It’s in the bag.

crocheted purse upright viewI am so thrilled with this finish: a durable, roomy new purse!

I have wanted to crochet a purse for a long time. I started and stopped several different patterns patterns several times, each time fighting the same problem: It’s so doggone difficult to see when crocheting in black! The only way I can get black stitches done right is to work directly under the glare of a seriously bright lamp. And how much fun is that?

It was so much simpler to put that project aside and pick up something I could see easily, and I did.

For eight months.

It wasn’t until my old purse literally fell apart (more on that in a few) that I bit the bullet and committed to crocheting under that bright, hot lamp until I got past the solid black section of the purse.

Once those black-only rounds were done, the project got a lot easier. The whole purse body is done with a double strand of yarn. Double-tan, or one black + one tan, is loads easier to see than double-black, and so the strong lighting was not necessary for the longest stretch of stitching.

crocheted purse flat viewOf course I had to really buckle down again to finish the final black rounds and the handles, but by that time, I’d made enough progress to stay motivated and just. do. it.

purse closureThis magnetic closure is something I Frankensteined from my old purse. In fact, as used-up as the body of that old purse was, I salvaged quite a few potentially-useful items from it before I tossed it.

purse salvage

NOT junked: said magnetic snap closure, a short nylon zipper, two 8-inch lengths of leather strap, and 4 really cool long wooden beads that I removed from the old purse before it hit the trash can

And so the old gets new life!

About that fantastic pinstriped lining–I paid a grand total of 77¢ to rescue it from a remnant bin. This purse took up less than half of that 3/4-yard remnant, so Eventual Self-Made Purse #2 will one day get a snazzy lining, too.

purse lining

Maybe next time I’ll put a salvaged zipper in the lining pocket, even!

I’d always intended to put a pocket in the lining, but the purse’s outer pocket was a digression from my original plan. You know how crochet in the round leans slightly to the diagonal? I thought that tilting looked strange in this gradient-look color pattern. So I covered it with a pocket–one precisely sized to the dimensions of my cell phone. Win.

purse with side pocket showingSo yeah, I put a lot of stalling in at the front end of the project. BUT now that I’ve been using my new purse for a week, I can say without reservation that it’s EVERYTHING I hoped for. Of course. It’s custom in practically every way!

Finishing this purse also took one more long-term project out of the stack of knitting/crocheting/sewing materials sitting around my house. So I’m going to go ahead and call this a Messy to Classy finish, too. Here’s the corner my purse-in-progress bag was in before:


The purse was in that navy tote bag BEFORE.

…and here’s that corner now, with the purse and several smaller projects newly finished:

DSCN5072Obviously I still have a long way to go, but heck. Progress is progress. Thanks for the inspiration, Preeti!

Your turn, fellow crafters: What’s the project you’ve longed to do but put off because the going was difficult? What was your most gratifying project once you finally got around to doing it? And what’s the strangest place/item from which you’ve salvaged notions?

Warm necks

I knew it’d been a while since I posted, but until just this moment I hadn’t realized it was nearly 2 months. In that case, a little piece of catch up is more than due!

There’s been plenty going on around here, mostly crochet-wise, the past 8 weeks or so. It’s just a bunch of it is long-term, so there aren’t too many finished items to share.

…except these two circular scarves.

The first: That coral yarn had been calling to me ever since the project I originally bought it for (and which used very little) was done. I can’t wear solid coral by my face, or I look like a summer squash. But this one thick stripe of it is pretty enough to satisfy without doing awful things to my complexion.

I very much like how it turned out!

large crochet scarf

It’s a simple broken shell stitch throughout, which leaves it with a scalloped edge.

scalloped crochet edgeI liked how that ending round looked, so I added one upside-down round to the starting side so it has a scallop, too. The sides aren’t precisely the same, but it works.

And the second scarf. When one of my most favorite people came through my house one day and saw the yarn sitting in a bin, she said she loved those colors together. I looked again when she left. There was enough for a scarf and not much else. Fate. And a completely enjoyable gift to grant!

turquoise peach scarfMy only hesitation was, the yarn (something from one of Tillie’s crates that had no label) was fuzzy-ish but didn’t feel especially soft. Fortunately, it’s one of those yarns that completely changes character after a wash. It’s perfectly cozy around the neck now.

fuzzy yarn stitches

Scarves. Simple, colorful, warm, and fun times two!

I still have those long-term things to finish, but at the moment, I’m feeling kind of knitty. I think this weekend’s plans will include a quick-satisfaction dishcloth or two.

What’s fresh off–or on!–your craft to-do list?

A few fun knits

knitted dishclothYour eyes do not deceive you…that picture you see is a total departure from the recent trend around here. Yes, I’ve actually finished something in the past week that isn’t a hat.

I printed out that dishcloth pattern (as well as several other letters from the Knitting Knonsense alphabet series–find them all here) ages ago. Now that I’ve finally worked it up, I am perfectly pleased. It’s a quick, satisfying project, and the letter definition is very clear in the completed fabric. I will definitely use this pattern again for my “M” gift recipient!

One note if you use this pattern: I haven’t looked at all of the letters, or maybe I’m overlooking a direction that appears earlier in the Knitting Knonsense website. But anyway, I didn’t see a needle size indicated. In this M’s case, I picked #8’s. The resulting cloth is just slightly smaller than the usual finished dishcloth (not “too small” at all, though), but I think those nice tight stitches are part of the reason the letter is so well-defined. I’ll do the same next time I make one.

…and then, dishcloth (and–check!–one part of one future Christmas gift) done, I slid back into the familiar. Hats!

Here’s the first, sized for an older baby or small toddler.

knitted child's hat in purpleI tried several different ways but couldn’t get the color to photograph accurately. It’s purple, not blue. The yarn is Caron Simply Soft in “iris,” a really vibrant, joyful shade that I’ve used for several previous projects.

And then there’s this tiny one, for a newborn baby.

knitted newborn hat in pink

knitted newborn hat in pink--top detailRepeat above disclaimer about color and lighting…this yarn is really soft 3-weight 3-ply in a gentle shell pink. It’s yet another find I unearthed from Tillie’s stash.

Which brings us to…

for self/family: 2

for charity: 13

…and a little bit more of a little tiny dent in the yarn stash. Honestly, I’m beginning to think I could keep at this goal for far longer than just this year and still not have the stash down to a reasonably storable volume. Ah, well. What a happy problem to have. I’m still enjoying the journey, which is the whole goal of a craft, right?

Your turn. What are your needles and hooks up to lately?

More kids’ crochet

three crocheted kids' hatsA hat is a practically perfect stash project: small amount of yarn, and pretty quickly done, so a person can toss off a whole bunch of them in a short time and feel really accomplished in (shh!) relatively few stitches.

The group picture here is not wonderful by any stretch, but luckily the separate pictures came out clearer.







This is the first hat of the bunch to be done:

crocheted toddler hat in pastelsThe second one:

crocheted toddler boy hatAnd finally, this:

crocheted pink stripes hat Have to tell a story on this one. I’ve used lots of this sparkly white yarn before, but this was my first time for the pink. It’s from a nearly-full skein I pulled out of Tillie’s stash. It’s not my favorite shade of pink, so it had been sitting around doing nothing since I inherited her stuff about two years ago now. In small bites–skinny sc rounds interspersed with white dc rounds–it’s a far less objectionable color. I’d even go so far as to say, dressed like this, I like it.

crocheted pink stripes hat close-upWhich brings the 2015 tally to…

for self/family: 1

for charity: 11

I picked up a long-term crochet WIP again, sort of, two weeks ago. Now I’ve lost steam on it once again. For now, I’ll leave you with just the bottom ribbing (it eventually will be a cardigan), which went on seemingly for MILES and finally is finished.

crochet cardigan ribbingNext stop: The sleeves.

Good thing I’ve banked a bunch of charity items, I guess. It will take me ages to sit down long enough to finish, REALLY finish, this one. I know I will love this cardigan when it’s done, but…

For the moment, I’m spoiled by the quick-fix gratification of hats!

What have you accomplished lately, crafters? And what have you made a bit of progress on, even if it’s, oh, say, just a swath of ribbing or such, but not a complete finish?

Another tip of my hat(s)

DSCN4607I finished off a few more projects before the deadline for our school’s Mitten Tree! This bunch is all done in knit.

Two of these items (well, technically, three, but what’s the use of a single mitten? Therefore, a pair counts as “one”) come together into a matched set, as you can see. This hat/mitten set is done in a child’s small, listed as toddler 2-4.

I’ve worked the hat pattern before (for the sparkly white knit set from this post). It’s written efficiently, makes a warm hat that fits snugly, and is simple and rather plain, not heavy on texture.


…except for a showy, but not overwhelming, swirl of PSSO decreases to shape the top.

That plainness makes this pattern perfect for yarn that demands attention–in this case, stripes. Oh, how I love stripes!

The mitten pattern came from the same book. I like that the gusset and thumb are built in, not added later with picked-up stitches. Nice, since I’m, ahem, all thumbs when it comes to picking up stitches. Not my favorite thing to do in knit.

DSCN4608The third new knit item is a hat, made from my old favorite pattern of Grandmother’s. This ribbed hat is a nice choice for a charity drive. It has lots of stretch and an adjustable folded cuff, so it can fit anyone who is unexpectedly in need of a hat, toddler through adult.


And with that, I’ve brought my 2015 Destashing through Giving tally to

for self/family: 1

for charity: 8

Mitten Tree is done, but another outerwear collection drive in my city is going on through the 30th. I foresee a bunch more yarn consumption in the next week and a half!

Crafters, share your favorites! Which warm, practical patterns are your go-tos for charity knitting or crocheting projects?

Hats off to charity

DSCN4605My preschooler’s class had a Mitten Tree project again this year. This was a perfect opportunity to put some of my overstock of yarn to good use. I had a lot of fun with these crocheted hats!

As with last year’s mitten tree, these hats were strongly influenced by my grandma’s good friend, Tillie, whose copious crafting stash I inherited two years ago.

Two of the hats were actually crocheted who-knows-how-many years ago by Tillie herself–at least, the rectangles that form the main bodies of the hats were. All I did to finish them was add a seam and a pompom, then fold up a cuff.


DSCN4604I think Tillie would have been very pleased to know her work was going to someone who might be very, very cold without it.

For another three hats, I did the crocheting myself but used Tillie’s yarn. The first, from a super-soft, fluffy, easy-care variegated yarn, is sized for an older infant.

DSCN4610These next two were a whole different kind of fun. I loved planning out the stripe patterns. This one’s sized about about right for a three-year-old girl,


Those stripes make me think of sherbet. Mmm!

and this one is large enough for an adult.

DSCN4601And there you have my first batch of crochet items for my 2015 Destashing through Giving tally:

for self/family: 1

for charity: 5

Bonus brag! Wouldn’t you know, most of the material for these hats had been tucked into the same storage bag, so I can actually share my first 2015 Messy to Classy photos now, too:


the whole overstuffed “before” bag


contents of “before” bag, spread out for viewing


…and the contents, “after.” (Yes, there’s now a second ball of fuchsia yarn. I swear I did not buy more! That’s from frogging out part of one of Tillie’s rectangles to get it down to children’s hat-sized.)


packed up again, “after.” Is that actually empty space in there now?!

Obviously I haven’t made it to the “classy” finish line yet on that particular storage bag, but I like the progress so far.

Check out what other reformed-Messies are up to on Preeti’s link party page here:

What are you working on lately, fellow crafters? Share your current project links, stories, and photos below.

A finish, and some more motivation

DSCN4500Here’s my first finish of the year, which I promptly gave to my mother-in-law. She appreciates a good, hard-wearing knitted dishcloth better than anyone else I know.

Using two yarns for a single dishcloth was a sort-of new thing for me. I know I’ve crocheted 2-color dishcloths, but I don’t remember doing it in knit before. If so, it apparently wasn’t very impressive. This one, I will remember for sure.

This plaid pattern is from a Leisure Arts book I’ve used before. From straight on, it’s just pretty, but when you get a view from the side, you see the interesting texture, too.


DSCN4506I think this pattern would look even more striking in higher-contrast colors. I may do this one again in cream and emerald green–both of which I do have on hand, so that would totally be in keeping with my new de-stashing goal.

Speaking of which, I guess it’s time to begin the 2015 destashing tally. Here goes.

for self/family: 1

for charity: 0

Besides the de-stashing goal, I’m finding get ‘er done motivation from the 2015 Messy to Classy link party.

I haven’t taken any pictures yet, and once I do, it will take a whole bunch of finishes before anyone else would be able to discern a difference between my “before” and “after.” But I do love the idea of Preeti’s link party and will be checking in regularly to see everyone’s progress.


Go, classy crafters and fellow de-stashers alike!

What crafting link parties/blogs/forums keep you motivated?

A year of…

20152014 was a great craft year for me. I made dozens of things, from a big afghan that took almost 11 months to finish to baby headbands that went so fast, I tossed off 2 or 3 a night.

I made items practical and items whimsical. I used the cheapest broadcloth fabric or acrylic yarn, or the softest natural-fiber blends, as the project dictated.

I ran my usual range, sewing to crocheting to knitting, and even experimented a little with scrap fabric appliques.

It’s all so fun and satisfying, but this year, I want to do more than keep up the momentum. I want to continue to be productive, but all these materials tumbling out of closets and corners have become a real problem. I’ve read so many other crafters admit to the same problem I have: The supply has outgrown the space I have to contain it.

I need to get things out of bins and bags and boxes here and there. I need to finish the unfinished, and I need to use what I have to do it.

At the same time, it wouldn’t help my storage crisis to take 1000 yards of yarn from my closet, crochet them into a sweater, and then puzzle over how to wedge my new sweater into that same crowded closet.

The fact is–other than quick-consumables like dishcloths and scrubbies and hard-worn children’s mittens–we don’t often need anything that I craft. Besides, for me, the satisfaction of crafting is often in the doing, not in the possessing.

And so, the solution must be to make a greater percentage of things that I intend to send off to live somewhere else. I do that fairly well now, but the state of my closets screams “not well enough.”

I’d like to try my hand at selling, yes, so maybe this should be the year I finally make good on my occasional threat to secure a local consignment agreement.

But even more, maybe this should be the year I craft for a cause. If I want to de-stash in a meaningful way, charity is just the ticket.

So, a 2-part resolution:

For each item I make/finish off for myself or my family during 2015, and for each item I make to sell for cash, I will also make/finish off something to give to a nonprofit.

For short, I’m going to call this part of the goal “destashing through giving.” I’m even going to make it a separate category on this blog so I have a quick way of sorting through my post records to check up on my balance throughout the year.

And except for things for my family, all I make this year will be fashioned exclusively from materials I already have, until the stash is slim enough to be put away neatly and order has been restored.

If you think you spy some loopholes in there, you’re right. “For my family” covers several “don’t acquire more supply” exceptions: dishcloths (because my yarn stash is mostly non-cotton right now), the “who can predict” of kids’ Halloween and school play costumes (in addition to stash fabric, I needed feathers, thermal underwear, and paint to finish this last season’s costumes), and sewing thread and elastic (because that’s just a fact of mending).

But as far as I can see now, those will be it for new purchases.

Let the stash control and charity stitching begin!

What are your crafting resolutions this year? Have you ever crafted for a charity, and if so, which one? Links, photos, and other inspiration are welcome!

A big, soft floral finish

DSCN4473 I’ve been enjoying my newly finished afghan for about a week now. The cool days and outright cold nights are perfect for test-driving this kind of crochet project!

My afghan turned out to be everything I’d hoped for: colorful but not garish, warm but not heavy, pretty but not too frilly to be welcome in this house populated by more males than females, and just the right size to fold neatly across the back of our couch.

At my last afghan update, I showed off block #21. Block 22 was done not long after I posted. Then I got on a roll and cranked out blocks 23 and 24 in an overexcited marathon 24-hour period before really contemplating the next step.

Since I’d opted in to only my favorite 6 of the 24 patterns Tamara selected for her Moogly crochet-along, my challenge was in arranging the finished blocks (4 of each pattern) so that no two of the same pattern were directly adjacent. I wanted them spread fairly equally around the afghan, but I didn’t want it too look too studied, too far from random. The look I had in mind was organic but not unkempt.

It took a little trial and error before I settled on this plan. Imagine each block’s labeled with pattern 1-6 and color variation A-B. First I laid them out so each was used once:

Row 1: 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A

Row 2: 5A, 6A, 1B, 2B

Row 3: 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B

…and then I reversed the rows for the second half so that each top-to-bottom column would contain every pattern, no pattern repeats within either a row or a column…

Row 4: 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A

Row 5: 2B, 1B, 6A, 5A

Row 6: 6B, 5B, 4B, 3B

For the joining, I wanted something suggestive of vines or twigs sort of growing among all those flower-inspired blocks. Flowers and vines, right? And I really, really wanted to incorporate a few leaves here and there in the joins, too. Initially I planned to make those leaves from the treble cluster that’s repeated throughout the Catalina afghan square. That was, after all, not only the square that convinced me to join this crochet-along in the first place, but leaves would have been perfectly in line with my vines-and-flowers idea.

As it turned out, I couldn’t do the leaves. I had to keep the joins very simple so they didn’t eat up all my yarn. I didn’t realize I’d estimated low on yardage when I ordered the green, and by the time I tried to buy more, I couldn’t match dye lots.

simple crochet block joinThe regret was short-lived. Now that it’s all together, I’m perfectly happy with how the joins turned out. For the border, at first I wished I’d been able to get a third round in, but the two-round border I ended up with is very nice, too. If I’d added a third, it would have been lacier and more formal looking, and that wouldn’t do for the “not too frilly” requirement!

2-round crocheted afghan borderTwo big things I learned from this project:

– The same brand, same line, same weight yarn–I used nothing but Premier Deborah Norville Everyday Worsted–can be vastly different in thickness and heft from one color to another. Working the same pattern with the same hook but in different color variations, I got blocks that were as much as an inch and a half different in finished width,

– so, I learned how to adjust for those differences to make the block sizes match in the end.

And I’m very pleased with the final results!


What is/was/very soon will be your last big finish for 2014?

A ho-ho-hat

DSCN4439 My latest crochet finish: Well, if ever there were a photo that needs no explanation, that’s the one!

(Despite having just said that, one detail to add. This hat comes with a quirky twist. I’ll post about that separately once I have a few last adjustments done.)


(Oh, and barring schedule glitches, I’ll pop back in sometime this week to share a quick how-to for those crocheted holly leaf appliques. They’re quick and easy, I promise! Updated 12/24/14: Well, those schedule glitches happened. Clearly it’s now too late for this year…2015, maybe?)

Do you have any festive seasonal items on your WIP or just-finished list this week? Description, photo, and pattern links are welcome!

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