"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Get a Grip (Free Pattern/Tutorial for Windmill Bag Shoulder Straps)

click to see the ravelry project
which will take you to the pattern
I get very excited about crocheting handbags because when I make one for myself I use it . . . a lot. That said, this method of putting straps on a bag came from some trial and error while making the two other bags pictured in this post. I'm really proud of them, though, so I MUST show them off to you. I'm so emotionally attached to these bags that when I first made one or the other, I slept with it under my pillow. I still have, and use, both of them.

All three bags were made from yarn seconds which might otherwise have been discarded. Further, the Hakelbeutel used squares that I made to test a pattern for another designer, which I doubt I would have used for anything else had I not come across that pattern. Add to that the shapes of those two bags actually inspired this series, and you now get a glimpse into my own creative process.

Enough with the background information; let's get to work.

If you've followed my Windmill Bag pattern, you've now got a sack with four points at the top. Each point should be 17 stitches high and this pattern can simply be followed as a pattern to give you a finished bag. You could also use this pattern as a tutorial for adding straps to your hakelbeutel. Simply adapt the stitch count to fit the bag you're working.

The finished straps end up being a bit over an inch wide (just a bit wider than 4 rows of sc). And the top border is just a hair wider than the straps (5 rows of sc). This method makes two very long shoulder straps as shown in the picture of the finished bag. Feel free to adjust to your preference.

Finishing the Windmill Bag

Supply Note: For a full list of supplies, consult the original pattern for the Blog Collection Windmill Bag.

Design Note: Rounds are worked continuously so as not to show joins.

Place stitch markers at each of the four peaks of the bag. You may wish to mark the four valleys (lowest points) of the bag and your very first stitch as well (whatever you need to do to make it easier to identify these key spots). Make sure bag is turned right side out.


Round 1: beginning at any peak, join w/sc in 11th st, sc in each of next 6 sts, [sc in end st of each row (for a count of 17), *2sc in next st, sc in each of next 16 sts] 3 times, sc in end of each row (for a count of 17), *2sc in next st, sc in each of next 9 sts (140 sc)

*Move stitch markers to the first sc in the 2sc. This becomes your new peak.

Round 2: sc in 1st st and in next 5, [sk next 2 sts, sc in next 16 sts, *3sc in next st, sc in next 16 sts] 3 times, sk next 2 sts, sc in next 16 sts, 3 sc in next st, sc in next 10 sts (140 sc)

*Move stitch markers to the center sc in the 3sc. This becomes your new peak.

Round 3 (first round of straps): sc in 1st st and in next 4, [sk next 2 stst, sc in next 17 sts (last st should be in a marked st--do not move marker), ch 90, being careful not to twist ch sk next 34 sts, sc in next sc (this should be your next marked st--do not move marker)], sc in next 16 sts, rep from to ], sc in next 11 sts

Round 4: sc in next 4 sts, sk next 2 sts, sc in next 16 sts, sc in each loop of ch (just as you would if beginning a pattern), sc in next 16 sts, sk next 2 sts, sc in next 16 sts, sc in each loop of ch, sc in next 12 sts

Round 5: sc in next 3 sts, sk next 2 sts, sc in next 14, sk next st, sc across single row (next 90 sts), sk next st, sc in next 14 sts, sk next 2 sts, sc in next 14 sts, sk next st, sc across single row, sk next st, sc in next 14 sts, sc in next 11 sts

join w/sl st in 1st st of Round 5, fo, weave in ends

the blog collection
windmill bag
Front and back openings

lay bag with unfinished portion facing you, attach yarn with sc at marked st to the right

Round 1: sc in next 16 sts, sk next 2 sts, sc in next 17 sts, sc in rem loops of ch across (next 90 sts)

Round 2: sc in next 15 sts, sk next 2 sts, sc in next 15 sts, sk next st, sc in each sc of strap

sk next st, sc in next 14 sts, sk next 2 sts, sc in next 14 sts, join, finish off, weave in ends

Repeat for opposite side of bag.

Design note: Although the pattern and tutorial for the panels and assembly have been tested, the pattern for the straps has not. I plan to remake the bag very soon, so I will be testing it myself. If you find mistakes, feel free to let me know in the comments below and I will make corrections as soon as possible.

Believe it or not, I used a very similar method to make the straps for the shell bag because the original called for a store bought handle. I prefer a long shoulder strap so the bag itself is not in my way and so it can be easily hung on the back of a chair.

All bags pictured were crocheted using Pisgah Peaches and Creme yarn seconds, 100% cotton, which is no longer available. However, the company was purchased by Lily, the makers of Sugar and Cream, and another yarn I highly recommend.

Happy Crocheting!

click to see the ravelry project which will also lead to the original pattern

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Get It Together (free tutorial for assembling the Blog Collection Windmill Bag)

Okay, last week you got the pattern for the panels of the Windmill Bag based on my signature, Blog Collection, motif. This week, I'm going to show you how I assembled the bag. There are many, less complicated, ways of putting the pieces together, but I use this one because it only requires two seams. (We have already established that I hate to sew, right?)

If you're a newbie, I'd recommend trying a simpler assembly method first. You'll find numerous tutorials on various blogs and on Youtube.

Lay all four of your pieces out so they are set the same way. The bottom is your beginning chain; the top is Row 17.

On the bottom, place a marker at the 17th stitch from the left (mine is green). On the top, place a different colored marker at the 18th stitch from the right (mine is blue).

Lay your pieces out end-to-side as shown so they resemble a windmill. Attach them using your stitch markers. Each row at either end will require one stitch, hence the count of 17.

At the center (which will be your bottom), hold all 4 together with one marker.

Fold up your opposite ends and attach them to one another using the stitch markers so they resemble the picture that shows the assembled piece. The corner of one panel will meet the blue marker of the next panel. This will give you the zig-zag effect at the top. You may want to pin the sides or use additional stitch markers to hold them together as you might if you were sewing a fabric bag.

At this point, you should be able to visualize a finished sack.

Hold the bag inside out with right sides (outside) facing. *Attach your yarn with a slip stitch at the open end (top) of the bag through two layers and slip stitch the pieces together.

Continue stitching through the center where all four pieces join and end at the opposite side, on the top of the bag.

Repeat from the * for the remaining seam.

Note: Assuming the seams would go through quite a bit of strain, I chose to crochet through all 4 loops to give the bag more strength.

You should now have a sack that resembles the one pictured except for the border and shoulder straps.

I will publish the pattern/tutorial for the border and straps next week.

Happy Crocheting!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Don Quixote Eat Your Heart Out (free pattern)

I began working on this pattern about a year ago. This is why I haven't posted any free patterns on the blog in so long. Finding the time to crochet has been tough enough, but finding the time to design and work a prototype has been darn near impossible.

However, a few weeks ago, I stumbled across the pattern and supplies again while cleaning and decided I was so close to done that I should go ahead and finish the job. It has been my go-to project whenever I feel the need to procrastinate.

I planned, initially, to do two bags: the Windmill (aka pinwheel), and a basic hobo style. Because I love a hobo bag, but I enjoy having several sizes at my disposal, I later came to the conclusion that two hobo bags -- one round, one oval -- might be a better idea.

But the ideas kept expanding and changing as I got further and further into the project. Now, it's quite likely you will see a collection of four bags and a wristlet. I'm testing each of the patterns here on the blog where you will eventually find them all at no charge, released as each pattern and prototype is finished.

I also plan to group the whole collection and make it available as an e-book for Kindle. If all goes well, you'll eventually see it in print and on other e-reader platforms as well.

I also intend to keep the promise I made to my blog readers the first time I posted a free pattern here: Although you may find these patterns for sale elsewhere, any pattern bearing my signature (Big Girl/Blog Collection) motif will be available here on the blog at no charge.

The Blog Collection
Windmill Bag


about 400 yds (4 balls, 8-10 oz) worsted weight yarn
size H-8 (5mm) crochet hook
stitch markers or pieces of scrap yarn in two colors
yarn needle or smaller crochet hook for weaving in ends

Note: If you plan to sew the pieces together rather than crochet them, you will need a yarn needle regardless of how you plan to work your ends. Do not weave in ends as you go since you may wish to use long ends to connect your pieces. The assembly tutorial does not make use of the long ends. Instead, it illustrates my preferred method of assembly which is not recommended for beginners.

Make 4:

chain 58

Note: All rows count 57 stitches.

Row 1: sc in 2nd ch from hook and in each ch across, turn
Row 2: ch1, sc in each st across, turn
Row 3: repeat Row 2
Row 4: repeat Row 2
Row 5: ch1, sc in BLO of each st across, turn
Row 6: ch1, sc in FLO of each st across, turn
Row 7: ch1, sc in BLO of 1st st, [dc in BLO of next st, sc in BLO of next st] across, turn
Row 8: ch1, dc in FLO of 1st st, [sc in FLO of next st, dc in FLO of next st] across, turn
Row 9: repeat Row 7
Row 10: repeat Row 8
Row 11: repeat Row 7
Row 12: ch1, sc in FLO of each st across, turn
Row 13: ch1, sc in BLO of each st across, turn
Row 14: ch1, sc in FLO of each st across, turn
Row 15: ch1, sc in each st across, turn
Row 16: repeat Row 15
Row 17: repeat Row 15

finish off, leave long end unless you plan to use the assembly tutorial

one completed panel

The tutorials for my methods of assembling the pieces and crocheting straps will follow in upcoming posts over the next few weeks. My method is kind of advanced, not meant for beginners. I came up with it to minimize working with multiple pieces. (I can't stand having to sew/crochet pieces together.) You will likely find simpler methods on youtube.

As always, please don't re-post or share the pattern. You are welcome to link to my blog and I would encourage you to make more than a few to sell at craft fairs or in your Etsy shop. All I ask is credit for the pattern and design.

Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Maisey and Vitka and Shean . . . Oh My!

So in the very first days of the KAS, my anxiety was through the roof. I had just had my first short story accepted for publication and was working on publicity and learning the ins and outs of independent and self-publication. For the first time in my life I was completely without control, chasing a lifelong dream, and helping others along that same route.

Sound tough? It was.

Worth the effort? You bet.

Do it all again? Hell yeah I would!

Problem was I was having anxiety-induced nightmares. No big deal. I've had them all my life. We're old friends, these dreams and me. I still have them, especially when I'm having a lean month and am worried about exactly how the rent will get paid. That tends to be when I have some version of the dream where I'm back at Macy's slaving away for The Man in the form of a previous boss who was a complete [redacted].

But one dream . . . one dream was different. I dreamed the KAS gang was invited to SDCC (San Diego Comic Con) and in the midst of promoting anthology #5. That doesn't sound like a nightmare until you consider that I was the one charged with gathering the crew for a group photo shoot before the start of the official KAS party and I couldn't find my shoes! Not to mention, getting this gang together is like herding cats.

Anyhow, back to reality. My partner in crime, Bernard Schaffer and I are currently in the midst of recruiting for the third anthology we'll be producing together. At least I think we are. (April was a huge blur for me; perhaps I should check in with him.)

And here's where stuff gets cool: Bernard, along with my buddies (AKA the three stooges), authors Alexander Maisey, William Vitka, and Michael Shean, have been confirmed to lead a panel on independent writing and publishing at Philadelphia ComicCon on June 2 at 1 p.m. We're still unsure whether Joshua Unruh, or any of the other KASers will be able to make it.

BUT, if you are in the Philadelphia area, or headed there for ComicCon anyway, stop by to meet some of our boys. Rumor has it that they will have some KAS goodies to give away including swag provided by the legendary Harlan Ellison himself.

Cripes! I can hardly believe this is happening. Maybe that dream will come true after all. If it does, to heck with the shoes; I'll go barefoot.

Don't forget! Sunday, June 2, at 1:00 p.m.

Have fun, kids!