PBT: Ruffles, Shells, and Scales

This post is part of a series of tutorials on how to create your own unique crochet pixie pocket belt – to read more about this series visit the Intro page.

Some textural techniques I like to use when making the pixie pocket belts are ruffles, curlicues, shells, and crocodile stitch scales – in this post I’m going to cover the basics of how to create them in order to add dimension to the piece.

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Ruffles and Curlicues:

The basic technique for making ruffles and curlicues is to create a row of stitching that is dramatically longer than the row it is stitched into – this is done by making 2-4 (or more) stitches into each stitch below. To create a practice ruffle, chain a small length and then 3 dc into each chain stitch.

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The extra length created by the many stitches will force the fabric to buckle, creating a ruffle when the row is held flat, such as if you were to crochet many stitches onto a flat piece.

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If you are working multiple stitches onto a long, skinny piece such as a chain, though, you can do more – when you twist the piece, the extra stitches will cause the base chain to curl in a spiral, creating a corkscrew or curlicue effect.

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I love putting these curlicues at the end of chain cords to create a fun detail, and you can create various looks by changing up the height of the stitch you’re using or making multiple rows. To see an excellent comparison between what these different stitches would look like, use this very helpful post from 1 Dog Woof.

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My ruffle chain allowed to spiral, but laid flat.

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The finished ruffled laid flat, without twist.

Changing stitch heights and number of stitches is a good way to add variety to your corkscrew/curlicue/ruffle shape.

Shells

And speaking of changing stitch heights, shells are another versatile decoration I love to use in the Pixie Belts. Shells (also called scallops or fans) are a stitch pattern that uses a succession of stitch heights to create a rounded wave effect on a row of crochet. There are TONS of different ways to make these that all create a slightly different look. The basic strategy, though, is to start with a short stitch, like a single crochet, then move through the stitch heights to get taller…

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Shown is a ch-1 turn (counts as first sc) then hdc, dc, tr, with one st worked in each stitch across.

…then doing the same thing in reverse to go back down in height.

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Now the sequence is ch-1 (sc), hdc, dc, tr, dc, hdc, sc.

This can be done over a number of stitches to create an elongated wave, as shown above…

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…or you can pile all the stitch heights into one stitch to create a more defined rounded shell shape. This one above starts with a sl st to anchor the shell, then skips a stitch and works hdc, 2 dc, hdc in the next st. Skip the next st, then anchor on the other side with a sc.

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Crocodile Stitches

Now one of my favorite techniques, the scale: Also called the crocodile stitch, this stitch pattern uses a base layer of crochet in the pattern of (2 dc, ch 1, 1 dc, ch 1) skipping one or two stitches in between the alternating single/dual dc. Here’s a chart for what that looks like:

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An example of the base layer of the croc stitch pattern, borrowed from an earlier tutorial.

Then, you create a second layer, working 5 dc into the post (side) of the dc stitch in a pairing, chaining 1, then working 5 more dc into the post on the opposite dc in the pairing. Anchor the scale by slip stitching into the unpaired dc.

CrocStitch2.pngThere are different strategies for working croc stitch, both in rows and in the round, and there are lots of videos out there demonstrating the techniques. This post on my blog has a couple short videos showing my technique specific for my Feather & Scale Halter pattern, but if like me you really like the croc stitch and want to make more designs with it, check out my crochet patterns that utilize this stitch!

Here are some examples of the techniques just discussed on the pixie belts I have made in the past:

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“Kelp” has densely stitched hand-dyed handspun wool yarn in randomly alternating stitch heights along the edges of the belt base to create a ripply water-plant effect.

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“Hemlock” has crocodile stitch across the bottom half of the belt with ripped silk fringe looped through the ch-1 space at the tip of the scale.

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Shells run across the bottom of “Shepherd’s Purse” just before the netted portion, made from bulky white recycled sweater yarn.

For now, I’m taking these two little practice pieces I made for this tutorial and am stitching them onto the pixie belt base I worked on last post. To be continued, with pockets!

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-MF

 

 

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PBT: Belt Base

This post is part of a series of tutorials on how to create your own unique crochet pixie pocket belt – too read more about this series visit the Intro page.

Belt Base

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The belt base is where I usually start, using one of the main colors of yarn and essentially creating one long, skinny rectangle by stitching just a few rows onto a long base chain. This belt was started by using my 5.00 mm hook and the double chain technique – regular chaining is fine, I just prefer stitching into the double chain for longer projects.

Make a base chain long enough to wrap around the intended set of hips, and then some. You will most likely lose an inch or two during the process of completing the belt due to the tight slip stitching added later.

Then, add a few rows of stitching to create the belt width. I did a row of double crochet, then turned and did a row of (dc, ch 1, sk next st) repeats to add visual interest. Next, I turned and worked a single crochet in each stitch and chain space (so that I have something solid to slip stitch into at the top of the belt in the later steps).

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I got creative here and decided I wanted the middle of the back of the belt to have a little point to it, so I placed a 3-stitch decrease there in each row.

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Once you have your desired width, prepare to rotate and work into the end/side of the belt.

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I create a pointed triangle shape by working three tall connected stitches across the belt ends. These are trtr (triple treble) stitches, which are equivalent to 6 chain stitches, so I chain 6 (counts as first tr tr), then insert the hook into the middle of the side of the belt. *YO 4 times and draw up a loop from under, then draw through 2 loops on the hook 4 times, leaving the last loop on the hook.

Repeat from * working into the other end of the belt side, then YO and draw through all loops on the hook. For a great explanation on working tall stitches, see this post on Moogly Blog.

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Once you have your pointed end for the ties, you can stitch up a crocheted tie by making some kind of cord (see my guide to crochet cords) or you can leave it and attach a fabric, ribbon, or yarn tie later. Either way, once you are done with this area, slip stitch down the side of the last trtr toward the bottom of the belt. Next we’ll be working into the bottom of the chain foundation.

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For the tattered skirt portion, we’ll need something to attach the fabric strips. You can definitely just put the strips through the stitches themselves if you want, but I like to crochet on a couple layers of loops for attaching the fabric. I’ll start by chaining 7, then skipping about three stitches, then attaching with a single crochet in the next st. I repeat this across the first (almost) half of the belt.

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Around the pointed part, I want there to be more fabric. So I only skip about 1 stitch in between each loop to create this effect later.

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Then, finish up the second half of the belt with regularly spaced loops. Once you reach the other side, create another three-trtr triangle. Here I decided to add a crochet tie, so I chain a length and then slip stitch back down.

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I’m almost out of my ball of plain orange, so I’m going to consider this scrap busted, and with just enough to finish the belt base – mission accomplished!

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Orange scrap, we hardly knew ye. Just kidding, we’ve known ye for about 5 years.

My (semi)-finished belt base here measures about 38-39 inches, unstretched, not including the string tie. As you can see, it curves a little naturally due to the decreases placed at the center.  It’ll follow the curve of the hips a little nicer that way, and the extra loops at the increase point will form a fuller skirt there once I place the strips of fabric – I am aiming for a bustle effect with this one.

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But, I am also going to add a second layer of loops, just so I don’t overload the first layer and make it too bulky. With another scrap, I’ll start by attaching my yarn a ¼ of the way across – I only want this layer to be on the back half of the belt.

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Here I am chaining 7 and slip stitching in each chain loop. When I get to the center, I add an extra loop there to maintain the point by slip stitching in the same loop. Then, 8 more chain 7 loops across the other part of the belt, stopping once I have about ¼ of the way left. Second loop layer added, and another little scrap busted!

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Ta- DA! That’s it for the belt base. This is the piece that you will attach the pockets to later, and can continue to build with color and texture according to your whim.

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The belt base is a great place to start experimenting with different stitch patterns – here are some examples from other belts I’ve done.

 

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“Lavender” uses something like a granny square style stitch.

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I used a more open mesh stitch on “Nightshade” and then wove ribbon yarn through.

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Simple, straightforward double crochet works too!

If you have any questions about the tutorial so far or the techniques I’m using, please leave a comment! I love to talk shop. ❤

-MF

 

 

 

PBT: Gathering Materials

This post is part of a series of tutorials on how to create your own unique crochet pixie pocket belt – too read more about this series visit the Intro page.

Choosing Materials

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These Pixie Belts can use a great variety of materials (great for craft supply hoarders) – here are just a few of the things I like to use:

  • Scrap yarns – It’s a great project for using up the really small bits!
  • Novelty yarns – it’s also a great project for using up those outrageous novelty yarns you bought before you knew better (or if you’re like me, knew better and didn’t care. Sequin yarns FTW!!)
  • Handspun yarn – I may be (slightly) biased as a spinner, but I just don’t think you can beat the look of handspun yarn added to these belts as an accent – it adds a ton of character and texture, and better yet, uses up small amounts of this expensive luxury material but still produces something with a lot of visual impact.
  • Beads & bells – must be big enough to string onto your yarn, or you can use crochet thread to string them on and carry them along on a double thread
  • Scrap fabrics : silks, gauze, velvets, etc – You’ll be cutting or tearing them into strips for the fringed skirt part of the belt, so you’ll want fairly long pieces
  • Buttons for fastening pouches / belt.

You could also incorporate any number of other things including felt shapes, home decor trim, leather scraps, ribbon.. go crazy!

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Other Materials & Tools

3.5 or 3.75 hook & 5.0 mm or 5.5 mm hook
Locking stitch markers
Several sizes of tapestry or yarn needle
Scissors
Tape Measure

Color Scheme & Theme

If you have a lot of materials to choose from, you’ll need to pick out what sort of colors you want to use and the materials that will go with it. As I’ve said before, I like doing a theme. You don’t have to. You don’t even really have to choose anything – you can just grab whatever you like in the moment. FrEeFoRm bAbY!

I love using thrift store silks for the skirting of these belts, for several reasons – they are cheap, they look amazing, they tear easily, and they have a light soft swing that makes them a dream to wear. I also utilize lightweight gauze and sometimes light/medium weight muslin or linen/cotton fabrics if I want the give the skirt a fuller look. Whatever material you use, you should be able to rip into strips if you want the really tattered look.

Stretchy, thick or complicated weave material can be used too, like velveteen or jersey knit, but you’ll have to cut them and not rip them.

Here’s a selection of fabrics that I’m choosing from. I’ve been wanting to use this orange for a long time, so that’s what I’ll be working with now. Time to chop!

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Separate the biggest pieces from whatever seams happen to be in the garment. Doesn’t have to be pretty, you’ll be tearing this up later anyway. Mine has a jersey underlayer I’ll be separating the silk from -I’ll save that for later or maybe use it for this belt too.

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I left a few seams on, which I can cut through when making the strips later.

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Now, time to choose a yarn color scheme! This is my favorite part, possibly. First, I know I need oranges since that’s going to be the dominant color in the scheme. I also pick a few greens to match the green in the silk, then purple to set off the other two colors – orange, green, and purple form a split-complementary color scheme.

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I also want to use some of this awesome handspun yarn that I’ve had forever – it has complex oranges as well as some blues and browns.

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So, I pick a few stray balls of blue to match the handspun accent colors, too. Voila! Colors selected. I probably won’t use every yarn that I chose, I rarely do – but it’s helpful to have a good selection prepared.

So now I have a nice pile of little scraps to use, plus at least one larger ball of one of the dominant colors to use for the main belt base, as well as some handspun yarn to feature in a pocket. I’m also going to add in a yarn I frequently use in the belts – a netted ribbon yarn that is great to use for the ties as it is sturdy and already has openings to fasten onto buttons! More on that later.

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But wait, there’s more!

Choose some buttons, bells, and beads. Again, it’s unlikely that I’ll use everything I choose, but I like to have my options on hand.

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You can choose only beads/bells with holes big enough to string on the yarn itself, or you can grab some crochet or tatting thread to string through and crochet as a second strand along with your yarn.

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Once you have everything selected, you are ready to roll! I stash my materials in a spare basket to keep them all in one handy place.

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Baskets are bae

Oh, and you’ll want to grab some hooks, of course. I use a 5.0 mm and a 3.5 or 3.75 mm hook for these belts, but you can use whatever you are comfortable with – but do keep a larger one and a smaller one. Here they are, looking demure. But they’re just biding their time..

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Ready for the next phase? Check out the Intro page for a list of all the posts in the series so far, and be sure to follow me here on my blog or on Facebook!

-MF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pixie Belt Tutorial: Intro

PBTCover

In response to many requests, I will be starting a series of tutorial posts for the freeform pixie pocket skirt belts (is that enough words for that?) that I’ve been making for a few years now. These crocheted belts feature utility belt style pockets in whimsical colors and shapes and a tattered fabric fringe skirt – they are great scrapbusters and excellent practice at creating different shapes and textures. And one of my favorite things to make!

The one pictured on me here was the first one I ever made, and I was immediately addicted – mixed media, playing with color, using up spare material, cute AND useful.. sounds good right?

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“Titania”

Once I had made a few more and started posting pictures of them here, I got requests for a pattern. The challenge is that I do these belts differently each time – so figuring out a pattern or a tutorial that doesn’t lock them down into sameness took some thought.

“Nightshade”

So I ruminated on it, and finally decided that a series of technique tutorials, based around the creation of an example belt, would be best. I aimed to explain these techniques well enough for even beginners to experiment with these fun shapes and textures, and for everyone to feel confident enough to let loose and have fun with it.

“Mulberry”

This tutorial series will cover material selection, basic shapes needed to create the pockets and the belt, some textural techniques, instructions on attaching the pockets, and how to make the fabric skirt fringe – and anything else I can think of! The links to the post series will appear in order below:

If you want to stay up to date on this series as it is posted, remember to follow my blog or like & follow my Facebook page!

UPDATE! This pattern is now listed on Ravelry, so if you are a Raveler you should link up your projects made from this tutorial – I’d love to see them 😀

“Kelp”

In the next section, I’m going to go through choosing the materials for the belt. I use a theme for mine, as you may have noticed: plants and trees. I love being inspired by nature, and choosing a theme like this helps guide me when I’m not sure what sort of look I want to add to the piece. More on that later.

For more inspiration, check out the Pixie Belt section on my Pinterest crochet board.

“Hemlock”

“Hickory”

Whether you choose a theme or not, remember this is a freeform project. It’s an exercise in letting go of control, of not being married to an intended outcome. Let it be zen, spontaneous, and fun! I call these belts my “chaos therapy” projects.

“Lavender”

“Shepherd’s Purse”

That’s it for the Intro – I can’t wait to get started on this project and hopefully to see what you all make!

-MF