Thursday, September 29, 2016

Doily for a Coffee Maker

  September 29th is National Coffee Day in the United States and many other countries. And just two days from that, October 1st is officially International Coffee Day! Of course, I had to make an extra pot of coffee to celebrate this day. And when I did, I noticed a project that I neglected to share! So I dug through my files, found the pictures, and almost deleted them because they are horrible... It was another thunderstorm-y day, so please excuse the lighting.


  I don't think this piece is particularly pretty, and it looks quite weird by itself. But this doily has an important purpose! (I also neglected to write the post about my little "coffee station" over on the other blog, so I'll clue you in here.) One day during a thunderstorm, I sat staring at the bins of my yarn stash that I've shoved against a bad spot in the wall. That stack of mismatched bins... Well now, that didn't look much better! I've also wanted to get my coffee maker off my dinner table for awhile. Would it be possible to turn the stack of bins into a coffee station?

coffee, crochet, free pattern, jute, twine, doily

  It took some work, but... Yes! I was able to stabilize the bins enough to make them safe for the coffee maker. Hidden with a tablecloth held in place with some twine, it looks a little cheesy, but it's better than bins hiding a scratched-up wall. I worried about the heat of the maker on the plastic lid, so I tested it out.(Yay, more coffee!) It got a bit warm over two hours, but not hot. I decided that a heat-shielding doily that could provide some airflow would be good, just in case.

coffee, crochet, free pattern, jute, twine, doily



  I usually record all my patterns in typical form, but this one is more like a photo tutorial. There's no list of materials and I didn't record the gauge or actual size. I just grabbed my twine, a size J/10 - 6.00 MM hook, and a camera, created a rectangular doily that will fit under most 12-cup coffee makers. Although I'm doubtful of how many people will want to make this pattern, I do think the first few rounds of the doily would make some cute coasters. Maybe it will prove to be inspiration for a different project!

coffee, crochet, free pattern, jute, twine, doily

  I'm not sure how much material went into the doily, but I started with a 350-ft roll that was partially used, and still had over half of it left when done. A 100-foot (30 m) roll should be enough.

  Most of this pattern consists of single crochet and chain stitches. The half double crochet, double crochet, and triple crochet will also be required for joining. The last round is made of double crochet and chain stitches.

doily, twine, jute, crochet, free pattern
 Begin by chaining 6 and joining into a ring with a slip stitch. Chain 1. Make 11 single crochet in the ring. Not counting the beginning chain-1 as a stitch, join to the first single crochet with a slip stitch.


doily, twine, jute, crochet, free pattern
 Round 2: Chain 1, single crochet in the same space. (Chain 2, single crochet in the next stitch) around. Only chain 1 before the beginning single crochet, and join in that stitch with a single crochet.

For the next round, chain 1, and single crochet in the space made by the joining single crochet.

*Until the last round, each round will begin with (chain 1, single crochet in the joining space).
But the joining stitch will change at the end of the round, so pay attention!
From here until round 6, you will always have 11 chain spaces.

 

doily, twine, jute, crochet, free pattern
 Round 3: (Chain 3, single crochet in the next chain-2 space) around. Chain 1 and join in the beginning chain space with a half-double crochet.

 Round 4: (Chain 4, single crochet in the next chain space) around. Chain 1 and join in the beginning chain space with a double crochet.

*This would be a good place to stop for a coaster, or maybe even the round before. The next round makes the piece into more of a trivet, fitting under my coffee pot.


doily, twine, jute, crochet, free pattern
 Round 5: (Chain 5, single crochet in the next chain space) around. Chain 2 and join in the beginning chain space with a double crochet.

*The next round would not be a good place to end the pattern! This round gets a little messy-looking, setting up to turn the piece into a rectangle.



doily, twine, jute, crochet, free pattern
 Round 6: Chain 3 after the beginning single crochet, single crochet in the same space. [(Single crochet, chain 3) twice, single crochet] in each chain space around. Single crochet once more in the same space as the beginning single crochet. Chain 1 and join with a half double crochet.

*Now you'll have 22 chain spaces.



doily, twine, jute, crochet, free pattern
 Round 7: Chain 12, skip two chain-3 spaces, single crochet in the next. Chain 12, skip one chain space, single crochet in the next. This makes part of the first short side of the rectangle.


doily, twine, jute, crochet, free pattern
 Continuing round 7: *(Chain 4, single crochet in the next chain-3 space) 4 times.* This makes the first long side of the rectangle.
(Chain 12, skip one chain-3 space, single crochet in the next. Chain 12, skip two chain-3 spaces, single crochet in the next. Chain 12, skip one chain space, single crochet in the next) to create the next short side.
Repeat from * to * for the final long side. Chain 6, skip the last chain-3 space. Join in the beginning chain space with a triple crochet.
I know that only equals 'chain 10' for the final space, but making an extra 2 chains caused too big a gap! I did hit a thin spot in my twine at that point, so go ahead and chain 8 before the join if yours is short.



doily, twine, jute, crochet, free pattern
 Round 8: Chain 3, single crochet in the same space. (Chain 3, single crochet) 4 times in the next space.



doily, twine, jute, crochet, free pattern
 Continuing round 8: *(Chain 3, single crochet) 5 times in the corner space.*
**(Chain 3, single crochet in the next space) 4 times.**
Work from * to * for next corner.
Work from ** to ** for next side.



doily, twine, jute, crochet, free pattern
 Finishing round 8: (Chain 3, single crochet) 3 times in the same space as the beginning single crochet. Chain 1 and join to the beginning chain space with a half double crochet.



doily, twine, jute, crochet, free pattern
 Round 9: Chain 2 to begin, make 2 double crochet in the space made by the half double crochet. (Chain 1, make 3 double crochet in the next space) across, until you reach the third chain-3 space of a corner.



doily, twine, jute, crochet, free pattern
 Continuing round 9: Chain 3, make 3 double crochet in the third chain-3 space. Work (chain 1, double crochet 3 times in the next space) across for sides, and chain 3 before corners.
Make 1 double crochet in the same space as the beginning chain-2.


 
doily, twine, jute, crochet, free pattern
Skip the beginning chain-2, and join with a slip stitch in the first double crochet. Cut the twine and weave in the ends.
Because the thickness of twine can be inconsistent, some damp blocking may be required to straighten out the edges. But please, don't soak it! It took three days for me to dry a coaster made of this stuff when I soaked it in the sink.


coffee, crochet, free pattern, jute, twine, doily


  And by the way, I did make a point to put the coffee maker on the two bins I go into the least... One is actually my hardly-used sewing bin. I don't want to have to move the coffee pot each time I need a skein of yarn! The bins I work from often are only covered by a few candles that I don't burn on top of plastic.


coffee, crochet, free pattern, jute, twine, doily

   The whole setup isn't so "girly" that Rip van Winkle will complain, and I think it serves its purpose. The edges show just enough from under the coffee maker, and those big gaps provide plenty of airflow underneath. After another two hours of another pot of coffee heating, the plastic lid underneath no longer feels warm at all. Now, if only I could get Rip to wake up from that nap at the table, so I don't drink the rest of another pot all by myself...


Happy Crocheting! 
 And Happy Coffee Days!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Stay Out of My Stash

  A few posts ago, I told you I would be doing some research on one of my new yarns. My research is done, and I found... Almost nothing that I didn't already know. Well, when you can't gain knowledge through investigation, it's time to turn to experimentation!


  The post I mentioned was the one where I was fed up with all the knots I've been finding, and the yarn I was supposed to research is Facets by Loops & Threads. From the label, I know it's 100% acrylic, bulky weight (5), 120 yds / 3.5 oz (110 m / 100 g). I was hoping to find information about how it was spun, but all I could find was a bland and somewhat redundant description about the projects you can make with all the colors of this yarn. So, let's pick up with that knot I was avoiding, and go find out about it for ourselves...


Loops & Threads Facets, knots, Russian Join, crochet

  Is it plied? Is it a loosely spun single? Is the wrap and weight supposed to vary, or did I get a defective ball of yarn? Although I couldn't find the answers to those questions from the company's description, I found some clues in the customer review section. Some are more than happy with their purchases, but one mentioned having the same problem as me, and even worse.


  I considered contacting the company, but I'll explain more about that later... For now, I just want to finish my project! So, I'm going to attempt to cut and repair my "mystery" yarn, and just hope that it will work. I know, I know... Nobody wants to see me do another Russian Join, right? But I'm grabbing the camera anyways, because I have hopes that maybe some yarn junkies or spinners out there can help me affirm my guesses.
 
Loops & Threads Facets, knots, Russian Join, crochet

  I'm pretty positive that I have it right about it being a loosely-spun single. When you hit one of the two-color sections of the yarn, it really looks plied at first. But once you reach a single-colored, extra-loosely-spun part, it seems to obviously be a single. And I've never done a Russian Join on a single, so I'm both excited and scared to move on...

Loops & Threads Facets, knots, Russian Join, crochet

  It's a single ply, right? The very loose parts will pull apart with the slightest tension, so there's no way this could be plied. Anyways, once you cut it, it very clearly looks like a single. I procrastinated a bit by searching "Russian Join on single ply", but I came up with nothing. Well, there isn't much left to do other than get the needle and try!

Loops & Threads Facets, knots, Russian Join, crochet

  Yuck. That is one of the worst Russian Joins I've ever made. So, this is where that little trick I taught you comes into play! Twist, untwist, twist... Untwist, twist some more... Huh. I think it might have looked better before I did that.

Loops & Threads Facets, knots, Russian Join, crochet

  But... The Russian Join worked! (Sure looks horrible, but it worked!) I grabbed the hook and got back to my project. Although that join looks terrible by itself, I thought it looked pretty normal once I worked it up:

Loops & Threads Facets, knots, Russian Join, crochet

  The spot I repaired shows more than the typical Russian Join, but the thickness of this yarn alternates anyways. If you have worked with Facets already, I would love to hear if you had the same experience with yours. Although it adds character to the yarn, I'm not sure if I like this effect making the edges of my squares all wobbly.


  I needed to stretch this yarn as far as possible to complete my project. Plus, I'm making squares (duh)! Do you think I want one more end to weave in? I'm glad the Russian Join worked, pretty or not. After repairing the knot and finishing that square, I had less than half a ball left.

Loops & Threads Facets, knots, Russian Join, crochet

  I was able to finish off the rest of that skein without another knot. Yay! I really do love watching the colors as they run out of the ball, because this is one of those yarns that will surprise you. (Which can be not-good if you have a plan!) But I was a little disappointed when my project was finished without working much of the lighter part of the yarn in:

Loops & Threads Facets, knots, Russian Join, crochet

  I really like that part of it, and I wish I had worked squares from both ends of the ball to incorporate it. I made a mistake on that last square, too, so more could have been in it - I skipped a stitch in the corner, and I didn't find it until after I cut the yarn. It's something I can easily fudge in the joining process, so I'm not going back to fix it.


  Ah, joining! That thing that means your project will soon be done... That moment your pieces begin to become part of a whole... Some crocheters love it, some hate it, and some are just indifferent - It's just part of the project. after all. As long as I can use the one-seam method, I don't mind it. And I was once again enjoying the color play of my yarn while I began joining my squares, then...

Loops & Threads Facets, knots, Russian Join, crochet

  Oh, come on, you have got to be kidding me! I'll admit that the hook isn't in my project because I hurled it all down when I found another knot. It's also a good thing that cats don't understand English (do they?) and nobody else was here to be offended by what was coming out of my mouth. I threw a bit of a temper tantrum and cussed up a storm while I snapped a quick photo for more proof of this craziness. But in the end, I calmed down, grabbed a needle, and made another Russian Join in another ball of yarn.

Loops & Threads Facets, knots, Russian Join, crochet

  From farther away, you really can't tell a difference. The varying thickness of this yarn does hide its own imperfections and my mistakes. But up close, I think it looks horrible. I can see where the yarn was woven together, and the seam puckers up a tiny bit in that spot. Since I'm confident that it blends in when the project is worn, I'm leaving it. I'll still always know right where that repair is, though. Can you spot it?


  Now, about contacting the company: I decided not to, but I will leave a customer review on their site. Although I wanted more information about this yarn at first, I'm no longer interested and that would be a waste of both my time and theirs. Why? Because they know their yarn is like this. Somebody had to tie those knots in there. This isn't a case where the yarn ran out while winding a ball; it's just yarn that's delicately spun and likes to come apart.


  Facets yarn is available in a range of beautiful colors that will catch your eye, and it's one of the softest acrylics I've ever felt. Those are the two reasons I purchased it on an impulse, and those are the two main things you'll read about in most of the positive reviews. It has potential to create amazing projects, but it's not for me. If the manufacturer ever puts a little extra twist into this yarn to stop the breakage, I would love to work with it again. Until then, this yarn can stay out of my stash. If I find one more ball with a knot tied in it, you might find me tied up in a straight jacket.


Happy Crocheting!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Making Plarn

  Since I've been cutting bags again and making plastic yarn using the loop method, I figured I'd share another plarn-making tutorial. I just did a quick example of how it was made for the Giant Plarn Rug, and the photos didn't come out the best. I'm still experimenting with my new tripod and an auto function on the camera, so I figured it couldn't hurt to try again.


  After many years of making plarn, I've learned a few tricks. Although I still prefer cutting it in one continuous strip, this "loop method" is so much faster. When you first start out making plarn, you might find it fun, interesting, and occupying. After your first project requiring 500 bags, you'll realize how occupying the creation of the material can be. The tricks I'll teach you in this tutorial will show you the best way to hold the loops to join them the fastest, and how to make those knots a little prettier.


plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet


Here are a few points I think we should cover first:
- My goal (this time) is to make mats for the homeless, so I'm trying to find the perfect width that makes a squishy material, but not so thick to make the mat difficult to transport. My project is still in the experimental stage. The width of your material will depend on what you will be making and your hook size.

- I've found I can crochet with plarn faster using finger crochet, so I need thick material to fit the larger gauge of my finger. If you want to work up your plarn using a smaller hook, then you should definitely cut your material thinner than what you'll see here.

- And for those who are here for the Giant Plarn Rug, the material for that was created by making only two loops from each bag; I'll be making three loops in this tutorial.


plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet

  And there's what I made with my 4"-wide loops: A two-round granny square that measures 10" (25 cm) across. The material for that square feels perfect, but the corner holes of the granny are too big for a sleeping mat, so you can see I have more experimenting to do. Now that you know the madness behind my method, you can judge the width to cut your own loops... I'll leave that up to you. But to learn one of the best ways to join those loops, follow me:



plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 It doesn't matter whether you're cutting your plarn with scissors, a rotary cutter, or a paper cutter like what I'll be using this time. If you don't feel comfortable cutting more than one bag at a time, then don't. I might cut through 20 bags at a time with my rotary cutter, but it gets wobbly and I go through blades like crazy. Do whatever is the safest for you.
 I'm cutting 5-6 bags at a time with this paper cutter. However, stacking bags can make them shift while cutting, resulting in sloppy, jagged cuts and the need to cut again. If you're completely new to making plarn, then start with one bag. If you're just new to cutting more than one bag at a time, try starting out with 2 or 3. Folding the stack of bags in half (like you'll see next) helps to hold them together.



plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Begin by cutting off the tops and bottoms of the bags. You'll need to cut about 1" (2.5 cm) from the bottom to avoid the seam. Once the tops and bottoms of the bags have been removed, the remainder of the bag will form a tube. Cut parallel to the top and bottom cuts to create "loops" from the tube.



plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Remember, I'm creating super-thick plarn! I'm only cutting three loops from a tube - each loop is about 4" (10 cm) wide. You could get about twelve 1"-wide loops from each bag.


  Whether you join the loops as you cut the bags or wait to join them all at once is your decision. Either way, let's learn a few tricks for how to join those loops with a nice, smooth knot...


**From here, I'm going to refer to the loops as "strips", because I have to show and tell you how to "open up a loop in the loop"... You can see how that would get confusing. So now the loops are strips, and any loops you see are created in them. Get it?**
plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Open up the end of one strip to form a loop. Run the end of a second strip through this loop, just far enough to fit your fingers inside the new strip. Don't pull it any farther through than you need, and you'll save time.



plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Holding the first strip firmly, insert your finger and thumb to create a loop in the new strip.
 Try keeping your fingers spread in this loop while you pull the strip through in the next step, as you see in this photo. This will allow you to keep the loop open as you pull the strip. Otherwise, the loop begins to tighten and a knot can form too soon.


 Unfortunately, I couldn't hold the plarn that way for the next photo, because you couldn't see what I was doing - It just looked like a mess.
plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Pull the tail of the second strip through the loop (in the second strip). Continue pulling the whole strip through until a knot begins to form close to the first strip. Don't pull it tight yet! Check out the next tips...



plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Okay, so if you just pull your strips gently until firm, you'll most likely get a knot like the one you see above. Sometimes, the strips don't pull evenly, and you'll have a big loop in the knot, or it just won't tighten up as much as the rest. Let's fix that! Making plarn doesn't always go smoothly. The next step shows you how to make it look nicer:



plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Insert your fingers and thumbs inside each strip, close to the knot. Spread the strips open, slowly tightening the knot. If it won't tighten, then you probably have slack inside the knot, which is easier to fix before you tighten it too much. Pull the knot loose just a little, and re-tighten as shown above.



plarn, plastic yarn, tutorial, how to, crochet
 Repeat, repeat, repeat! Keep adding new strips to the end of your plastic yarn until you're swimming in a tangle of it, or add a few at a time while you work your project up.


  I sure hope my tips can help you make plarn easier and faster! I've learned that plastic grocery bags have to be purchased, or are banned altogether, in many places across the world. But as you can see by all my grey bags, the local Walmart doesn't hesitate to bag (and double bag) my items. It has led to an unbelievable stash in my house. Some people say they'd rather work with yarn (me, too), or others think creating plarn is too time-consuming (it is), but there's much more to it than that...

  When I see the amount of space my year's worth of shopping bags can take up, I imagine it going into a landfill. Then, I wonder how much space it would take up if every person in my neighborhood were to throw away the same amount... Wow. Yes, they could be recycled, but where to take them around here? I don't know, and I bet a lot of other people don't, either. The county is more enthusiastic about advertising the next cattle auction than a recycling program. So, I make plarn and crochet it into useful items. But when I'm done with a project, I can't wait to get back to my yarn.  


Happy Crocheting!


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