo shoot as he did.  But who can blame him?  There are all kinds things to sniff, swim in, climb on, and pee on at the park and let’s face it – the camera loves him.  Here are a few of his best shots.