Saturday, June 22, 2013

Crochet Anon

Hi, my name is Jane and I crochet. *sigh*

I have nearly depleted my stash of cotton yarn in the last two weeks, enjoying every single stitch! I've completed a dozen dish cloths, trying different things like making them round or adding a scalloped edge.

I was working a square of Soft Ecru yarn and it was so beautiful that I kept making it larger and larger until the entire skein was finished. Then I connected some Hot Orange yarn and went around and around until that skein was finished, ending up with a table topper that measures 20" diagonally ...

I was considering embroidering something pretty in the center, but I have a feeling it will usually be covered anyway so I'm still trying to decide whether it's worth the trouble.

This is a nice change since we've been using the same table topper for two years -- a Dresden plate that I'm kind of tired of looking at, even though it works wonderfully on the round table.

I may have worked through this recent obsession since I found myself picking up a knitting project this morning instead of making another dish cloth, but just in case, I'll be checking the listings to look for yarn junkie meetings.

So many projects, never enough time ...

Friday, June 14, 2013

How to Crochet a Dish Cloth

I've been crocheting with cotton balls. Oh, all right, I admit that is a little bit misleading since I am actually referring to these cotton balls ...

Balls of Lily Sugar 'n Cream 100% cotton yarn. I have a bag full of this stuff that I've collected in every color of the rainbow. In 2007, I started knitting again when I saw the TV show "Knitty Gritty" and they were making bar cloths. I immediately drove to Michael's to buy cotton yarn! My personal favorite project to make with this yarn is a dish cloth, which I usually knit, but last weekend I had the urge to pick up a crochet hook.

I decided to finish off some of the partially used skeins of yarn left over from other projects. I started by making a single crocheted center square and then changed yarn to add a border around it in a different color. The border is done by single crocheting all the way around the square, then again in double crochet or half double crochet or whatever stitch you like. I am a left-handed self-taught crocheter and I really don't know what the particular stitches are, usually just winging it until I get something I like. I tend to have the most fun when things are a little loosey goosey and, believe me, there was plenty of ripping out and redoing until I got into a comfortable rhythm.

Here is my first completed dish cloth ...

Is it just me or do you obsess by doing the same thing over and over? You know, get on a kick that just keeps repeating itself because it's enjoyable ... chicken salad sandwiches for lunch every day, reading the same author one book after another, wanting to wear the same outfit repeatedly because it's so comfortable? Well, I also do this with crafting ...

Somebody stop me ... except I'm having so much fun amassing a nice little pile of dish cloths as we watch TV during the evening. They make great gifts, are wonderful not only for dish washing but face washing too, and the cotton yarn is soft and natural so great for baby wash cloths.

This project is made with just a few inexpensive supplies and very basic stitches so it's a great way to teach yourself to crochet and make something wonderful in the process with your own two hands!

Here is my basic method for making one of these dish cloths:

Crocheted Cotton Dish Cloth

1 or 2 skeins of 100% cotton yarn (use coupons at Michael's and Jo-Ann's - around $3 for a 120 yard skein or you can buy larger cones)
Size H/8 crochet hook
Yarn needle for weaving in ends

To help you get started or if you need a refresher, great instructions for basic crochet stitches can be found at

  • Chain stitch 25
  • Skip the first stitch and single crochet in each of the remaining 23 chain stitches
  • At the end of each row, chain 2, then turn and single crochet across the row
  • Single crochet in the front loop of each stitch - this keeps it light and lacy
  • This will give you a width of approximately 6"
  • Continue to single crochet back and forth until you've made a square

Here is where you begin with new yarn if you're changing color for the border. You will cut your first yarn, leaving a 3" tail, then pull it through the loop to fasten it off. When you start the new color in that same corner, hold both tails against the edge and enclose them with your single crochet to eliminate having to weave them in later. (This is probably my favorite trick because I hate weaving in ends!)

Or you can continue on with the same yarn and make a single color dish cloth ...

  • Single crochet all the way around the 4 sides of the square but this time insert your hook under both the front and back loops together -- this makes a heavier border
  • When you crochet over the beginning point where you started your chain, hold the beginning tail next to the edge and enclose it with your single crochet stitch -- this eliminates having to weave in the tail end
  • When you've made it all the way around, chain 3 at the corner, then start a round of double crochet (okay, I caved and looked it up and apparently the stitch I use is double crochet), again inserting your hook under both loops

  • When you reach each corner, double crochet 3 times in the same stitch/hole to help you turn the corner nicely
  • When you've made it all the way around to the beginning, chain 3, then slip stitch your original corner stitch together with the last stitch to complete the round
  • Cut the tail at about 3", then pull through the loop and weave it in with your yarn needle. Finished size is approximately 8" square, but you can make them any size you like. You should be able to get two dish cloths from each skein of yarn or four if you're using two skeins of yarn and changing color for the border.

Dish washing is a lot more fun with a pretty little dish cloth that you made yourself. Or it should be anyway!

So many projects, never enough time.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sew a Coffee Cup Cuff :: Tutorial

I know there are a gazillion tutorials to make sleeves for coffee cups, both the paper kind served at coffee shops and insulated plastic to go cups. Well, now there are a gazillion and one because I've been rolling this idea around for a while and decided to try it out by making something special for my dad for Father's Day.

I purchased this 16 oz. Copco double-wall insulated plastic cup from Bed, Bath & Beyond for $5.00. It does have a textured, non-slip sleeve but adding a fabric cuff over it is so much nicer. I have a huge bag of my husband's old dress shirts that I intend to turn into a quilt someday, but I kept thinking how cool it would be to chop the cuff off of one of them to make a "masculine" coffee cup cuff.

This shirt is made of very soft, heavy 100% cotton. I used my rotary cutter to slice the cuff off about 1" above the edge of the cuff. Let me just say now that there is no fancy math or measuring in this project ... everything is simply eyeballed. Yep, this is my kind of project!

There are 2 buttons already on the cuff, which were perfect to use as is. For a loop to fasten the cuff, I used a small ponytail holder cut in half. This package is from the grocery store -- 40 for $4.00 which works out to $.10 each. Cut in half, that's a nickel for this project.

Since the shirt cuff is already 2-sided and fairly thick, I added a piece of linen for lining and a piece of flannel for padding. Again, cutting these pieces was done by eyeballing, no measuring involved. I made the lining larger than the cuff and the flannel smaller than the cuff.

Iron the cuff flat and press the long raw edge to the inside. Turn under the 4 edges of the linen lining so it fits within the edges of the shirt cuff and iron.

Fold the small piece of ponytail elastic in half and stitch to one end of the linen lining on the inside/wrong side. I just stitched back and forth over it a bunch of times with the sewing machine.

Layer the shirt cuff right side down, then the piece of flannel, and top with the linen lining right side up. Here is the one very important step to make sure this turns out correctly ... place the end of the lining with the elastic opposite the end of the shirt cuff with the buttons. 

Pin the heck out of the layers to keep everything in place while you stitch it together but remove the pins as you go along; don't sew over them. Because you cannot run the short end with the buttons through the sewing machine, just stitch down one long side, across the end with the elastic, then the other long side.

Even though I starched it, the linen was a little stretchy and I had to sew very slowly, continuously raising the presser foot and smooshing it (technical term) as I went along. Note to self: quilting cotton would probably be much easier to use as a lining.

By hand, whip stitch the lining closed on the button end.

VoilĂ !

Wrap around your cup and go ...

By recycling/reusing the shirt cuff with buttons, this project is fast and easy to make. Masculine gifts can be so hard to come up with, I love the idea of using a men's dress shirt to make these.

Wouldn't they be fun in a solid fabric embroidered with his name or initials? Or with a meaningful patch sewn on?

So many projects, never enough time ...

Friday, June 7, 2013

Mini Caprese Salad Recipe

One of my favorite dishes to order in Italian restaurants has always been Insalata Caprese, a salad made of sliced tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil and olive oil.

Forever on the look out for "new" ways to perk up dinner, I was staring into the refrigerator recently trying to come up with something to go with barbequed burgers and the light bulb went on. Not just the fridge light, my happy little chef light too. We always have grape or cherry tomatoes, prepared pesto and extra virgin olive oil on hand, and we had some grated mozzarella. I decided to try my hand at a Mini Caprese Salad to serve on the side.

Mini Caprese Salad
serves 4

24 grape or cherry tomatoes (figure 6 per person)
1 T. pesto
1/3 cup finely grated mozzarella
1 T. olive oil

Halve the tomatoes and mix in a bowl with pesto.
Stir in the mozzarella, then the olive oil.
Put in a pretty bowl and chill.

This is so refreshing and delicious. It goes well with everything ... chicken, steak, fish, burgers. And who am I kidding? It tastes great all by itself right out of the bowl and the real trick is not eating it all before whatever you're serving it with is done. Although it's so fast and easy to make, it's not a problem to stir up more before the family realizes what you did.

Bon appetit!