Tag Archives: upcycling

crochet t-shirt yarn mandala trivet

Happy Mandalas

I find the parallel between the basic geometry of a crochet round and that of a mandala intriguing.  A humbler sister of the ritual mandala, the crochet mandala is nevertheless soothing and meditative to  make, and pleasing to the eye.

This simple mandala pattern is basic but priceless, because if you’ve got it mastered, you are on your way to making rugs, which are the same thing only bigger, and baskets, which are the same thing but with sides.

In the meantime, you can place your hot pan or kettle on it. Scatter a few and you’ll have a gay and festive table setting.

The pale pink and purple mandala was made with t-shirt yarn I cut from old shirts. I was able to use a kids’ size t-shirt for the middle, so that’s another nice thing about it – and of course it’s a great project for using up leftover strand bits, which is what I did in the hot-pink and orange mandala. I got the shirts from the ladies at the charity second-hand shop, who opened up their “for discard” shack for me… Such fine, sturdy, pretty cotton fabric salvaged! And t-shirt cotton is so perfect for protecting the table and keeping the pot-base warm.

I wrote up the pattern, below, and hope you enjoy making it. One word of advice: Give your mandalas freely to your friends and family, or you’ll end up like me, with a zillion different colored ones in your kitchen drawer!

Note: I don’t recommend using this as a pot-holder, because fabric yarn is bulky and the gaps between the stitches can make it unsafe for this purpose.

crochet t-shirt yarn mandala trivetcrochet t-shirt yarn mandala trivet

How to Make Happy Mandalas (can be used as trivets):

The top mandala is made from recycled t-shirts but for the green rim (I used two old children’s t-shirts).

The bottom mandala is made from bought cut strands.

I used a size 12 hook, but any size works well as long as it suits your strand.

I used 3 colors for each of these (1C, 2C, 3C)

Using 1C, make a magic ring.

Row 1: Ch 3. This counts as the first dc. Make another 11 dc into magic ring. Close with sl st. (12)

Row 2: Chain 3. The ch 3 counts as the first dc. Dc into base of ch 3 (the top of the ch 3 in previous row).  2 dc in every following 11 st. Close with an invisible join, cut. (24)

Row 3: Using 2C, start with a free-standing dc into any st. 1 dc into same st. 1 dc into next st. *2 dc into next st,  1 dc into the following st*. Repeat x 11. Close with an invisible join.(36)

Row 4: Using 3C, start with a free-standing sc into any st. Sc into next 4 st, 2 sc into next st. *sc into  next 5 st, then 2 dc into next st*, rpt x 5. Close with a sl st. (42)

Row 5: Sl st into each st on previous row (surface slip stitch). Close with an invisible join and cut. (42). The surface slip stitch evens out the rim of the mandala to make it smoother and rounder looking.

Weave in the ends.

Or – and this is my very fancy secret technique, which I have titled “draw as you stitch”, but you have to be a little skilled. It  goes like this:

Row 4: Instead of adding stitches, sc into every stitch, close with an invisible join and cut strand (36). As you are working, draw the hook a bit after every stitch to make the loop longer, before beginning the next stitch.  That way, the final row will not turn bowl-like even though you haven’t added any stitches.
As you can see in the top mandala, where this technique was used, it gives you a smoother-looking and more circular edging than if you add stitches, but it requires you to draw the loops consistently to make for uniform stitches. With a little practice, it can be mastered, and is worth the effort!
For this mandala, I didn’t make a row of surface sl st (Row 5). That’s because when you use the draw-as-you-stitch technique, the last row already comes out even looking.

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Recycled t-shirt yarn trivet

From T-Shirt to Trivet

These colorful trivets were made from recycled t-shirts!
The method is simple.
But first, you need to know how to cut a t-shirt into fabric yarn. This is a good  tutorial.
One t-shirt is about enough for one trivet.

Recycled t-shirt yarn trivet

Recycled t-shirt yarn trivet

For the trim, use a different colored strand of anything (of course, left-over bits are great) – I used one strand of striped ready-made fabric yarn for the red-and-white trim, and ordinary yarn for embellishing the blue trivet with red.

Recycled t-shirt yarn trivet

Just one thing: You don’t want delicate fabrics or yarns for this. Remember, you’re going to set a hot pot base on it, so make sure it doesn’t melt away your trivet!
Fabric with a high content of cotton is good – and yarn with some cotton or natural wool content should work well. I admit I haven’t tested other types, but I’m not sure I’d want to try…

Now, here’s for my very secret, very complicated fancy pattern!

Using a no. 12 crochet hook, make a magic ring.
Row 1: Crochet 6 sc into ring.
Row 2: Working in a spiral, continue and crochet 2 sc into each st (12).
Do you know what working in a spiral means? It means you do not close off each round with a sl st, but instead, go right ahead and crochet the first 2 sc of the next round into the first st of the previous round. Do this at the end/beginning of each and every row. Place a stitch marker after the last st of every row to mark the beginning of a new row.
Row 3: *2 sc into 1st st, 1 sc into next st*, repeat 6 times. (18)
Row 4: *2 sc into 1st st, 1 sc into each of 2 following sts* repeat 6 times (24)
Row 5: *2 xc into 1st st, 1 sc into each of 3 following sts* repeat 6 times (30).
Finish off with an invisible join and weave in the ends.

Note: If you run out of t-shirt yarn in the middle of the last row, you can finish off right where you are.  Or, if you have enough for more than the number of rows in the pattern (or for that matter, less), you can just continue crocheting until the end of the strand.

If you want to insist on (almost) perfect roundness – go ahead and finish off at the end of a row. However, the spiral technique skews the circle a little anyway (if you take a close look you’ll see what I mean). So when you’ve finished, take a look and see if the shape you’ve obtained is the one you want, or continue a little if you wish until it looks just right to you, as long as the strand lasts.

Now for the trim:
Start with a sl st at the top of the second sc you made, in the space between the rows.  That will start you very near the center of the spiral. Continue with sl st in the space between the rows, one sl st for each sc in the row below it.  Draw out the sl st’s as much as you need so that your project lays flat, because the strand you use may not be identical to the one you used to crochet the base. You will be stitching in a continous spiral between the rows.

If you use a fabric yarn strand, the sl st spiral may almost cover the original crocheted spiral (as in the red-and-pink trivet)

Recycled t-shirt yarn trivet

If you use a thinner strand, such as yarn, it will accent it between the rows (as in the blue and red trivet).

Recycled t-shirt yarn trivet

When you reach the end of the spiral, draw out the strand, move it to the back, and weave in the end.

Done!

 

 

 

 

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denim fabric basket

The (Very) Last of the Tangerines

These were the last of them, at the top of the tree – well, at least at the top of the ladder. They were sweet, after hanging onto that tree, and sipping up every bit of sweetness and sunshine throughout the winter… They were also a deep orange, so much so that I found it hard to believe that they were ever green… We picked and ate quite a few in between, thinking each time that this was as big – and as orange – and as sweet – as they would get. Faith, patience, persistence… If we were lacking in them, the tangerines were not.

denim fabric basket
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Patience and persistence is what that old pair of jeans had, too. To wait around, faded and torn, for years – decades! Till that moment of grace  arrived and their fabric was turned into a useful and pretty denim basket.

denim fabric basket
I know it looks kind of shabby-chic (well, I’m hoping…), very raggedy and crochet-what-may-come – right?

denim fabric basket
Well, will you believe me if I tell you I crocheted, un-crocheted and re-crocheted parts of this basket as many as ten – fifteen – okay, twenty times? (Did someone mention patience and persistence?).

Crochet Denim Basket
See, it is exactly when something is “natural”, “coincidental”, that you can get to the point where – it’s not quite right, and the difference between messy – vs. cool – can be a stitch here and not there, that perfect shade of blue, and two, not three rows in height.  In the end,  I like the outcome – it just took me some time to realize This Was It.

denim fabric basket
A good thing all that time, the tangerines were busy ripening on the tree. Have some,  please – or you’ll have to wait till next year!

denim fabric basket

 

 

Crochet basket with recycled fabric trim

Autumn Bounty

Walking home from the bus stop I passed by the clothing recycling bin. Next to the bin was a plastic bag with some children’s clothes, and on the top was a boys’ dress shirt in turquoise with purple-pink stripes. How could anyone think of turning that into clothing pulp, or – as rumor has it – cloth wipes for the car wash industry? Mercy knows no boundaries, and so I picked up the shirt and took it upon myself to deliver it to the second hand shop, whose earnings all go to scholarships for disadvantaged girls. Which is how it landed upon my good deed roster to also launder it. It was only when I took the clean shirt down from the clothing line that I noticed it: An amoeba shaped fade-stain on the front right next to the second button from the bottom. By now, however, there was no turning back: Our destinies were intertwined, and knew I had to do what I had to do – tear the shirt up into strips and crochet it.

Crochet basket with recycled fabric trim Crochet basket with recycled fabric trim
Whether bounty or burden, I could not deny the delight of hooking this delicious color as a trim for a small basket.
I used an equally delicious pale magenta strand to make a soft but sturdy basket that I have not yet decided how to use. In the meantime, it is posing here with some hand-picked tangerines, a gift from our dinner guests, or rather, from their tree. Is there anything fresher or sweeter?

crochet fabric yarn basket

The architecture:

Crochet basket with recycled fabric trim

Crochet basket with recycled fabric trim

And a close-up view of the recycled trim. The frayed edges give it personality, but also actually keep it from unraveling better than cut edges:

Crochet basket with recycled fabric trim

crochet fabric yarn rug

Candy Carpet and Blogiversary

It seems appropriate at the close of a year to come full circle to one of my first fab-yarn (my term for fabric yarn) projects. Fortunately I took the pictures some time ago, because by now it has already undergone some wear! But before I tell you about it, I want to go back to August, 2014, when I first started writing here…
I was crocheting incessantly at the time because it was all I could do in face of a raging war where I live. I was hanging on to the threads of fabric yarn for balance, and they became threads of hope and prayer to me. Not much in the way of combating evil but on a personal level, it was panacea.
That round of hostility is over, but it seems as if the ongoing conflict has splintered into anger and cruelty and hatred. Summer, with its crazy heat and humidity, has apparently instigated flames in sad and frightening ways.
I have learned that stitching gives me some inner peace in times of turmoil, whether regional or very personal. I thank you for joining me in this peaceful abode, and welcome your company in the Pursuit of Simple Joys.

Crochet rag rug

So this is the rug, titled Candy Carpet for the candy-cane striped strand midway, and the general crazy color scheme. It was a by-product of my First Project, because the same day I raided my closet for old t-shirts and tights, I realized that not all old clothes necessarily go well with each other. The pink-red-purple-turquoise pattern of the old tights in the middle simply did not blend well with the brown-green checks of the old flannel shirt.

Crochet Rag Rug
And so my first rug became two rugs – I started them both alongside, then went to the fab-yarn shop and bought what I needed to match each of them. Having started with crazy colors I went along, and this was also a chance to feature one of my favorite ever strands – see the red floral cotton between the pink and the gray? This home cut strand, originally a curtain hem, was a gift from my MIL who was glad to donate her stash in support of my newfound creative endeavor.  I think we’re giving “vintage” a new meaning here.

Crochet rag rug
Like my first first-rug, this project was done in happy obliviousness of rules and conventions. All I knew was “intuitive” crocheting, as in, adding enough stitches to make it settle nice and flat. I think it worked for the most part, and when it didn’t, I un-crocheted it, and tried and erred till I was happy with the result. The same with the colors and pattern – I stitched around, then unraveled it if I didn’t like it… So in all, if I had crocheted forward and not back-and-forth, this rug could probably cover our living room floor. But as it is, it’s just right for a visiting toddler to settle on – and enjoy the legos that have been sitting around since my kids were resident toddlers.

Crochet Rag Rug
You may notice the center is a bit off-center. Like my other first carpet, I kept to the rule of – not a scrap of old scraps is to be thrown away, so I stitched until the strand ended, which was not always at the end of a row. But since the fabric pattern was so wild anyway, I just let it be, and put a little peace and order in by encircling the middle enclave in purple and gold. Some additional containment I think was obtained with the off-white border. I also think it gives it kind of an ethnic-carpet style, don’t you?
I can tell you it’s soft and comfortable to sit on, and that is the one nice thing about making rugs out of well-worn, thread-thin 20 year old cotton tights…

fabric yarn rug

Growth Ring Rug

At last, my first! This was my first ever fabric yarn project. Previously on this blog, I wrote about the first project I completed, which you will note is not the same thing. The pair of little baskets were begun and finished in an afternoon, even as the rug I was working on was slowly growing its rings.  It all began with The Shirt.  It was (note the past tense…) soft checked 100% cotton flannel in shades of turquoise and brown. It was handed down and handed over several times, spanning cousins and continents, and worn to a very worn state. It was so soft and comfortable because the fabric had, over time, turned from cotton to silk (yes, that can happen with enough laundering and wear), and in some places, it was so nearly-frayed that a gentle breeze could cause it to rip.
How can anyone possibly say goodbye to a shirt like that? Impossible.  So one day, when yet another little rip overturned the balance between intact and torn threads in favor of the latter, it was time to give it its new form.
With a certain vision as to how a rag rug is made, I took my big scissors and started cutting the shirt into strips. I cut everything: Front, back, stitches, collar, cuffs. Not a check of the checked fabric was left out. I realized at some point that the buttons were probably out of the game, but everything else was cut, piled and joined to form a nice, long, faded, fuzzy, soft, cotton-silk turquoise and brown strand.
I had a big crochet hook I had used as a teenager to make really quick shawls out of regular yarn. For many years I thought that’s what this jumbo hook was for – emergency gifts – until I realized the true purpose of this timeless tool.
I have many a crocheted spiral in my résumé, but it was weird – and fun – and funny – to be crocheting a torn up shirt. The strand of joined yarn was a little uncooperative at times – especially when I got to the cuff and collar parts – but I finally managed to get it all under my hook. And before long – in fact, quite sooner than I expected – the strand was all gone, and the “rug” was a little over the size of a dinner plate. This, from a shirt that had crossed continents and generations and withstood not only gentle breezes but many a northern gale: A tiny, scrunched up dinner-plate of a ruglet with some cuff and collar sizing sticking out here and there.
But there was no going back – a shirt, it could no longer be (and really hadn’t been for quite a while, in the usual sense of the word). As I could not go back I thought I’d move on and find some more Old Shirts to add to the rug.
Old clothes are not that hard to come by in our house, due to my tendency to move them to The Back of the Closet rather than Out of the House. I found two very soft and comfortable stretchy tops that had seen better times, and an old black cotton t-shirt – well, ex-black, now faded charcoal, to be precise.  All three garments were retrieved from the depths of the closet and promptly cut and joined to form 3 colored strands.
Unspoiled as I was at the time by Facebook groups, blogs, patterns and other showcases of the Current Conventions of the art of fabric yarn, I had no qualms about crocheting each strand as it went, until it ran out, the traditional way. But instead of starting a new color in the middle of a row, towards the end of each strand I switched from single crochet (American term) to slip stitching, sloping along the round gradually to close it into a circular form. The result was four not-too-concentric circles that look like – well, puddles, or lakes, or, as I finally decided, the growth rings of some mysterious tree.
Growth rings in a 55 year old pine slice

Crochet Rag Rug Ok, I know how to crochet perfect circles, or a spiral as I choose. But it was my choice to use up every single itty-bitty strand from these much-worn, much-faded, faithful clothes with so many a story to tell, and it felt like these circlish forms would best tell their story.
But even these soon ran out… And so I made my way to actually buying pre-cut strands – what a funny thought, for someone to purposely create rags! But there was no going back… My hook was poised and the rug was waiting. The bought strands joined the historic ones, completing the organic woodsy color scheme and also the very free-flowing stitch choice and style.
Crochet Rag Rug
The rug has found its place in the bedroom, far from the scrutiny of strangers who might choose to enlighten me on the basics of Euclidean geometry, but viewed daily by those who understand the true meaning of every growth ring. Sometimes when I open my eyes in the morning I can swear it’s started growing another ring overnight – could this be possible?

Crochet Rag Rug