Repair and Restoration: Behind the Scenes

Last Thursday I had a lovely surprise: Jeanne Huber, a reporter in the Washington Post, quoted me heavily in answer to a question about repairing an afghan.  She had been asked a question: was there a way to get the holes in her afghan repaired?  Huber called Fibre Space (one of the yarn stores I often teach at), who in turn recommended her to me.  Huber had gotten in touch with me on a Friday afternoon, and between packing up to leave for a long weekend, I chatted to her on the phone about how I do repair.

Huber did a lovely job with the article, taking my rambling replies and distilling them into the pertinent information.  As a result, I’ve been able to chat with a number of people looking to have family pieces repaired.

Still, it left me realizing that there’s a bit of mystery to what I do, and I wanted to expand a little upon the article.


Blanket in the process of being repaired

How I Approach Repair Work

When someone gets in touch with me looking to get an item fixed, I try and have a dialogue with the customer about their goals.  What is it they want from the repair?  What would be the ideal results for them?  Are they looking to have an item repaired so they can use it further or are they looking to have the holes fixed so that the problem doesn’t get worse?  Are they on a budget?   Are they looking for the item to look pristine or are they willing to allow the repair to become part of the character of the object?

Each person has a different idea of what “fixed” means.

21831892331_7742a4b943_bMeanwhile, I’m also looking at the practical part of the project.  How damaged is the item?  How widespread is the wear?  Would attempting to fix the item hurt things further?  When I’m looking into this I’m often learning about the history of the item: if it was stored in a place where a lot of sunlight, heat or humidity could get to it, the fibers may be damaged.  Are the places where wear is showing from use – such as worn out fingers on mittens, or a handle on a bag becoming worn, or because of a different factor?  Often the answers form the type of repairs I can do – mittens that are going to get further wear over each winter are going to receive different treatment than a Christmas stocking that’s taken out once a year.

Based on the customer’s feedback, I come back with a number of options.

Sometimes this means the repairs are visible repairs: so that the owners can show where the original piece is, and where the repairs are.  Sometimes this means we transform a piece: adding a cute embroidered kitten over an elbow patch.  Other times the repairs are nearly invisible as I splice new yarn into the old.

Just as I put time and thought into repairing damaged items, so can you put the time and thought into what you want from your repair.  Worried that a piece of yours might need help?  Check out my post on what to look for.  Already decided to have your piece fixed?  Get in touch with me through my finishing form– I’d love to start our conversation!

Changes: Pricing and Holiday Deadlines

Repair of a Shetland Lace Shawl

Repair of a Shetland Lace Shawl

It’s getting to be the end of October (where did all the time go?) and that means we’re starting to move into the Holiday season. This is the time of year where the amount of finishing and repair I do nearly triples!

I love doing finishing and repair work – I love being able to help you finish your projects and make them perfect!  I love helping you restore older pieces that have gotten loved on a little too much.

But the reality is that Finishing & Repair are the types of work I can only do so much of in a day before my well runs dry.  It’s also time (and very often space) consuming.  There’s a reason I get so many different large shawls, blankets and other large items to block!  I’m fortunate that Mr. Turtle and I have been able to dedicate a space in the house just for this type of work, and that he’s totally chill with finding a bunch of sweaters and other things drying on the guest bedroom bed.

Repairing a Crochet Blanket

Repairing a Crochet Blanket

What Changed?
Quite a few things have changed since I last changed my pricing-  nearly two years ago now!  And many of these changes have led to me concluding that prices need to increase.

  • I moved, and it became more costly for me to drive to my drop-off/pickup locations.
  • More individuals have opted to mail, and have me mail back, their items.  Postal prices have increased.
  • The type of projects I tend to get have become more complicated: most of my customers like to handle the “smaller items” themselves, and send me the more difficult projects.
  • My volume of projects has increased!  Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m happy about this.  BUT!  The reality is that knitting, crocheting, seaming, blocking, pinning, etc are all hand and arm heavy activities.  I’m relatively young, but I’d hate to find that 5 or 10 years down the road, I’ve given myself a repetitive stress injury.  Because of that, I limit the amount of hand-heavy activities I do during a day, and I make sure I have time to stretch in between.  This means I have a finite amount of time during the day I can devote to finishing and repair.
  • I’ve gotten better. As I practice more and learn more, the quality of my finishing and repair has increased, and I believe that my expertise is worth it!

Frankly, I’ve known I’ve had to raise my prices for nearly 6 months, but the reality of the holidays coming really drove the point home – my prices are not sustainable.

So what does this mean for you, my customer?

  1. Coming Sunday November 1st, my prices will be increasing on Finishing & Repair work.  My hourly rate will increase from $30 to $40.  Many of the categories in my Finishing line of services will also change – some won’t change as much as my hourly rate, and some won’t change at all.  But most things will be increasing by a little.
  2. On Monday November 30th, I will no longer be accepting Rush Service.  This will continue thru January 1st, and then Rush Service will return.  You may still request (and receive!) Express Service. That means if you want to get something finished or repaired before the Christmas Holidays – get it in sooner rather than later.
  3. There will be a new surcharge for oversized items.  Details are still being determined.  But the long and short of it is: I have cats.  I make sure all my finishing stays in places where it won’t get affected by cats.  This is fine for smaller items, but when I need to work on really large things, I have to rearrange my house to create a space where I can work that won’t also have cats laying all over it.  This extra effort needs to be taken into account – otherwise I’m going to get frustrated and grumpy every time I go to work on large items.  I don’t want that to happen.
  4. Note: for any of you that have gotten items to be before the November 1st deadline, don’t worry! Your projects will be charged under the old system.

Got questions about the changes?  As always, you can leave me a comment, or drop me an email, and I’ll be happy to answer them!

Thank you so much for being loyal customers!

Welcome Marly Fans!

Stained Glass Rug

The right and wrong sides of Stained Glass Rug

If you’re coming here from Marly Bird’s The Yarn Thing, welcome!  I’d love to have you sign up for my newsletter or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.  Feel free to read some of my previous blog posts!  If you enjoy tutorials, check out How to Set a Zipper in a Sweater.  If you like a behind-the-scenes look at designing, check out some of my posts on my designs in Crochetscene.  And if you’d like to revisit some of my oldest sock designs, check out a side by side comparison of two older designs.

If you’re already a regular… have you listened to my interview with Marly Bird on her podcast?  We just wrapped the interview up!  You can listen on  BlogTalk Radio.


Tomorrow I’ll give you a glimpse into some of the things I’ve been working on lately!

Mitts and Crochet: New Classes at Untangled Purls

Starting next week I’ve got a great lineup of Fall classes at Untangled Purls, in Fredericksburg, VA.  I’m looking forward to the opportunity to teach at Untangled Purls: Most of my classes for the last year (with the exception of my camps) have been workshop based – that is, one and done.

I’ve missed the camaraderie and relationship that builds with a class when you teach week after week: you get to know your students better, and you get to watch students progress in a way that is different than workshops.  I wanted to highlight two of the classes I’ll be teaching at Untangled Purls.

Photocredit: © Ambah O'Brien

Photocredit: © Ambah O’Brien

Beginning Stranded Knitting is based of of a wonderful pattern called Maroo Mitts by Ambah.  This is a great introductory project to stranded knitting, and I hope you might be able to join me!  Learn more about the class here.


Photocredit: Freshstitches

Photocredit: Freshstitches

Crochet Softies is based around four of Stacey Trock’s FreshStitches patterns: Kepler the Lion, Nelson the Owl, Flavia the Unicorn and Cliff the Brontosaurus.  I love these patterns because they’re a great next step for students who have learned how to crochet, but haven’t quite mastered reading a pattern or working in the round.  I have so much fun helping students create these fun stuffed animals: and they make perfect gifts!  You can find out more about the class here!

Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival!

Tomorrow morning I’ll be heading off to the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival – one of my favorite to teach at!  Last year was my first year teaching at the fairgrounds, and I loved every moment of it.  The staff are great; the venue is lovely, and the drive to Berryville is a pleasure.

Last year I was so busy teaching both days that I barely had time to breathe.  This time I’ve got a little more flexibility –  I’m teaching one class on Saturday afternoon, and another Sunday morning.  Mr. Turtle and I talked about going apple picking on the way home.

If you’ve never been to SVFF, it’s a great fiber festival for kids, and a feast for the eyes for stitchers.  Last year Mr. Turtle was fascinated by the sheep dog demos.

I was glad to see some of my favorite vendors.  When you do the fiber festival circuit, various vendors become your friends, and it’s good to see them again and catchup for a few minutes between sales or setting up.  If you go to the festival, go and look up Turtle Made – a company that makes the most clever turkish spindles.  Also check out Dragonfly Fibers – they’ve been the lovely sponsor of a few of my designs!

Meanwhile, I’ll be in the instructor tents doing what I do best, teaching my heart out.  This weekend we’ve got a reprise of a constant favorite, Duct Tape Dress Forms, and also a class on repairing handknits.  If you have a spare moment, keep an eye out for me at lunch, as I grab a quick bite and say hello to as many people as I can!

How to Set a Zipper in a Sweater

The rights have reverted back to me for a number of blog posts I did for Jordana Paige’s blog a few years ago, and I’ve begun re-posting them on occasion to have them on my own website, and so students can reference them.  This particular tutorial about setting a zipper into a sweater, I’ve updated and refreshed, but much of the technique remains the same.


Setting in a zipper is a process that takes time, patience, and a certain amount of willingness to fiddle.  Not everyone likes to do that, which is why so many of the finishing projects I do involve setting in zippers.  But if you’re willing to take the time, setting in a zipper can be very satisfying!

To set in a zipper you will need: a zipper, yarn to match the garment, yarn (or embroidery floss) in a contrasting color, a sewing needle (with a sharp point!), pins, and the 2 sides that you are attaching to the zipper.

a sweater, matching yarn, a zipper, needle and red embroidery floss are shown on a white background.

It’s helpful to have all your materials available!

Please note: When purchasing a zipper, make sure you get the correct type!  You don’t want a zipper for a bag, as it is attached together at both ends – you’d never be able to get your garment off!  Same thing with double ended zippers.  Take time to read the package and know what you are getting.  Also pay attention to length.  As I explain below, get the right size zipper, or a little longer.

The first thing I do is block the two fronts to the garment I’m attaching the zipper to.  Make sure the front is blocked to the correct measurements, and that your zipper will match those measurements, or be slightly longer.  If you need to, you can trim the top of the zipper to the length you want.  Make sure you use a file to eliminate any rough edges, and sew a new stopper so your zipper tab doesn’t come off.

Next, pin the zipper into place on the inside of the garment.  Make sure that you are not pulling or distorting the knit fabric – at all.  If you pull the fabric to stretch to the zipper, it can cause the zipper to pucker or wave.  After you’ve gotten things in place, I like to run a basting stitch along the zipper, as I don’t like to get poked with pins.  It also makes super-sure your zipper doesn’t shift around.

To do a basting stitch, take some waste yarn or thread, and use a running stitch, sewing the zipper to the fabric with big stitches.  When you’re done attaching the zipper, you can remove the basting stitch, so don’t worry if the basting stitch isn’t perfect.

Using a running stitch to baste the zipper to the fabric.


After I’ve finished basting (and this is another good reason to baste your work, because you can’t do this if the zipper is pinned), I check to make sure that the zipper can zip up and down without catching on any fabric.  Better to find this out now than after I’ve sewed everything together!  This is your opportunity to make any adjustments.

The basting stitch on the wrong side of your work.

Finally, you can sew the zipper to the piece.  Depending on the piece, sometimes I use the yarn the sweater was worked in.  Other times, if the yarn is delicate, loosely plied, or extremely fuzzy, I’ll use sewing thread in a color that is close to the color of the yarn.  Either way, I use the same technique.

Working from the back, I secure the yarn.  When I sew, I make sure that each time I’m going over only a single strand of yarn between two stitches.  Basically go into the purl bump if viewing from the back.  Mostly, I choose the space between the first and second stitches against the edge.

Working very slowly, I sew my way up one side, then up the other.  Be patient. Take your time. Check your work often.  Use small stitches.  Because the zipper is located at the front of the sweater, I’m super careful to make sure that my sewing doesn’t show.  Sometimes, if the fabric is wide, I’ll run a second set of stitches further out along the zipper band, so it doesn’t flop and lies nicely down.  You can see I did this from the picture below.

The zipper, sewn to the sweater with two rows of stitches.


When you’ve finished attaching the zipper to both sides of the fabric, I check my work.  Check again to make sure the zipper moves smoothly along the track.  Then, and only then, if I’m happy with what I’ve done do I remove the basting stitches.  Finally, weave in your ends.

Zipper in sweater


Crochetscene 2015: Riverbend Skirt

Riverbend is the final of the patterns I worked for Crochetscene 2015.  Like Bow Wrap and Crossed Arrow, I had a really good idea of this pattern long before I turned it into a proposal.  Unlike the other two, Riverbend’s genesis and maturing happened at a lot slower of rate.

Part of this was I was working on other projects, and part of it was wanting to let the genesis pattern have a bit of distance before I created something in the same vein.

Sketch for Riverbend

Riverbend became a design idea back when I was working on Victoria’s Riflebird.  Victoria’s Rifebird is a wrap that should be familiar – it has very similar shaping to Riverbend!  You could say they are siblings.  Once I had finished Victoria’s Riflebird, but before I wove in the ends, Sweetness, one of the girls I nannied at the time, wrapped the wrap around her waist and gave a swirl.  I realized then that a similar shape would work really well with a skirt – with some minor adjustments!

I love the idea of wrap skirts.  I like the versatility and the sizing flexibility.  When I was a kid one of my favorite skirts for about a year was a wrap skirt made of two layers of fabric.  Now, I have another wrap skirt that I wear at least once a week in the summer and the fall.  Riverbend is directly influenced by both those skirts.

Riverbend is also defined by the finishing details of this skirt: there’s a bold fun button in he same color of the wedges (a vintage one harvested from my great-grandmother’s collection), and another vintage button in the main color on the inside.

Riverbend, all finished and on one of my new models – this one being more full-hipped.

Riverbend is a wrap skirt, and sizing makes it super flexible.  The subtle a-line of the skirt makes it great in multiple colors for a summery cover-up for every-day skirt, or do it in solid colors for a more professional look.  The distinctive wedges are created using my special technique to work crochet short rows.  (Keep an eye out, there’s a class on that with Interweave coming soon!)  The ribbed fabric gives it a bit of a sexy silhouette – it hugs the hips just a bit before flaring out.  Unlike my original sketch, which had the skirt looking a lot more full, math and practicality made the finished project a little bit less flared.

Riverbend, on my model that’s a bit less full-hipped, you can see the difference in the way the skirt hangs.

Riverbend is currently available in the newest issue of Crochetscene 2015.  You can check out it, and my other three patterns, in the issue!  Also check out my Ravelry page, where you can read my personal notes and the stats about the time I spent on this project!

Crochetscene 2015: Crossed Arrow Vest

Photo Credit: Interweave/Harper Point Photography

This week I’m focusing on my three patterns released in Crochetscene 2015!  I had the honor of getting all three of my design submissions accepted – and it was so exciting to work on these three designs.  Today I’m focusing on Crossed Arrow, a Hunger-Games inspired vest that’s accessible to beginning crocheters.  With minimal seams and simple shaping, the most challenging part is the edging – and broomstick is an easy skill to learn!

My Sketch for Crossed Arrow

I had the concept of how the vest was put together from the start; although my drawn picture here only gives you a little bit of an idea.  I had been immersed in the future/punk look of a few different shows, and I had just come off of a bunch of fine work in both knitting and crochet – I was ready for a bulky vest that worked up quickly and looked a lot more complicated than it was.  Crossed Arrow was the result.

I’d also been wanting to create a couple of pieces featuring things like broomstick – things that would introduce crocheters to the skill without making the whole project about the skill.

I love that Crossed Arrow is simple – the vast majority of the project is single crochets through the back loop.  Occasionally you crochet to create an armhole, and in the beginning and the end you work increases or decreases for the neckline.  But mostly?  It’s just using one of the foundation stitches of crochet to a really great effect.

Hairpin lace edging on Crossed Arrow

Hairpin lace edging on Crossed Arrow

For me, it’s the details of the piece that make it – specifically, the broomstick lace edging.  Look at the picots!  Look how the rest over the edges!

Crossed Arrow is currently available in print or online in Crochetscene 2015.  You can also read my more personal notes about the pattern on Ravelry.

3 Essential Rules to Work on Granny Square Crochet Blankets

Tomorrow morning I’ll be winging off our a week long vacation with my family in Alaska, and then I’ll return to quickly packing up for three weeks of summer camps in Rockville, MD.  So I’ve been trying to wrap up a few long-term finishing projects.

Sometime soon I’m going to write a post on how to properly finish off a granny-square blanket so it doesn’t fall apart in 30 years. (Or really, any blanket for that matter.)  Still, it seems like all I’ve been doing lately is repairing granny squares.

It’s meditative work at the best of times, and dead boring at the worst.  I normally like to put on a book-tape or podcast and crank out the repairs.  This time around I took a few photos to share, and decided to add my 3 rules of working on granny square blankets.

Granny Square blanket with split seams

The first blanket, featured above, had two major places it was broken: the last row of the square didn’t have its ends woven in, and I needed to rework the last row and reattach.

Rule #1: Properly weaving in ends is essential in a blanket that you want to last.  Crocheting over them doesn’t cut it.

Repairing hole in Granny Square Blanket

Repairing hole in Granny Square Blanket

As a corollary to Rule #1, the closer an end is to the center, the more stress it takes.  REALLY weave in the ends at the center of a blanket.

Which brings me to my next rule.

Rule #2: include care instructions when you give a blanket to someone.  Don’t expect them to know how to care for the blanket and the fibers!

Let me show you some examples:

Center of granny square lost of love

Center of granny square lost of love

Slowly adding back the center of the Granny Square

Slowly adding back the center of the Granny Square

Granny square center replaced!

Granny square center replaced!

All the black that's  not a

All the black that’s not a “frame” for the granny square is replaced & repaired.

The blanket above is one that’s been well loved, but also subjected to light and heat damage.  The fibers are very very delicate, and I’m working to repair the largest holes so this can be gently loved again. Still, proper care of textiles can extend their life a hundredfold.

Finally, my last rule.

Rule #3: REALLY, REALLY weave in your ends.  Seriously.  Nearly 80% of the granny square repairs I do is in places where they ends have come unraveled, instead of the fibers degrading.  Weave in the ends.  Use a sharp needle.  Skim them in.

Are there things you can think of to extend the life of your afghans?  What are they?

Now available: Make a Crochet Rug Using Piping Cord and Crochet Motifs!

Matryoshka Baskets from Crochet World

I’ve been really enjoying playing with padded crochet lately, if you haven’t noticed.  Last year with Crochet World I published the Matryoshka Baskets, and this past week my Rag-ety Rug came out.  Now, this week I have another wonderful piece of news to share with you!

Remember how a couple of months ago I talked about filming classes with Interweave?  Well, the first of them are out, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Let me tell you about the class.

Titled Make a Crochet Rug Using Piping Cord and Crochet Motifs with Jennifer Raymond, this class covers all you’d need to know in order to make Stained Glass Rug.  While the pattern by itself stands alone, you do need a basic understanding of padded crochet to make the project work.

With my online class, not only do I show you the basics of padded crochet, but I also show you all my tricks I developed and learned while making the rug.  You’ll learn the best ways of finishing off your cord, the easiest ways to join the motifs, and how to adapt the pattern for other purposes.

Make a Crochet Rug Using Piping Cord and Crochet Motifs

Make a Crochet Rug Using Piping Cord and Crochet Motifs

As I mentioned before, this class focuses around Stained Glass Rug, which was featured on KDTV’s episode 1409. I love this pattern.  It’s infinitely customizable, as you can make the rug as large or small as you want it.  The padded crochet makes the rug both cushy under the feet, durable, and the project works up really fast!  There’s plenty of room for color play, in the form of using up scraps, creating color blocks, or making magic balls to use.  And I love how, just worked in the yarn I used for the original project, each piece looks a little bit like the stained glass you see in churches.

Make a Crochet Rug Using Piping Cord and Crochet Motifs with Jennifer Raymond is available for pre-ordering as a DVD, or you can download it right now onto your computer.

You should checkout the preview:

Have you ever worked padded crochet? What do you think of the preview?