Fabric topped towels

The Sew-op is having another sale today, and since the items I made last year didn’t sell too well I’m making different ones. Well, not entirely – I’m supplementing the leftover crinkle squares with a few new ones to freshen the inventory – but no new coasters or drawstring bags. Instead, I received tea towels from another Sew-operator’s late grandmother and topped them with hangers so they can be attached to stove or refrigerator handles. Some hangers were crocheted and some sewn; I’ll show you the sewn ones today and the crocheted ones Monday.

fabric towel topper, finished and buttoned

The towels are standard kitchen towels cut in half and zigzagged across the cut edge. Sort of following this tutorial, I topped them with a trapezoidal-ish part ending in a strip that folds over and buttons down. For some reason I thought it would be easier to make my own pattern than to go to the basement and print hers, so I’ll give you measurements.

sewn towel tops part 1 sewn towel tops part 2

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Wire crochet experiments

my wire collection - some of it. As promised, I crocheted with wire for the first time last night. The evening began with me teaching my Crochet Via Granny Squares class, so my first idea was a little wire granny square.

It didn’t go so well. I started with green floral wire, probably about 28 gauge, maybe 26, which was stiff with its coating. Second round was 30 gauge gold wire. Both were with a size 1 steel hook (2.75mm). My tension was all over the place – with the gold wire especially, it was impossible to get a grip on it without bending it and risking kinks. Not that I didn’t get kinks regardless. After the fact it occurred to me that finger cots on two or three fingers of my left hand might be a help, but by then I was getting ready for bed.

wire crocheted granny square

I did feel like I was starting to get the hang of it, as uneven as that second round is, but by then I was kind of over the whole granny square idea and decided to make a chained chain. I used the same hook, and red wire that was unlabeled, but probably 28-30 gauge. That went better, especially because the unevenness of my loops is not as apparent as the uneven height of the double crochet stitches.

wire crocheted bracelet wire crocheted bracelet

Speaking of kinks, as we were a while ago, I tried to reel the wire straight off the spool instead of letting it come off the end, coiled, because I read a hint somewhere that I’d get fewer kinks that way. I didn’t have much luck getting the gold wire to unreel like that, but the red wire was better behaved. I think it did result in fewer kinks, but not their complete elimination.

wire wrapped bird's nest I thought about trying beaded wire crochet, but it was getting late and I didn’t have any ideas that appealed to me much. Instead, in honor of how birds-nest-y my wire crochet is (especially the granny), I made a wrapped wire bird’s nest.

Frigid rain all day yesterday. I do like winter, but not that aspect. :-)

Pattern assumptions

connecting the dots Crochet has its own conventions and standard operating procedure. You know already about crochet abbreviations for stitches and methods, but I’ve realized there are plenty of other things assumed to go without saying in patterns which perhaps don’t go without saying. I thought I’d make a list of all the ones I’ve thought of or seen recently, in hopes it will help a newer crocheter. Of course every one is “unless otherwise specified,” and although many of them may be so basic as to be self-evident to everyone who tries crochet, I wanted to err on the side of completeness.

Please feel welcome to comment with your own clarification questions!


  • There are two sets of terminology in crochet, known by the shorthands US and UK. I always use US (including throughout this post) and say that in my website but not the individual patterns. There are a few telltales if you don’t know which terminology you’re working with:
    • If you see sc, it’s US. I’ve seen some warnings that US slip stitch can be called sc in UK patterns but (a) I’ve never seen it in an actual pattern, and (b) it wouldn’t be used as a primary stitch unless you were doing slip stitch crochet, in which case you’d know what to expect.
    • If you see hdc, it’s US.
    • If it’s an amigurumi made with dc, it’s UK.
    • If you see htr, it’s almost certainly UK – I’ve seen htr in US-terminology patterns, but there it’s a nonstandard stitch that needs to be defined.
  • If you are asked either to chain some number or attach new yarn with a slip stitch, it is implied that you are to tie a slip knot and place it on your hook first.
  • The instruction “sc 6 in magic ring” or similar is preceded by an implied “coil yarn into ring, pull up loop, and chain 1.” The chain 1 is often but not always included in the written instructions; the first two implied instructions are what forms the magic ring.
  • “Join with sl st into ring,” which would be applied to a chain, always means to slip stitch into the chain closest to the slip knot.


  • Stitching “in ring” or “into ring” is done by inserting your hook into the center of the ring, not between the strands of any of its stitches.
  • In general, in fact, it appears to me that whenever you make stitches on a chain that is attached at both ends (i.e. not a starting chain for work in rows or a chain out/stitch back situation), you will insert your hook under the chain (in the chain space) rather than between the chain’s strands. It is certainly true for granny squares and other afghan motifs worked in the round.
  • When working into the top teardrops of previous stitches, make one new stitch per old stitch if not directed otherwise.
  • A range of row or round numbers followed by a single set of instructions (e.g., “8-14: Sc around”) means to do the same set of stitches for each row/round numbered, except for anything that cuts or otherwise finishes off the yarn, which (unless the instructions have you start new yarn) are meant to occur only at the end of the last row/round of the range.
  • For double crochet and taller stitches, the row or round stitch count includes the turning chain, but not the joining slip stitch (if applicable). This may also be true for hdc but it is less universal.


  • “Finish off” (FO) means to cut the yarn, pull up the last loop on your hook until the cut end emerges from the final stitch, and weave that end in. “Finish off” may itself be an implied instruction, as well.
  • “Cut a long tail” or similar instructions, on the other hand, mean to pull the cut end through as with finishing off, but then await further instructions. And, of course, it also means to leave enough yarn attached that you can use it to sew two pieces of crochet together or sew an opening closed.

Fabric portfolios

interior view of filled portfolios

We at the Sew-op decided to make gift bags for the two individuals who take care of the logistics of scheduling and publicity, run our meetings, keep the website updated, and are our interface with the Co-op at large. I decided to make little portfolios to hold notebooks. If project effort is measured from 0 to 10, my settings 3-7 are missing, so I made portfolios that will hold either a notepad or a notebook, 8″x5″ or 8.25″x5″ (Moleskine just has to be different), via a large pocket with both horizontal and vertical openings. There is a slash pocket on the opposite face, and three elastic loops hold a pen which in turn holds the portfolio closed. There were two prototypes before these two, and even the second is not the same as these.

inside view of empty portfolios

front view of full portfolios back of notebook portfolios

I actually made these ages ago to be given at the June meeting, but then the giving kept getting postponed, so the posting did as well. We finally gave the bags at the September meeting, and as for posting, it gave way to things that weren’t already old news. I have been asked for the pattern by two of my Sew-op colleagues so I’m going to revamp it on the assumption that others might be interested as well. The version shown here is a little fussy (too much pressing seam allowances down and using half-strips of Stitch Witchery to secure them) – not that I withheld the pattern from my colleagues on that grounds!

FF: Make your own buttons! (part 1)

my button box For reasons I no longer remember, I went through button mania a while ago and looked through at least a hundred pages about button-making. Have I made any buttons? Unless you count the ones I covered and glued magnets to the back of, no. However, you can reap the benefits of my hours of research (those before and the additional ones filling in blanks I found while turning my link list into a post). This got so so long I’m splitting it into the first ever two-part First Friday: fiber-based today and the rest next month.

The photo is my button box and organizing system for buttons that belong to clothing I currently own: I got a package of paper tags on strings, and I attach one to each button packet, write a description of the article of clothing on the tag, and add the lot to a large safety pin.

Fabric (and embellished fabric)

The easiest way to make fabric buttons is with button cover kits, which come in many sizes. To dress them up you can ruche the fabric (works best with very large buttons), embroider it, or embellish it with beads.

You don’t have to use a kit, though, and Angie’s Bits and Pieces has tutorials for making standard shank buttons and a particular style called singleton buttons, which are made over a ring and have a raised outer edge as a consequence (there’s a slightly more involved version on Craft Stylish). The Renaissance Tailor has a near-spherical version with stuffing or a wooden bead as the core, and with something heavy like wool felt you don’t even need the stuffing. You can even make bead-encrusted buttons without a cover kit, as shown in this tutorial from Shawkl (though if your buttons will encounter water, don’t use cardboard as your stiffening layer – thin plastic from food packaging, another button, or something like a bingo chip would be preferable).


Knotted cord is a classic form of button. It calls to mind frog closures, though you can certainly use these buttons elsewhere (and very small knotted buttons are seen on wedding dresses sometimes). Of course you can use any knot you like as your button, provided it’s bulky enough to stay closed, but there are standard choices. There are instructions in the frog link, and you’ll find two distinct tutorials for the Chinese button knot on Chinese Knotting and Free Macrame Patterns, so hopefully among them you’ll figure it out easily. There are also a Celtic button knot and the large and lovely Bao treasure knot as options.

Additional toggles and a button called the Monkey’s Fist are in this Threads magazine article if you scroll down. Finally, Threads magazine also has an article about using fabric rather than (or sometimes in addition to) cord for these buttons.

Wrapped or woven thread

Needle-woven buttons comprise a large category, I found out. The simplest form would be to wrap a disk of some stiff material with yarn, either slightly offsetting each wrap from the previous to work your way around and cover the whole thing, or doing a bit of weaving as in this Knitting Daily tutorial (but again, don’t use cardboard if the button might get wet).

Button weaving can get arbitrarily complicated, though. You can cover a wooden bead, as shown on The Renaissance Tailor; a similar version is called a grindle button and uses needle weaving to cover a fabric-wrapped base. Death’s head buttons, also called Leek buttons, are a particular class of needle woven buttons that seem to be distinguished by starting with an X-shaped wrap used to anchor subsequent stitches. The basic button acquires a look similar to raised fishbone stitch in embroidery, but the weaving is unlimited. I try to avoid non-tutorials in these roundups (otherwise we’d be here all year) but you really have to see this eighteenth-century example.

Dorset buttons are needle-woven buttons made using a ring as the base. You’ll find basic instructions at Craft Stylish and in pdf form from Rachel Clare; the latter is aimed at children. Threads Magazine has a page with fancier variations, including a different style called shirtwaist buttons. As with the death’s head buttons, you can make as fancy a weave as you like here.

Rachel Clare also has instructions for Yorkshire buttons, an all-thread (well, plus a little stuffing) woven button made on a stiff round frame that is removed when the weaving is finished. They look perhaps to be a specific kind of Teneriffe lace, but the other examples of Teneriffe I’ve found are too open to be used for buttons without a lining layer.

Other methods

Crochet is another popular way to make buttons from yarn or thread. Mrs. Micawber has a flat crocheted button that involves only yarn; you can also crochet buttons that are round and stuffed or flat, but double-layered and stabilized by a plastic ring or an internal button or other disk.

Wool fleece can be felted down into buttons, either spherical or flat. The International Feltmaker’s Association has instructions for spheres, both wet felted and needle felted; see Simple and Joyful for an additional needle felted version. Mollie Makes has a tutorial for a flat button, and this tutorial from The Art of Megan for felt cabochons could easily be adapted to buttons.

Additional fiber-based buttons I wasn’t able to track down tutorials for online may be found in the book 50 Heirloom Buttons to Make.