Saturday, April 30, 2011

Project Photos of Zig-Zag Edging

I wanted to show you some pictures of recent projects where I've used the crocheted zig-zag edging. This edging is so versatile and it looks lovely on just about anything, including the edge of a blouse or the hem of a skirt!

These are burp cloths, made with Gerber pre-fold diapers. The nice thing about crocheting on these diapers is that I don't have to use the awl to punch holes (except in the middle, where the fabric is so thick.) The diaper fabric is woven loosely enough to allow the tiny steel hook to easily push through. This just saves some time, which I always like. The cotton thread is usually very colorfast, even with bleach, so there is no worry about transient dye in the wash.

I like to use this edging on pillowcases also. I have lots of patterns for edgings that are more complicated, but these are often put off because of time. I always seem to need a nice gift now! The one thing I love about this edging is that it is so fast - one round and I'm done. But it is still so pretty and adds just the right handmade touch to a gift. These print pillowcases were part of a sheet set given as a wedding gift. I opened the original package to get at the pillowcases and then re-wrapped the set with ribbon.  I could also have put the edging across the top sheet, but I didn't have time. I also like to give a set of plain white pillowcases along with a set of nice pillows. Everyone needs extra pillows in the house.

The zig-zag edging is so useful for embellishing all kinds of things in a hope chest or in your household. I hope you'll give it a try.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tutorial - Easy Zig-Zag Crocheted Edging

Crocheted thread edging can add a beautiful heirloom-quality to so many articles in a hope chest. This simple crocheted edging is the perfect embellishment for ordinary kitchen towels, pretty printed sheets or plain white pillowcases. It looks lovely on washcloths and tablecloths and even a baby’s burp cloth. It is so easy and fast. The kitchen towel in the picture was completed in about 30 minutes!

The stitches used in thread crochet are the same as for yarn, but the thread and hook are both much smaller. If you have never worked with steel hooks and cotton thread, don’t be afraid to try! If it’s been a while since you’ve crocheted, you may want to practice first with yarn until you are comfortable making the basic stitches. Then try a “finger”weight yarn or a size 3 cotton thread with a small hook until you get used to using the tiny hook with thread. Try to be patient with the initial clumsiness. It won’t last long, I promise.

To begin, if you are right handed, grab the thread with your left hand pinkie finger and loop it around the finger. Then loop the thread over your left hand index finger and grip the slip knot between the thumb and middle finger. As you crochet, you will work with the section of thread that is between your index finger and the hook. Make sure the thread will move smoothly through your fingers. This is called tension. In the beginning, finding a comfortable tension is a bit of a challenge. I like to wrap the thread twice around my pinkie, and sometimes I gain extra control of the thread, temporarily, by wrapping it twice around my left index finger, as well.

The process is really much the same as using larger yarns and hooks, but the thread feels quite different in your hand. You’ll hold everything quite the same as you do a larger hook and yarn, but don’t be afraid to experiment with something different. It is quite common to pull the stitches too tightly as you first work with thread. Concentrate on working relaxed stitches and try to make them even. Don’t be discouraged with your first efforts. It takes some practice, but soon you’ll be putting lace on everything!

To embellish the edge of an ordinary kitchen towel, you’ll need these materials: A towel, size 10 cotton crochet thread (you can also use Perle cotton, which is a kind of twisted embroidery thread), a size 7 or size 9 steel crochet hook, an embroiderer’s awl (to punch a hole), a washable marking pen, and a ruler.

Use the washable marking pen to mark across the edge of the towel every 3/8-inch. (Use ½-inch markings with size 3 cotton thread.)

Push the awl through the fabric at the edge of the towel to make a tiny hole.

Pull the thread through the hole and make the first slip knot.

Chain five. In the fourth chain from the hook, make a double crochet.

Make another double crochet and then a third double crochet in the same space.

3 dc along with the initial ch 3 = 4 stitches in the cluster.

Use the embroiderer’s awl to punch holes in a few of the marks. I usually do eight to ten holes ahead of my crochet. If I do too many at one time, they simply pull together before I can get to them and then I can’t find the hole. So, I’ve learned to do just a few at a time.

In the next hole, make a double crochet. This forms the “post” of the stitch.

Chain three. These chain stitches form the “rise” of the cluster.

Working over the post (the previous double crochet), make a double crochet.

Over the same post, make a second double crochet and then a third. (Ch 3, 3 dc altogether)

In the next hole, make a double crochet.

Again, chain three to form the rise. Continue across, using this pattern: (dc in the hole to form the post, ch 3, 3 dc over the dc “post”). Every few stitches, stop and look for any mistakes.

When you get to the last stitch, make a hole near the edge.

Instead of a double crochet, form a half-double crochet for the last post.

Chain three as usual. Make 2 dc over the post. Then, make a final half-double crochet for the last stitch. Clip the thread about 4 inches from the hook. Make a yarn over and pull the thread through the loop to fasten it off. Using a half-double crochet in these last stitches will make the cluster lay just a bit tighter against the edge.

Doesn’t it look pretty! Now, do the other end of the towel. You can do just one end. Sometimes, if I'm in a real hurry with a gift, I will do just one end of a towel, but I think it looks nicest to do both ends.

Weave the end of the thread (both ends) into the stitches and clip. After weaving through a few of the stitches, I sometimes push the needle into the hem and pull the thread a little way into the hem before I clip it off.

I sponge the towel to wash the markings away and “block” the crocheted edge with steam from the iron. Then I fold the towel and it’s finished.

The following pics show one of my common mistakes. If I get distracted or have to stop and pick things up again, I sometimes mistakenly do a chain three after I finish a cluster. Then I proceed to make another post in the next hole and continue.

You can see the gap in the stitches when I make this mistake. It is easy to just pull it out back to the mistake and then continue again.

As I work with the thread, I find it easier to sort of “lay” the stitch over the pad of my finger as I pull the thread through. This helps me keep the stitches even.

If you are having trouble with the stitches being too loose, it may help to move your fingers to pinch close to the hook as it slides through the thread to complete the stitch.

One final tip. Because I do so much marking, I made a cardboard marking aid, with a row of marks at 3/8-inch and a row of ½-inch markings. I find this quicker than using a ruler.

I hope these instructions are clear and that you find this edging as useful as I do. Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

If you like the Zig-Zag edging, don't miss my other tutorials located under the crochet edgings label on the sidebar. This "Garden Fence" edging is one of my favorites!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wedding Gift - Prairie Points

I'm excited to learn a new trick for using prairie points on a dishtowel. Linda at Prairie Flower Farm has THE cutest spring embroidered tea towel pattern. I love the way she has attached prairie points in a tuck at the bottom edge of the towel. I think that is just so clever. Linda had a giveaway and, lucky for me, she is graciously sharing the pattern with those of us who didn't win the giveaway. The pattern is on her sidebar in a e-mail download link, called "Free Spring Thyme Tea Towel."

Although I didn't have time to do the embroidery on the towels for this gift, I did use her idea for the prairie points and I love the way they turned out.

The simple running stitch adds the sweetest handmade touch, I think.

The crocheted thread edging on the hand towels is really simple to do. I use this edge all the time on gifts because it is so quick, but still pretty. I'll try to make a tutorial soon for this edging. Since I picked up another wedding announcement in the mail yesterday, I should be using it on several more wedding gifts before the "season" has ended!

I love the colors in this gift set. They just seem so cheerful to me. The variegated yarn in the dishcloths and hotpads is my favorite color right now - Peaches and Cream "Gum Drops."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wedding Gift - Black and White

I'm now gearing up for the wedding season, and have been busy making gifts. This kitchen set was made for a sweet bride who wants a black and white kitchen. Crocheting with black yarn is really not fun. My aging eyes could hardly see what I was doing. My color picks are usually much brighter and I never realized how difficult it is to stitch with a really dark yarn. Ah well, I think everything turned out well. I made the usual dishcloths and hot pads and added some hand towels and a dishtowel.

I finally had a chance to try the Moda Jelly dish towel that I have had listed on my sidebar. It was really simple and I like how it turned out. I added a step to their tutorial, however. I ran a narrow zig-zag across the edges of the fabric, before I sewed on the rick rack, because I didn't want the edges to fray after washing. Then I sewed the rick rack on with a simple straight line.

I also sewed a bit of white lace on a set of hand towels. Simple and pretty. The second set of hand towels in the top picture has a simple black thread crocheted edge. I'm not sure why I didn't take a separate picture of these. :o}

I also included a box of these color catchers in the gift, because I'm reeeeaaallllly worried about the black color in the wash. I'm pretty sure it will cause problems, but I'm hoping these will help.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Favorite Food Contest

In our area, 4-H offers a fun contest called the Favorite Food Contest. This is Miss Abigail's favorite contest! The Favorite Food Contest tests the children in their knowledge of the FDA food pyramid by challenging them to create a nutritious menu plan for a day, with the proper number of servings from each food group, and then to chose one of the dishes from the menu to cook. The children create a place setting with a theme if they want, or at least a centerpiece, and all the proper dishes, untensils and linens to serve the meal on the daily menu which includes the "favorite" dish. Then the children have to actually cook that dish in an on-site kitchen and serve it to a judge.

Abigail was judged on a number of things. She had to be prepared to tell the judge which food groups were represented by her dish, the nutritients in each of the various ingredients in the dish, and how these nutrients function in her body. She was prepared to describe the food pyramid and explain how many servings of each group she needed and how many calories she needs each day. She was prepared to answer questions about her table setting and how she prepared the dish and she had to demonstrate knowledge of food safety and kitchen safety as well. This year, as a junior contestant, she also had to understand and calculate cost per serving for her dish. Then the judge tasted the food and scored her on how well it tasted and whether it was colorful, etc. Plus, there was a kitchen monitor who watched  her as she cooked and scored her on food safety, independence in the kitchen, getting the food to the table at the right time, etc. She was given a judging time and the food had to be ready at that time. The contest can be pretty rigorous, but she seems to have fun! She continues to want to do it every year. You can see the table setting and recipe from last year's contest here, if you are interested.

This was Miss Abigail's fourth time to participate in this contest and I think it was easier for her in many ways. Abigail is now quite independent in the kitchen and she understands more and more about timing the preparation. She thoroughly understands the food pyramid and making the daily menu is no longer so difficult. She still gets worried about remembering the functions of the nutrients and speaking to the judge, but she always does so well. This year she brought home the red ribbon and is happy that she can compete again at the district contest later this year.

Abigail's food was an ordinary week-day main dish called "Southwest Spaghetti Pie". If you would like to try it out, you can find the recipe here on the Mower family food blog.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Peek Inside - Veggie Dishtowels

These are another set of dishtowels that I have embroidered for Abigail's hopechest. Because green happens to be my favorite color, these veggies are a particular favorite of mine. They were so fun to embroider! I love the way they turned out. I wish the actual towels were more sturdy. These were done before I found a good source for towels. They aren't bad, but they aren't great either. (Please see this post for my recommendations for towels worthy of handwork.) After all that work, I hope the towels will hold up to the regular wear and tear of a hard working kitchen. But, I simply think of this as justification for embroidering so many sets. ;o)

I know there are only five towels in this set. I used to think that I had to make sets of seven, but I have reconsidered that number. If I included seven towels in each set I make, Miss Abigail would have waaaaaaaay too many dishtowels in her hope chest! And that wouldn't even include those she may want to make for herself. So, I've decided that a set of two or three dishtowels is more reasonable. Unless they are "days of the week" patterns, I don't think it is necessary to have a full set of seven.
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