Simple Crochet Tote Pattern Using Cotton Twine

Bag Master

I struggle a lot finding bags I like the look of that are also practical and functional. I like square bags, but they are often too large or don’t hold their shape. I also like organic and simple materials, but brands that use these can be very pricey. I often resort to your run-of-the-mill tote bag, but these aren’t always the most stylish options and are often larger than what I really need.

My most recent bag crapped out on me about a month ago, and while I usually would shop around to try to find a new option, my Nothing New Challenge inspired me to try to make my own custom bag that served all my needs. I turned to simple unbleached cotton twine as my material, which is inexpensive and easily found at any hardware store. I used Librett brand, but any similar thick twine would work fine. I’d say it’s about worsted weight.

The pattern I drafted creates a squarish bag that still has a nice softness to it, and the texture of the twine combined with a couple easy crochet stitches creates a unique pattern. I finished the bag with some woven handles I found at Mood fabrics, but you could easily substitute leather handles, ribbon, or crochet handles. I do recommend the wrapped-under style as it helps the bag keep its shape. Finally, if you really want to class it up you could line the bag, maybe using some salvaged or thrifted cotton. I’m planning on trying this again as there were some functional things with this bag I’d like to change so I didn’t go through that effort, but it’s still a really lovely and practical design.

I’ll also mention that this is the first time I’ve tried writing down how I do things in crochet or knitting for other people, so if there are any issues with the pattern please let me know! I’m my only tester here, and my faults are often plenty.

Click past the cut for the pattern and some more photos.

Continue reading “Simple Crochet Tote Pattern Using Cotton Twine”

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Nothing New Challenge

Does anyone else start their New Years’ resolutions on their birthday instead of in January? I mean I guess if you were born on January 1st you don’t have to make that choice – and my OCPD heart must say I am jealous of the cleanliness of your annual existence – but the rest of us have to think about what truly constitutes a “new” year for our lives. Does our new start align with the world perception – or in the moment of our own milestone?

 

For me, I usually choose my own birthday as the best point for a resolution or change. Usually on January 1st I forget that I was supposed to find a resolution, then I think of about five things I want to do that I’ve already screwed up in in the first few days of the month, and I think “why bother, I’ve already failed.” If I make my birthday the resolution day, though, then all that “failure” functions as a test run of what I think I want to do without committing to the guilt.

 

In 2018 I spent a lot of time thinking about my impact on the world, as well as what I could do to improve my own day to day life and experience. As the end of my 20s and the destruction of the world looms ever and ever closer it feels imperative to focus my energy more and make wiser choices. I’m by no means ready to jump headfirst into something – the biggest risk I’ve ever taken is deciding to eat an egg one day after expiration – but I feel the need for some sort of change. One of my coworkers gave me an idea of something small I could do that would make a big difference not only in my daily life, but also on my impact on the world. This is an idea that has been floating around the internet for awhile, but I think I can spin it into something uniquely my own – and get more ideas for this lovely neglected blog.

 

The Nothing New Challenge is by no means an original idea. Depending on who you ask, the idea was started by two friends on an island in Wisconsin in July of 2013, or by some smart Aussies in Melbourne around 2011. I think both can be true – it’s not that complex an idea – but I like the Australian website better so I’m going to be citing that here for my info.

 

The basic idea is to not buy anything new. No new jeans, no new bags, no new lamps, no new plastic puppy sculpture you absolutely need for your bedroom corner, nothing. Of course some things don’t work within this schema – you have to buy new food, toiletries, and other essentials – but if you don’t need it, or you can get a version of it second-hand, you can’t buy it new. This doesn’t mean you have to completely avow all possessions – The Australian website has lots of great tips and ideas on how to make this feasible without quickly becoming a complete ascetic, such as swapping clothes with friends, upcycling or recycling things you already have, or using online marketplaces to find local items for sale.

 

This is all part of the “voting with your dollar” idea, and actively helps you cut down on your wasteful consumption and carbon footprint. Plus, if you’ve jumped on the Maire Kondo train like everyone else recently, it will definitely help keep your home simple and full of joy. For me, however, there’s an extra element that I think will help not just my wallet and the creeping guilt of being part of humanity, but also my hobbies and passions. I’m instituting some new rules that basically mean if you can make it (even from new materials), or if you can buy a local craftsperson’s version of it, that’s fair game. I’ll not only be finding new projects to make and write about, but will also be supporting the local maker economy and finding new and cool people to connect with. Taking on this challenge isn’t just self-esteem building, its community building.

 

So with all that exposition out of the way, here are my rules for the Nothing New Challenge:

 

  1. Don’t buy any new commercialized or corporate goods.

 

  1. The only items you can buy new are life necessities like food and toiletries. That being said, processed food or unnecessary toiletry goods are out. Try to make the ethical choice whenever possible with food and personal items, and try to choose small brands with good business practices.

 

  1. If you want something for your home, or a piece of clothing, make it yourself or find it at a local thrift shop or secondhand. The only exception for this, at least for me, is going to be stuff like shoes and bras where a bad purchase can seriously ruin your back, but in those cases strictly follow the one in one out rule – for every new pair of shoes you buy, for example, you have to donate or get rid of one pair you already own. Remember that shipping has a huge carbon footprint, so online shopping is out, even if the items are second-hand. I’m looking at you eBay.

 

  1. You can also buy new items from small local craftspeople and brands. It’s important to support business at the community level and encourage small economy, and I don’t want this challenge to affect that, hence this exception. Plus, if you’re a maker like me, it’s a great way to meet more people in your working community. Items like this tend to be more expensive, so you won’t be able to buy lots of unnecessary junk, plus you’ll begin to amass a collection of beautiful, special items. Talk about sparking joy!

 

  1. Finally, allow yourself one vice, within reason. If Oreo cookies are the only thing that bring you joy on a bad day, giving them up isn’t worth it. We all have something like this, but do try to limit it to the things you know you truly can’t find joy without. Would the organizers of this idea agree with this rule? Probably not. But people are human, and I don’t know about you but I do a lot better at following rules if there’s a little leeway. That way you don’t get that “well I screwed up once, might as well give up entirely” mentality, and you’re more likely to follow through on the whole.

 

 

Those are the rules I’ll be following, but if you want to do this you should feel free to draft rules that make sense for you. There’s a lot of pressure nowadays to be a perfect citizen – have no carbon footprint, only eat raw vegan foods, cancel anyone who does anything even slightly problematic, include every possible person in every possible event in every possible way, etc etc. And while I think all of this is very important, for a lot of us those goals are unattainable, at least when considered all at once. Choosing not to beat myself up over screwing up a resolution before January 5th has helped me set new guidelines for my goals that have allowed me to do more and actually move forward with most of them. In the same way, if you are able to do even a little bit to improve yourself and your impact, even if you can’t do everything, you are moving in the right direction. Some of us take great leaps, some of us take baby steps, and that’s nothing to feel guilty about, so don’t let other people bring you down for improving at your own pace. You’re a human being, you aren’t Superman, and you’re doing just fine.

 

I hope some of you join me on this journey in your own way, and I’ll be posting ideas for how to use making and clever thrifting to help you on the journey. I might even highlight some local makers and vendors if I can get over the crippling social anxiety.

 

Remember to find your joy today guys, and keep conquering your own windmill.

 

-J-

 

Veggies for Carnivores: “Dad Approved” Vegan Chili

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I’ve never written about my cooking on this blog before, partially because my cooking methods aren’t very proper, and also because I didn’t think it was craft related, but I’m starting to think that’s bogus. I cook, and love to cook, a lot, and in almost every single way being a good cook is exactly like being a good crafter. You have to understand your materials and how to use them, think of the best ways to combine them to get your desired results, use “patterns” as guidelines if needed, and always keep your intended audience in mind. Sure, your materials may be corn and beans instead of fiber and cloth, but ultimately it’s the same process. Take some stuff, put it together, get some different – hopefully better – stuff. 

With cooking, however, your audience looms larger in the decisions you make. Most crafters don’t work on commission but for themselves, so when you’re suddenly tasked to creating a meal and must not only satisfy yourself but also your family, you’ve got a tough nugget to crack. Unless you’re serving actual nuggets, who doesn’t like nuggets?

Case in point – I worry about my own health a lot but I worry even more about the health of my loved ones like my Partner and my Dad. When you’ve got hard-core carnivorous or carbolicious men on your hands, it can be hard to get them to eat something veggiful. As a result I spend a lot of time coming up with veggie or vegan recipes that taste like heavy, fatty comfort food but that actually have not a single unhealthy thing in them. I used to try to find recipes for this, but over time found most vegan recipes wanted their healthy food to also taste like healthy food. Laaaame. That’s when I stopped using recipies entirely, and learned the best food comes from just figuring stuff out on your own.

To that end I want to share with you all how I make my luxuriously delicious vegan chili, which can be altered to be not-so-vegan if you want to up the ante a little. If you’re looking for a classic step-by-step recipe, tough. I don’t do that. Like I said – I think the best cooking in the world is like crafting and requires a lot of adjustment, feeling, and figuring things on the fly. If you want to be a really good cook and come up with your own recipes, you gotta be willing to go off the rails. The being said, I’ll do my best to explain how I make it in a way that you should be able to follow and alter to your own liking. Maybe you’re like me and you prefer this sort of cooking to a rigid recipe. If so, hurrah! You’re in the right place.

Continue reading “Veggies for Carnivores: “Dad Approved” Vegan Chili”

DIY: Custom Variegated Embroidery Thread Using Liquid Dye

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In my last post I talked about how helpful making friendship bracelets has been for re-igniting my creativity after a block. I often find making simple, more “crafty” things that give me great joy easily lead into other concepts that expand my creative arsenal. In this instance the bracelets gave me a great opportunity to explore how the DMC variegated line could work up. I have very quickly become obsessed with working in these threads as they allows you to cheat easily create spontaneous texture and color shifts in your work. I’m not thrilled, however, at the limited range of colors in the DMC line and the one-tone-per-skein approach to variegation. Note: DMC does have a line of multi-color variegated thread as well, but unless your work calls for those specific hues you’re going to find that line limited as well. 

As a result I’ve spent the last few weeks exploring how DMC Cotton thread can be dyed and manipulated to create custom variegated blends with supercalifragilisticexpialidocious solid results. Today I want to share what products I use to make these blends, how I go about doing it, and what you can do to get different effects in the process.

Read on if you’re interested in making your own custom thread colors!

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My Etsy Site has Launched!!

Hi all!

I wanted to share with you all that I have launched my Etsy site! You can find it here.

Right now I only have a few things up there, including some complex wall pieces and jewelry. If you like my blog or my work take a look! I hope to add more embroidery pieces as well as some other fiber art stuff to the page, so check back often.

I’ll have a new DIY post later on how to make quick and dirty drawstring bags with stuff you probably have around the house already that are good for packaging jewelry or for storage around the house, so keep an eye out for that later.

Find your joy and pink today guys, and thanks for your support as always!

 

Awkward Introductions

Well I’ve put this off long enough. I think it might be time to officially say hello to you all.

You may have noticed that this blog is more or less anonymous. This is intentional – I’ve never been comfortable attaching my name or face to anything, particularly anything online. I also struggle with anxiety, which can sometimes make conversation, conflict, and controversy very difficult – things that are very hard to avoid online. I keep my opinions to myself and keep my nose out of things, thank you very much. I don’t even use Facebook anymore, have never really figured out how Twitter works, and keep an Instagram almost entirely just to share stupid shit I see on the streets of Brooklyn and, as you’ll soon see, my hair, which is magnificent. No shame it really is. 

That being said – being anonymous has its problems too. Sure no-one can doxx you, but no-one is aware of you either, Your achievements and work float away into the ether without an owner, and any excitement that usually comes with success stays stuck in the confines of your screen. Im proud of what I make, but being anonymous always makes it seem less real or important and can even make me feel kind of ashamed of myself, which is stupid since making arm tables and cross-stitches is far from shameful.

It’s actually a real drag. 

And so, with immense fear and almost immediate regret, it’s time to introduce myself.

After the cut.

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Building My Custom Embroidery Frame

Howdy folks!

Missed posting any Halloween stuff this year again, whoops. Funnily enough it’s probably my favorite holiday and time of year, which is I think why I never post anything.

I’m happy and busy for once in my life and I don’t need the internet for a few days. What a trip.

But alas my favorite month has passed and I settle now into cozy winter-time preparation. A big part of what I want to work on this winter is to finish up all the random cross-stitch projects I started but never completed. You can find a master post that includes a lot of these herebut I have even more unfinished things than that.

They say don’t start what you can’t finish. I say don’t start what you can’t hide in a drawer for 2 years and break out later in a fit of guilt.

The first big thing I wanted to finish was the Epic Pokemon Pattern Gen I. I sort of began to loathe lose respect for Pokemon after the whole Pokemon Go idiocy phenomena and so let this pattern simmer away for awhile, but the first generation of these little nuggets was a huge part of my childhood and the pattern is really fun to stitch up.

The problem, as anyone who has attempted this project can tell you, is that it is really big and has a butt-load of colors. As a result, I could never really get in the groove with it and hated working on it. A lot of this kind of work fatigue can be solved with organization and a really good frame. A good large-scale stitching set up should allow you to have everything at your fingertips and should put no stress on your neck, back, and shoulders.

I wanted to make a “My Neck, My Back” joke there so bad but this is a nice blog for nice people so I didn’t. 

I’ve tried loads of frames and, as in my previous post about thread holders, found none of them really did the job right. I have a lot of back problems and found none of them allowed me to work more than an hour or two without severe pain. When I saw this video by the incredibly strong and talented Dana Batho of Peacock & Fig  I knew immediately it was the solution to my problems. Because of a back injury sustained while in the Canadian Armed Service she requires a very comfortable set up with all her resources either on or directly near her frame. With loads of wood and parts left over from all the other frames I have, I figured I could Macgyver something like her frame that would work for me!

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As you can see I started with a variety of lengths of wood, many luckily with perfect pre-drilled holes, and an absolutely beautiful scroll frame you can get on Amazon here. I had the help of my wonderful and wood-talented boyfriend as well who cut two dowels to use for cross supports and also drilled additional holes. For the record I CAN use power tools despite all evidence to the contrary, but I’m not super comfortable using them outside a shop. Obviously the Boy gives no shits in that regard, so I make him do it. What a good boog.

Together we designed the piece to allow for a variety of positions and easy disassembly since we live in a very small apartment with limited storage. The entire frame is assembled using nuts, bolts, and drill holes; the only part that was drilled in permanently were the round dowels into the uprights.

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We made cross-bar legs for the front and back, with the front being about half the length of the back. This allows the frame to have a nice angle when resting on your thighs in a reclined position. So far it’s worked great on the couch, the bed, or our velvet chair. Plus, you can hang all your scissors and tools off the frame just like Dana from Peacock & Fig. I’m a happy nugget indeed.

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Excuse the bad lighting – by the time I stretched it all perfect and adjusted all the angles it was after sunfall. 

There you have it – a custom frame in one day! This wasn’t technically the cheapest project – the frame itself cost about $40 and it used parts from two other expensive stands I didn’t like – but you could easily make one of these to fit your frame for under $10 worth of hardware supplies. With a commercial lap frame this size running anywhere from $50 – $150 dollars I’m still pretty happy with the result. By moving which holes the legs are attached to I can easily change the angle of my stitching depending on how I’d like to sit – it can even work very well as a table stand in my kitchen.

And that’s it! I can draw up a detailed diagram of our design if it’s helpful, but it’s really self-explanatory. Sit with your frame and determine how you’d like it to angle towards you, then you can make your frame fit your body flawlessly and stitch the night away.

I’m not really the one to post all sorts of silly updates, especially on a project loads of people have done already, but I will post the finished product when this is done. Stay tuned for more DIY organization and tips and other updates on my artwork. I also did make an awesome costume this year, but I’m going to post that as part of a different launch that will happen sometime in the near future. Stay tuned for that, and remember –

Keep Conquering! 

DIY: Thread Organizer Card

OMG HI! I’m making a blog post whhaaattt?

Yep. I haven’t posted for over a year. Never got around to posting about how Operation: Apartment worked out and now we’re probably going to change everything again. Never posted the finished versions of loads of projects, in fact never finished most of those projects.

What the heck happened?

Let’s just say that the transition from college student to full-on-adult is a lot harder then anyone ever gets around to telling you when you are young. I might make a post about that in the future if anyone wants to hear it, but who really cares about that shit.

Let’s talk money wasters.

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DIY: Custom Privacy Screen

DIY Custom Privacy Screen

Hey all!

Living in Brooklyn it can be near impossible very difficult to get some privacy. Case in point – while our apartment has a lovely outdoor space both the stairwell and grassy area are shared with our landlord’s family, meaning people are constantly walking back and forth when I am hanging out on my deck. I love my neighbors, but sometimes you just need a little alone time, ya dig?

I thought a privacy screen would work perfect for this, but I didn’t want to buy a nice asian screen at the flea only to have it destroyed by weather. The solution? Make our own with some hearty pine and lacquer it against the weather. The best part? These beautiful plain wood boards are just begging to be painted with whatever your heart desires. Read on to see how the boy and I made the screen, and how I’ve begun to customize it!

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