Category Archives: non-pattern pattern

Make Your Own Felt Coasters

I know it’s too late to make a set of felt coasters for this Christmas, but I couldn’t share my latest non-pattern pattern until the family members I made these for had opened their gifts on Christmas Day.

The good thing is people need coasters year-round, and you can incorporate any types of designs you like. I like to stick with no more than five colors so there’s a cohesive look, but have fun and play around. There are no rules.

The inspiration for these coasters came from Instagram. I was scrolling through my feed and saw a photo of a mug sitting on a felt coaster. They intrigued me enough to ask the poster more about the coasters. She said they were made long ago by her mother, and she cherishes them.

Hers were square with rounded corners, but I opted for circles. (For the record, I traced around the inside of an embroidery hoop I keep in the box of embroidery floss.)

I could see my Instagram friend’s coasters were two pieces of felt sandwiched together with a blanket stitch. Simple. Not only does that offer an extra layer of protection between a cold glass or hot cup and your furniture, but the bottom layer also hides the knots and stitches from where the decorations are appliquéd to the top piece.

I happened to have several sheets of craft-store synthetic felt on hand. It’s an ideal choice for this project since it tends to be colorfast; wool or wool-blend felt might not be colorfast, so you can test it by putting a snippet of felt in a dish of hot water for a few minutes to see if the color bleeds. You don’t want the colors to bleed into each other. When I started I had no idea what I’d come up with, but I made four coasters in less than three hours.

It’s too simple not to give it a try:

Step one: Cut fronts and backs for your coasters

I chose a different color for the front and back of each coaster, but you can do whatever you like. If you don’t have an embroidery hoop, trace around a small bowl or cut squares. You could do scalloped edges, flower shapes—there are a lot of shapes that will work. Whatever shape you choose, make sure they’re large enough to accommodate most mugs and drinking glasses. You don’t have to be precise—I love a peek of color from the reverse side showing here and there.

Step two: Plan your designs

I thought about what types of Christmas designs I could appliqué onto the coasters, especially given the colors I had to work with. Trees, wreaths, candles, bells, stars, stockings, ornaments, and my personal favorite, Christmas lights.

You quickly realize some shapes are easier—or harder—to cut out. The bell did not go well, so I used the gold felt for stars. They were challenging, but I liked the end result.

If you’re good at embroidery, you might prefer to embroider designs instead of appliquéing cut-outs.

Step three: Arrange your decorations

Position and pin your decorations to the top piece of felt. Honestly, since the felt doesn’t slip around much, you could even skip the pinning if you like.

  

Step four: Appliqué 

I wanted a folksy, hand-made look, so I used black embroidery floss to attach most of the appliqués with bold, and intentionally irregular, stitches. I didn’t even split the floss so it would really stand out. Another choice would be to attach the pieces with a blind stitch using matching floss. It’s up to you.

Since the stockings were black, I used green embroidery floss to attach those to the felt circles.

Step five: Attach the backs

The easiest way to secure the tops and bottoms of the coasters is with a basic blanket stitch. There’s a good tutorial video on You Tube that demonstrates, quickly and clearly, just how simple it is to do.

Once again, I used un-divided black embroidery floss for a bold, decorative look.

I wasn’t at all precise in stitch length or spacing between the stitches because I wanted a random, primitive look to the coasters.

That’s literally all it takes to make practical, pretty coasters. For me, the hardest part was cleaning up all of the tiny bits of felt that fell on my lap when I was trimming pieces.

Now for a quick peek at the backs of some finished coasters:

Look at that—they’re reversible! Even if you top your coasters with seasonal designs, just flip them over they can still be used during the off season.

I made the first four coasters as an experiment. I thought my sister would like them. (She did.) The coasters were so quick and fun to do—and I had enough felt left—so I decided to make another set for my brother and sister-in-law—and finally a set for myself.

 

What handmade gifts did you get or receive this holiday season?

 

 

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Summer Slump

Ah, summer. My least-favorite season. (Sorry, summer lovers, but sweating while standing still is not my idea of fun.)

My desire to knit and crochet anything more than cotton dishcloths is virtually non-existant in hot weather. And remember the knitting machine a friend gave me? I still haven’t read the books that came with it. One detail I gleaned from a quick glance at the books is that the knitting machine needs to be clamped to a strong table.

The only option here would be the heavy-duty formica-topped drop-leaf table Grandma bought when she moved from her house to an apartment. But that’s where the sewing machine is currently set up for making throw pillow covers for my sister. I’ve even left the ironing board up since the loud squeak it makes each time it’s set up or taken down freaks out Doggie Sadie.

Perspectives can be deceiving. This pillow is a whopping 27″ x 27″.

The sad part? I’ve only made two pillows so far. The first cover I made was for a huge 27″ pillow form. It was very frustrating because my sewing machine kept jamming. I thought I’d loaded the bobbin wrong. Nope. The machine was threaded properly, too. Then I realized the thread was too thick for the needle. I switched to a standard weight thread and all was well.

My sister bought two large pieces of that particular remnant, so I had more than enough to make a removable cover: a square front, and two rectangular pieces that overlap a few inches in the back.

This pillow is 12″ x 18″.

The second pillow is striped, and I wanted the stripes to run horizontally. While I had enough fabric to make it removable, I knew the reverse side would look really bad if I couldn’t align the stripes perfectly….so this cover isn’t removable.

The pillow form is machine washable, so if my sister washes the entire thing and the fabric shrinks or looks wrinkled, I can always make another cover.

A big reason I consider sewing a summer project: The only air conditioner in the house is in the dining room. (It’s an addition. The original house has large, beautiful casement windows that open like doors, but the addition has ugly canopy windows, so I had a canopy window removed and a window unit built in. And yes, I saved the old window in case anyone ever wants to put it back in.)

Once I finish some more pillows I’ll put the sewing machine away and start reading the knitting machine books. Then I’ll try setting up the knitting machine. From what I’ve learned so far, it will probably need a sponge bar, and I’ll also have to see what types of yarn I can use in it.

In the meantime, a friend who makes hats for the homeless gave me a grocery bag full of brand new cotton yarn. She couldn’t use the cotton yarn for winter hats, but knew I like working with cotton yarn in the summer.

In the last week I knitted eight classic dishcloths (with another already on the needles) and crocheted several Paddlewheel Hexagons for what I hope will one day be a summer bedspread.

All that and I’ve barely made a dent in the new yarn supply.

My siblings both got creative this summer too. My brother did a woodworking project,

and my sister did an art project. I’ve asked if they’d do guest posts about their projects, and neither said no. But it will probably boil down to if either of them remembered to take photos while making their projects.

What summer crafts have you been working on? 

Leftover Yarn to the Rescue

I often say my dog, Sadie, has never seen a throw pillow she didn’t want to eviscerate. That’s not quite accurate. There are a couple she’s left alone, one being this Impromptu Pillow I made several years ago.

When I realized I had a couple of 10″ pillow forms and the two skeins of yarn Guest Dog Stanley got into a few months back, I decided to make a tiny version of the Impromptu Pillow. The 10″ pillows are small enough they could be dog toys (especially for my giant furry nephew, Duke—a Redbone Coonhound and Great Pyrenees mix), but since the Impromptu Pillows have  crocheted edges, I knew I could make it look larger by adding a couple more rounds of edging.

I designed the original pillows to be made with super bulky yarn, so I had to adjust the gauge, using the gauge information from the yarn label that Stanley didn’t shred to determine how many stitches I needed to make to make a square to fit the 10″ pillow form.

Since this particular yarn says 20 rows of 14 stitches knitted on US 10 needles averages a 10cm square, I used a ruler that has inches and centimeters to figure out how many centimeters I wanted the square to be. Gauge can vary a lot by knitter, so I first tried 28 stitches, but that ran a bit small. Then I tried 30. That was still a bit small, and I also remembered that seed stitch works easiest with an odd number of stitches—because each row starts with and ends with a knit stitch there’s really no pattern to remember other than Knit 1, Purl 1.

Thirty-five was the magic number for me. After a couple of false starts, It was finally time to start knitting.

 

The color is off in this, since it was taken at night under artificial light.

I didn’t count rows, I just eyeballed the size of the first square, and used it as my guide for the second square.

You’d think knitting panels for a smaller pillow would take less time, but I was using smaller needles and a thinner yarn. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it got a bit monotonous. There’s a reason I love thick yarn and big needles: The work goes a lot faster.

I made sure to finish each square with an odd row, so the cast-on tail would be at the lower right and the cast-off tail on the upper left.

Then the assembly began:

I positioned the pieces around the pillow form and used the tails to secure the corners.

After securing all four corners, I used stitch markers to mark the approximate center of each side.

Starting at a corner, I joined matching yarn—you could use a contrasting color if you like—and used a simple single crochet to join the first two edges. If you don’t crochet, or want a more modern, streamlined look, you can always skip the edging and sew the edges together with matching yarn and a blunt, large-eyed needle. But remember, my goal here was to make a 10″ pillow look larger.

I used 24 stitches to close each side of the pillow, and for the corners I did 1 single crochet, 1 double crochet, 1 single crochet all in one stitch to form a square corner.

I improvised the edging, but sketched out a few options, with each dash representing a single crochet stitch. (I am not fluent in crochet charting symbols, so I did what made sense to me.) The first row was basically a repeat of 1 single crochet, skip one space, chain 1, 1 single crochet (starting each round with a chain 1  in place of the first single crochet, and ending each round with a slip stitch joining to it for the final stitch).

 

The final round I did—starting and ending like the previous round—was essentially a repeat of chain four, 1 single crochet in the chain 1 space, and the corners were chain 2, 1 triple crochet (into the double crochet stitch of the previous round), chain 2 which ended with a single crochet which leads right back to repeated stitch pattern.

I think the final result looks pretty nice. A little bit of a lacy flourish, but not too ostentatious. Here it is sitting next to the 16″ Impromptu Pillow shown above. That pillow only has one row of edging because I was nearly out of yarn. That super bulky yarn also doesn’t really allow the lacy details of the crocheted edging to show through. So I guess there are advantages to using smaller needles and thinner yarn. Sometimes.

Anyone want to guess how long it will take Sadie to attack this new pillow?

 

 

Remnants to the Rescue

One of the first things my sister and I did after she gave me a new sewing machine for Christmas in 2015 was hit the fabric store.

The first place I like to stop in any fabric shop is the remnants area. You can find small amounts of expensive fabric for a fraction of the price. On that trip we found a lot of remnants to turn into throw pillows. We both loved a silky muted blue-green fabric with copper-colored French knots.

I like the back as much as the front of this fabric.

I thought it would be perfect to replace the faded fabric inserts in the shutters in the back bedroom. Fortunately there were two pieces of that fabric so we didn’t have to fight.

To underscore the cost-savings of buying remnants: this “designer” fabric was originally priced at a ridiculous $29.99 per yard, but was only $5 per yard as a remnant. The $5.63 piece was 1.125 yards (just enough for this project), and the $9.76 piece was 1.952 yards. I should be able to cover a couple pillow forms with the larger piece.

Yes. I know. I sure took my time before using any of those remnants. Probably because I didn’t realize how badly faded the old fabric was until I removed all eight inserts from the shutters. They’ve been getting the afternoon sun for the better part of a decade, so I’d say the plain cotton quilting fabric held up very well, despite the sun bleaching.

Originally a dark muddy green, the fronts of the inserts faded to an olive green while the backs were sun-bleached nearly white.

The first thing I did was measure the old inserts and the new remnants. Having replaced these inserts before, I knew the upper and lower shutters were different lengths, and the old inserts were each about eight inches wide, roughly double the width of each shutter. While the front of the fabric doesn’t appear to have an up-and-down direction to it, the back does, so I wanted to cut all eight panels in the same direction.

Of course, it was only after cutting the shorter panels that I realized I forgot to allow the extra two inches needed to form pockets for the small tension rods that hold the top and bottom of each panel in place.

Luckily I had the second remnant. No worries, either. The four mis-cut panels should still work well for the pillow covers.

After all the pieces were properly cut, it was pretty much an assembly line process:

  • Press a quarter-inch fold, towards the back, on all of the long edges. (On the old inserts, I folded the fabric twice for a clean, finished edge, but the French knots in this fabric create more bulk, and would be difficult to sew over when sandwiched between two layers of cloth.)
  • Sew the side hems.
  • Form pockets for the tension rods on one end of each panel, starting with a quarter-inch fold for a clean edge, then fold again, approximately one inch. Press and pin.
  • Sew the pockets.
  • Next is the only fussy part: figuring out the right length for the second pocket. I knew the four upper panels needed to be 24-1/2″ and the lower ones 27-1/2″. I folded, and measured carefully before pressing, pinning, and sewing.

Once all of the panels were sewn, it was time to slip them on the tension rods and into the shutters. How cool that the copper rods coordinate so well with the fabric!

Uh-oh. Time for the embarrassing photo. But I need it to show you how the panels fit into the shutters, so try really hard to ignore the fact that I never painted the back side of the shutters.

Only two of the panels were a little tight. But my dad made these shutters long ago, so the spaces for the little rods are no more precise than the lengths of the new inserts. I just tried the tight ones in different openings and they all fit without needing any of the pockets to be ripped out and re-sewn.

Once all eight panels were in, I noticed a happy accident: Shadows of those cool ribbons I love show through in daylight, creating a whole new look.

By day.

By night.

It’s like getting two looks from one project.

In a few years, once the sun has done its damage, I wonder what kind of patterns those ribbons on the back will have created.

What d-i-y projects have you done lately?

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