Creative Beginnings

Sewing and crocheting supples

It was a long day in the car driving 500 miles to visit Grandma’s sister in Alabama. Daddy drove and Momma sat in the back so Grandma, who got car sick, could sit up front. My sister and I were young, and alternated between the front and back seats when we got bored or started picking on each other. To pass the time, Grandma brought hand crafts to work on, and as I watched, she held a piece of fabric with a hoop around it, filling in the printed design with colorful thread. I was used to seeing Grandma put in a hem or sew on a button, but this was different. “What is that?” I asked. It’s embroidery,” she answered, pushing the needle down through the fabric, then pulling it back up again. I kept watching as miles of sugarcane and cotton fields passed outside the car windows. “Will you teach me how to do that?” I asked. “Yes, we’ll get you a piece to work on when we go into town.”

Embroidery

My early embroidery pieces
My first two embroidery pieces

We visited the Five and Dime store the day after arriving so my sister and I could pick something to play with during the trip. I selected a doily, embroidery floss and a set of hoops. Back at Aunt Bonnie’s house, Grandma helped me place the hoops on the fabric, separated the strands of floss, and showed me the basic stitches. Though I worked on the piece the rest of the trip, it was months before it was finally completed. I made another piece and gave both of them to Momma. She used them on a dresser for years, before putting them away, returning them to me a few years ago.

Crochet

Yarn, crochet hook and work in progress
Crochet work in progress

Grandma also taught me to crochet. Starting with a basic chain stitch, I crocheted a yard or two of it before unraveling to practice it again. Once I had mastered that stitch, she showed me single and double crochet stitches. It fascinated me to take yarn and a crochet hook and make something with it. I have crocheted since then. One Christmas, when I didn’t have much money, I bought yarn and a pattern to crochet scarves for everyone on my list. Years later, I made a couple of afghans for my parents who always appreciated gifts made with love. I even made a few things to sell on Etsy. These days I crochet for fun. I love learning and practicing new stithces, and pull out my supplies when I need a change from writing or a break from everyday stresses.

Sewing

Sewing and crocheting supples
Grandma’s shears, snippers and other supplies

Grandma moved to live near us when I was about five. I knew she sewed, having made and altered clothes for my sister and me our entire lives, but I saw just how much sewing she did. Besides doing alterations at a local department store, she also sewed for others from home. A room off her bedroom became a sewing room which was filled with stacks of neatly folded fabric with patterns and notes attached, tins of buttons and zippers, and spools of thread. Her black Singer sewing machine was usually threaded and ready to go, while works in progress hung nearby.

Watching her take flat fabric, cut out pieces, and sew it into clothes seemed like magic. I wanted to learn to sew. One Sunday I spent the night with her to help turn pieces from her scrap bag into clothes for my Barbie doll. After supper, I asked if we could start but Grandma said no. “The Bible says Sunday is a day of rest, so we don’t do work,” she told me. For her, sewing was work, understandable since she was paid for it, not a hobby or fun activity. Yet, even after retiring from the store, she continued making clothes and doing alterations. When she passed away, Momma found her sewing room was full of projects, some in progress and others waiting. It may have been work, but it also kept her busy.

Momma taught me how to thread her machine and do basic mending, but in my early teens I wanted to learn more and asked Grandma to help me make a dress. At the fabric store I selected white eyelet fabric adorned with small bouquets of blue flowers and a sewing pattern too complicated for my beginner skills. At Grandma’s house, we laid the cutting board across her bed. Following the pattern directions, she showed me how to find the grain of the fabric and how to lay and pin the pattern pieces for cutting. Using her sharp, heavy shears, we cut out the pieces then organized them in order. I was ready to start sewing, but first there were notches to cut, pieces to baste and darts to put in. Sewing, it turned out, involved a lot more than sitting at a machine sewing pieces together. Even after we started sewing on her Singer, there were more steps than I expected: taking out and re-doing stitches, putting in facings, and ironing pieces so the seams lay the correct way. Impatient to get my dress made, I got bored, lost interest, and quit going to Grandma’s to work on it. Eventually she finished it alone. I enjoyed wearing the dress, but it was always accessorized with a sense of guilt that I had let Grandma down.

I may have been bored, but I did learn to sew. Not only can I sew on a button or repair a hem, I have made and altered clothes for myself. I’ve volunteered in the costume department of local theaters. My favorite thing is to take pieces from different patterns and create my own designs.

I keep returning to the skills Grandma taught me, drawn to use my hands to make things. While I never saw sewing and crocheting from a pattern as being creative, thinking anyone can learn to do it, I was wrong. Though I never believed I was a creative person, I now realize that whenever I make something, I am, in fact, creating the final project. Taking raw materials and turning them into something else is an act of creation.

I am grateful Grandma took the time to teach me. I am grateful I have her shears, snippers and thimble to use. I am grateful I can carry on the tradition of creating things with my hands.

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How To Recycle A Sweater Into A Purse

CoverCreating something new out of something old is a great way to get what you need and want while also reusing what you have on hand. If you have an old pullover sweater that has seen better days, you can keep it out of the landfill and make yourself a new purse!

This tutorial includes:

  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Color photograph illustrations
  • 9 pages
  • Downloadable and printable PDF format

Click here to read the details and purchase in my Etsy shop

How To: Coffee Dyed Fabric

I wanted new curtains for my windows, ones that matched the new covers I made for my throw pillows. As always, I wanted to recycle what I already had, if possible. Taking a look at my fabric stash, I pulled out a flat sheet that was getting too thin to use on the bed. It was white, with small pink flowers on it and in good shape with no rips or tears. Unfortunately, the white was too bright for the room. I needed something beige or tan.

Since the sheet was 100% cotton, I decided to dye it. I first consider tea dyeing, but after some online research decided coffee dyeing would produce a darker color, more what I was looking for.

What I really liked was I could reuse the coffee grounds that I normally threw away each day. Recycled sheet and recycled coffee grounds – win, win!

I found these instructions online – http://www.marthabeth.com/dye.html and used them to base my instructions on.

Supplies:

Used coffee grounds. The more fabric, the more grounds you will need. I collected mine daily in a plastic container that I stored in the refrigerator. If I had a bit of black coffee left, I poured that in as well. When it was full, it was time to dye the fabric.

Plastic container large enough to hold the fabric and the dye, allowing plenty of room to move around. DO NOT USE YOUR WASHING MACHINE since there are coffee grounds in the water; you don’t want them in your machine.

Vinegar

A place outside to do the dyeing and hang the fabric to dry.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS MESSY! You will need to do everything outside until the fabric is dry and you have gotten all the coffee grounds off.

How To:

1.Into the old storage container, add in the coffee grounds, leftover sludge, and cold water to fill the container about ½ full.

2.Mix it well and add the fabric, making sure there is enough liquid to cover the sheet. If not, add more cold water, but only enough to cover the fabric.

3.Mix it around and rub the grounds into the fabric to get a bit more color.

4.Let soak. After about 15 minutes, gently stir the fabric around. Check color to see if it is dark enough for you. If not, let soak another 15 minutes, then check again. Repeat every 15 minutes until the color is where you want it. I needed to let mine soak over an hour to get the color dark enough.

5.Add vinegar to the water. I didn’t really measure it, just poured some in – probably about 1/3 cup and let it soak about 15 more minutes.

6.Remove the sheet, wringing out as much liquid as possible.

7.DO NOT RINSE THE FABRIC! Otherwise, you will remove some of the color you dyed in.

8.Hang the sheet outside and out of the sun to dry. I draped the sheet over my patio table and chairs to dry. Since the fabric has not been rinsed there will be a lot of coffee grounds stuck to it. Many will fall off as the fabric dries which is why you need to dry it outside.

9.Shake the fabric to remove any remaining coffee grounds that remain on it.

10.Iron the fabric with a dry iron to help set the color.

11.If you now want to wash the fabric, test a small section to see if the color bleeds out. Even if it does not, I recommend washing it separately just to be sure.

There you have it – coffee dyed fabric!

If you try this, please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

 

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How To: Crochet A Wire Hanger

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I am all about reusing things rather than throwing them out. Reusing means you aren’t buying something new, saving resources AND money – a win-win situation! With this in mind, I created this tutorial for crocheting yarn around wire hangers to make them non-slip.

I’ve had great luck with these for wide-neck tops as well as spaghetti straps and tank tops. It also greatly reduces the wire hanger pushing through knits that are hung. However, if you really need a padded hanger, these probably won’t work. 

These are the basic instructions – feel free to play around with the yarn, the size crochet hook, and the stitch you use. Change things around and see which results you like the best.

For this project you will need:

Wire hangers like you get from the dry cleaner. (We could have an entire discussion on the hazards of dry cleaning, but we’ll save that for another time.) If you don’t dry clean or have no wire hangers, ask around. Most people simply throw them away. You can also order some from Amazon

Leftover yarn. I use about 15 yards per hanger, but what you need will vary depending on the yarn, the size hook, and the stitch you use. Don’t worry if you don’t have enough – simply switch to a different yarn part way through. Don’t have leftover yarn – ask anyone who knits or crochets for some leftover bits (and offer to make a hanger or two for them in return). Check out thrift stores. Any type of yarn will work; thicker yarn will give you more padding. For this project, I used leftover acrylic yarn.

Crochet hook. Pick a size you are comfortable with and see how it goes. Switch around to get the look you like best. I used a size G/6 (4,5 mm) crochet hook because of the type of yarn, and I also wanted a fairly tight stitch. If you need crochet hooks, Amazon has a wide selection to choose from.

Instructions:

 

 

Attach yarn to hook with a slipknot.

 

 

Place hook, with yarn attached, in center of hanger with yarn going over the TOP of the wire. Reach UNDER the wire with the crochet hook and pull up. Two loops on crochet hook.

 

Next, reach hook over TOP of hanger wire and pick up yarn with hook and pull through FIRST loop on the hook; two loops will then be on the crochet hook:

 

 

Again, reach hook behind top wire of hanger and pull up yarn and pull it through both loops on the crochet hook:

 

One stitch made.

 

You continue making stitches by reaching to the FRONT of the wire to pull up first loop; then reach to the BACK to pull up yarn and go through first loop; reach to BACK again, pull up yarn and go through both oops on hanger. If you crochet, this is a single crochet stitch, but instead of pulling the yarn through the stitch on the previous row, you are doing it around the wire hanger.

Repeat around hanger to where two ends of wire are twisted together to begin the hanging hook.

You can end here by cutting the yarn and tying off. If you wish, you can continue in the same stitch around the hook (carefully work over area where wires are twisted). Work around hook almost to end. Cut yarn, leaving long tail, and pull through loop on hook. Take remaining yarn tail, wrap around end of wire hook and glue in place. I prefer to work around the hanging hook because I believe it gives a more finished look – although when I’m short on yarn and this is just for me, I won’t!

 

There you have it – a crocheted wire hanger!

Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

 

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