Archive for the ‘tips’ Category

Another tweak to the many-bags-at-a-time step

This is further to the entry for 20 Feb. post, `Cutting those bags even faster!’, which is for cutting many bags at a time for the `hula’ stage.

I’d bought two sets of clips — metal with extender arms (more or less the same as those Danielle uses in her video) and also plastic ones, which don’t open as widely. So, with 12 clips available, I decided to make up 3 sets of 10 bags each, clip them carefully together, and then do all the same steps to the three sets: clip off the two corners, slit the bottoms, then proceed with cutting as in Danielle’s video.

The result: 30 bags all at the `hula’ stage in about 15 minutes, all set for when I sit down to watch TV and can mindlessly (!) cut each of them into the single long strip and start up again — another sitting mat, this time with Beatrice green and Sealtest navy blue. Should make a nice combo!

Cutting those bags even faster!

A couple of weeks ago I came across a link at the website to a pretty neat way to speed up bag preparation.

The YouTube video is by Danielle Duval-Conway, who is the coordinator for the Orleans area:

I’ve been using this for the past few weeks, and have only found one small additional step to add — I use two more clips to hold the cut edges together, as I move from one cut to the next. I find it helps reduce slippage even more. Oh, I notice that I’m also tugging a bit with the left hand, to try and keep the bags taut as I cut up towards the top.

The other thing is to take the time to really carefully line up the bottom corners of the bags — I clip near the lined up corners at one end and then adjust the other corner, and clip near that, too. Flatten the bags towards the top tab ends, and then put three clips across the top edge, as Danielle shows in her video. The only way to make this give you even strips through all the layers is to make sure everything’s as lined up as possible.

My other observation is that 10 bags is about the most to do at the same time — after that, the layers become too hard to cut and that slippage thing starts to happen again. The `hula skirt’ of many layers (!) can then be folded into three, put into a bag, and set aside till you want to sit down and do the final cutting stage … while watching TV or something like that 🙂

I did indeed find clips at the Dollar Store — I bought both metal and plastic ones, and find the metal ones, with those extender handles, are easier to manipulate and open wider.

I think this is a great idea and thank Danielle for making this video! I find it really does speed things up: you can do a set of 25 bags with just three rounds of cutting, rather than doing 25 individual sets of cuts. And for me, it saves a bit of wear and tear on the hands and wrists, even if the multiple layers require more force. So, give it a try!

General news and updates

Nothing really earth-shaking to write … Just bits and pieces …

  • at school, the students are coming along well on their 2×2 mats. Some are already on their second! While the first was a get-acquainted sort of venture, I’ve suggested their second one might be a chance to play with colour bands/stripes — it really seems to go faster when you’re anticipating the next colour change.
  • the monthly pick-up of bags from one of the local elementary schools also continues, with amazing returns. Since last October, 4,881 bags have been collection, of which 4179 were good (that’s about 85% of all bags collected!). Each pick-up is sorted by colour, into sets of 25. We could really use some more crocheters!
  • all bags that don’t get used (too dirty, smelly, etc.) go to the Metro’s plastic bag recycle bin, as well as the bits that are cut off the bags to make them into strips. Nothing goes into the landfill.
  • I’ve also been getting together with some other ladies who are part of the milkbag project. It’s been very nice to spend a couple of hours every two weeks with people who also love to crochet. I’ve heard that some groups find a cafe and have a regular time anyone can drop in and join. I’d recommend it to anyone — it’s motivation (esp. if you’re doing an adult sleeping mat!) and a chance to exchange tips (and bags!) and ideas — and having some tea or coffee with something to nibble makes it ever nicer!


Sitting mat slide show

This is a test, to see if I can get the slideshow feature to work — I’m using photos of sitting mats I’ve made over the past several weeks. I’m hoping that a slideshow will give a better idea of what playing with colour can yield.

One thing to note: each strip has a `white’ end (from the top of the bag) and a coloured end. I attach like to like: if I end with the white part, I start the next strip at its white end as well. This leads to some interesting variegated effects, as you can see in some of the bags. You just never know what you’ll end up with!

Hover over the bottom centre of the image to get navigation buttons: back / pause / forward. The captions are in white and not always easy to read quickly.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Using colour is great fun. And it’s funny how you want to keep going, to finish one band of colour so you can get to the next — and before you know it, the mats done! These sitting mats are generally 38-40 st wide and 38-40 rows high/long… they’re almost all a couple of inches wider/taller than the 2-ft sq. target. But at any size — even the longer sleeping mats — playing with colour bands and stripes makes things go so quickly … !

Who knew plastic milkbags could give such creative scope to this ever-so-worthwhile project!

Working on your mats over the holidays

Hi, everyone! A bunch of little pointers as we wind down for the holidays and you’re working on your own … you may find one or two which might be useful reminders:.

  • remember to cut your strips wide enough — aim to make 9 cuts along the folded edge of the bag
  • before you start up on the next row, check that you’ve actually done the last stitch in the row you’re finishing
  • the loop(s) on your hook should be at least twice the diameter of the hook — to help, pinch the work just below your stitch with your left fingers (thumb and the 3rd/4th finger) to keep from pulling too hard
  • your stitches should be going under BOTH parts of the interwoven V-shape you can see on the top of each row
  • dc = double crochet = go under the V-shape, pull the plastic through so you have two loops on the hook, then fetch the plastic a second time, to go through BOTH loops on your hook — and you’re back down to one loop
  • when you have both loops on the hook, the first one you did moves you along horizontally, the second one determines the height of the row — so make that 2nd loop larger
  • don’t pull your plastic tight as you pull it through the loop or loops — the stitch won’t be pouffy … keep it loose and relaxed
  • it’s really hard to handle plastic when your hands are sweaty (!) so maybe stop for a break

And remember to have fun — this should be a relaxing activity that you pick up from time to time. If it frustrates you, time to put it down and come back later.

If you’ve got a useful tip or trick, why not add it here?

Shoulder bags — at the smaller size

Hi there. Last time I wrote, I was experimenting with the chain length that would get us to a (roughly) 16 x 16 in bag. Finally got those dimens and have written them up.

My test with a 22-stitch chain yielded a bag that was about 18-19 in. wide, so I went down to a 20-stitch chain, and that’s done the trick. Recall this is all with a no.7 hook, bags with 11 snips (about 1.25 in. wide, which is narrower than for mats), and a fairly tight tension.

So — here are the revised instructions (bag-instructions-4) and a photo with both recent tests. Left: chain 22 for an 18 x 18in bag. Right: chain 20 for a 16 x 16in bag.

Smaller bags.

Milkbag sitting mats

UPDATE (4 Oct. ’14): UK `dc’ (double crochet) changed to to US `sc’ (single crochet).

We’ve begun making sitting mats (2′ x 2′) for students in Haiti. Here are the instructions:

  1. With a no.8 crochet hook, chain 40.
  2. Using the sc stitch, go back along the chain, counting as you go, to end up with 39 sc stitches. Make 1 chain stitch, to go up one row.
  3. Turn the work around, to start back the other way. To turn without a funny knot forming, take the work (which is all to your right) and put it on your lap (with the bottom of the mat near your body). Now turn the work like you’d turn the page of a book — it swings towards you and then is all on the left.
  4. IMPORTANT: the first stitch you make in the new row is into the hole immediately below your hook. Not one over (which seems like the right place) but right below where your hook is. If you go one over, your work will begin to take on a ladder-like edge, and you’ll end up with a pyramid, if it continues row after row … not what you want! To make sure you started in the right place, count each dc stitch as you go — you should have 39 by the end.
  5. Remember — this is a sitting mat so each sc stitch has to be fluffy and pouffy! The 1st loop (which moves you along horizontally) over your hook should be about twice the diameter of your hook while the 2nd loop (which is the row height) should be a good inch. It’s hard to stop from pulling the plarn tighter and tighter … but it’s no fun sitting on a rock-hard mat! So, always make sure the 2nd loop is bigger than the 1st on your hook.
  6. At the end of the row, turn as described in Step 3., start the first stitch as described in Step 4, and keep on going.
  7. Make 38-40 rows in sc, so that you end up with a square mat.

To finish off the square sitting mat, go around the whole mat (all 4 sides) in a relaxed sc:

  1. Do the 3th sc stitch in your last row, then add 1 chain (to make the turn). Do a 40th sc stitch into the same hole as the 39th, and then start going down the side of the mat.
  2. When you look at the ends of rows on the side, you’ll notice an alternating pattern — one hole seems large, the next seems buried between two rows. These are the only two holes that you’ll use as you do a sc stitch into one and then the other, all the way down the side.
  3. At the end (or bottom) of the side, again finish the last sc, then do 1 ch, do a second sc into the same hole — this makes the turn and you start going across the bottom of the mat. If you’re careful, you can even take the `tail’ of plarn from your start point, lay it along the bottom edge, and crochet over it, thereby enclosing it neatly from view.
  4. Going across the bottom, do 1 sc into each hole of the first row of sc. Get to the end, make the turn, go up the second side, make the turn and now go across the top row of the mat to the end.
  5. To finish and tie off the work: do the last sc stitch, put the hook through the next hole, pull the plarn through to make a 4in loop. Remove the hook, insert the scissors, and cut the loop at the end — let’s call this a `tail’. Holding the base of the `tail’ with your left thumb and index, gently pull the cut end with your right. This will tighten the loop at the base of the tail, making it like a knot.
  6. Take a hook (if you have one that’s one or two sizes smaller than the no.8, that’s perfect) and weave the tail into the existing stitches, till it’s all gone.

Step back, put it on the floor, and sit on it! Compare how the bare floor feels with having the mat under you. And then try hard to make the next mat even fluffier and pouffier!

One way to make it fluffier: change to a no.9 hook and use 1.5-inch strips — but you’d probably want to reduce the starter chain strip by maybe 2 stitches or so … Another is to use a `double half crochet’ stitch — here’s the URL where they explain the different stitches — and what the US / UK terms are:

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