MENU

Resources for Teaching Children Fiberarts

child learning to knit

Learning Fiberarts!

This marks the end of the first weeks of the camps I’m running with Montgomery College, and I’m wrapping up one of my cornerstone camps, String Theory.  String Theory is a sampler camp: giving the children a taste of spinning, weaving, sewing and knitting.  The hope is, at the end of the camp, students will have found something they’re interested in, and pursue it further.  I thought it’d be helpful to have a reference post of resources for children – and ongoing fiberarts learning.

Sewing

Knitting

Weaving

learning to weave

Learning to Weave

  • Kid’s Weaving is where it’s at.  It’s one of the only book that is weaving and geared toward children, and it’s solid.
  • You Can Weave is older, and harder to find, but a good resource.

 

Padded Crochet Tutorial

Padded Crochet Tutorial

In honor of Rag-ety Rug coming out this week from Crochet World, and my recent post about it coming out, I thought it was appropriate to finally post this tutorial, which I’ve been saving for quite a while.

What you’ll need:

  • A crochet hook
  • Some scrap yarn
  • Rags, upholstery cord, or something else nice and thick but flexible to crochet over.  Bulky yarn would work too.

A bit about padded crochet: this technique originally was used to crochet around thicker yarn to create different motifs.  It gives you a lot of flexibility because you don’t have to crochet into the previous row, you can also just crochet around your material.  You see this technique often used in  Irish Crochet.

To begin, work a foundation chain, and work single crochets into the chain.  This can be any width, as we’re working a practice swatch.  After you’ve finished those two rows, you begin by adding in your cord/rag/yarn.  You’ll be crocheting around it much like you do when you’re burying an end into your crochet work, except this will be much larger.

Adding in your cord/rag/yarn

Adding in your cord/rag/yarn

Begin by holding your cord/rag/yarn above the last row you worked.

Joining Yarn around padded crochet

Joining Yarn around padded crochet

In this case, I’m also joining the yarn for this row.  Insert your hook into the last stitch of the previous row, and draw up your yarn.

Attaching yarn, Padded Crochet, Step 2

Chain one, securing yarn around the cord/rag/yarn.  I like to hold my tail together with my working yarn for this first stitch, or no other reason than it makes me feel better, and makes me feel like things are more secure.  I’ve got no proof, though.

Begin working Single Crochets around cord/rag/yarn

Begin working Single Crochets around cord/rag/yarn

Now, begin working your crochet stitches into the stitch of the previous row, working the yarn around the cord/rag/yarn.  In this case, I’m working a variant of the v-stitch.

Some tips:

  • Make sure you’re letting your stitches lie flat.  If you make them tight, they’ll bunch up your cord/rag/yarn.
  • Every once and a while check to make sure that your piece is laying flat.  Because the cord/rag/yarn that you’re working over has a tendency to shift around, it can make things pucker, draw tighter or looser.  I like to measure ever few rows.
  • When you have to add more cord, there’s a few ways you can do it.  In my case, I sewed on my rags together, because it was a bit more tidy.  You can also just hold the end of one rag and the beginning of another together.
  • Make sure if you’re using rags they’re the same width, so your rug doesn’t have a lumpy look, or have irregular rows (unless that’s the effect you’re going for)!
Measure, measure, measure!

Measure, measure, measure!

Have you every worked padded crochet?  How’d it turn out?  What was the project?

My Easy Finishing Technique for Weaving in Bulky Yarn

Techniques for Weaving In Really Bulky Yarn

Today we have a quick little blog post that I’ve been meaning to do for a while, but haven’t quite gotten around to!  I thought it’d be the perfect thing to start out our week: a tutorial on weaving in really bulky yarns.  I think it’s a helpful finishing technique for both knitting and crochet.

What am I going to be talking about? Well, weaving in ends.  Now, I know weaving in ends isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I totally understand.  It’s one of the reasons I offer finishing services.  But for those of you who like to sweat the details, weaving in ends can be an important part of finishing a project.

Today’s little tutorial is specifically about weaving in really bulky yarns, which can be hard to pull through the fabric.  Now, this trick only works for plied yarns, but it’s a nice thing to have in your arsenal.

Onward!

  1. First, we’re going to want to take the tail that we plan to weave in above.  See how it’s plied together – that is, it’s got multiple strands all twined around each other?  We’re going to separate those out.  You’ll want to do it by twisting the yarn in the opposite direction it’s twisted together, so the individual strands start standing out from one another.  Once you’ve got one you can grab, pull it from it’s neighbors, until you’ve got them all separated like this:
    Yarn separated out into it's individual plies.

    Yarn separated out into it’s individual plies.

  2. Now that you’ve got the plies separated out, get a sharp-pointed needle and thread one of the plies onto the needle.  Like this:
    Thread one of the plies onto a sharp needle to weave in the end of the yarn.

    Thread one of the plies onto a sharp needle to weave in the end of the yarn.

  3. Make sure the other ends are out of the way, and now, weave in the end.  Do the same with the other strands of the yarn.
    Nearly there: All but one end woven in!

    Nearly there: All but one end woven in!

  4. Finally, trim your ends away as close as you can to your project without cutting anything.
    Trim your ends away, and admire your work! You've finished weaving in your ends!

    Trim your ends away, and admire your work!

 

Do you have a favored method of weaving in ends, or a finishing technique that you love to share with others?  Tell me about it in the comments!  I love hearing from you!

Photo Tutorial: Mattress Stitch

When I’m seaming a sweater, one of the most used stitches I use is the Mattress stitch.  Also known as the Ladder Stitch, I love this stitch because when done right, it’s nearly invisible, adds very little bulk to the seams, is quick to do, easy to take out, and practically perfect.  Let me tell you how I do the mattress stitch.

2 quick notes: here I start in the middle of a project.  Normally I start at the beginning of the seam and work my way up, but that’s hard to photograph well.  Also, I’m using embroidery floss in the tutorial, both because it’s in a contrast color, and because it’s cotton, and easy to pull out.  Most people like seaming with the yarn they used in the project, but if it’s too delicate, or too bulky, embroidery floss in a similar color works beautifully.  Mattress stitch done right should be practically invisible.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

The first part of learning the mattress stitch involves taking a good look at your knitting.  Look between two stitches.  See the horizontal bars that run between the stitches?  This is where the sewing action will take place.  You’ll want to be working the mattress stitch between the 1st and 2nd columns of stitches on the edge of your work.  See Below?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Don’t quite see it?  Let me show you with my sewing needle.  I’ve put 2 of the horizontal bars on my sewing needle.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Okay, so that’s what the bars look like on the knit side.  What about the purl side?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

The bars that run between the stitches on the knit side are the purl bumps on the wrong side.  If you are having trouble ID’ing the purl bumps, turn your knitting over with your needle placed where you think the stitch should go.  The needle should be running between the 2 columns of stitches we found before.  See?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Right, so we now know where the stitches are supposed to go.  When I teach the matress stitch, I always say to go beneath 2 horizontal bars each time.  Some directions will tell you to go underneath only one bar, but when you’re first learning, it’s easier to go underneath 2.  I normally go underneath 2 bars if the yarn is an aran weight yarn or lighter, just because mattress stitch goes a lot more slowly when only going underneath 1 bar.  For aran weight yarns and higher (like bulky) I’ll go underneath only one bar, because each “stitch” is so big. So in most instances, just go underneath 2 bars between the stitches.  I like to start with the right side, just because I’m right handed.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now pull the needle through, leaving enough thread at the end for a couple of inches of tail.  Don’t pull the yarn through!  See how the thread goes underneath 2 bars?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now I go to the left side, and put my needle underneath 2 bars.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Pull through again.  Congrats, we’ve gotten started!  Now we’re back to the right side.  How do you know where to put your needle next?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Look at the thread that’s coming out from the right side.  Put your needle down through the hole that thread is coming out of, and run it up under 2 more bars.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Pull the needle through.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now we go back to the left side, find the thread coming out of the left side, and put our needle through the same way we did for the right.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

And pull the needle through again.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now, we repeat the pattern, going under 2 bars on the right side, then two bars of the left side.  The stitch starts to look like rungs on a ladder, hence the alternative name “ladder stitch.”  Notice this whole time I’m not pulling the stitches tight, I’m leaving them loose.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

When I’ve got about 1″ to 2″ of stitching, I stop and admire my work, and make sure everything looks right.  Then, I take the tail, and the thread that’s attached to the needle?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

I pull both ends tight.  Note that I’m not letting the fabric wrinkle or scrunch.  I’m just pulling on the thread.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

There’s a quick trick to find out if you’ve pulled the thread tight enough.  If  you can pull the 2 pieces of fabric apart and you can see your stitches, it is still a little loose.  Pull both ends again.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now those stitches are tight.  See how I’m holding the thread with both ends?  At this point, neither end is secured, so if I pulled on the fabric without holding the ends tight, the stitches would again loosen up.  This will mitigate when you work more of the seam.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now, I loosen up the last stitch I did, so I can find where I need to go next, and I continue.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now, what happens if you are working columns of stitches to rows of stitches?  You still use the mattress seam, the placement on the row side is just a little different.  Take a look at the edge of your knitting, where you bound off or cast on.  See how the v’s connect to make a zig-zag?  This is where we’ll be working.  Let’s look at an individual stitch.  Here, I’ve got it lifted up by my needle.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

You are going to go down through the middle of that stitch, between the 2 sides of the “V.”  Then, you’ll come up from under the fabric through the next “V.”  See how you still have 2 strands on the sewing needle?

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Pull the yarn through, leaving the same type of tail you left when working the mattress stitch before.  Now, on the column side, work the mattress stitch as normal.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

Now, go back down to the row stitch side.  See how the thread is coming out, same as it did with the other matress stitch?  You’re going to go down through the stitch with the thread, and go up through the next stitch.

mattress stitch photo tutorial, ladder stitch photo tutorial, seaming knits together

And repeat over and over again, until you run out of fabric to stitch on.

It’s important to note, you can switch between working columns to columns, columns to rows, rows to rows, and back again.  You can be seaming on the stockinette side, and then switch to seaming on the row side.

Got questions?  Please ask in the comments, on twitter, or on facebook.  Or, if you liked the tutorial, tweet it, facebook it, or share it!

4 Warning Signs Your Handmade Afghan is Falling Apart

My business has many arms – my teaching, pattern writing, and more recently, finishing.  Normally finishing involves piecing together sweaters or blocking shawls, but sometimes I get another type of request.  Sometimes I get requests to do repairs on well loved a
fghans and blankets that are lovingly knitted or crochet.  Many times I’m able to fix things before they get too bad, but sometimes I have to be the person saying, “I’m sorry, but there is no way to fix your family heirloom.”  This is a terrible thing to say, and so I have a list of things to look for to know when your afghan is in need of repair, before it gets irreparable.

  • At the First Sign of Trouble, seek help.  There’s an old adage that says, “A stitch in time saves 9.”  And it is so true – making repairs before they happen is the best way to prevent tears, rips and holes.  Look for weak spots in your knitting or crochet – where the thread is getting thin or wispy.  These are places where holes will form.  Find someone to help you retrace the stitches and reinforce the work.
  • Pulls or loose threads.  Sometimes yarn that has been carefully woven in works its way loose, or gets caught and creates a pull or snag.  Don’t panic! If the thread is not broken, just stretched and out of the weave of the fabric, carefully pull it in different directions, and see if you can ease it back into place.  If not, see if you can find someone (like a finisher or a more experienced knitter or crocheter, that can help you work the yarn back into the stitch.

  • Seams coming undone. So many crochet (and even knit) afghans have their seams come undone.  One of my very first repairs to a blanket was my father’s well-loved afghan, made in long strips of knitting and seamed together.  If a seam comes undone, don’t panic.  Take a bit of matching yarn or thread, and carefully seam the edges back together, using a ladder stitch or running stitch.
  • The center of motifs are a common place I see in need of repair.  Either because the original creator didn’t secure the ends enough, or just because of stress, this can be a common cause for problems.  If you can, try to pick up as many of the loose loops and put them on a stitch older or locking stitch marker, to prevent further unraveling. This is one repair I’d say, if you can, to get a professional to do, as it takes a deft touch and a good understanding of how stitches work to get it back to matching the others.
The key to all of these problems is if they are caught early, they can be fairly painless repairs.  If you let the problem go, the worse things get, and the more likely that the afghan will need to be reconstructed or have more extensive repairs.Have you ever had to repair a project?  Tell me about it on twitter or facebook.  Looking to have your own repaired?  Get in touch with me through my finishing form!