Winter Project Updates

Hi there! It’s not necessarily been crickets around here, but I do feel its time for some project updates of things I’ve recently completed. I haven’t had a whole lot of new things to show in the crochet category since many of the things I’ve had on the hook have been larger, longer projects that I’ve toiled at slowly in my spare time over the course of last semester. After the New Year I made it a priority to finish some of these things up so that I could MOVE. ON. FINALLY.

And so today I present two new project variations on two of my personal favorite original patterns, plus a skirt that I’d been hacking away at (literally). Prepare for photogenic twirling. There will be twirling.

Eyeball Sweater

I bought the yarn for this pattern, Yarn Bee Soft and Sleek in six different multi colorways, with some legwarmer project vaguely in mind. Well, that project was just not exciting enough to me, and so I started a chaotically rainbow version of my Spiral Sweater pattern.

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I worked it in size Small, but decreased every other stitch across the armholes to tighten up the front collar of the sweater (and also conserve yarn, which turns out was very necessary). I also skipped the Linked Double Crochet reinforcement across the back of the collar. Because I forgot. πŸ˜›

eyeball4Because I started with a central circle of solid navy leftovers that I had from a different Spiral Sweater, the middle part of the back started to look like the pupil of an eye, so I ran with that. After finishing everything on the sweater, I took some more spare yarn and slip stitched some crazy squiggles into the “iris” of the eye.

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I’ve always loved the nazar, a Middle Eastern charm symbol representing an eye, which used to ward off the evil eye.Β  This sweater is watching your back! Har har har.

You can find the project page, which also links to my original pattern in the righthand sidebar, here on Ravelry.Β  That bitchin’ tree man necklace I am wearing is from my friend Wendy’s polymer clay art shop, Dark Pony Arts – check her out, she is amazing!

 

Fairy Shawl

Though the Ida Shawl was originally designed to be multicolored, I’ve found that I really love doing them in monochromatic yarns, especially neutrals. This one is done with a DK weight acrylic yarn, Premier Everyday Baby in White, which used up all of three skeins once the fringe was finished. I really had fun plotting an outfit to go with this one.

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That’s really the only reason I do this. Excuse to dress up! Just kidding. Kind of.

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The Ida Shawl, as finicky as it was to get right during the designing process, is all the more worth it for the struggle. I still love that central design, which represents the seeds that form a star when you cut an apple in half horizontally.

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You can see this project on Ravelry too, with all of the pictures and a link to the original pattern. The leafy headwrap I am wearing is also a pattern of mine, the FREE Ivy Crown tutorial.

 

Jewel Skirt

This is the 5th skirt I’ve produced using Wendy Kay’s No-Gathers Gypsy Skirt pattern that I bought from her shop on Etsy, and this pattern has been WELL worth my money. Just chop out blocks and sew them together, no measuring (well, not much measuring) and you’ve got a beautiful dancing skirt to twirl in. Easy.. and fun!!

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I made this one from mostly upcycled fabrics, including some curtains from Goodwill and several yards of fabric I had had tucked away for YEARS that I got from a thrift market outside of the Portland Indiana Tractor and Engine show. It’s funny sometimes, when your craft supplies remind you of the places you’ve been and the other lives that you’ve lived.

I think sometimes that’s part of the appeal, for people who handmake things. It certainly is for me.

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The other skirts I’ve made I’ve given away or sold, but I think I’m keeping this one for myself. The jewel tones and floral print match nearly everything in my closet πŸ˜€

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I don’t put ALL of my sewing and refashion projects here on Morale Fiber blog, since I want the main focus here to be on crochet techniques, patterns and designs – but I do run a more personal side blog on Tumblr which I use for sewing and fashion stuff. Check me out there: Howling Mouse on Tumblr.

 

I do have more projects from over the winter that remain unfinished, plus some exciting new things budding! So I’m gonna go hustle that. As always, thank you for visiting!

-MF

P.S – I’ve gotten a lot of photo submissions of people’s projects that they have made from my designs lately – please keep that up! I love that so much! ❀ ❀ ❀ I hope you all have loved it too!

 

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Avocado Dye – Batch 1

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I love garbage.

Let me explain: I love taking things that would otherwise end up in the garbage and using them for something. The feeling of making something useful and valuable out of what would normally be considered disposable brings me great satisfaction.

So when I was told I could bring home the rotten avocados that had to be pulled from the shelf in the produce department at the co-op where I work, I was giddy. Hooray! Garbage to play with!

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I removed the pits and skins from these castoffs, as well as from the avos that I ate, over the course of a couple months. I knew from doing some research into natural dyeing that avocado pits and skins could be made into a dye that yields an earthy pink color, when managed correctly. There’s plenty of links to good blog posts about this process on my Pinterest Dyeing board.

Anyway, I ended up with around 2,600 g of avocado materials. A pretty healthy amount, which I needed considering the dyestuff to fiber ratio needs to be around 6:1 to get a deep color, according to the accounts I had read.

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My materials were an assortment of things, because experimentation! I had about 428 g of materials to dye – some handspun alpaca yarn, wool roving and a Habotai silk scarf from Dharma Trading Company, an old silk shirt I wanted to upcycle, and some fugly cotton yarn just because I hated it. But before I dealt with any of these things, I had to extract the dye.

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I piled up all of my avocado leavings, which had been stored in bags in the freezer until I built up enough, into a pot with about a gallon of filtered water and a cup of baking soda. The baking soda was to make the water alkaline, because (according to the blogs I read) acidity changes the dye and turns things brown rather than pink. I boiled this witchy brew for about 2 1/2 hours.

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I was very excited to see that deep mauve color appearing in the bubbles as it boiled. I was less excited about the smell.

Once it had boiled for a good long time and the color of the water was opaque (almost black!) I strained all of it through cheesecloth into jars and let the dye cool. Since extracting the dye was an all-afternoon affair, I decided to store the dye in the fridge until the next phase.

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Note that I could have dyed the materials in with the skins and pits all at once, but I didn’t do this for a couple of reasons: first, I was working with wool and it would felt if I had exposed it to such high temperatures, and second, I wanted a little more control over the process and the opportunity to dye the materials with different ratios of dye extract.

So I popped the jars of dye into the fridge after they had cooled off, until the next free afternoon I had available. To get the dye to take the fibers, I had to mordant my materials. I used alum and cream of tartar dissolved in distilled water, and soaked my materials in the mordant solution for a couple hours – next time, I’ll probably soak overnight.

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One source said I needed 7 g cream of tartar and 8 g of Alum per 100 g of fabric/fiber, so I used a total of 31.5 g cream of tartar and 36 g of alum (both of these were obtained from Dharma Trading).

Once soaked in the mordant solution, I pulled everything out and began portioning the fibers out into quart canning jars. Each jar got an extra 1/8 cup baking soda just to be sure to keep the alkalinity of the water. Each jar also got a mixture of mordant solution and dye extract, and I purposefully squished the fabrics into the jars and poured dye over the top, to create an uneven reach for the dye. I wanted a nice earthy textured color effect. Which I got, sort of.

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Next, the jars went into the canner on a rack, with some water at the bottom for steaming, and set on a low setting on the stove. Lid goes on, then waiting while the temp starts to slowly rise. The jar balanced precariously on the side is the one with the wool, raised further out of the bottom to avoid the danger of overheating and felting.

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More waiting. And occasional poking with a stick.

Once my jars had been steaming for a couple hours, I turned the temperature off and left it overnight to cool.

The next morning, I removed the soggy mess from inside each jar and gently squeezed them into the sink, enjoying the fact that since I was using natural dyestuff, I didn’t have to worry too much about psychedelicizing my apartment kitchen by way of accidental splashing.

But, since I was using natural dyestuff, I also didn’t have to worry about psychedelicizing my fiber either. Since an alarming amount of dye seemed to be washing out – and the remaining color was a sad brown. With an intensely sinking feeling, I washed all of my materials in textile detergent and rinsed them, taking stock of my situation.

One alpaca skein seemed to have taken the dye well, the other was muchΒ  paler, and the wool had some definite patches of well-dyed fiber. The habotai silk took some dye, with a couple dark patches, and the silk shirt not much at all. The cotton yarn, ugly to begin with, was now both ugly, brown, and tangled. In fact, I was kind of frustrated at this point and just pitched the cotton yarn straight into the trash. The rest I hung up to air dry.

One nugget of wisdom I’ve learned over the years so far is never to judge a dye batch before it’s fully dry. And though I already knew this, I spent the next few days calling the experiment a failure as it hung on my curtain rod, being shunned.

And then when it was fully dry I took it down and got a good look. I was surprised that the rosy pinks HAD come out after all, though it was still browner than I wanted in places. Overall, the earthy pink and hazel shades were really pleasing and I immediately forgave them all of their supposed misbehavior.

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Not perfect, no. But since I gained a little success, and I have dye extract left over, there will definitely be a Batch 2! The rest of this post is just a bunch of pictures of the dye materials, because I do love them after all. Except for that stupid cotton yarn. πŸ˜›

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Left to right – Alpaca, wool roving, wool roving, alpaca again, then silk

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The silk shirt just barely got a tinge, except for a few patches that were very dark. Still figuring out how that happened.

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I’ll be ripping this one up for silk fringe on my pixie belts anyway.

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The wool roving turned out nicer than expected, especially since for a moment I had thought I felted it!

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Definitely halfway spun already as I type this πŸ˜€

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So, moral of the story, it’s difficult and sometimes frustrating to try to learn new things with your art (or anything). But that’s because you have to push yourself to be better in order to grow – and if you love what you do, the risk of failure is nothing compared to the reward of learning.

-MF

 

Alpacalypse Now

Guys, I’m really sorry about that pun. Sort of.

You see, last Saturday I turned in my final assignment for my Bachelor’s degree, so I’ve been bursting forth with renewed energy on all the ongoing craft projects laying around my home. And exuberant art energy requires puns.

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So that’s my segue into my post today, talking about one of the things I love to do when I have a little extra time – spinning! Well, it’s also just an excuse for shameless yarn porn.

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I’ve been spinning periodically, although I haven’t really made a blog post about it recently. I did a silly thing a while back and ordered a massive amount of beautiful alpaca fiber from Alpaca Direct. I resolved to spin it all, and wrote a whole post about it –Β  which, now that I look at that post, was over two years ago. Slow art for the win!

Because, I totally did spin it all! Yep, all of it. Some of it even made it into projects for my friends along the way. This is me, plying together the last bit of the natural white alpaca fiber, on my trusty wheel.

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Her name is Mystic.

I made it through the pound of natural white, the 12 oz of dark brown, and SOME of the 8 oz of lighter brown (from Valentina) that I purchased at a later date. I eventually gave up on spinning it all consistently, and went in for the fast and wacky approach for the last half of the natural white. I love the variation in textures I got!

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For the white yarn, some skeins were consistent, some were chunky, and some were singles. The dark brown (being the first batch I did) was pretty even, and the light brown is a bulky, fluffy affair.

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I am really loving these natural tones, which is a good thing because my beautiful friends sometimes give me secondhand fiber.Β  Last summer I was gifted a big bag of RAW alpaca fiber in a beautiful pecan brown color; the catch is, this fiber is really unprocessed.

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Which is actually not a catch at all, since I finally had an excuse to purchase some carding equipment! Hand carders (still not enough resources to justify a drum carder πŸ˜› ) were acquired and now I am clumsily learning to use them.

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I’m not great at it yet, especially since I have to keep switching to my left hand so that my right arm doesn’t end up noticeably more beefy – this activity is a WORKOUT. But as you can see, I’m producing a few silly looking rolags from the raw material so I can spin them, bit by bit, on the drop spindle.

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Excuse my awkward fiber sausage

Its tempting to build a pile of rolags and then spin them all on the wheel for speed’s sake, but for now I am enjoying the process of drop spindling them, so that I can learn how the fibers act when they are hand carded like this. I’ve been favoring the spindle lately anyway, after a period of neglect. Its simplicity and portability is really attractive and valuable, even though wheel spinning is more efficient, so I’m glad I learned both.

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The real question is, what the hell am I going to make with 4 pounds of handspun alpaca fiber? Stay tuned, maybe I’ll know in another two years! πŸ˜‰

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Here’s a picture of my moon lamp, for no reason other than its pretty!

-MF

Daydreamer Poncho Pattern

Merry Day of the Dead! Today’s offering is a brand new PDF crochet pattern that I had (ahem) originally scheduled to release in August. Ha ha! Life.

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No worries here though because the Daydreamer Poncho is SUPER versatile as a layering piece and looks just as stunning worn over long sleeves and outerwear as it does over tank tops and dresses!Β  You can get this fresh design in my Etsy Shop or Ravelry Pattern Store for 5.95 USD πŸ™‚

More details on the pattern below!

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Daydreamer Poncho

Embrace your inner hippie with this dreamy lace poncho; easy and quick to work up using worsted weight yarn and a 5.50 mm hook. The mesh construction makes this a perfect lightweight layering piece that flatters the wearer with a fitted shoulder, A-line shape, and a fluttery fringe at the hem.

Featuring textural stitches in alternating colors and gradually widening chain loop pattern inspired by crocheted dreamcatchers, you can proudly wear this handmade piece in any season. The ribbed post stitch collar is finished with a drawstring cord topped by yarn-fringe “feathers”. The instructions for the Daydreamer Poncho come complete with detailed written pattern including tons of quality color tutorial photos, numbered and referenced in the text so that all the techniques are illustrated and easy to follow!

Materials

5.50 mm (I) hook

Yarn: Lion Brand Jeans (#4 weight, 3.5 oz / 100g, 246 yd, 100% acrylic)
Color A: Vintage – 1 skein
Color B: Jumpsuit – 1 skein
Color C: Top Stitch – 1 skein
Color D:Β  Khaki – 1 skein
Color E: Stonewash- 1 skein
Color F: Stovepipe – 1 skein

Scissors
Tapestry Needle
6” length of cardboard, book, or tassel maker for fringe

Final Dimensions:
Collar: 18” without drawstring
Length: 22” unstretched, not including fringe

All instructions written in US terms

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You will love love love this pattern as much as I do, it’s so fun to make and has a ton of potential for scrapbusting if you don’t feel like splurging on new yarn – made with worsted weight and designed for color changes, there is endless possibilities! Of course, I’d love to try it in monochrome too…

As usual, too much inspiration, not enough time πŸ˜›Β  Enjoy the rest of the silly photoshoot I did for this pattern, and I hope it inspires you too!

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I just couldn’t be more grateful for all the wonderful comments and support you guys leave me here and on social media – you’re the reason I get to keep doing this! So much love ❀

If you’d like to see more Morale Fiber, check out my social media channels:

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Tumblr

Thank you!!
-MF

PBT: Wrap-Up

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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 theΒ Intro page.

Maybe it’s just because I worked on the tutorial for this so much, but this newest pixie pocket belt may be my favorite ever. To be fair though, I do say that almost every time I make a new one of these.

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That’s because every one of them turns out to be totally unique – I start out with a pile of scrap materials, and then let it be what it becomes along the way. This one became “Maple” named of course after the tree. I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial series – I certainly did – and I’d love to see what is being made from this guide!

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This pattern tutorial series is now listed on Ravelry – hook up your projects so I can see what you made, or look through other projects for inspirationΒ  πŸ˜‰

And now for more pictures and ramblings.

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I especially love these to dance in, since the fabric fringe catches movement so well!

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Fun side story – the flower headpiece I am wearing in this photo is one I made years ago, a long strand of curlicues (just like the ones talked about earlier in the tutorial series) with scrap yarn flowers that made as I was traveling across the U.S.

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Of course, the utility belt function of this project is super handy if you are the festival-going type, since these pixie belts are not only cute and go over anything, but also hold your necessaries!

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I’m pretty happy with how the faux-bustle back came out – its not something I’d ever really tried before. That’s another thing I love about these projects – pure experimentation is necessary, not just encouraged.

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I’m a little sad to be closing out the pixie belt tutorial actually, so I’ve had a thought – perhaps more pocket patterns in the future? What do you think?

As always, don’t hesitate to ask any questions or leave any comments! I love hearing from you ❀

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-MF

 

 

 

PBT: Fabric Fringe Skirt

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 theΒ Intro page.

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Okay, we’re all done with the crochet process now, so it’s time to move on to one of the most *satisfying* portions of the process: the ragtag fabric scrap fringe skirt! Why is it so satisfying? Well, because you get to rip stuff up. Rip rip rip.

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Here I have the fabrics I selected during the process of selecting my materials – a couple of thrift store silk shirts and some soft rayon jersey knit that formed the lining of one of the shirts. I use my scissors to separate large chunks of fabric away from the bulky seams, then once I have a piece isolated, I start ripping!

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Using my fabric scissors, I cut out small tabs on the edge of the piece of fabric. Then…

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….I grab a tab and rip straight across to get a strip of fabric. RIIIIIIP!

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That’s all there is to it, really. I keep ripping until I have a nice little pile of strips. Beware, there will be a lot of stray threads involved in the ripping process. This is normal.

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So here I have a nice pile from this silk piece. They are different sizes, because I’m using upcycled clothing, so the pieces I’m ripping from are not uniform in size or shape. I’ll sort it out later.

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I’ve also decided to use the jersey knit lining from the same upcycled shirt. Since you can’t rip knit, (or stretch velvet, another favorite fabric of mine to use in these projects) I just use a rotary blade to open up the shirt and cut long strips.

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Add ’em to the pile!

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I also discovered this gold colored silk button-down in my stash at some point and added it to my material pile – I thought it would be good to add depth to the color scheme. Rip rip rip!

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Okay, that’s a pretty good sized pile. It’s not all of my material, but I can always cut more if I need to. Time to apply them to the belt. First, though, one side of my belt doesn’t have a tie – so I am going to use the netted ribbon yarn for that. One good long length doubled over, then looped through the end of the belt, makes a nice tie. Additionally, the netted nature of the ribbon yarn can easily hook over any buttons placed on the belt, giving you more options for how to secure it around the waist.

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Now, the fringe! I lay out all of my strips – since I am making a bustle-style back for this belt, I want to utilize my longest strips in the back middle, and put the shorter ones toward the front edges. So I organize my strips into piles according to size – long, medium, short. Then, take each strip and double it over.

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Using a large-ish hook, draw the loop at the end of the double strip through a chain-loop opening on the edge of the belt. You can also draw these directly through the stitches, or really wherever you want. FrEeForM!!

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Draw the ends through the loop and tighten to create the fringe. Do this all across the belt, or anwhere you want your fabric fringe to be. I go through and add this layer of fabric on just the edge loops, going according to size as I mentioned earlier.

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Once all of the loops on the very bottom have been fringed, I flip the belt over and work from the back side for a bit, hooking fringe into the middle layer of loops.

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Again, there’s really not a wrong way to do this. You can fringe all from the front, or all from the back, or just do one layer, or do so many layers you can’t even see the mesh portion. That last one is what I’m aiming for.

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So I attach my strips just about anywhere they will fit.

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Then, flip it back over, and attach on the top portion of the mesh on the right side!

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Hm, needs just one final touch I think – so I attach just a few strands of a small ball of silky eyelash yarn I have in my materials pile.

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That’s the stuff. And now, I’m seriously done! I am so thrilled about the way this turned out, and also being able to share this creative process here on the blog πŸ™‚ But I do have one more post in this series: the Wrap-Up! Check it out and don’t forget to show me what you’ve made!

Meanwhile, here’s more examples of fringe skirts from other belts I’ve done:

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“Mulberry” used strips of cut stretch velveteen. It also featured a mushroom pouch on it’s own loop, which can be worn around the neck as well. I didn’t include that type of pocket in this tutorial because I already have a mushroom pouch free pattern available!

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“Shepherd’s Purse” used only ripped cotton weave fabrics, like gauze and muslin.

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Instead of ripped fabric, the skirt for “Nightshade” is that netted ribbon yarn, all stretched out to make a frilly fringe.

-MF

 

PBT: Attaching the Pockets

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 theΒ Intro page.

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So far we’ve covered basic shapes in the form of pockets such as circles, squares & rectangles, triangles, and cones – now it’s time to take all the pockets and attach them to the belt base using slip stitch crochet. Like the rest of this project, there is no strictly “right” way to do this, but I’ve included lots of process photos to show how I manage this part.

I prefer the look of pockets mounted directly onto the belt, with the backs up against the belt itself. I also always double-mount my pockets, using two lines of slip stitching, one at the top and one in the middle, to attach the pockets to the belt base. This is not absolutely necessary if you want to skip the second mount (the middle mount is the trickiest part of this) but it does make them really sturdy.Β  I have seen my festival friends put these things through the wringer with use – and they hold up!

If you need more inspiration on the ways you can assemble the belt, remember to check out my Pinterest board featuring crochet utility belts!

Attaching the Pockets to the Belt

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To begin the final stage of crochet for the pocket belt, lay out your belt base and grab all of your completed pockets. Decide how to place the pockets, arranging them along the belt base in whatever manner strikes your fancy – I like the pockets to sit near the ends, but sometimes they are all over the place. Here, because I’m featuring a bustle back, I keep them corralled near the ends so as not to cover the back of the skirt.

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The first step is to get a yarn and start slip stitching across the top of the belt base. I am using a really textured yarn for this part, just to add a little extra crazy.

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Here, I’m just slip stitching across the top of the belt until I get to a place where I’d like to put a pocket. Keep slip stitching, but now work through two layers – the top edge of the pocket (the back part only, since you don’t want to stitch the pocket closed) and the top edge of the belt base.

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This is the first attachment. Keep slip stitching until you want to place another pocket.

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Then, slip stitch across the pocket and belt simultaneously again.

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For drawstring pockets like this one, make sure you leave enough pocket unattached for it to be able to close nicely.

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Keep slip stitching and attaching pockets until you reach the opposite end of the belt.

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For the envelope-style pocket, I decide to make the slip stitch attaching underneath the top flap – so I open it up and stitch through the pocket layer and the belt layer underneath.

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At the end, I rotate and work one row of the side of the belt base, then rotate again and start to slip stitch across the middle of the belt, placing my stitches in between the double crochets that make up the middle row.

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Attaching in the middle can require some really creative maneuvering on the part of the hook-wielder. In fact, this part is more like guerilla fiber-punk yarn wrestling. So be prepared for that! πŸ˜€

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To work the second row of attaching, slip stitch until you reach a pocket. With the back of the pocket facing you, insert your hook into the stitching and back out on the other side of a single stitch, catching the post of the stitch with your hook.

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Then, insert the hook through the middle of the belt. Yarn over and draw this loop through the belt, the post of the pocket stitching, and the loop on your hook, making one slip stitch through two layers.

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Continue this process for at least part of the back of the pocket. When you’ve attached enough of the back of the pocket, keep slip stitching through just the belt layer as normal until you reach the next pocket, then work through both layers in the same manner again.

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Here you can see the back of the slip stitching of the second row on the inside of a pocket – just enough to hold them down and make sure they are extra secure.

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The pockets are now attached!

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After working the second round of attaching, I like to do one more row of slip stitching into the same stitches across the top of the belt, just for extra firmness (to reduce yarn stretching on the belt base) and to add more color and depth. Here I’ll change colors, then just work a simple line of slip stitching all the way across, right next to the first line of slip stitches (or wherever… FREEFORM!!)

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After this last finishing touch, I’m DONE with the crochet portion of the belt! Time to weave in my ends, then tackle the final step: the fabric fringe skirt. After that post, I’ll do a final reveal and wrap-up – I can’t wait to show the final product πŸ™‚

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-MF