Posted on Leave a comment

Starry Crochet for Wire Mesh Panel Decor

Crochet DIY for Wire Mesh Panel Decor!

I have a fun summer crochet project to share. I’ve been bitten by the DIY wire mesh panel decor trend and have made several styles. Today’s focus is a cosmic one: wire mesh panel as Starry Firmament.

Unique crochet stars for wire mesh panel decor
Half of these were made with the pattern below, or a simple variation of it (described in the pattern).

Shown above is a cosmic condominium for air plants, but it could just as easily be a photo memo board. Or see below for other decor ideas.

There’s a free crochet pattern for the stars below.

Wire mesh panels are not hard to come by at all. Not only are they easy to find, they’re a bargain: just a dollar or two for strong, durable, and very serviceable 14-inch {35.5 cm} square panels. In fact, they’re so low-priced and common that it costs more to ship them across the US than it does to buy new ones locally. Hence my problem.

I have stacks of them because they’re great for building show booths, like I’ve done at crochet conferences over the years. It only makes sense to keep them if I do show booths I can drive to. Some panels are getting a bit of surface rust here in the subtropics.

Most people would throw the panels away. I know because that’s the advice I’ve gotten. There’s a creative DIY decorating trend going on with wire mesh panels though! Why spend $15-$50 on one when you could spray paint it rose gold yourself? Or do like I did: add a constellation of stars?

Some wire mesh panel decor ideas I’ve found are: hang them over a desk to organize photos, memos, etc; string fairy lights into them and add a small shelf. Especially inspiring: sprinkle on some quirky air plants.

Crochet Pattern: Basic Firmament Star

I’ve used only the most elementary crochet stitches for this pattern. A new crocheter might struggle with it, though, if s/he isn’t accustomed to using very fine crochet thread yet.

Materials

I used a size #20 white crochet thread by DMC call Cordonnet Special. It’s on the stiff side because it has many plies that are highly twisted. This makes for crisp-looking stars that will hold their shape. If you can’t find it, Handy Hands Tatting make a cordonnet type called Lizbeth in many different sizes and colors. If you don’t have size #20, the next thinner/finer size, #30, seems to give me very similar results.

It doesn’t matter what steel crochet hook size you use. Choose the smallest size that still makes crocheting with the thread easy. For me it’s a size 1.25 mm in the brand I had at hand. For the thinner size #30 thread I needed a slightly smaller hook size. Psst, you might like what I wrote about steel crochet hook sizes!

Three thread sizes are represented here: the pink one in progress is size #10, and the two middle ones are the thinnest: size #30. The star on the far left and far right: size #20.

Pattern

Leave the thread ends 4 inches {10 cm} long.

Make a slip knot and place the loop on your crochet hook. Chain 5, slip stitch in the second chain from your hook to make a tiny picot, chain 2 or 3, double crochet in the first chain of this spoke (the chain that’s nearest the slip knot). In the photo above, two pink spokes have been completed. *Chain 5, slip stitch in the second chain from your hook, chain 2 or 3, double crochet in the first chain of this spoke.* Repeat from * to * one or more times, depending on how many spokes you wish the star to have. Then slip stitch in the first stitch nearest the slip knot. Fasten off.

To vary the appearance:

  • Use half double crochets in place of the double crochets.
  • Add another stitch (a slip stitch, or single crochet) in the next chain after the picot, then chain one less before finishing the spoke with a tall stitch.
  • Begin each spoke with 4 looser chains instead of 5 (then chain one less before finishing the spoke with a tall stitch). Or begin with more than 5 chains and add more chains after the picot.

To finish and use the star:

  1. With a fine needle, weave one of the ends to the opposite edge of the star. Notice in the photo above that the ends of the two outermost white stars are opposite each other while the middle two have ends coming from the same place of the star.
  2. Wet it, stretch, pinch the spokes, and allow to dry perfectly flat and as symmetrical as you can get it. Meanwhile prepare your wire mesh panel by sanding off rust if necessary, spraying with a primer and then a dark glossy blue. I then sprayed on a fine multicolored glitter too.)
  3. Tie each star onto a place where the grid wires intersect. Tie one direction and then the other tightly around the intersection. This keeps them stationary. Snip the ends close to the final knot on the back of the panel and apply a drop of glue to the knot.
  4. My one additional step was to spray a light coat of clear acrylic sealer onto the back of the panel. Mod Podge makes one that did not cause the stars to yellow, unlike a few other sealers I tested. Have a toothpick handy to smooth down the sealer where it shows on the stars (it will look hairy or like tiny dew drops in places). This helps keep them crisply starry.
  5. Now add air plants, or use those tiny wood clothespins to clip photos and things to it.

See more images of the Starry Firmament wire mesh panel decor at its Ravelry project page.

Posted on Leave a comment

Foundation Star Stitches Step by Step

How to Crochet the Foundation Star Stitch in 14 Steps
View the full size hi-res image.

Star Stitch Foundation

It’s the perfect way to start a Starwirbel! We’re going to use it in the upcoming Starwirbel Way class this July. (CGOA Chain Link conference this July in Portland, Oregon).

For this unusual stitch, two foundation chains must be created as you complete each star. In the text instructions below, a [bracketed number] refers to a numbered photo step above.

First foundation star stitch (fstar):

Chain 3 loosely.

  • [image #1] Pull up a loop in each of the second and third chains; you have 3 loops on your hook.
  • [image 2] Chain 1 (counts as first foundation chain of first star),
  • [3] Yarn over and pull up a loop in the two outermost strands of the chain just made,
  • [4] Chain 1 (counts as second foundation chain of first star),
  • [5] Pinch it while you yarn over and pull through all 5 loops on your hook so that the last loop doesn’t tighten,
  • [6] Chain 1 (eye of this first fstar).

Tips: Pinching also helps you recognize which loops are the new foundation chain loops. Pull up loops loosely enough that a second crochet hook could fit in them.

Add more foundation star stitches:

Vashti's lacy Star Stitch Foundation in a hand dyed mohair for the "Firewirbel" Starwirbel Cowl.*Pull up a loop in each of these places:

  • [7] The Eye,
  • [8] Side of star,
  • [9] Two loops of second foundation chain of star;
  • [10] Chain 1 (counts as first foundation chain of next star),
  • [11] Yarn over and pull up loop in chain just made,
  • [12] Chain 1 (counts as second foundation chain of next star) and pinch it,
  • [13] Yarn over and pull through all 6 loops on hook,
  • [14] Chain 1 for eye.

Repeat from * for each new fstar.

You might be interested in the resources page for the Starwirbel Way class.
Posted on Leave a comment

Last Minute Crochet Jewelry Gift–How to

I’m crocheting these festive bangles for quick holiday gifts (Hanukkah, solstice/yule, Christmas), hostess gifts (I have five holiday parties to attend), and for myself. It’s relaxing now to make them. I’ll wear some to the parties.

Each completed bangle is costing me about 50¢ (not including labor, a.k.a. the love in every stitch ❤️).

“Solstice Bangles” Free Pattern

Below is the complete pattern for what I’ll call “Solstice Bangles” because tomorrow morning is the Winter Solstice (first day of winter). I contemplate this sometimes as I crochet around the bangles; it’s a satisfying “full circle” feeling. I’m completing another sparkly “wheel of the year”.

Skill level

The starter pattern is Beginner-friendly. So many ways to get fancy with it. Add some challenge with wire or beads.

Materials

This section looks long because it includes tips for substituting with items you have on hand.

  1. Bangle “blanks”: Look for thin, narrow, permanently closed (not hinged or locking) metal bangles. They’re often sold as a group to be worn stacked, meaning all at the same time. If they are labeled with a size, choose only “large” because any crocheting you add will reduce the final inner circumference. I don’t want any tarnishing or chipping, so I prefer to buy them exposed to air without a package wrapper. If they have soldered seams, check them for strength. This is especially important for gifts because you don’t know how much force someone will use to slide it on over their hand. I only buy them locally so that I can test the seam and finish of each one. Over the years I’ve kept an eye out for them in places like Claire’s, Wal-Mart, Target, etc. The quality varies wildly. I can recommend the ones in Wal-Mart now (pictured). They come in bunches of 15-18 bangles for $4.88.
  2. Yarn, if you’re not adding beads: Here’s where you can use the interesting embroidery braids, flosses, and fine novelty yarns languishing in your stash. My first choice is a fancy metallic Kreinik braid type if I’m not adding beads. My little 5-meter spool can cover two, possibly three skinny bangle blanks. Some fingering and lace weight yarns would work, and any crochet thread size. Beginners: start with a sock yarn or size #3 or #5 crochet thread, and no beads. Then graduate to a fancy metallic floss/braid type, then try very fine wire without beads first (30ga to 32ga thickness).
  3. Yarn if you’re using beadsI’ve had the best luck crocheting with wire. The wire holds the beads in place the best for me. Wire is a unique crochet experience. If you’ve never tried it, please see my newsletter issue on it, or the Embracelet pattern.
  4. Crochet hook: This is easy. Use whatever hook size that makes it easiest for you to crochet tightly and evenly.
  5. Beads (optional): I like very small beads for this. I don’t go much larger than “e-beads” (size 6 seed beads). Beads with small holes also work better for this so that they don’t jiggle and shift around. This means gem, chip, and pearl beads are great! You can use a larger accent bead for a tassel finish.
  6. Sealer, stiffener, adhesive, fine yarn needle, etc. (optional): You might wish to use a fabric protectant such as Scotchgard if your yarn is an absorbent fiber. I used three coats of clear nail polish to secure a tassel of metallic embroidery floss because it doesn’t hold knots well. I may use this, or some clear fabric paint, on the inner surface of a bangle to keep the stitches from twisting around the bangle.

Pattern Abbreviations

  • ch = chain stitch
  • sc = single crochet (UK/AUS: dc)
  • ss = slip stitch

Crochet a Basic Solstice Bangle

Step 1: Leave a 4″ yarn end that you can crochet over it, weave in later with a needle, or leave hanging with a bead or tassel. Crochet all stitches tightly. Slip stitch around the metal bangle tightly, *ch 1, ss, repeat from * until bangle is covered.

This is up to you: use fewer stitches to cover the bangle by stretching them taut around the bangle. They’ll be less likely to twist and shift around the bangle, and you’ll see more of the metal. Or, use an excess of stitches for a different look: I love the wavy zig-zag texture of the (ch 1, ss) combo. You’ll see much less of the metal this way.

Step 2: When you’ve crocheted the number of stitches around the bangle that you like, join the last stitch to the first one. I remove my hook from the stitch loop, insert the hook in the first ss, and pull the last stitch loop through it with the hook, then fasten off.

Step 3: Decide what you want to do with those yarn ends. Weave them in. Or, string an accent bead onto both ends, knot them, and trim ends close to the bead. A third option is to tie the ends together, cut more yarn lengths, then add to the yarn ends and tie into a bundle to make a tassel.

Step 4, optional: If you add a fabric protectant, test a swatch first. You could coat the inner rim with a glue or sealer to prevent stitches from twisting around the bangle. Add a drop to knots if they might loosen with wear.

Add Challenge

The basic Solstice Bangle pattern is crazy simple, right? Add just one variable and it’s a different experience. For example:

Add other stitches or change them completely. You could try all sc. I used such a fine red wire for a beaded bangle that I had to use sc instead of ss to make them more visible. Embracelet is an example of using love knots.

Hold two different glittery strands together as you crochet, or use 6-strand embroidery floss. (Managing multiple plies as you crochet so tightly around a bangle does get tricky.)

Just add beads. That’ll keep you busy! I like to add one or more beads to the ch of the (ss, ch 1).

Use wire as the yarn. A thicker wire such as 26ga may be difficult for some people to crochet with, but it sure shows up well, and makes a statement even without beads. It also holds up nicely and is less likely to twist around the bangle. Finer wire is great for showing off beads.

Try to crochet the wire as tightly as you can. (It will still be looser than you intend.) When you’re done, tug on each bead a bit while also giving it a half-twist. This will tighten the stitch around the bead and bangle. I also compress everything by pressing and scrunching the stitch loops together into the bangle. I guess you could consider this a “blocking” method for wire jewelry?

Posted on

New Features of DesigningVashti.com

I’ve moved to WordPress hosting with layered security and a WooCommerce-driven shop. For me it’s like the self-parking Lexus of websites, and I’m saving about $500 a year in operating costs. Also, blogging is fun again!

Features of the ✨ New DesigningVashti.com ✨

Stitchmerge: How to do the classic and supremely useful double-layer crochet technique.
It’s now free. Use it to make any thick, dense, soft, strong rectangular item (cowl, afghan square, tote, hot pad, etc).

It’s a partial list—I keep discovering more features.

  • I can easily host free crochet patterns now! I’ve marked down some patterns to free.(They’re not marked down in Ravelry). You can see them in the Bargain Bin but wait: try registering an account here first (you don’t have to buy anything). I think it’s a really nice experience, especially after you download something and then use your updated account.
  • Subscribe to the blog or its RSS in the footer (scroll to the bottom of this page).
  • Two search boxes: The Search Products box is in the header at the very top of every page. The Site-wide Search box is always in the right sidebar and searches this entire blog, all the way back to 2011. I think the search boxes are found at the bottom of your screen if you’re using the mobile version. (I’m seeing older posts that have their original image captions, but the image didn’t transfer over. I’ll be updating groups of posts as time allows.)
  • Lots of clickable tags on each product page for any little feature you might want to see. For example, “Gift idea: men“, patterns that work for any type and/or amount of yarn, one ball projects, etc. Scroll to the bottom of any page to see the product tag cloud.
  • Helpful things in the right sidebar on every page. On mobile I think these are behind a menu button in the top right corner.
  • The expanded help page is a mini temporary version of the real FAQ page that I’m working on.

If you’re already familiar with my patterns, it’s not your imagination: most images and descriptions are also freshened up.

Features Still in Development

The Parakeet Perchswing free crochet pattern that uses the incomparable Jelly Yarn®.
Another simple crochet pattern, now free. I used Jelly Yarn® and I would do it again—with the glow in the dark type!

I need to:

  • Work out how to add more types of kits to the shop.
  • Learn how to include optional add-ons, like gift wrap or a crochet hook to go with a pattern.
  • Add remaining patterns from my old shop, mostly toys and bags. I also haven’t finished adding free patterns.
  • Choose the best way to organize/nest all the crochet tutorials and other resource pages. I’m eyeing the “Learn” tab in the header.
  • Learn how to do gift cards.
  • Find a good way to do online classes and other events.
Posted on Leave a comment

Star Stitch Crochet Scarf with Love Knots

Close up of Lovelace Ring Scarf: bands of love knot mesh alternate with star stitch bands.

Love Knot+Star Stitch Scarf: New Pattern!

A star stitch crochet scarf with love knots? (About as common as a love knot scarf with star stitches.) So beautiful together! I’m calling it Lovelace Ring Scarf.

UPDATE: Lovelace pattern is now in the Designingvashti Shop and Ravelry.

Why Star Stitches With Love Knots? The Story.

I first swatched it in 2014 for CGOA classes I would be teaching: A Star Stitch for Every Purpose (3 hours) and 21st Century Love Knot Adventures (3 hours). Back then I had to set it aside due to stitch compatibility issues. You might be able to see some of this in this first swatch.

Two years later a visitor to the DesigningVashti Facebook page requested the pattern. Again in deep crochet class prep mode, I had to put it off until after teaching and a series of seven crochet tutorials I’d agreed to do for the Cut Out & Keep site.

Double-stranded Lovelace swatch: sport weight Lotus and lace weight glittery mohair.
Alternate yarn idea: Love knots and star stitches both benefit when crocheted with two yarn strands held together. This is Satin Grey Lotus yarn with a lace weight metallic mohair.

By then the US election had just taken place. I appreciated the sweet, loving patterns crochet and knit designers were spontaneously posting. I returned to the 2014 attempts to blend stars and love knots in one pattern. It was a pleasure to finally polish it up into a fun, versatile, balanced stitch pattern. I hoped the idea of harmonizing and unifying two popular stitches of very different traditions might lift others’ spirits.

The basic stitch pattern is available here. I used it to make a 6.5″ square block with DK weight yarn and a G7/4.5 mm hook. A border would probably turn it into a 7″ block.

The Lovelace Ring Scarf design happened next because I needed a self-edging version. It came to me during Thanksgiving. As I lay there contemplating the stitch pattern I’d sent off to Cut Out & Keep, I wondered about giving the basic stitch pattern a selvage (no need to edge it later).

The start and end of the love knot section always looked a bit stringy and unstable to me. I also wanted to vary the texture bands and widen it for a lush, romantic ring scarf.

This is how Lovelace came to be.

Is a Love-Knot-to-Star-Stitch Scarf…Challenging?

Both are Intermediate-level crochet stitches but that doesn’t mean they’re difficult. I include tips and visual aids in the pattern that have worked in my classes. Most of Lovelace is rows of easy, familiar stitches like single and half double crochets (sc and hdc, or as they say in the UK: dc and htr).

These easy stitches are a backdrop to the fancy stitches. Like peacekeeping diplomats they harmonize relations between the two iconic, culturally powerful, individualistic “diva” stitches.

My experience of crocheting star stitches (stars) and love knots (LK) in the same pattern is that I get some comfort zone rows of simple stitches, then a spicy row or two, then more comfort zone.

Dramatic Differences Between Stars & Love Knots

I researched both of these two unique stitches deeply. I don’t recall ever seeing them combined in one stitch pattern. If you have, please let me know in the comments.

Love knots are reversible, star stitches are not. It was an issue with my early swatches.

Love knots are more independent than the usual crochet stitch, and star stitches are the other extreme. This shows in lots of ways. Add Love Knots anywhere like a chain stitch because it’s a type of foundation stitch. Each LK is distinct, complete, and recognizable from a distance.

Star stitches require context. The stitch just before it, after it, and often above it determine how recognizable each star is! 

Love knots likely originated as a southern lace, star stitches as a northern thermal fabric. LK were almost always crocheted in very fine cotton and silk threads for delicate and summery edgings, baby bonnets, and petite “opera bags”.

Stars have been used most often for making thick, dense coats and blankets in wool. Even when early stars looked like fine spidery lace, wool was the fiber of choice. (That’s why my unofficial name for the original swatch is “North and South stitch pattern“.)

Interesting Similarities Between Them

  • Both LK and stars are romantic, iconic, classic/old-fashioned, popular, and beloved.
  • Both originated in the early to mid-1800’s.
  • Both have long been favored for baby things. (Stars: baby blankets and coats; LK: sacques, bonnets, layette edgings.)
  • Both can be lacy. When star stitches are lacy, you’re looking at pulled loops, just like with LK.
  • Both start the same odd, non-intuitive way. I did a newsletter issue on it: “Starting a Stitch with a Backtrack“.
  • Crocheting them with two or more strands of yarn held together enhances their distinctive textures.

Hmm. Double or triple the width of Lovelace to make a stunning shrug or wrap!