Author Archives: seesawyer

About seesawyer

I have a personal crafting blog wherein I discuss sewing, crochet, knitting, and tatted lace

Pattern: Honeycomb mitts and hat

Tunisian honeycomb mitts and hat

Tunisian honeycomb mitts and hat

I promised y’all I’d write up a pattern for the Tunisian mitts and hat I’ve been talking about, and now I have.

Ravelry link: link

PDF pattern: Honeycomb mitts and hat

It’s probably an intermediate pattern at least, although I have no sense of these things. Tunisian in the round is a bit of an adventure, although once you get the hang of it it’s not bad at all. You do need a special hook—a double-ended one, which you can get a few basic sizes of at a lot of craft stores, failing which I’m sure you can get one online.

Tutorial: Tasseled tatted bookmark

Tatted bookmarks with tassels

Tatted bookmarks with tassels

I’ve made a bunch of tatted bracelets lately, and while I was working on one of those an idea struck me for another way to use all the edging patterns I’ve posted: fancy-schmancy bookmarks with a matching tassel on them. After all, tatting thread is pretty ideal for making tassels, so you can get perfect matching, and the actual fabrication of a tassel can’t be but so hard. And, unlike many of my “can’t be but so hard” moments, this one turned out well: tassels are really, really easy to make, especially if you have your tatting tools on hand.

Brown tassel with the frame I used to make it and a ruler for scale.

Brown tassel with the frame I used to make it and a ruler for scale.

You don’t need any special supplies if you’re a needle tatter; if you use shuttles, you’ll probably want a tapestry needle or similar just to tuck in the thread ends, or possibly a tiny crochet hook. You may also want some sort of tool to set the length of your tassels—a 6″ metal ruler, a pack of 5″ index cards, a pack of 4″ playing cards, etc. depending on the length you want—but you can also just use your hand, especially for shorter tassels. For the white tassel, I used my hand, and for the left I used a frame built out of Zometools, which are a modeling kit I have a lot of on hand.


  1. Ready for a tassel

    Ready for a tassel

    Choose a lace pattern and make about a 6″ strip, or whatever length you want the bookmark body to be. Shown are my Atlantis edging and garden path edging. Make sure you end with at least a foot of thread left on either the needle or ball thread, and at least 6″ (or longer for a longer tassel) on the other.

  2. Hold both threads  together and tie an overhand knot in them, snugged down close to the end of the work. Still holding them together, tie another overhand knot about an inch away—this creates the dead thread between the top of the tassel and the bookmark to go over the top of the book. This doesn’t have to be exact—mine are about exactly a half-inch and an inch-and-a-half.
  3. Making a tassel

    Making a tassel

    Set the work aside and start making your tassel. Using your same thread, wrap it around your hand or your length-setting tool 20-30 times, depending on how fat you want the tassel to be. Mine are 22 (brown) and 31 (white) wraps. Note: the width of the object, not the circumference, sets the length of the tassel, so your hand will give a 3-4″ tassel.

  4. Finish the wraps with a bit of overlap between the two ends (see photo) and cut. Work the next step on the far end of the loops from the overlapped area, as best you can judge, so the loose ends will both be at least the length of the finished tassel.
  5. Taking the tatted piece up again, tie the two loose threads around the bundle you’ve made, at one end. Make a good solid square knot or similar. Drop the shorter piece, holding it together with the bundled threads.
  6. Pinch the long thread against the bundle

    Pinch the long thread against the bundle

    Lay the longer piece along the bundle and use your thumbnail to pinch it against the other threads, about 3/4″ from the top of the tassel. See photo.

  7. Start wrapping the longer thread around the bundle, working back upwards towards the top of the tassel and catching the section that you were holding in place with the wraps. Wrap as tight as you can, and be careful to lay each new wrap alongside the previous without crossing or tangling the threads. 10-15 wraps is a good number, or whatever looks best to you—I would not go fewer than about 5 for durability reasons.
  8. Wraps made, ready to pass the thread down through the tassel

    Wraps made, ready to pass the thread down through the tassel

    Use your needle to tuck the last wrap you make under the second-to-last, pull tight, and then pass the needle down through the middle of the wrapped section of the bundle, pulling the thread through and tight.

  9. Cut the loops of the bundle at the bottom—a good way to do this is to hold onto the top, insert one blade of your scissors through the loops, and apply tension with both hands to make sure your scissors are right at the middle before cutting.
  10. Comb the separate strands of the tassel with your fingers to make them as aligned as possible, then trim the ends to make them all the same length. The sharper your scissors are the easier this will be.
  11. Finished! Stick it in a book or wrap it up for a fancy little gift.

bookmark_white bookmark_brown

Journal: 27 October 2014

It’s been a bit of a while since my last post, so I’ve got quite a lot of finished items to show you. The fabric I was excited about in my last journal entry is now an A-line knee-length skirt, the honeycomb mitts are finished along with a matching hat, and I’ve resumed the Great Five-Blouse Project. In the interstices of those projects I’ve also been making tatted bracelets, bringing my total up to five. The scarf I was working on in my last post is on hold—I finished off my yarn, but it is not yet a sufficient length, so on my next trip to the store I will need to get more.


The crowns edging works very well for bracelets, although they are a bit wide, so I made a couple more in different colors, and I tried out the braid edging for a less ornate bracelet. I’m especially pleased with how the green one sits—it’s a larger thread than the other two, so I skipped one full pattern repeat and ended with a slightly snugger bracelet that sits happily at the narrowest part of my wrist.


Simple A-line skirt

Simple A-line skirt

The fabric I was talking about last time turned into a skirt in what I think is record time for me—I cut the fabric the afternoon/evening of my last journal post, and finished just at bedtime the following day. It’s entirely hand-stitched, too; having the nice sewing machine hasn’t spoiled me yet. It helps that it’s just about the simplest skirt you can imagine: a knee-length A-line skirt with no frills, although it does have a set-in-side zipper, an in-seam pocket on the other side, and a button and buttonhole tab on the waistband. I’m not entirely thrilled with it—I wasn’t paying enough attention to line up the pattern on the side seams, and the button/tab arrangement is a little hinky (I should probably move the button at some point)—but it will serve. I used the Simplicity 2758 D pattern, which I’ve used before (and more faithfully), but omitted the pleat and pockets and all.

Detail of button and tab

Detail of button and tab

I did find the perfect button for it—too bad I generally wear my shirts untucked, so the button will just about always be covered!

I don’t have any new photos of the Great Five-Blouse Project, but I’ve cut the pieces for the lavender blouse (#4) and started sewing the side seams. I’m planning to do the buttonholes at least by machine, and probably the hem and plackets as well, possibly in a decorative stitch. I started the seams by hand, though, because matching curved seams on the machine is hard and prone to puckers, so it’ll be an interesting hybrid of machine and hand sewing.

Mitts and hat


Mitts and hat in Tunisian crochet

Well, I think I’ve gotten the Tunisian honeycomb bug out of my system at last. After finishing the mitts I had a fair bit of yarn left, so I decided to make a hat in the same style. I ended up a little short of the solid purple for a beanie, so it’s got a fairly wide shell edging in normal crochet. I’m not really a hats sort of person, so we’ll see how much I end up wearing it, but it’s quite comfy and promises to be warm. I’m planning to write up a proper pattern for both, so I’ll not say too much about the construction now, but here are a bunch of photos:

Journal: 15 October 2014

The back of my couch is starting to accumulate blankets...

The back of my couch is starting to accumulate blankets…

The main thing I’ve accomplished since my last post is to finish my quiltlet, about which I am very happy and proud, but I think I covered it pretty thoroughly in my pattern post, so today I’m going to talk about what else I’ve been up to.

Christmas-mix yarn dyed with Rit tangerine

Christmas-mix yarn dyed with Rit tangerine

I conducted a new yarn-dyeing experiment, using the same yarn as before but with proper, commercial made-for-cotton dye (Rit brand powder dye). I’m much happier with the results, which is not too surprising. I think I was successful in turning a Christmas mix yarn into more of a harvest colors mix. I was hoping the green would turn more brown and the red would get a bit darker/deeper, but overall I’m pretty happy. I brought the finished item to my local knitting/crochet group the other day, and nobody commented on the yarn or speculated it used to be Christmas colors, so although I can still see it I consider that a success.


Simple basket in dyed yarn

I started pretty much immediately to turn the yarn into another little basket for holding works in progress; this one has a smaller footprint than the other and correspondingly (same total yardage) taller sides. I chained 28, worked back and forth in single crochet until I had a good shape of rectangle (23 rows), then started spiraling around the entire base to make the sides, putting a decrease at each corner of every second row for the first ten rows or so, and then working even until I ran out of yarn. Photos:

Mitts almost finished - I plan to stop close to the elbow

Mitts almost finished – I plan to stop close to the elbow

As you may be able to tell from the above photos, I’ve also been chugging along on my Tunisian honeycomb mitts, which are now probably 80% done. I love how the honeycomb stitch looks, but unlike TSS I can’t just sit down and crank it out forever; my wrists get tired, so these are going a little slower. Still happy with how they are turning out, and because of the thick, cushy back of Tunisian crochet, I expect to be very happy with them come colder months. The pattern is also working out very simple; I’ll post it when the mitts are done.

Neutral-color scarf

Neutral-color scarf

Detail of pattern

Detail of pattern

In order to have something to do that wasn’t honeycomb stitch and didn’t require the sewing machine, I started another new crochet project. I’ve had this one single ball of yarn, worsted-weight bamboo-silk blend in a light tan color, sitting around for literally years; I got it because I ran out in the middle of another project, but couldn’t find the right dye lot and it was noticeably off. Anyway, I picked up another skein of the same yarn, but in a grey/silver color, when I was at the store for dye and quilt batting, and have been working them together into a fairly plain neutral-color scarf. The pattern owes inspiration to this one, but is different enough that I plan on posting it once I finish the scarf, especially since the colorwork is entirely my own invention.

Blue fabric

Blue fabric

Finally, I want to mention a new project added to my queue: I picked up some absolutely lovely blue cotton fabric at the store, because even if my list includes bits and bobs for three or four very distinct projects, I can’t leave without an impulse buy or two. The plan is for this to be a knee-length, A-line skirt suitable for professional wear. The tape is for scale: the medallion designs are fairly large, so this would not be suitable for a shirt, but I think will do well in a skirt.

Pattern: Bargello mini-quilt

Bargello mini-quilt, newly finished

Bargello mini-quilt, newly finished

It’s finished! Which means it’s time to share my pattern and design process with all of you. I don’t know how many people will be interested in one or both of these, but I intend on the one hand to share the instructions for making the same quilt, with measurements and all, and on the other to share the code that I wrote as a design tool to design many related quilts, in case the overlap of people who like quilting and speak Matlab is larger than just me. Actually I’ve tried to make the code pretty friendly, and I’m pretty confident that somebody that has done a bit of coding but no Matlab could use it, but I don’t want to try to be your programming 101 tutor today.

I am pretty darn happy with how this turned out, although I am less than perfectly pleased with the quality of my freehand quilting. I did everything for this project on the machine, which means a) it went super fast, b) the machine is officially broken in, and c) I was less comfortable with the method, so my freehand curves were worse than if I’d done it by hand. Photos:

Instructions for the identical (except color choices) quilt:

You will need:

  • A half jelly roll, or 20 strips of different, coordinating fabrics, each 2.5″ by 44″; mine was 2 strips each of 10 different colors
  • Backing fabric, 42″ by 38″
  • Batting, “craft” size or crib cut down to size, 41″ by 37″ (I used 36″ craft-size and stretched it a bit)


  1. Order your strips however you want—gradients tend to look nice—and number them 1-20. Color 1 will be in both bottom corners or your quilt, and color 20 in both top corners. In my quilt, colors 1 and 20 are the two lightest ones.
  2. Sew all your strips together along their length, with a quarter-inch seam allowance, lining up the edges on one end and letting the other end be jagged according to the different lengths of the strips. Press all seams open and flat. Strip 1 should be sewn to strip 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4, etc., and finally strip 20 should be sewn to strip 1, making the whole bunch into a tube. It’s a good idea to backstitch occasionally to reinforce the seams, but it’s kinda a lost cause anyway, and you need to unpick some of the seams, so don’t stress about it.
  3. Cutting as straight and even as you can, cut the tube crosswise into strips, each of which will have a chunk of each fabric, according to the chart below. Unpick the indicated seam, opening the tubes into flat strips.
  4. Lining up all seams as best you can, sew strip A to B, B to C, etc until the quilt top is assembled, again with a quarter-inch seam allowance. Press all seams open. Note: I actually recommend starting at the center and working outwards—the center strips are the narrowest, so they are most susceptible to coming apart at the seams, which attaching to neighboring strips helps prevent.
  5. Leaving an inch of the backing overhanging on each end, sew the two long sides of the quilt top to the backing with a quarter-inch allowance, right-side to right-side. Press seams open or against the backing.
  6. Turn the quilt right side out and insert the batting.
  7. Turn the short ends of the backing over onto the front, making a 1/2″ edging, and top-stitch all the way around.
  8. Quilt: I chose every third color, and followed it across the quilt, curving as best I could to follow the curve implied by the pattern.


  • A: cut 3.5″ wide; unpick between fabrics 1&20
  • B: cut 3″ wide; unpick between fabrics 1&2
  • C: cut 2.75″ wide; unpick between 2&3
  • D: cut 3.25″ wide, unpick 3&4
  • E: cut 4″ wide, unpick 4&5
  • F: cut 2″ wide, unpick 3&4
  • G: cut 1.75″ wide, unpick 2&3
  • H: cut 1.25″ wide, unpick 1&2
  • I: cut 1″ wide, unpick 1&20
  • J: cut 1.25″ wide, unpick 19&20
  • K: cut 1.75″ wide, unpick 18&19
  • L: cut 2″ wide, unpick 17&18
  • M: cut 4″ wide, unpick 16&17
  • N: cut 3.25″ wide, unpick 17&18
  • O: cut 2.75″ wide, unpick 18&19
  • P: cut 3″ wide, unpick 19&20
  • Q: cut 3.5″ wide, unpick 1&20

Note: the final piece is only a little longer than a square yard, so definitely a lap quilt or display piece, not a bed quilt.

Code and some notes on use:

This code was written in Octave, the free clone of Matlab; it should also work in Matlab if you have access to it. Octave is, as mentioned, free; if you are a windows user you will probably need cygwin or similar to run it. To run, open Octave (or Matlab), cd to the folder containing the file, and run “bargello”; wait a minute or so and you should get a figure and some output to the terminal. The list “lscuts” that gets output is the cutting widths, which you can substitute in order into the chart above. Where to unpick the seams you will have to work out from the figure. The number “totalwidth” is the total width of fabric you will need; the program throws an error if you try to exceed the fabric width it thinks you have (which is set in the first few lines of code).

Code: dropbox link; make sure that you save the file as “bargello.m”.


Program output for my quilt

Presumably if you are interested in the code, you want to do more than just reproduce the same quilt; unfortunately you will need to do a bit of spelunking into the code to do so because I haven’t got a nice interface built. I’ve done my best to comment, though, and it should be fairly straightforward. The main places you want to modify are the lines that define “switchpts” and “ls”, about in the middle of the file. Fiddle around with the numbers here until you have a design worth building in fabric.

I’ve included a couple of designs that I was playing with today; what’s currently in the code is the S-shaped quilt I made (albeit mirrored because I was not paying attention when unpicking my seams), and there are two other designs that are simply commented out: a design with a single central peak and a design with wavy diagonals:

The code is general enough to make larger or smaller quilts: the first block of definitions tells the code how much fabric, and of how many colors, you have. The third chunk (the second chunk is devoted to choosing colors) is also related to the size; it tells the code how many vertical bars to use in the pattern. The fourth chunk starts to define the shape of the pattern, telling the code where to put high points and low points in the pattern, and the fifth sets the strip widths. The remainder is the work-horse part of the code, but you shouldn’t need to mess with it unless you are doing something really complicated.

I have to admit I’m really curious if anyone will even touch the code (or, for that matter, put in all the work to make a quilt designed by an internet stranger) so I’d love to hear from you if you find any of this useful.

Tutorial: Tatted bracelet clasp

Two tatted bracelets with a wrapped pony bead clasp

Two tatted bracelets with a wrapped pony bead clasp

I put up a lot of lace edging patterns here, but I know not a lot of y’all have the interest in garment sewing that I do, so making edgings is less appealing.  However, strips of lace have other uses: you can make a headband, a necklace, or a bracelet, to name three. For my choker pattern, I used ordinary brass findings from the beading section of my local craft store, but it’s always nice to have other options, and in the interim I thought of a way to do integrated clasps without having to worry about matching colors or styles between the findings and the thread. Today I’m going to show you how, as well as show off a couple bracelets I made recently.

In addition to your normal tatting supplies, you will need a single large, large-bore bead. Anything labeled a pony bead should do, and most things labeled barrel beads should do as well. If you somehow don’t have any of these on hand—I was a craftsy kid in the 90s so I have a whole box of them, sorted by color, cluttering up my craft space—you can get them by the hundreds for a couple bucks. It’s a good idea to choose one roughly the same color as your thread, if possible, but you’re going to be wrapping it completely so it doesn’t matter too much. Note: this tutorial, along with all my tatting stuff, comes from a place of needle tatting, but if you’re a shuttle tatter you can play along too—you’ll need a tapestry needle, doll needle, or similar for covering the bead, anything you can get your tatting thread through the eye of, and which isn’t much larger in diameter than the thread—no yarn needles.

First, choose a tatting pattern. Anything I’ve posted tagged “flat edging” will do well, although be aware of how wide it’ll be when you choose. So far I’ve used my crowns edging and my garden path edging. You’ll need to decide where in the pattern you want to break to insert the clasp. For the crowns edging, I started at step 7 and finished at step 3, and for the garden path, started at step 1 and ended at 8. You want the insertion point to be somewhere that a ring or chain made from that point will extend along the length of the piece, rather than off to the side, and ideally be somewhat centered.

Note: This clasp pattern is worked out for #10 thread and your standard plastic pony bead; if you are using different materials, I recommend practicing wrapping a bead first, then making sure the ring in step 1 below will go around it before putting in all the work on the bracelet. For smaller threads, add groups of 8 single stitches (one full spiral) to both sides of the first ring. See also my dragonfly pattern for another use of this ring shape.


  1. Ring 6ds, 32 first-half single stitches spiraling four times around the needle, 12ds, 32 second-half single stitches spiraling four times around the needle the other way, 6ds. Depending on the pattern, you may want to add picots to either or both 6ds section to secure it to the rest of the pattern. Both of my bracelets start this ring with 3ds, picot, 3ds.
  2. Make lace according to your pattern, starting at your start point, until you have roughly 8″ (or desired length) from tip to tip and you are at an end point in your pattern.
  3. If necessary, add a short length of chain or spiral chain to separate the bead from the last ring of the pattern by at least an eighth-inch or so.
  4. prepTie a square knot between your needle and ball thread.
  5. You will need roughly a yard of thread on your needle. If your current needle thread is shorter than that, cut the ball thread a yard from the piece and thread that. Shuttle folks: cut a yard of thread, attached to the piece, from either your ball or shuttle, and thread that onto a tapestry or doll needle.
  6. Thread the bead onto the thread.
  7. secure_beadTie a single overhand knot between the needle thread and the thread under the bead, then pass the needle through the bead, from bottom to top (in the same direction as before) to put the knot inside the bead. There should be one loop of thread wrapping over the outside of the bead. See photo.
  8. Slide the bead down to the end of the tatting piece and pull the knot tight to secure it into place.
  9. three_wrapsBegin wrapping the thread around the bead: always pass the needle through the bead from bottom to top, and make sure each wrap lies straight next to its neighbors, not crossing or tangling. Keep the thread pulled tight as you work. The inside of the bore is smaller than the outside you have to cover, so the thread will bunch up on the inside and try to form gaps on the outside; just cover the gaps as necessary.
  10. When you’ve gotten about halfway around the bead, wrap the thread down around the outside, then pass the needle straight across the bottom of the bead, passing through the square knot if you can, wrap the thread around the outside from bottom to top, and start wrapping from the opposite side, passing the needle through the bead from top to bottom. This just makes the final tie-off easier.
  11. fully_wrappedFinish up by wrapping over any gaps you see, pulling the thread tight as you do. When you can’t see the bead any more, not even by wiggling the thread around with your fingertips, you’re done. It should be getting a little full in the center of the bead, but still easy to get the needle through.
  12. Tie a knot between the thread you’ve been working with and the other one coming off the tatted piece. I like holding both ends together and tyingfinished a single overhand knot in both.
  13. Cut both threads to a few inches length, if necessary, and thread them both onto the needle together. Pass them through the bead, from bottom to top, and tug to get the knot up inside the bead. Trim close to the top of the bead.
  14. The clasp works by pushing the wrapped bead through the elongated ring made in step 1; the elongated shape helps prevent the bead from coming out on its own, much like a slit buttonhole.


Journal: 4 October 2014

Shawl worked in Tunisian simple stitch and honeycomb stitch

Shawl worked in Tunisian simple stitch and honeycomb stitch

Since my last journal post, I finished the Tunisian-crochet shawl that I was working on, and set to work on two new projects that I am pretty excited about. Actually everything I am going to talk about today will probably eventually get its own pattern post, but in the meantime I want to share what I’ve been up to.

tunisian_yarnFirst, the shawl: this is another project from my big box o’ random yarns. I had three variegated yarns that more or less coordinated and more or less formed a nice gradient from light multi to dark reds (see photo). For the curious, this is Premier Yarns/Deborah Norville Serenity sock weight in “saffron”, “paprika”, and “purple spice”. I also had, not pictured, some of the same brand’s solid-color yarns, including “soft white” and burgundy. I also had a ginormous Afghan hook, although it turned out not to be long enough—I started with a 9″ J hook and replaced it halfway through with a 13″ J hook. My last real journal post talks about how I constructed it; the colors ended up working out such that the last variegated yarn gave out just at the end of a TSS section, which was convenient. I edged it with the burgundy yarn: a row of single crochet and then a row of double crochet shells worked on an H hook. I blocked it to stop it curling, and got an extra 10″ of wingspan out of it. Photos:

Because so very much yarn went into its construction—because of how thick and fluffy Tunisian crochet is, even when you go up several hook sizes—this beast is quite warm and snuggly; I am looking forward to the coming cooler months to wear it.


Honeycomb mitts in progress

As soon as I put the shawl out to block, I set in on my next Tunisian crochet adventure, a pair of mitts, even though I still have another pair of mitts stalled on needles. This was inspired by a honeycomb section of the shawl where the multi yarn happened to line up such that several rows had orange/pink for the posts and green/blue for the back chain, which I thought was just the most beautiful thing. I wanted to recreate this effect in a more deliberate way—using one dark color for all of the posts in a piece and a different, variegated color for all the back chains. This requires working in the round, I believe, which requires a double-ended, proper Tunisian style crochet hook. I had one on hand in size H.

mitts_hookThe yarns are two that I had on hand, (you guessed it!) more serenity sock weight yarn, this time a solid purple and the “teal tease” multi left over from my first pair of knit socks. I think if I were to start again, and start from the yarn store rather than my stash, I would choose a darker solid, either black or a dark grey, and a brighter multi. Part of the inspiration for this project was the stained-glass-like effect you get from framing bright colors in dark, and that is not really coming through in the project. I do really like the sections where the backing yarn is the bright teal, though.

Finally, I have a sewing project I am super excited about. Like, received the fabric on Monday, halfway done with a (lap-sized) quilt by Friday excited. I have been taking a break from the Great Five Shirts Project, so this gets to be the project to break in my new sewing machine.

I don’t know how many of you will be familiar with the Bargello quilting style—if you’re not, do an image search right now. A friend of mine mentioned these to me a while ago and I am a little obsessed. Like, break my post-queen-sized-fully-handstitched-scrap-quilt moratorium obsessed. Like, throw my ethic of “all quilts should be scrap quilts” out the window. The style is so beautiful, and the execution is so clever, that I had to try it myself.


Color pallette

The bargello quilt starts with a bunch of strips of coordinating colors, so I picked up a half jelly roll—turns out you can get Bali Batik half rolls for $15 from amazon, in a whole range of colors. I picked up a green one that doesn’t seem to be available any more. I got 20 strips, each 44″ or longer and 2.5″ wide, in ten distinct batik patterns, shown at right. Step 1 was to sew them together, lengthwise, in some sort of coherent way; I arranged them in a gradient from light to dark of the yellowish greens and then from dark to light of the bluish, then repeating. You actually sew them together completely, into a tube, and then to make the flat quilt you unpick some of the seams.

Quilt mock-up in octave

Quilt mock-up in Octave

The second step is planning the cutting and construction: all basic Bargello quilts start the same way (although there are variations that don’t), but the next step is tricky. The sewn-together tube is cut into strips, crosswise to the original strips, of varying widths, and then sewn together at an offset, creating steps. The widths determine what the pattern will be. I needed a way to mock up the quilt and decide on the widths; I decided to do this in Octave (free knockoff of matlab), which I am fluent in and which has decent graphics capability. It’s a very small piece of code—I gave it a set of colors, and set the widths manually, and it plots a bunch of rectangles of those colors and widths, and warns me if my widths would exceed the total fabric width. After many iterations of adjusting the widths, I settled on one I like, shown above.

bargello_asplodeI’ve done the cutting and started the re-assembly process; at right is a photo of the semi-exploded quilt top. Some of the strips at the center are sewn together. The next step is sewing the rest of the strips together; then I will need to sort out batting, edging and backing, and try out the quilting foot that came with my sewing machine. The final piece will be about 36″ by 40″, plus whatever border happens, so definitely a lap quilt or display piece.

Pattern: Fans edging

Fans edging

Fans edging; ignore the sad ring on the far right, as I was still working on it

In my last post I mentioned I’d made two new patterns, but then didn’t mention what the second (actually the first I made) one was. There’s a very simple explanation for that: I am terrible at naming things, and I like this pattern enough that I really wanted to find it a good name before posting. After dithering for a few days, I gave up. The upshot is, I am quite proud of this pattern and hope you like it.

When I was working on the water drop edgings, it occurred to me that the cartoony “water droplet” shape is also the basic element in paisley designs, of which I am rather fond. So, this was my first attempt at making a paisley tatting pattern. I think I rather failed in that regard—paisleys are generally not so linear or so dense—but I like the result anyway.


  1. Ring 20ds, join to B of previous motif, 2ds, 4 second-half single stitches, 6ds.
  2. Ring 10ds, join to B of previous motif (2 joins in same picot), 10ds, picot A, 2ds, 4 second-half single stitches, 6ds.
  3. Ring 10ds, join A, 10ds, picot B, 2ds, 4 second-half single stitches, 6ds.
  4. Ruffle chain: (2 first-half single stitches, 2 second-half single stitches) 15 times.



Notes on the water droplet rings: the second-half single stitches should cause the thread to spiral halfway around the needle (or base thread or whatever it’s called in shuttle tatting), not be held to one side like in a Josephine knot. If you make your rings like I do, that is with the needle thread, this spiral actually makes the rings close more neatly than ordinary rings, which is why I specify you need second-half single stitches rather than first half. If you have no idea what I’m on about, go read my original water droplet edgings post too.

Notes on ruffle chains: this isn’t strictly necessary for this pattern if you keep your chains fairly loose; I use ruffle chains to reduce the natural curvature of my chains, which I pull quite tight. I also rather like the effect. See also here.

Pattern: Cactus edging

Cactus edging

Cactus edging

So I mentioned a while ago that I haven’t really been feeling like tatting lately, and that hasn’t actually changed. However, I recently flew cross-country (for a job interview, wish me luck!) and to my mind there are very few better things to do on a plane than tatting. I brought my little kit and some odds and ends of thread and ended up designing two patterns and having a nice conversation about historical crafts with my seatmates.

I’m not sure this one quite works as an edging, which I think of as being used horizontal, but I rather like it vertically. I’m also not sure it would remind me of a cactus at all if I hadn’t happened to make it in green thread.

Fair warning: this pattern is a giant pain to make more than a short piece of. You have to unthread and rethread the needle once per motif. Consider yourself warned.

The reason that this pattern is a giant pain is I was experimenting more with chains to nowhere—chains made on the needle thread, working towards the eye of the needle. For this pattern I figured out how to attach the loose end to the next object one makes, which I’ll describe in detail in the instructions.

One final caveat: this pattern, like all my patterns, is designed for needle tatting; unlike most of my patterns, I don’t know how to easily translate it to shuttle tatting or if it’s even possible.

Same edging, but horizontal. Not as good, right?

Same edging, but horizontal. Not as good, right?

The chains to nowhere, in addition to being annoying to make, make it a little tricky to figure out where all the threads go, so after the instructions I’ve posted a set of photos of making a motif on a short piece of rainbow-colored thread. Refer to those if you get lost (or like rainbows). Without further ado:

  1. Without threading the needle, hold the needle flipped opposite of how you usually hold it—the point should be down by your palm and the eye out in space. Work your knots from the center towards the eye of the needle.
  2. Using the needle thread, chain 16ds. Thread the needle with the end of the needle thread. Start to pull it through (pull the stitches off the needle onto the needle thread). Pass the needle through the loop you are making in the needle thread (as if to make a SCMR; see tutorial here). Finish tightening up the chain, but don’t tighten up the loop—leave a couple feet of thread running from one end of this chain to the other.
  3. Working in this reserved couple feet of thread, make 8ds on the needle, with the needle still threaded and pointing in the usual direction. This is the beginning of a ring.
  4. Grip the loose end of the chain-to-nowhere and pull on the needle thread (as gently as you can), taking up the slack in the reserved thread and bringing the loose end of the chain-to-nowhere up to the needle. I’ve talked about my “reverse joins” before; this is basically that.
  5. Finish the ring: make 5ds, picot A, 3ds, small picot B, 8ds, and close the ring.
  6. Chain 3ds, join to picot A of the previous motif, 13ds.
  7. Pass the needle through picot B of the current motif and tie a shoelace knot (AKA half of a square knot, etc).
  8. Pull the thread off the needle and repeat from step 1.

Photos (as usual, click for larger images):

Journal: The lesson is learned


Harlequin shirt blocking

So, I’ve finished the big knitting project I’ve been talking about recently. I am pretty unhappy with the result, unfortunately. On the other hand, I learned a *lot* from this project, and have positioned myself to make a much better attempt when I can muster the resolve to frog this thing and start over.

Ugh, curl. The back is actually worse, but harder to get photos of.

Ugh, curl. The back is actually worse, but harder to get photos of.

Lesson 1, which I should’ve known by now: knitting tends to curl, particularly at the edges. The part I learned new was that my oh-so-clever vertical-shaping technique, sections of (k1, slip 1)/(p1, slip 1) curls like nobody’s business. I was planning not to block this piece, thus I used a non-blocked swatch to get my measurements, but the relentless curling forced my hand.

Lesson 2, which I knew but didn’t think would be an issue, see above; blocking changes the size of knitted items, even if it’s not lace, even if you don’t stretch and pin it while it dries. In this particular case, it didn’t change the width (I measured while it was drying), but did change the length significantly—meaning that the arm holes gaped open to half again their desired length, and suddenly the careful waist shaping I had done was coming in around my hips, leaving the waist loose and flapping. Terribly, terribly unbecoming photos, before (curl) and after (bad fit):

Lesson 3: blocking helps with curl, but doesn’t entirely fix it, especially on drapey bits. Post-blocking, the curling up of the back neck, arm hole, and bottom edges was basically fixed, but I couldn’t get the front neck to drape nicely without curling all up (see photos above). Lesson I wouldn’t have learned without making this project, so I consider it a gain.

Lesson 4: horizontal stripes are really that bad. This comes back to the color of yarn I picked, which I was waffling about how much I liked all throughout this project. If I try a project like this again—knitting a shirt starting from the back armpit, over the shoulders, reconnecting at the front armpit, and in the round down—I will definitely use a non-variegated yarn, or one with a short enough repeat length that the effect is blotches rather than stripes. With this yarn, I think I will go back to the idea I started with, now that I have more confidence in my drafting abilities: working it diagonally.

Lesson 5, actually a positive one: drafting from sewing patterns works. I need to be a bit more careful in choosing the pattern to start from—some of the unflattering fit is because I started from a pattern eased to pull over one’s head when made from non-stretch fabric. Plus due to curl a drape-neck pattern is probably infeasible. However, on the whole the project came out exactly as I (should have) expected: the shaping scheme worked, and once I got the hang of it the translation from paper sewing pattern to written knitting pattern is not that hard to do.

Another way I came out ahead is I now have a very, very large swatch made up, in a yarn and needle size combination that I like working in, that’s blocked. The large swatch will help me get better measurements for future projects, including accounting for the effect of gravity on the length. I am lazy and impetuous enough that I never would’ve bothered making such a large swatch in advance of an actual project, so this is a fairly big win for me.

I’d love to hear any tips y’all have for better drafting/pattern design for knitting—I feel like I am groping in the dark a bit, and coming at this from a funny angle, and could benefit from others’ wisdom.