My Crafting Pochette

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Whether it's knitting, crocheting, sewing or any other "making" these are the tools I most regularly need and reach for. When I'm crafting in my "mom's chair" they are next to me in a small bag but I can easily pick up the bag and carry it to wherever I want to work.

I didn't know there was a name for it until I read the this New York Times article: It Took 800 Hours to Make This Chanel Dress. The word is pochette. A pochette is a small envelope shaped bag/purse. Designers in the fashion world each have their own pochette to hold their tools and Karl Lagerfeld’s pochette was specific to couture sewing but mine has a few additional items suited for knitting, crocheting, and general crafting.

Here are the items in my pochette:

  1. Black and white thread. When I'm working on a particular project I'll have that color of thread but basting and many things that just need just a few stitches can be done with either black or white thread.
  2. Seam ripper. I have three seam rippers. One is next to the sewing maching, one is next to the serger and one is next to me. I use my seam rippers a lot.
  3. Pins. Most of the time when I'm sewing I use satin pins, but when I need a quick pin or two I like pins with heads.
  4. Sissors. I use scissors on a lot of different materials (paper, plastic, yarn, thread, fabric) and this little pair has risen to the task of cutting almost everything and has become my favorite.
  5. Crochet hook. Other than actually crocheting with it, I use a crochet hook to pick up dropped knit stitches and any time I need to a hook to grab something. I've found the size B hook to be the best suited for most tasks.
  6. Ruler. I'm always having to measure things and this 6" ruler is my favorite. It's transparent so I can see what's under what I'm measuring. The width of the ruler is 1/2" and the height of the ruler is 1/4", two of the most frequent measurements I use. I've worn the markings off two of these rulers from using it so frequently.
  7. Tape measure. Because lots of stuff I need to measure is more than 6"!
  8. Chibi. I have no clue why it's called a Chibi. It's just a case to store tapestry/yarn needles.

  9. Needle case
  10. This is a crocheted needle holder that also holds extra safety pins and stitch markers. I frequently make this for gifts and the pattern for it can be found here.


Monday, March 11, 2019

I try to pay attention to my carbon footprint and lately I've been working on reducing the amount of trash that goes to the curb each week. Plastic has been a particular problem. My city's single stream curbside recycling program collects the plastic bottles and containers but there are so many other types of plastic that can't be recycled this way.

While I was researching what could be done to reduce or reuse the plastic that isn't allowed in the recycle bin, I came across the Ecobrick. Ecobricks are made from plastic bottles that have been stuffed (and I mean STUFFED) with waste plastic. These "bricks" are then used to build things like benches, tables, and buildings.

I've written before about how certain ideas or projects grab my imagination and won't let go. The Ecobrick is one of those and I had to make one. It took three attempts to get it right.

My waste plastic - it's just too much

Try #1: Single serving water and soda bottles are most commonly used for making Ecobricks, however, I stopped buying those a long time ago, so I started by stuffing plastic into a Costco sized 2.83L juice bottle (bigger is better, right?) but this bottle was too large and difficult to pack.

Try #2: Next I tried a 1.7L juice bottle. I stuffed waste plastic into the bottle, I stuffed more plastic and I stuffed even more plastic but when I was done the bottle did not meet the weight requirements. A properly made Ecobrick will have a minimum density of .33g/ml so my bottle should have weighed at least 584g (651g if I included the weight of the bottle and cap) and it was more than 100g short of that.

Try #3: For this attempt I knew I needed to improve my plastic packing technique. I cut any plastic that wasn't soft and pliable into small pieces. I also used two different kinds of sticks. One stick was a 1/2" wood dowel and worked really well to push plastic down the sides of the bottle. The other stick was the wood handle from a broken toilet plunger (what a way to reduce, reuse, recycle!) and this worked perfect for pushing plastic into the middle of the bottle. Success! The total weight for the bottle was 667g and it is a solid plastic brick.

My packing sticks

Will assembling Ecobricks make a real ecological difference? I don't know but it has certainly opened my eyes for the need to do better about managing the amount of plastic in our lives. I still put all the plastic I'm allowed into my curbside bin and some of the plastic I used in the Ecobrick could be recycled by taking it to a plastic bag and film drop off location but an astonishing amount of plastic can't go to either location and there is also this additional dilemma detailed by the New York Times - Your Recycling Gets Recycled, Right? Maybe, or Maybe Not

What will I build with the Ecobricks? Again, I don't know. For now, I'll keep making Ecobricks and hope a project idea develops. Making Ecobricks can't hurt and in the meantime my hands and upper arms get a regular workout.

Ear Warmer Pattern

Thursday, November 08, 2018

I'm not a hat wearer and I needed something to keep my ears warm during the winter so I designed this headband and it fits the brief perfectly.

Needles - size 10
Yarn - Cascade Yarns 128 Superwash

Stitch Definitions:
K = Knit
P = Purl
Kfb = Knit 1 into front and back of stitch
M1p = Make 1 purlwise
P2tog = Purl 2 stitches together

There are a variety of ways to work the twisted stitch. The video links show the way I worked them in this pattern. Other methods may or may not provide the same look.
Tw2R = Twist 2 Right (link to video)
Tw2L = Twist 2 Left (link to video)


The headband is approximately 4" wide. To make wider versions add multiples of 4 stitches to the cast on and work an extra Tw2R & Tw2L for every multiple added

I like a headband that narrows in the back to prevent it from sliding up my head but if you want one that is sized evenly all the way around then cast on 16 stitches and just work rows 11 and 12 until the headband measures 19" or your desired length.

Cast on 8 stitches.

Increase section:
Row 1: K1, p1 Tw2R, Tw2L, p1, k1 (8 sts)
Row 2: K1, p6, k1
Row 3: Kfb, k1, Tw2R, Tw2L, kfb, k1 (10 sts)
Row 4: K1, p8, k1
Row 5: Kfb, (Tw2L, Tw2R)two times, m1p, k1 (12 sts)
Row 6: K1, p10, k1
Row 7: Kfb, k1, (Tw2L, Tw2R)two times, kfb, k1 (14 sts)
Row 8: K1, p12, k1
Row 9: Kfb, (Tw2R, Tw2L)three times, m1p, k1 (16 sts)
Row 10: K1, p14, k1

Straight section:
Row 11: K1, p1, (Tw2R, Tw2L) three times, p1, k1
Row 12: K1, p14, k1
Repeat last two rows until piece measures 16" or 3" LESS than desired total length.

Decrease section:
Row 1: K1, p2tog, k1, (Tw2L, Tw2R)two times, k1, p2tog, k1 (14 sts)
Row 2: K1, p 12, K1
Row 3: K1, p2tog, (Tw2L, Tw2R)two times, p2tog, k1 (12 sts)
Row 4: K1, p 10, K1
Row 5: K1, p2tog, k1, Tw2R, Tw2L, K1, p2tog, k1 (10 sts)
Row 6: K1, p8, k1
Row 7: K1, p2tog, Tw2R, Tw2L, p2tog, k1 (8 sts)

Bind off and sew ends together.

Heart Shaped Breath Mints - Valentines 2018

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

My 2018 valentines day gift project was conceived and inspired by a blog post for homemade breath mints and Fimo hearts made for me by my daughter.

Laura's bowl of hearts

Laura shaped all of her clay hearts by hand but I needed hundreds of them so the biggest challenge for this project was finding a heart shape cutting tool small enough to make a breath mint --and I DID! It was in the clay supplies area at Michael's and the smallest heart in this kit was the perfect size. Once I had a heart cutter I knew I was good to go with this project.

Heart Shaped Breath Mints

Supply List
  • Heart shape cutter
  • Gum paste (I used a 2 pound bucket of Satin Ice gum paste and that was more than enough to make over a dozen tins of mints)
  • Red food dye
  • Hard candy flavoring oil(s) (flavor extracts may work just as well but I had cinnamon and spearmint flavoring oils on hand and they worked extremely well)
  • One cup of gum paste. I could only cut so many tiny hearts at one time so I made multiple one cup batches over the course of several days .
  • Add red food coloring and mix in. It took only two drops of food coloring per one cup of gum paste to get the pink I wanted. Wear gloves if you don't want your hands looking like this!

  • Add flavoring to taste preference. One teaspoon of hard candy flavoring oil per cup of gum paste gave a strong flavor. Mileage may vary with other types of flavorings.
  • Roll out gum paste to approximately 1/4" depth. Use confectioners sugar to help with sticking.
  • Cut, cut, cut and cut hearts. Reroll and cut some more. Repeat until you can't stand it any more and eat the remaining gum paste yourself.

  • The mints are edible immediately but they will harden on the surface after a few hours of air drying and if you leave them out for days they will become "Altoid" like hard. I actually put my mints on parchment paper in a low temperature oven for about 45+ minutes to get the drying started but it still took several days after that until they were really hard.
  • Package as desired. I used the same 2 oz tins and Avery labels from the heart tea bags project

I LOVED this project! It did get a little tedious cutting out all the hearts but the results were perfection and I would definitely do it again.

Plantain Salve

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

I'm not a gardener and tend to only keep the yard in a mowed down state. I allow whatever grows naturally to have at it and the winners are the plants that can thrive in the provided sun, shade and soil conditions. In addition, my house is located on an ecologically sensitive peninsula on the Charles River so i don't use chemicals or pesticides. That means my lawn is a wonderful green mixture of grasses, clover, dandelions and this unidentified "weed".

Plantain growing in my backyard

It was during a Medicinal Plant Walk at Lands Sakes farm that I learned about a plant that's been growing in my yard for 30 years and I thought was just a weed. The plant is plantago major or more commonly, broadleaf plantain (not the same as, and not to be confused with, the fruit that is part of the banana family.) Broadleaf plantain is an entirely edible plant with both internal and external healing properties.

My DIY spirit was inspired when I discovered that you can make a salve with plantain to treat cuts, burns, rashes and insect bites. I had to give it go and here are my notes and thoughts on what I did.

1. Make an oil infusion.
  • I washed the plantain leaves and pat dried them. Some bloggers stated that if the leaves aren't dehydrated then there may be a problem with mold, other bloggers just washed and dried them like I did. I'm not sure which way is best so I'll wait and see.
  • I packed two 4 oz. canning jars with chopped plantain. One was filled with jojoba oil and the other with extra virgin olive oil. I put them on my kitchen window to start a month long cold infusion but after a week I got impatient and switched to a hot infusion by putting both jars in a slow cooker filled with enough water to reach the cap rings and setting it on low for 8 hours.

2. Separate the plantain from the infused oil
  • I started with a strainer to do this but noticed that there was still a lot of oil on the leaves so I put the leaves in a scrap of muslin and squeezed out the remaining oil. Nylon hose would probably work even better.

3. Add beeswax to make salve or lotion bars.
  • The infused oil can be used as is but adding beeswax will thicken the oil to either a salve or lotion bar consistency and make it easier to apply. For the infused jojobo oil I added about 10% beeswax (the rest oil) and got a salve consistency. For the infused olive oil I added about 25% beeswax (the rest oil) and got a lotion bar consistency.
  • I microwaved the beeswax and oil mixture in 20 second spurts until melted. This is where an essential oil can be added if desired. I didn't have any on hand but I would like to try lavender or peppermint.

Melted beeswax and plantain infused oil before cooling

4. Pour into tins
  • I keep finding ways to use these tins and they have become one of the handiest crafting things that I've ever purchased.
  • Each 4 oz. jar of infused oil produced two 2 oz. tins of plantain salve. I love when the math works out.
Plantain Salve
Testing and other things to try
  • Now things go into the testing stage. The questions to be answered are: How well will the salve actually work? How long will it keep? My three year old nephew would be the perfect test subject but I don't know if he'll allow me to put this on his scrapes and mosquito bites!
  • Other things to try are making tea with the plantain leaves and harvesting the blooms for psyllium.
  • Try infusing other liquids - water, vinegar, vodka.
  • Try infusing other oils - coconut, almond, avocado.

I love how my lawn is becoming a natural garden. Nothing is pulled out as a "weed" anymore. The clover is for the rabbits and bees. The dandelions are for salads and green soups and now the plantain is for salves, tea and whatever else I discover can be made from it.

Mistaken Rib Gradation Cowl

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ravelry Project Page - Mistaken Rib Gradation Cowl

This cowl was finished just in time for next fall. I love how I can get two looks depending on which end is at the top.

Five colors for the price of three! I've been wanting to knit something using color gradation for a while but it took some time for the pieces to fall together. I found the the perfect yarn during a visit to Webs and then adjusted Purl Soho's Mistake Rib Cowl pattern.

1 skein each of Valley Yarns Southampton
  • Silver Spring
  • Cloudy Sky
  • Dark Pewter
Needles: Size 9 circular

Size: 15.5" length & 26" circumference

Round 1: *K2, p2, repeat from * to end of round. 
Round 2: P1, *k2, p2, repeat from * to last 3 stitches, k2, p1.


Cast on 112 stitches. using two strands of Dark Pewter and join for knitting in the round -- Knit in pattern for 3.5".

Using one strand of Dark Pewter and one strand of Cloudy Sky -- Knit in pattern for 2.5".

Using two strands of Cloudy Sky -- Knit in pattern in 3.5".

Using one strand of Cloudy Sky and one strand of Silver Spring -- Knit in pattern for 2.5".

Using two strands of Silver Spring -- Knit in pattern for 3.5".

Bind off loosely in pattern.

Mermaid Blanket

Friday, March 23, 2018
Ravelry Project Page - Mermaid Blanket

This project was a request from my granddaughter Natalie for a mermaid blanket (a blanket that when you are wrapped in it makes you look like a mermaid). The project began with the search for a pattern (why reinvent the wheel?) and ended with what almost always happens — not finding a pattern that matched the picture in my head and having to develop one of my own.

Here are the notes on how I made my mermaid blanket. Hopefully these notes are detailed enough because I'm not going to write up a formal pattern and there may be errors. If you do make a blanket from these directions and find something which can be corrected please let me know and I'll update this post.

Yarn: The blanket needed to be washable so an acrylic or superwash wool was necessary and I couldn't believe my luck when I found a "Dusty Teal" color of Red Heart Super Saver in my yarn stash — the perfect mermaid color! A total of 3 skeins were used (with NO extra).

Crochet or Knit? I didn't really care. I would have preferred crochet because it's faster but finding the right stitch pattern was more important. I found a knitting stitch pattern that would make a good texture for a blanket and also looked like fish scales, so knitting it was.

Stitch pattern:
A Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. Walker
Purl-Twist Fabric (p125)

Even number of sts.
Rows 1 and 3 (Right side)—Knit.
Row 2—* P2 tog, but do not sl from needle; then purl 1st st again, and sl both sts from needle together; rep from #.
Row 4—P1, * rep from * of Row 2 across to last st, end p1.
Repeat Rows 1-4.

Size: The finished size is approximately 36" x 40" (excluding the tail)

Blanket instructions:
1. Cast on 170 stitches with size 10 needles
2. K1, P1 ribbing for 1.5"
3. Work the above 4 rows of the Purl-Twist until blanket measures 24" ending with Row 4.
Notes: I added three stitches of a seed stitch border to each side for this version, and while it worked, I wasn't completely happy with it. If I were to make this again I would try the English Slip Stitch Selvedge Edge instead.

Watch the tension with the purl-twist stitch.
It's very easy to work it too loose.

4. Continue working in pattern and begin decreasing two stitches on the knit rows (rows 1 and 3) by knitting two together(k2tog); work one k2tog at the beginning of the row and one k2tog at the end.

5. Keep decreasing until there are 96 stitches. The blanket should now be approximately 40" in length.

6. Divide the stitches onto two needles with the center 48 stitches on one needle and the 24 stitches from the two ends on another needle. I actually did this with a circular needle and two double pointed needles (see above picture).

7. K1 from front needle, k1 from back needle, (k2tog from front needle, k2tog from back needle)across (50 stitches)

8. (K1, p1, k2tog, p1, k1, p2tog) across, end k1, p1 38 stitches.

9. To make a cocoon at the bottom of the blanket, seam the two edges of the blanket together for about 12".

Note: I did NOT design the fin. I really liked this mermaid fin pattern and only made small tweaks for my yarn and design.
  • Knit 1x1 ribbing for 1.5”
  • k1, YO, p1 across (57 stitches)
  • k1, ktbl, p1 across
  • k1, p1, m1, p1 across (76 stitches)
  • k1p1 across
  • k1, YO, p1 for 24 sts, pm, k1p1 to last 24 sts, pm, k1, YO, p1 for last 10 sts (100 stitches; 36 stitches on either end and 28 stitches between markers)
  • k1, ktbl, p1 to marker, sm, k1p1 to second marker, sm, k1, ktbl, p1 to end
  • k1, p1, m1, p1 to marker, sm, k1p1 to second marker, sm, k1, p1, m1, p1 to end (124 stitches; 48 stitches on either end and 28 stitches between markers)
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 60 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 58 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 56 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 54 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 52 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 50 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across.
  • k1p1 across 48 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 46 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 44 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 42 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 40 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 38 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 36 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 34 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 32 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 30 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 28 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 26 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 24 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 22 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 20 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 16 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 12 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 8 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across 4 sts, W&T
  • k1p1 across
  • k1p1 across, knitting each wrap and knit stitch together
  • repeat from k1p1 across 32 sts, W&T for other half of tail
  • knit 1x1 ribbing for 2" then bind off in pattern.