Tag Archives: macrame

Journal: 12 July 2014

Since my last journal post, I have been a busy little bee—by which I think I actually mean, it has been a while since my last journal post, so I’ve gotten a fair bit done without getting any more done per time than usual. I’ve developed and posted a bunch of tatting patterns, done a bunch of utility/housewares sewing, chugged away a bit on my knitting, finished one of my blouses and started another. I’ve also done a bit of crochet that I can’t talk about just yet.

Housewares sewing:


Forgive the blurry picture: apron with ruffle and with a potholder in the pocket.

The major piece of housewares sewing I did was to add a pocket and a ruffle to my frumpy apron. The photo at right shows the pocket, with a round potholder in it, and the ruffle. I am not entirely sure why I bothered with the ruffle—I think it took more work than the rest of the apron put together—but I just feel that if one is to make a frumpy floral apron, a ruffle around the skirt is required. Anyway, here’s a much better photo of the apron spread out on the floor:




Card pocket for tote bag

While I was doing housewares sewing, I added a card pocket to one of the tote bags: my local grocery store has those rewards cards; I don’t want to waste wallet space on it, so it lives in the grocery bag, but having the tiny card floating in the great big bag is inconvenient. I solved this by making a small pocket and top-stitching it into the inside of the bag just below the hem. I used a scrap of quilting cotton, so managed to do the stitching by hand.


Big needle case

Due to the influx of tatting thread I mentioned recently, I spent a while sorting out my yarn stash, which led to me deciding I really needed a better way to store my crochet hooks and knitting needles. In cutting out the apron, I cut considerably more narrow strips of fabric than I ended up needing, so I decided to make needle cases out of it. Out of a 32″x3″ strip I made a 15″x2″ rectangular case with a zip closure, and out of an 8″ strip I made a narrow little DPN case that fits inside the big one, and has a fold-over closure with drawstring and button:

The zipper for the main case was a salvage from an old laundry bag; it is bright blue and had a stupidly large tab/pull on it, making it impossible to set hidden. So I snipped off the tab and replaced it with macrame/friendship bracelet. The loop holding the tab was open at one end, so I was worried a soft tab would slide off; I closed it with a drop of super glue, which I am pleased with the results of. Photos, playing with the zoom settings on my camera:

I am a lot happier with this one than I am with the one on my wallet/coin purse, so I may put up a tutorial on replacing zipper pulls soon. My technique is still not quite there yet, though. I am proud of the color coordination; all of the floss was stuff I had on hand, too.



Starting the cables

I’ve been working on a pair of mitts/arm warmers out of the cashmere lace-weight yarn from my birthday, and it is going slowly. I’m beginning to regret some of my choices, namely deciding that cabling a fluffy, tiny yarn on #2 needles was a good idea. I haven’t dropped any stitches that I couldn’t get back yet, but all the tight little stitches and keeping track of four DPNs and a cabling needle just make me so tense that I can do about five rows on a good day before needing to switch to something else. I don’t suppose anybody out there has tips for tiny cabling without losing one’s mind?

cashmere_onhandI do think that I will like these mitts and consider them worth all the pain when they’re done, though. I’ve finished the ribbing section, including the thumb hole, on both, working on a circular needle so I can try them on (see photo), and am happy with the fit. I’m a little concerned that the cabled section may be too tight to comfortably get my hand through, and since I moved to DPNs for the cabling I can’t check it, but I think it will be all right.


Mitt showing thumb hole



Navy blue blouse

Finally, I’ve made progress on the blouse-sewing mega-project I mentioned in my last journal post: making five new button-up blouses. Namely, I finished blouse #1 in navy blue and started in on blouse #2 in green. Both are using McCall’s M6035 pattern. The blue one has sleeve style C: straight elbow-length sleeves, and I decided to omit the sleeve-cuff tab and the collar band, making a simpler collar. I am very happy with this pattern so far; the princess-seamed base is completely solid and flattering, the sleeves sit well, and there’s a lot of customizability.

The first blouse did remind me just how much I hate sewing buttonholes by hand; I remembered that I hate it but figured it couldn’t be but so bad, then sat down to actually sew them and it was so much worse. And I signed up to do 30ish of them, entirely of my own volition: good job seesawyer. Still, now that they are a few days in the past, I am back in “how hard could it be?” mode, besides which I have an idea for making fancy concealed plackets which will not need buttonholes, which hopefully will work out. I do also really love how hand-made buttonholes look, to the point of being driven a little nuts by the sloppy buttonholes on some off-the-shelf machine-made garments, so the relationship is a love-hate one at worst.


Cut pieces for the green blouse

Next up is a green blouse; I’m planning to make the full banded collar this time, and the sleeves will be elbow-length bishop sleeves (style B). I’m also changing one of the fitting details; I am right on the line between two non-interpolatable sizes (cup size, which this pattern implements with separate pieces for the front and side front, for each of three options), so I’m going to see which of this one and the blue one I like better. I am planning to try my fancy plackets with this one, too, although I may chicken out and go with the recommended straightforward button plackets. If it does work out, I’ll post a tutorial here and consider my contribution to the human race to have been made :P. The pieces are cut, and I’ve started sewing the back and side back pieces together.

Pattern: Easy halter top

halter_side four_halters

Today I want to share a quick and easy sewing project: a halter top made of quarter flats. If you’re not familiar, quarter flats (or fat quarters) are 22″ by 18″ sheets of quilting cotton, available for fairly cheap in a wide range of patterns, and sometimes available in packs of coordinating colors. You’ll need two, or if your bust or waist is more than about 40″, three; if you prefer, get a half-yard of fabric whose width is greater than your bust and waist measurements. One quarter flat will be the front and the other the back; they can be the same or different; if you need extra, get extra of the one you’re using for the back. You’ll also need straps of some sort; I use this project as a way of showing off my macrame/friendship bracelet making skills, but ribbon or any kind of cord will also work; you’ll need 2-8 skeins of embroidery floss or at least one yard of ribbon or cord. If your cord is very thick or fancy, you’ll also need about 8″ of floss, plain 1/8″ ribbon, or similar. You will also need a needle or a sewing machine, thread, and a tapestry needle.


  1. Sew the two quarter flats together, right side to right side, along both short edges, to form a tube 40-ish inches in circumference and 18 high. If you’re using three pieces, sew the two back pieces to either side of the front piece, making a strip about 60″ long; cut fabric evenly off both ends to make the strip about 6″ longer than your bust measurement, and sew the two ends together to make a center-back seam. If you’re using one piece, sew the short ends together to make a tube. A 3/8″ seam is plenty; finish your seams however you like.
  2. Sew a narrow hem around the bottom of the tube.
  3. Sew a quarter-inch or so hem around the top—don’t make it too narrow, and don’t use zig-zag stitch or serging, just an ordinary straight stitch, to make this hem. This hem will also serve as casing for the gather in the front, is why I’m specifying.
  4. Try the tube on; it helps to wear it over a bra with straps or a camisole for this. Center the back panel or back seam. Grab the top hem on both sides and pull it forward, pulling the hem snug but not tight across your back and bunching up material in the front. Take a fairly deep breath to expand your ribcage, and hold it. Mark the top hem on both sides where it crosses your bra straps (2″ from the side seams is a good starting guess if you are shaped like me). Measure between the two marks; write this length down and call it L. If you have a flexible tape, it will be helpful also to measure from one mark, up and around behind your neck, and down to the other mark (while holding the shirt at the height you’d like it to sit); call this measurement M.
  5. Make and attach your straps according to one of the methods below.

Method 1: Friendship bracelet (macrame) with tie back

Shirt with macrame ties

Shirt with macrame ties

This method is the first I did; it requires some patience but on the other hand is entirely portable. I’m not going to teach you how to do friendship bracelets today, as there are plenty of tutorials out there on the internet; this and this look like decent places to start. Any pattern will do, although I would not go above 8 strands or below 4. I recommend this method over the rest I will mention, for two reasons: macrame has some natural stretch to it, which makes it very good for straps that won’t cut into your flesh, and the tie back lets you adjust how tight the straps are on an ongoing basis.


  1. halter_frontChoose a bracelet pattern and some floss. Unwind all the floss you will use and find the midpoint of each strand.
  2. Holding all the strands together, matching midpoints, tie a single overhand knot at distance L/2 from the midpoints—that’s half the distance you measured between the two marks when you were trying the shirt on. So if it’s 8″ between your bra straps in front, put the knot 4″ from the midpoints. You can wind the shorter ends—the ends of floss on the far side of the knot from the midpoint—onto bobbins now to keep them out of the way.
  3. Take your tapestry needle and thread as many of the strands of floss on as possible at once, on the long side relative to the knot you just made. I do this by dampening the ends and threading one at a time, holding the ones that I’ve already threaded flat against the needle while I thread the next. Get at least two on the needle before you proceed, and if you can get it all on that’s better.
  4. Insert the tapestry needle into the top of the hem at one of the marks. Snake it through the hem/casing to the other mark and pull it out through the top of the hem at the mark. This will be difficult and need a fair bit of wiggling and persistence, especially if you have lots of strands; if you are having too much difficulty, make and widen a hole at each mark using tapestry needles, knitting needles, chopsticks, or pens and then try again. Be careful not to make the hole larger than the knot you made in step 2, though.
  5. Bunch up the fabric, holding the floss taut, until it is length L between the two marks. If you couldn’t get all the floss on the needle in step 3, gather the leftover ends of floss too, and hold them parallel to the ones that went through the fabric. Holding all your strands of floss together, tie another single overhand knot, placing it close to where the floss emerges from the fabric to maintain that length L.
  6. Work your friendship bracelet pattern on each side, starting at the knot and working until you have a good 16″ (or, if it’s very different, M/2 plus 5″) length or more. You can tape the knot down to a table for stability, as is common with friendship bracelets; I generally pin the knot to the knee of my pants while working. You can test the length by holding the shirt up to your chest and seeing if you can tie the two pieces behind your neck.
  7. When each strap is long enough, tie an overhand knot in all the strands at once to finish, and cut the strands off 1/4″ past the knot. If in step 3 you didn’t get all the strands onto the needle, go back and cut the extraneous strands close to the knots at the top of the shirt. You’re done!

Method 2: Friendship bracelet (macrame) single strap with front button


Halter top with single strap and button

A slight alteration of the above, instead of two straps that tie behind your neck, you can make a single strap that goes from one mark up, around your neck, and attaches to the other mark. This still has the advantage of stretchy, fancy macrame (and the disadvantage that making it takes a while). However, you need considerably less total length than in the previous method, which helps. You also only need half the floss, so get 2-3 strands (for a 4 or 6 strand pattern) and a button you like.


  1. Unwind your floss and find the midpoints. Holding all the floss together, fold in half at the midpoints and tie a single overhand knot in the doubled-over strands, making a loop that is big enough to get over your button. If you want to be fancy, you can braid this loop as/before you make it, but I will leave that as an exercise to the reader.
  2. Work your pattern on the 4 or 6 strands of floss until it is length M long, measuring from the center of the loop. Tie an overhand knot in all the strands held together.
  3. Thread as many of the ends of the floss as you can onto your tapestry needle at once, and cut the leftover strands close to the knot. Follow steps 3-5 above, more or less: insert the needle into the top of the hem at one mark, wiggle it through, and pull out the top at the other mark; bunch up the fabric to length L and tie an overhand knot in the floss to keep it at that length.
  4. Cut the strands of floss 1/4″ from the knot.
  5. Sew your button on over the mark, on the side that the strap doesn’t come out of.

Halter top with variant straps

Variant: instead of a button, make a bow: skip steps 4&5, instead dividing the floss that emerges from the shirt into two even groups, then braiding or knotting each group into a narrow strap about 6″ long. To wear, put the main strap around your neck, put one of the short straps through the loop of the main strap, and tie the two short straps together and make a bow with them.

Method 3: Ribbon or pre-made strapping with tie back

If you can get your ribbon/strapping onto a tapestry needle and through the fabric:

  1. Cut your strap material to a yard length (or, M+10″ or so). Find the midpoint and tie a knot length L/2 from the midpoint.
  2. On the long side, thread the strapping onto your tapestry needle.
  3. Insert the tapestry needle at one mark, wiggle it through, and bring it up at the other mark (see method 1 steps 3-4 above for tips).
  4. Bunch the fabric onto the strap to length L and tie another knot in the strap to keep it that way.
  5. Finish the loose ends of the straps as necessary (knot or fold over and sew ribbon, cauterize nylon cord, etc).

If you can’t:

  1. Cut a 20″ length of embroidery floss or 1/8″ ribbon, thread it on the tapestry needle, match the ends, and tie an overhand knot in the two ends held together (double-threading the needle).
  2. Insert the needle on the inside of the garment, into the hem at one mark. Pull it through and out at the other mark, again on the inside of the garment (rather than the top of the hem as in other methods.
  3. Bunch the fabric onto the floss/ribbon to length L and tie another knot in the floss/ribbon to keep it that way. Trim close to the knot.
  4. Cut your strapping material into two lengths of 16″, M/2+5″, or longer.
  5. Sew one end of one piece to the shirt at one mark, and one end of the other piece to the other mark.
  6. Finish the loose ends of the strapping as desired.

Method 4: Do what pleases you best

There are plenty more options for straps; I hope you will use my suggestions as a jumping-off point and make tatted straps, braided straps, knit straps, beaded straps…the sky’s the limit, and the construction of the shirt is so simple it makes a good showcase for fancy details.