My Own Personal Sweat Shop

Hand Sewing Crocheted Squares Together For a Headband

Hand Sewing Crocheted Squares Together For a Headband

Being a craftsperson in the USA can be a real financial challenge which continues to worsen as the costs of raw materials, food and housing rise. To make matters worse, few of us have seen even a measly cost-of-living raise at our “day jobs” in years.

Sites like Etsy claim to support the small business artisan but after modifying their definition of “handmade” at the end of last year, mass produced items are springing up like weeds on the site that calls itself a “handmade marketplace”.  I’ve argued with artists who refuse to compete with inexpensive versions of what they create by hand, saying it’s a useless endeavor.

As of yet, I’ve been unable to reconcile my time and material costs with my prices.  I scour sale flyers and websites to get my materials at the lowest prices possible but where I usually hit a brick wall is with my hourly rate for labor.  If it takes me an hour to crochet one of my headbands, with costs subtracted out, I’d do better working as a…well…almost anything else.  Yet, I tread on, believing I will someday find the magic equation and actually be able to support myself doing what I love.  Is it really asking too much?  It’s actually asking a lot.

Putting it very simply, the average American can’t afford to buy goods that are manufactured or created in the United States.  This is nothing new globally as the same has been true of workers in China, India and other countries for hundreds of years but is unnerving in one of the most highly developed countries in the world.  The far majority of Americans buy clothing that’s made in another country.  The few who still work in the manufacturing industry probably can’t afford to buy the things they help manufacture.  I receive catalogs from “Fair Trade” companies who glossily advertise beautiful items that I couldn’t afford in my wildest dreams.  I want to buy fair trade, organic, natural, ecofriendly and items made in the USA but I just can’t afford to most of the time and have tried not to feel guilty about purchasing things that wear the dreaded “made in China” label.

When I was a child, my family went through some rough patches where money was pretty tight.  My stay-at-home mom made some of our clothing to save money.  Now, it’s hard to even find a fabric store.  After buying a pattern, fabric and notions for a garment you wish to sew, you could have bought three at Wal-Mart or Target, already made, for the same price.  There’s no reason to waste the time it takes to sew something by hand if it isn’t cost effective (for most of us anyway).

The global economy has been undergoing complex changes of which I understand at only the most rudimentary level, if at all.  I think most of us can see how these changes are affecting our daily lives as basic food prices rise while the containers in which they are sold shrink.  It’s really important that we are able to do what we love at some point during our lives even if it’s only for a couple hours a week and for those of us who are artists this may just have to be enough.

But still, I work towards my goal, even after my two other jobs and four year old, absorb most of my time.  After all, if you work hard enough and have faith in your dream, you can accomplish anything  – right?  A nice sentiment but not very realistic.

Summer Time, and the Livin’ is…

Lover's Cove on Catalina Island

Lover’s Cove on Catalina Island

It’s really difficult to stay focused on anything when you live in a hotel on Catalina Island in the summer.  The smell of suntan lotion and the sight of my hotel guests parading by my door wearing bathing suits and sundresses really makes me want to drop what I’m doing and head outside. 

I’ve been crocheting quite a bit recently because it’s portable and takes very little concentration.  I think I cranked out about ten headbands this week.  I’m making mostly wool headbands now in anticipation of fall and the Catalina Festival of Art on September 21, 22 & 23. 

Here are some of the wool hairbands I just listed in my shop.  Don’t forget, if you want to create one of these great headbands yourself, check out my three-part post, starting with DIY – How to Make a Crochet Headband for step-by-step instructions.

Crochet Headband Wool & Acrylic Mix Yarn in Magenta, Purple and Rust Orange Boho Chick Hairband

Crochet Headband Wool & Acrylic Mix Yarn in Magenta, Purple and Rust Orange Boho Chic Hairband

Crochet Headband, Wool, in Lavender & Gray Mix, Boho Chic Knit Hairband

Crochet Headband, Wool, in Lavender & Gray Mix, Boho Chic Knit Hairband

Crochet Headband, Wool in Soft Gray, Rust & Teal, Boho Chic Hairband

Crochet Headband, Wool in Soft Gray, Rust & Teal, Boho Chic Hairband

Crochet Headband, Wool in Soft Gray, Lavender & Teal, Boho Chic Hairband

Crochet Headband, Wool in Soft Gray, Lavender & Teal, Boho Chic Hairband

Crochet Headband Pattern – Part Two

Crochet Headband in Salmon Pink (click on the picture to see this item in my Etsy Shop)

Crochet Headband in Salmon Pink (click on the picture to see this item in my Etsy Shop)

While reading over my last post (DIY – How to Make a Crochet Headband – Part One) I realized I’d forgotten a couple of important points.

(before I begin, I’ll just mention again, that if you don’t have the time or desire to make this headband yourself, I have many different styles available in my Etsy Shop – Catalina Inspired if you want to check them out.)

First, when you complete each square and tie it off, you should leave a 7″ – 8″ tail of yarn remaining before you cut.  This reduces the number of  ends you have to weave in.  If you’ve already woven the ends in, however, all is not lost.  I’ll explain more on that when I get back to the pattern.

The second point I forgot to mention concerns everyone’s personal style of crochet and resulting gauge.  The gauge (stitches per inch) can be pretty flexible in this pattern since the headband doesn’t need to be a specific width.  For reference purposes, my squares, using the bamboo blend yarn, end up being just a little more than 2″ square.  However, some people crochet tighter or looser stitches.  The squares are often a little tight around the edges (represented by a slight curl or pucker) but this is ok since we will be stitching around the outside of the squares which will stretch them a bit.  If you think your squares are really misshapen though, you can alter the pattern slightly to accommodate your own style.

For example, in round 3 of the motif, you can try doing 4 single crochets in each ch3 space instead of 5.  Of course, you will then need to subtract these stitches from the 4th round.

If any of this is confusing,  you’re having trouble with the pattern or something doesn’t make sense (an error on my part), please feel free to leave a comment with the details of your issue and I’ll be happy to help.

Ok, to pick up from where we left off in the last post…

You should now have 5 squares completed.  If you did leave a 7″ – 8″ tail of yarn off each square, here’s how to proceed.  You’ll need a large, plastic, blunt ended needle.  Line up 2 of the squares so that both tails are facing down off the bottom of each square and thread the needle like this (make sure the correct side of the square is facing up)…

Crochet Headband - Joining Two Squares - Step One

Crochet Headband – Joining Two Squares – Step One

Next, pass the needle through the center ch of the top, right ch3 space on the bottom square, like this:

Crochet Headband - Joining Two Squares - Step Two

Crochet Headband – Joining Two Squares – Step Two

Pull the thread through but leave enough slack so that the squares are still lined up.  Then pass the needle over and through the center ch on the bottom, right, ch3 space on the top square like this…

Crochet Headband - Joining Two Squares - Step Three

Crochet Headband – Joining Two Squares – Step Three

Now pass the needle under and back through the same center ch of the top right ch3 space on the bottom square.  Adjust the yarn at this point so that it’s not too tight or too loose going from the tie-off point to where it enters the first stitch.  As you sew the two squares together, make sure you catch the slack part of the yarn (from the beginning) in each stitch so that it cannot be seen.  Also, when sewing the two squares together, pass the needle only through the back loop (the two loops closest to each other) of the sc like this…

Crochet Headband - Joining Two Squares - Step Four

Crochet Headband – Joining Two Squares – Step Four

Continue joining the squares by sewing through the back loop all the way to the center ch of the ch 3 spaces on the left.  Weave the end back through and cut.  It should look something like this…

Crochet Headband - Joining Two Squares - Step Five

Crochet Headband – Joining Two Squares – Step Five

Continue joining the other three squares in the same manner.  If you didn’t leave a 7″ – 8″ tail of yarn on each square, all you have to do is cut a piece of yarn about 9″ long and sew the squares together in the same manner, only leaving about 2″ before the first stitch.   Sew over it as you go across the edges of the square. Here’s what the 5 squares should look like when they’re joined together…

Crochet Headband - All Five Squares Joined Together

Crochet Headband – All Five Squares Joined Together

Again, please feel free to comment with any issues or clarification of my instructions.  I realize I’ve been leaning heavily on pictures here, but I’ve never actually written one of my patterns down and I’m a visual person, so I think it comes across more clearly this way.  If not – let me know! Click here for part three of the crochet headband pattern

Happy hooking!!

DIY – How to Make a Crochet Headband – Free Pattern

DIY - How to Make a Crochet Headband

DIY – Crochet Headband in “Soft Sunshine” With Bamboo Blend Yarn

I’ve had several people ask about the pattern for crochet headbands I sell in my Etsy shop, Catalina Inspired.  So, by popular demand, the next few posts will provide step by step instructions on how to do just that.   The instructions are for the headband pictured above which is made using Caron Spa Yarn,  a blend of acrylic and sustainable bamboo in “soft sunshine”.  Michael’s craft stores usually carry this yarn.

The instructions for this headband assume a basic knowledge of crochet.   If DIY projects aren’t for you, please feel free to check out my shop where I have many types of crochet headbands available.

Through much experimentation, I’ve found some yarns that work well for making this headband.  The photo below shows my three favorites.

Different Types of Yarn You Can Use to Make a Crochet Headband

Different Types of Yarn You Can Use to Make a Crochet Headband. From L-R, wool mixed color, bamboo blend & cotton.

Crochet Headband in Wool - Creamy White and Teal/Sienna Mix

Crochet Headband in Wool – Creamy White and Teal/Sienna Mix. The yarn is fingering weight and is shown as an example of a headband made using very light weight yarn but is not recommended for this pattern.

From left to right, the yarns pictured are, Patons Kroy Wool Sock yarn in a purple/blue/gray mix, Caron’s bamboo yarn, mentioned above,  in a salmon pink and Patons Grace cotton yarn in sage green.  Each type of yarn requires a different hook size and sometimes, a slight change in the pattern.

I like the cotton and bamboo yarns for Spring and Summer headbands and the wools for winter.  I wear the headbands I make all the time, they tie for a custom fit and stay put on your head.  I like that they don’t slide back like so many headbands do.

The bamboo yarn is the largest size yarn I’ve used successfully.  Anything larger tends to be bulky in my opinion, but you may find you like that look.  I’ve used very light fingering yarn (pictured above) but I don’t recommend it for this particular pattern.

The yarn I’ll be using for this pattern is the Caron bamboo blend in a salmon pink, as pictured above.

This crochet headband pattern was designed by me, is copy-righted and free of charge.  Please feel free to use this pattern for personal use only.  I do sell these headbands in my Etsy Shop, Catalina Inspired,  so I’d appreciate credit for the design and that it not be used for re-sale.

I usually use a smaller hook than is called for on the yarn package.  The headband tends to hold its shape better and the tighter stitches also give the headband a good amount of stretch.

cl st = cluster stitch = yo, insert hook into correct stitch, draw up a loop. Yo and pull hook through 2 loops on hook. Yo, insert hook into same stitch and draw up a loop. Yo, pull hook through 2 loops on hook. Yo and pull through 3 remaining loops on hook.

sc = single crochet

sl st = slip stitch

ch = chain

yo = yarn over

For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll be using crochet hook size F/4, although I usually use F/3 on the headbands I sell in my shop.  Since it’s harder to see what you’re doing when the stitches are so tight, I recommend using the larger size hook for the first one you make.

Using crochet hook size F/4 and the Caron Bamboo blend yarn previously mentioned, chain 4 and join with the first ch st using a sl st, or use a sliding loop.

Round 1 – ch1, 8 sc in loop, sl st in first sc.  You should have 8 single crochets going around the loop like so:

Beginning Round For Floral Motif Used in the Crochet Headband

Beginning Round For Floral Motif Used in the Crochet Headband

Round 2 – Ch 1, * sc in next sc.  Ch 3, cl st in next sc (instructions above).  Ch 3.  Repeat from * all around the loop.  Sl st to first single crochet.  When finished, there should be 8, ch 3 spaces and it should look like this:

Round 2 of Floral Motif for Crochet Headband

Round 2 of Floral Motif for Crochet Headband

Round 3 – ch 1, 5 sc in next ch 3 space.  5 sc in each ch 3 space on round and sl st to 2nd sc at the beginning of the round .  At the end of this round there should be 8 spaces with 5 sc in each and it should look like this:

Round 3 of Flower Motif for Chrochet Headband

Round 4 of the Floral Motif for the Crochet Headband

Round 4 of the Floral Motif for the Crochet Headband

Round 4 – Ch 1 , sc in next 3 sc.  Skip 1 sc, * ch 3.  Skip next sc.  Sc in next 4 sc.  Skip next sc, sc in the next 4 sc.  Repeat from *, 3 times.  Sl st to 1st sc at the beginning of the round and tie off.  Make 5 squares that look like this:

Connecting the 5 pieces, the next step in making the headband, will be covered in my next post.

Click here for part two of the Crochet Headband pattern.

Happy hooking!!

The Latest “Finished” Project

Crochet Wrap Belt Tan and Ivory White

Crochet Wrap Belt Tan and Ivory White

Here’s my latest “finished” project.  For this one all I had to do was make the belt loop, the rest was already done.  I wasn’t sure if I should add some more segments and make it a scarflette but the belt idea won out in the end.  I made the loop by wrapping multi-strand galvanized steel wire in a circle around itself a few times, then crocheted all around it.  The wire works well because you can adjust it to whatever size you need.  On one of the wraps I cut across the center of the circle with the wire (before crocheting of course) and crocheted around it as well.  The loop is a bit flexible but should hold its shape well.  Click on the picture to see the listing in my Etsy shop.

I’m, so far, pleasantly surprised at my ability to focus on finishing  these projects as I promised myself.  My normal process is to flit from piece to piece.  I don’t know how much longer I can sustain this level of focus though. 

Next up!!