Maybe Matilda: September 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

CAL :: Working in the Round

My favorite thing to crochet is hats . . . baby hats, big girl hats, goofy hats, I love 'em all. And since everyone who finishes our crochet along and links up their finished cowl on Wednesday gets to pick a pattern from my shop, and since almost all of my patterns are for hats, maybe I ought to show you how it's done. Sound good?
(Good thing the crochet along is almost over . . . I'm out of crochet comics!)

In our lessons so far, we've learned how to crochet in straight rows, which is exactly what you need to know for tons of great projects and patterns. But what if you want to make a granny square blanket?

Or a cute hat to wear with your new cowl?

Or even adorable little slippers? (these are on my to-do list . . . aren't they sweet?)

These projects all start with a circle.

Crocheting in the Round
There are a few different ways to crochet in the round--I'm going to show you three variations here. When you're following a pattern, it'll probably tell you which way to use, but you can substitute a different method if you have a favorite. I'll start with what I would consider the most common way to begin working in a circle.

You'll start by making a chain (again, your pattern will tell you what to do and how long your chain needs to be--I chained 4 for my example piece here):
 You'll then work a slip stitch into the first chain (the one farthest from the hook)--I never covered the slip stitch in our crochet lessons here since it never came up in the Time Out Cowl pattern, but it's really simple--you just insert your hook through the stitch, yarn over, and pull the loop through all the loops on your hook. No more yarning over like you do with every other stitch. Just grab a loop and pull it right through--here's a link if you'd like a visual
(here we are, mid-slip stitch)
Once you've made a slip stitch in the first chain, you'll have turned your chain into a little circle. It may take a little pulling/imagination to find it since it's so dang tiny, but you now have a ring.
Now, you'll make a chain (just like your turning chains when you're working in regular, straight rows), but instead of working into any particular stitches for this first row, you'll just work into the middle of the circle you just created. So when you're inserting your hook to make your stitches . . .
You'll insert it there, right into the center of the circle. So as you keep working, you'll see a circle of stitches forming.
And once you've made whatever number of stitches the pattern calls for, you'll just work another slip stitch into your "turning chain" that you made at the start of this row to join it into a circle.
Look at that nice circle! It makes me feel happy inside.

One quick note about working in the round--you'll almost never turn your work as you normally do. You'll just keep working in the same direction that you started in (counter-clockwise). So when you get to the end of a row, you'll slip stitch to join the first and last stitches, make a chain to be "tall" enough to work the next row, but keep going in the same direction.

If you'd like some more help, here's a link that explains crocheting in the round.

The Magic Circle
Doesn't that sound cool? (Sadly, it's not quite as fantastical as the name makes it out to be.) The magic circle, or adjustable ring, is another way to start working in the round. It's my personal favorite, and although it does take a bit of practice to understand, it's so handy because you can actually adjust it so that you have as large, or small, or practically non-existent opening as you please. Don't get frustrated if it doesn't make sense at first--it took me dozens and dozens of attempts to figure it out. And I don't think my pictures are going to be that helpful, so right off the bat, here's a video for you, and here's a post with some really great pictures that are far superior to what I have, so you might just want to head over there and skip my poor pictures and explanation.

Begin by starting to make a slip knot on your hook, but leave it plenty loose--don't tighten it up around your hook.
Do you see where the yarn criss-crosses over itself at the top of the circle in the picture above? Pinch that criss-cross tight to keep your circle from coming undone while you work. I also find it helpful to use a few fingers to hold the circle open. Tighten the yarn up a bit around your hook.
Now chain 2 while still holding the circle in place.
(It would be wise to use two hands to crochet in the round. I was taking these pictures all by my lonesome so it got a bit funky trying to do everything with one hand.)
Just like in the other circle method that started with the chain, you'll work your stitches into the circle--so just insert your hook right into the middle of the circle as you make your stitches.
When you've made all the stitches you need, pull on the yarn tail to tighten up the circle (like magic!).
Then slip stitch to the starting chain to join the first and last stitches into a ring.
Tada! It may take you a few tries to get the hang of it, but you'll love it and you'll never go back to starting circles any other way.

Making a Hat
For the last way to start crocheting in the round, I figured I'd do a real quick hat-making demo--we'll start the circle in a different way than shown above, and you'll also see how most hat patterns progress. No matter the hat pattern, they almost always start in the same basic way:
- make your circle and first row of stitches
- start increasing by putting two stitches into each stitch from the previous row
- alternate one stitch with one increase
- repeat the previous row, adding additional "regular" stitches between each increase, to reach desired size
- work one stitch in each stitch from the previous row till you get the length you need

I found this preemie hat pattern from The Dainty Daisy that I'm making in these pictures (you can make and donate these hats to be used in the NICU . . . you can find all the info in this post, and it would be a great way to practice working in the round while helping sweet little babies!)

The pattern says to start with a chain of 2.
Then work 10 single crochets into the first chain (the one farthest from your hook). So it's just like increasing--all those stitches are going into the same chain. Then slip stitch to the first single crochet to join the circle.
(That picture is a perfect example of why I love the magic circle method so much--you can tighten it up so there's no opening at the top of the hat!)

Now chain two, and (without turning your work!) work two double crochets into each of the single crochets from the previous row. (Once again, increasing.) Then close it up with a slip stitch at the top of the chain two (marked with the needle).
 Since this pattern is for a teeny tiny little preemie hat, not much increasing is needed to be large enough for their itty bitty heads--you'll just increase for one more row before continuing on with just one double crochet per stitch. So chain two and work one double crochet in the first stitch, then two in the next, and repeat around.
It's growing! Now just keep on going, only working one double crochet in each stitch, and soon you'll have a teeny little hat.
There you have it! If you'd like to practice, I'd suggest using that preemie hat pattern, or a basic beanie like this one just to get the hang of crocheting in the round.

Make sure your cowls are finished up, photographed, and ready to link up and show off by Wednesday! I'll write a quick post early next week explaining how to link your cowl up, if you don't know what I'm talking about. Happy hooking!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Lazy GIrl's Good Hair Day

This post brought to you by TRESemmé. All opinions are 100% mine.
Sometimes when I read sponsored blog posts, I get a little suspicious . . . do they really like this product as much as they claim to? Or do they just like getting a check in the mail in return for writing a glowing review? I never know if I can trust them or not . . . which is why I hope you'll believe me when I say that even though, sure, I'm getting paid for writing this, this topic has actually been on my "to blog about" list for quite a while and I just haven't gotten around to it yet. So, hey, if Tresemme wants to pay me for writing about a product I would have written about anyway, I'll take it!
So I want to tell you about a favorite product of mine--TRESemmé Fresh Start Dry Shampoo. I'm a bit lazy when it comes to styling my hair . . . which is why I love this haircut. Styling time? 10 minutes, max.
But there was a time when my hair was longer. Much longer. And when I had long hair, dry shampoo was my best friend (I still use it, but it was especially helpful with longer hair!). There are so many ways I'd rather spend my time than confined in the bathroom with my blow dryer and straightener and curling iron. Maybe you'll think this is nasty and shouldn't be admitted online, but get ready for a secret: when I had long hair, I only washed it once or twice a week. (Are you grossed out?)
It was the perfect solution for me, someone who liked having long, pretty hair but hated the time commitment--I'd just put in the time to style it once or twice a week, then use dry shampoo to keep it looking fresh and clean between washes, without having to wash and style it all over again. It absorbs oil and gives your hair a fresh look and clean citrus-y scent without shampooing.
When your hair needs a boost, just give the can a good shake, then lift up sections of hair and spray it at the roots to absorb oil. Spray in short bursts with the can about 8-12 inches from your head (and don't spray it all over like hair spray). Leave it in for a minute or two, then brush it through your hair, and you'll look like you've just washed and styled your hair, without using a drop of water. It was such a timesaver for me--I could hang onto a styling for days before having to wash and style it again.
The TRESemm√© Fresh Start Dry Shampoo line includes dry shampoos that are Strengthening, Volumizing, Moisturizing, and Smoothing, so you can choose one to fit your hair's needs. There's even a youtube video to show how to use it properly (and you can enter to win a $500 Target gift card--check out the giveaway at the video link).
And hey, if all else fails, you can join me with an Emma Watson-inspired pixie cut. How cute is she, honestly? 
Although now that I'm searching through pictures of the ever-lovely Emma, I'm starting to miss having hair more like this:
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lined Paper Tee Shirt Tutorial

In case you missed this post last month on Ucreate, here's my fun, sorta nerdy back-to-school (or anytime!) tee refashion project:

I think this lined paper tee is such a fun way to bring out the inner student, and possibly even encourage a little bookishness in a little one (maybe that's a stretch, but a girl can hope, right?).

(Oh my gosh, look how teeny Forrest is! Although this post only went up last month, I actually made these shirts and took these pictures when Forrest was maybe 6 months old . . . so about 7 months ago! He's so shrimpy! Never fear, I've kept making these shirts for him as he's grown . . . he has one that fits in his closet right now.)

It's really simple to put together, and you can easily make it in any size. And how cute would it be if you embroidered or stamped your child's name or a favorite quote onto the lines? 

Here's what you'll need to make this tee:

a white tank, tee, or onesie
masking tape
foam brush
blue and red acrylic paint
fabric painting medium (available at craft stores--you'll find it with the paint supplies)

To start, place some cardboard between the front and back of the top so your paint doesn't bleed through to the back of your shirt, then place your tape in straight horizontal lines across your shirt to mark the areas where you'll paint your blue lines. I put my first strip of tape right beneath the sleeves. I spaced the tape strips about 1/4" apart from each other, but only painted in every other open space (on an adult size tee) to create a little more distance between the lines. For my little guy's onesie, I painted in the spaces between each tape strip.

Mix your blue paint and fabric painting medium according to the directions on the medium (usually a 2 to 1 mixture of paint to medium), and lightly sponge it between your tape strips. A little goes a long way, so try not to get too heavy-handed with your brush. (And personally, I really like the look of a lightly painted, sort of splotchy paint line!)

(You can see here that I only painted in every other open space for the adult tee. For a baby/toddler top, you can paint in each open space.)

Give it some time to dry, then carefully remove the tape. Place two long strips of tape vertically down the left side of the shirt where you'll paint your red line. Again, place the strips about 1/4" apart, and make sure they're running straight down the tee so you don't end up with a wavy line.

Mix your red paint with the fabric painting medium according to the directions on the package, and sponge it on as you did for the blue lines. Let it dry for a while and carefully remove the tape.

If you're making a baby onesie, don't forget to lift up the shoulder flap to tape and paint underneath it!

Make sure you read the directions on your fabric painting medium to find out how to finish your shirt--you'll probably need to let it air dry for 24-48 hours, then iron it to set the paint. You can just turn the shirts inside out and toss them in the washing machine, and the paint holds up just fine.
If you make one of these shirts (or anything using one of my tutorials/ideas), feel free to add it to the Maybe Matilda Flickr Group so we can all check it out!

Also, I had a request a few weeks ago to make a onesie for a customer in my etsy shop, and she really loved it on her little girl . . . so there's a listing right here in my shop if you want me to make one for your little one!

Monday, September 26, 2011

CAL :: Fasten off, weave in ends, sew ends together!

Today's little lesson is the last thing you need to know to be able to complete your Time Out Cowl--how to finish 'er off, sew it up, and get rid of those yarn tails! For anyone just jumping in, or if you need a recap, here's a quick link list of our crochet along posts so far . . . 

Wow, we have covered a lot of information--if you've been following along, practicing, and working on your cowl, you should really feel proud of yourself. Crochet isn't the easiest craft, and you've learned so much about it already! I'm so proud (eyes brimming with tears).

So where are we? Ah, right. You're coming right along on your cowl and it's time to finish it up. But so far, it's looking like a big rectangle, not a cowl. We need to stop crocheting and start finishing (that sounds counterintuitive). 

Fastening off
Like many of you, I decided that the full 52 inches, as recommended in the pattern, was going to be a bit much, so I stopped at the end of a row at about 33 inches, and here's what I had: (bear in mind that instead of chunky/bulky yarn, I decided to use two strands of worsted weight to make my cowl, so my pictures will have two strands of yarn where you'll probably have one)
Fastening off your work is simply ending your project and securing your yarn tail so your work won't unravel all over the place. If we zoom in on my last few stitches . . . 
. . . you can see that I stopped right at the end of a row--after the last double crochet, but before the chain 3 that leads up to the next row. To fasten off my work, I simply yarn over as if I'm going to make a chain:
Pull that loop through the one already on my hook:
And let that hang out for a minute while I cut my working yarn. I need to leave myself a pretty long yarn tail so that I can use that tail to sew the short ends of my cowl together--about 12-18 inches should do it. So I snip the yarn about 18 inches from my cowl:
Then just pull the yarn tail through snugly:
That creates a tight little knot that will prevent my cowl from unraveling! Now when I look at my cowl, this is what I've got . . . one end has a big long yarn tail hanging out (the ending yarn tail) and one end has a shorter tail hanging out (the starting yarn tail).
I'm going to pick the shorter of the two tails and weave it in.

Weaving In
Weaving in is simply sewing the yarn tails through some of the crochet work to hide it and further secure it to prevent it from coming undone. I start weaving in by threading the shorter yarn tail onto a blunt, large-eye needle.
Now I take the needle and start working it through some of the loops in my crochet:
This is not a science. You just work your needle in and out, back and forth, in a sort of zig-zaggy pattern through the loops of your cowl. You're not going through to the opposite side of the cowl, just working into some of the loops of the stitches. Don't get too worried about this--it really is not a big deal. You're just hiding that yarn tail.
I just keep working up and down, in and out, stitching in that yarn tail, until I've sewn a few inches of it into the cowl. Now I remove the needle and pull the yarn snugly, so it's stretching through the cowl a little bit:
And cut the tail off close to the work (make sure you don't snip any of the actual cowl when you cut the tail! I've done this before! THE HORROR!):
By pulling the yarn tail snugly before cutting the end off, the little snipped end will pop inside the work and hide there forever. So now I have one nice, clean, tailless end of my cowl! (If you used more than one ball of yarn for your cowl and have tails hanging out where you joined in the new ball, go back through your work and weave these ends in as well, making sure to remove any knots you may have tied before weaving the ends in!)
If you don't want a cowl, but would rather have a scarf, do the exact same to the other end of your cowl and you'll have a big cuddly scarf. But if you want a loop, we'll use the other yarn tail--the big, long, 18-inch-ish one--to sew the short ends of the cowl together!

Sew Ends Together
Some of you asked about how to create a twist in the cowl, an option I showed you in this post. It's easy as pie--you simply take one end of your rectangle and flip it over once, creating a twist or fold in the middle, then follow the rest of these instructions.
If you don't want a twist (I didn't, so the rest of these instructions won't picture the twist), just lay your rectangle out flat and bring the short ends together.
Thread your large-eye needle on to the yarn tail as you did earlier on the other end of the scarf, and simply start stitching the two short ends of the cowl together.
There are quite a few different techniques you can use to join crochet work together--you can single crochet ends together, slip stitch them together, whip stitch them together, etc. etc. If you're making an afghan, for instance, and joining tons of granny squares together to make a blanket, I would definitely recommend trying some different methods out and seeing which end results you like the best--some create more visible seams than others. 

But here's the thing . . . we're making a cowl. Not a blanket. And it's already huge and chunky, and personally, I'm not too concerned about a perfect, invisible joining seam on my gigantic fatty cowl. So I just stitched it up, not really following any particular method. Just sewed up the seam. Back and forth. (Don't pull the yarn too tightly as you sew--you don't want a puckery seam.)
Boom. Sewn.
Now just tie a little knot at the top to secure your yarn:
And weave a few inches of your yarn tail in, just as you did earlier:
Snip off the remaining yarn tail, and you have a lovely, snuggly, thick and chunky winter cowl to keep your neck cozy warm this winter!
(How do you like my in-the-bathroom-mirror self-portrait? I'm definitely going to need to enlist my husband to help me take better pictures of my cowl later.)

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below or email me at maybematildaquilts(at) and I'll do my best to answer them! And feel free to share any pictures of your cowl progress or finished beauty in the Maybe Matilda flickr group--I love seeing how your cowls are turning out!

Keep working on your cowls, and I'll see you here Friday for another little lesson on working in the round (we didn't need to know this for the Time Out Cowl, but you'll need to know it if you want to make hats or other round projects!). And make sure you have your cowl finished and photographed by next Wednesday, Oct. 5th, and ready to link up and share!
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