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So as I said in the last blog post about what you’ll need to get started knitting, you should have at least one color of a pretty cheap yarn and at least one set of knitting needles. To learn to cast on, that’s really all you need right now.

Your first step will be to make a slipknot in your yarn. Yes, slipknot is more than just a mediocre rock band that was marginally cool when I was like 13.

For the long-tail cast on we’re doing today, where you put the slipknot matters because you want enough yarn to form the stitches you need. A standard rule of thumb is that you’ll need one inch for every stitch you plan to cast on.

A good number to start with is ten stitches, so take the end of your yarn and pull about ten inches plus a little bit for wiggle room, and then make your knot like so:

Slipknot

It’s difficult to put it into words well, but hopefully the gif above is clear. You’re basically twisting a simple loop into the yarn, then pull a loop of the hanging yarn through the first loop. If that doesn’t make sense, just mimic the gif!

Slipknot on needle

Next, just slide that slipknot onto the needle and pull to tighten. BUT don’t make it too tight. This goes for when you start casting on too. When I first started I had a habit of casting on too tightly and then it was painful to actually try and knit with these tight stitches. Leave a bit of slack so that when you start stitching, you’ll be able to get the other needle into the stitch.

Splitting yarn

Once the slipknot is on the needle, put your index finger on the knot to hold it in place then use your other hand to hold the yarn. As you can see in the gif, you’ll hold both the loose end and the yarn that goes back to the ball, then split them apart with your thumb and index finger.

I think to some people it matters which end is which, but I’ve never found it makes much of a difference. So just pick up the needle, hold your slipknot in place, grab the hanging yarn, and separate the strands.

And here it is: the cast on.

Casting on stitch

Notice that the first step is to move the needle toward you and pick up the lower portion of yarn that’s looped around your thumb.

You then point the needle toward your index finger and pick up the upper portion of the yarn looped around your index finger.

You then pull with your thumb and forefinger on each strand of the yarn to tighten. But not too tight like I said above.

So let’s say you want to cast on 10 stitches. Remember that the slipknot counts as a stitch. So to get 10 you’ll go through the motion in the gif above nine times, not ten.

In all its blurry beauty, this is what it looked like when I’d cast on three times:

Cast on

Once you’ve cast on the number of stitches you need, you’ll be ready to get started learning some basic stitches, but that’s a lesson for next time.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the next post!

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Basic things you'll need to get started knitting - some cheap yarn, a pair of needles, and scissors

So up to this point a lot of the crafting I’ve done & shared on the blog has been sewing or painting, which are still super fun activities! But now I’m going to switch up the focus a bit and get into the basics of knitting.

You might be asking yourself…knitting? Isn’t that just something for old women in the 1800s or Serena on The Handmaid’s Tale? Lies.

The reason I took up knitting has a lot to do with the reason why this blog has been sadly quiet for so long. I just graduated from law school, and it’s no coincidence that law school lasts 3 years and it’s been 3 years since I’ve gotten to update the blog.

But I took up knitting thanks to pressure from my sister and to have a stress relieving hobby to work on when I needed a break from studying. Here are some of the reasons I’ve stuck with it through the years and have been neglecting other crafts:

  • Knitting is super easy to put down and come back to later, so you can just work on it a little at a time when you need to unwind
  • Doesn’t take up nearly as much space as sewing — having to clear off my table anytime I wanted to craft was really hard to do
  • Great for stress relief and other health benefits
  • Super easy to take things apart and start over if you realize you’ve made a huge tactical error, and you don’t have to toss out yarn

And that’s all just off the top of my head.

So what do you need to get started? Basically everything you see in the picture above will help you get the foundational skills down. First, I recommend getting two contrasting colors of a cheap yarn — I don’t want to recommend any particular brands here because I feel kind of bad singling out a brand as “cheap.” But I always keep the white and pink yarns you see in the photo handy for experimenting with new techniques.

Second, get one or two pairs of needles. I have size 7s in the picture, but size 10 is also a good one to get started. We’ll talk more about picking the right sized needle for a project later, but for now anything in the 7 to 10 range should get the job done.

You’ll also need some scissors to cut the yarn, and not pictured but also very handy is a yarn or tapestry needle. It’s basically a needle with a really big eye for when you’re weaving in the ends of your yarn.

And finally, brew yourself a nice warm mug of tea. Just because it’s good for you.

Now while you’re out at the craft store picking those up, I’ll be here getting ready to show you the first steps in any knitting project: casting on stitches.

*I regret nothing.

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How to sew an easy Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

I’m not ashamed to say I use reusable grocery bags every time I go to the grocery store (unless I forget to bring them with me). Yesterday I went to an event where they handed out fabric bags to throw your goodies in, and my first thought was “Yay another grocery bag!” My family also holds onto gift bags and reuses the same ones over and over and over again. So I thought to myself, why not sew a fabric gift bag?

A little drawstring Christmas pouch is great for small gifts, candy, ornaments, etc. It’s reusable, and the drawstring opening builds suspense by completely concealing what’s inside. And if your Christmas party is lacking anything, it’s suspense.

What you’ll need:

  • A Christmas fabric
  • Matching thread
  • Ribbon
  • A safety pin

How to sew an easy Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

First I take a cut of fabric that’s about twice as long as it is wide.

How to sew an easy Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

I press them in half where the bottom of the bag will be, and the two free ends that meet at the top will form the opening.

How to sew an easy Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

My ribbon is 3/8″ wide, so I’m making the drawstring casing 1/2″ wide to allow adequate room. to make sure no frayed edges are exposed, Fold over about 1/8″ on the edge of the fabric and stitch it in place. Only one side is pictured above, but I do this on both sides of the opening.

How to sew an easy Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

Next I fold down 1/2″ and press to form the casing.

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

I stitch down the casing with a zigzag stitch to keep the edge from fraying as much. I could theoretically overlock and then straight stitch it down, but the zigzag stitch just looks more fun. And in the words of Sheldon Cooper, “What’s life without whimsy?”

2013-11-03 15.51.11

 

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

Next I pin the right sides together to form the sides of the bag, and these I stitch with an overlock stitch and no seam allowance so that the stitch will line up perfectly when the edge of the casing. Make sure to leave the opening of the casing free so you can insert the ribbon!

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

To make the bag stand up on its own, you’ll want to sew the corners of the inside into two triangles that will lay flat against the bottom. I don’t know if there’s a science to determining how wide you want your triangles, but I make mine half the width of my pouch. My pouch is 6 inches wide, so you can see in the picture that I’m making my triangles 3 inches wide, with the side seam right in the middle. I draw a line where my gauge is measuring 3 inches and stitch right along that line, then draw a similar line on the other side and repeat.

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

A view from the top after I stitched my corners.

Next it’s time to insert the ribbon and make it a drawstring pouch!

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

I used leftover pieces of ribbon from another project that weren’t quite long enough, but you’ll want yours to be twice the width of your bag plus a couple of inches. My pouches were 6 inches wide, so I should have used 14 inch ribbons, but alas.

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

Affix a safety pin to the end of one of your ribbons, and insert it into one of the casings. When you reach the next opening, keep pushing the ribbon through the other side of the casing until the ribbon has come full circle.

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

Now you’re halfway done!

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

Finally, attach the safety pin to one end of your second piece of ribbon, and insert it into the other side of the opening, where your first ribbon simply continued through without stopping. You’ll again want to move the ribbon all the way through so that both ends of the same ribbon are on the same side of the opening.

How to sew an easy Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

And voila! You have a drawstring little pouch for Christmas. I think these would be great if you’re having a party and want to give out little goody bags, and you can make it taller or wider as you so desire!

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A chevron sponge painting is a really easy DIY home decor project

I took up painting as a hobby in college, because I kept thinking of paintings I’d really like to buy but didn’t exist yet. So I realized the solution to this was to paint them myself. However, I don’t quite have the dedication to the craft to make hyperrealistic paintings (besides, that’s what cameras are for), so instead I focus on abstract designs.

This painting project is extremely easy, and you can use any combination of colors that you want. So if you have a spot of empty wall you’d like to fill with something but don’t entirely know what, this is a great flexible project you can try!

Materials for a chevron sponge painting , a really easy DIY home decor projectYour materials (pictured above) include a canvas or other painting surface, painter’s tape, a sponge, your chosen paint colors, and a palette or similar surface to hold multiple colors of paint.

The first step is to lay down your tape vertically to form columns, and then diagonally across the columns to form the chevron pattern. Your dimensions will vary based on the size of your canvas and your personal preference, and they don’t even have to be equal in size, but for my project I made the columns 2 1/2″ wide and the rows 1 5/8″ tall. Or maybe it was 1 3/8″. Oh well, not the important part.

The important part is that you remember to factor in the width of your painter’s tape when deciding on your dimensions!

A chevron sponge painting is a really easy DIY home decor projectIn this picture you can see my evenly spaced columns. Notice that on the edges, I made sure to completely cover the edge of the canvas in tape. I do this to hold down the canvas so that when I do my sponging it stays in place even as I’m rapidly dabbing.

You can also see that the columns end a little further from the edge on the right than they do on the left. This is due to the canvas company lying to me about the dimensions of this canvas paper, and I feel horribly betrayed and will never forgive them for that. But we’ll move on.

A chevron sponge painting is a really easy DIY home decor projectNow for this step, you’ll probably want to click the above picture to enlarge so you can really see what I’m saying.

Notice on each side of the column there’s a small pencil mark, and the diagonal piece of tape lines up with these marks.

The two marks are 1/2″ apart, but on opposite sides of the column. You can choose whatever width you want to create a deeper or more shallow angle, but I went with 1/2″ because it’s easy to remember. Make these marks wherever a diagonal line will go, remembering to alternate the direction in each column to create a zigzag line.

But one important thing to remember is to be consistent with which side of the tape you make your marks. As you can see in that picture, I laid the tape so the top edge lined up with the marks and then made sure that every time I laid down the tape I was lining up the top edge with the marks.

It can be a little confusing at first, but once you get into the pattern it’s easy. Also, if you make a mistake, painter’s tape is easy to remove and replace!

A chevron sponge painting is a really easy DIY home decor projectMake sure you lay down extra tape to cover up the edges where you don’t want paint to appear!

A chevron sponge painting is a really easy DIY home decor projectAs you’re laying down your diagonals, be sure that the end of the tape doesn’t go over your column tape. The diagonal lines should just meet in the middle.

A chevron sponge painting is a really easy DIY home decor projectOnce you’ve laid down all your tape, rejoice! The hardest part is officially over. Now it’s time to sponge.

A chevron sponge painting is a really easy DIY home decor projectSponging is extremely easy. To start, squirt some paint into a section of your palette. I usually choose a base color to cover most or all of the canvas, then use the other colors as accent colors. For this I decided to use a blue and a purple as base colors, and started with the blue.

Dip your sponge into the paint. You can see from the middle picture that I got a hearty glob on the sponge. Globs take longer to dry and make it hard to layer other colors, so I dabbed on the newspaper a few times to get excess paint off the sponge.

A chevron sponge painting is a really easy DIY home decor projectAll you have to do is press the sponge onto the canvas to make your first mark, then repeat over and over to cover an area. It’s quite easy!

You can cover the entire surface evenly with your base color, but I choose to vary the coverage across the canvas, making the color thinner in some areas and heavier in others.

A chevron sponge painting is a really easy DIY home decor projectNext I simply repeated the sponging process with my purple of choice to create a solid base on which to lay my accents down.

Now it’s time for the accents!

A chevron sponge painting is a really easy DIY home decor projectIn general with acrylic paint you’ll want to layer lighter colors on top of darker colors, and do several layers because the paint will thin as it dries so lighter colors will fade into the background a little. As you can see I used varying shades of blue, pink, and purple. There doesn’t have to be any pattern or forethought, just dip & dab away until the area is covered and you’re happy with your colors.

Now just let your paint dry and then remove all of the painter’s tape.

A chevron sponge painting is a really easy DIY home decor projectYou may have some stray marks where the paint leaked through or under the tape. You can leave them and ignore them, but you can also easily cover them with some carefully applied white paint.

A chevron sponge painting is a really easy DIY home decor projectAnd voila, you now have a funky painting that’s exactly the colors you like and will be completely unique to your home, and it only took about an hour!

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Finding studs in your wall is an important DIY home decor stepIf you’re unfamiliar with the way homes are built, you might not know that your walls are actually mostly hollow, with vertical wooden structures called studs (pictured above) built in for support.

A lot of home decor objects that are made to hang on the wall, like the wall shelves I recently bought, need to be secured to a stud to prevent falling and pulling out a piece of the wall. So if you’re planning to hang an object, you’ll need to know how to find the studs in your wall.

Just a note, when you tell people you’re having trouble finding studs it’s a good idea to clarify that you mean in your walls. It should come as no surprise that I got a lot of funny looks when I said I needed help finding a stud to hang my wall shelves.

But hopefully this post will keep you from getting put in such awkward situations.

A good starting place for finding studs is an outlet.

Finding studs in your wall is an important DIY home decor stepOutlets are typically attached to the side of a stud, so you can be pretty sure that there will be one either to the left or right of any outlet in your home. The trick is to determine which side it’s on.

One basic technique is the “knock and listen” technique, which consists of knocking on the wall and listening for the stud’s location. As I mentioned before, walls are hollow except for where a stud is, so most spots you knock will produce a hollow sound. When you hear a fuller sound, you’ve likely found a stud.

However, when I tried this method in my apartment walls I had little luck. So here’s another method I found to determine with more accuracy where your studs are located.

Start by grabbing the strongest magnet on your refrigerator.

Finding studs in your wall is an important DIY home decor stepZigzag the magnet above the outlet, covering the areas to the left and right of the outlet. What you’re doing is looking for a nail where the wall was attached to the stud. Keep moving left and right and up and down until you feel your magnet pull.

Finding studs in your wall is an important DIY home decor stepThis picture is slightly blurry as I was taking it left handed, but you can see that the tip of the magnet is pulled against the wall. Grab a pencil and draw and “X” because you’ve found a stud!

Studs are typically 16 inches apart in modern homes, but they may be 24 inches apart. From your X, measure 16 inches to either side and find the next stud using either the knock and listen technique or your magnet. If you can’t find the next stud at 16 inches, try 24 inches instead.

Now you’re ready to have your decorations and be sure that they’re secure on your wall!

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My table before sewing an easy home decor DIY project - Paroxa Designs

When I moved into my empty apartment in May, I was initially using a flipped-over laundry basket as a dining table. When I was able to go to Ikea and upgrade to a real table, I was pretty excited. I then got a bowl to fill with fruit to grab on my way out the door to work and to serve as decoration. But sometimes that bowl looks lonely.

My table before sewing an easy home decor DIY project - Paroxa DesignsLike this.

So I decided to put something under that bowl that might jazz up the space a little bit. I clear the table for sewing occasionally, so a full-length table runner or table cloth would get annoying. So instead I decided to sew a small centerpiece. It’s a very easy project to do, so follow along for a guide on how to make one of your own!

What you’ll need for this super easy sewing project:

  • Fabric of your choice. You can use a decorative fabric on top then a basic fabric on the bottom, match top to bottom, two different decorative fabrics, whatever you want to do!
  • Drafting paper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • And all your basic sewing supplies

My table before sewing an easy home decor DIY project - Paroxa DesignsUsing drafting paper, a pencil, and my ruler, I drew two perpendicular lines that split each other right down the middle. These were my desired length and width, plus seam allowances. So if you want one that’s 22″ long and 16″ wide, with a 1/2″ seam allowance, your lines would be 23″ and 17″.

My table before sewing an easy home decor DIY project - Paroxa DesignsNext I sketched a curved line to connect two ends. I chose one curve and erased the rest. It’d be near impossible to replicate this curve by hand three times and have a fully symmetrical centerpiece, so let’s do it an easier way.

My table before sewing an easy home decor DIY project - Paroxa DesignsFold your paper along one line, so that your drawn curve is on the bottom layer of paper. You’ll be able to see the curve through the op layer, so trace it onto the top layer and unfold. Repeat by folding along the other line, so you have one full symmetrical shape.

My table before sewing an easy home decor DIY project - Paroxa DesignsCut out your shape and press out the creases, just as you would with a store-bought sewing pattern.

My table before sewing an easy home decor DIY project - Paroxa DesignsTrace the pattern onto two pieces of fabric. I chose to use a decorative home decor fabric for the top but use plain quilting cotton for the bottom. But this part is totally up to you!

My table before sewing an easy home decor DIY project - Paroxa DesignsPin right sides together, but before you stitch if you’re using a curved shape like mine, it’s a good idea to mark your stitching line before you take it to the machine. Seam allowances can be pretty difficult to stick to on a curved seam, so even though this may feel tedious it will help you keep your place. For more tips on sewing on a curve, check out this helpful resource from Sew4Home.

My table before sewing an easy home decor DIY project - Paroxa DesignsYou’ll want to leave a few inches unstitched so that you can flip it inside out. Be sure to make a mark to remind yourself to stop stitching!

My table before sewing an easy home decor DIY project - Paroxa DesignsNow all you have left to do is flip it right side out, press your seam, and slip stitch the opening shut.

My table before sewing an easy home decor DIY project - Paroxa DesignsNow my fruit bowl isn’t quite so lonely.

This is a really easy project to do in an hour or so, and you can make several different centerpieces for different times of the year or events. Hope you enjoy!

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Sewing a throw pillowcase with Paroxa Designs

I moved into my apartment mid-May after graduating from college with zero furniture.

My apartment was a beige wasteland.

Thanks to a paint job and some Ikea furniture, it’s not quite as bad as it was, but it’s still a little boring. So I decided to look into some easy decorative pieces that I could sew to jazz it up.

A clear frontrunner emerged: the throw pillow.

Now, to be honest I still don’t have a couch to keep a throw pillow on. But I wanted to try it anyway.

If you can sew in a straight line and press a hem you have want it takes to make a throw pillowcase!

Here’s a quick rundown of how I make a 16×16 open back pillowcase:

Sewing a throw pillowcase with Paroxa DesignsSewing a throw pillowcase with Paroxa Designs

Assuming a 1/2″ seam allowance, draw a 17″x17″ square on your fabric of choice. This will be the front of the pillowcase.

The back is a little trickier.

Sewing a throw pillowcase with Paroxa Designs

The back will be two pieces that overlap. Divide 17 by two and you’ll get 8.5″. But you’ll also want some extra length to press under, and a little extra so that the two pieces will touch.

I decided to press under 1/2″ twice, so I added an inch, then an extra 1/4″ for overlap. So the width of my two back pieces were 9 3/4″ (Full disclosure: Harry Potter was on) and the length was 17″.

Make sure as you draw these pieces that the pattern will line up when you make your stitches.

Sewing a throw pillowcase with Paroxa DesignsHere are all my pieces laid out. Note that the design on the fabric is the same on every one.

Sewing a throw pillowcase with Paroxa DesignsNext I laid the pieces right sides together as they’re going to be stitched. The two overlapping edges should be pressed and stitched before you sew the side seams though.

Sewing a throw pillowcase with Paroxa DesignsIt’s a good idea to lightly mark the edges you’re going to press so that you don’t get them mixed up as you move them to your ironing board.

Sewing a throw pillowcase with Paroxa DesignsYou can choose how wide or narrow to press the edges, but I chose to press them 1/2″ twice, so that the raw edge is enclosed.

Sewing a throw pillowcase with Paroxa DesignsTopstitch the pressed edges in place.

Sewing a throw pillowcase with Paroxa DesignsNow just pin right sides together and sew around the edges on each of the 4 sides, leaving the center of the back open.

When trimming your seams, I’ve been told that trimming the corners in a curve and trimming closer to the seam on one piece of fabric than the other will help your corners be less bulky. Personally since this is a removable pillowcase I chose to trim the seam allowances to about 1/4″ and finish with an overlock stitch.

Whatever you choose to do, next you just have to flip it right side out and press the seams – I recommend using a pressing ham to press them open and then flat.

Sewing a throw pillowcase with Paroxa DesignsAnd voila! You have a throw pillowcase! Buy a 16×16 pillowform from a craft store like JoAnn’s and you’re all set!

This is an extremely easy project for a beginner. But if you like the pillow I just made and want one exactly like it, you can purchase it from my Etsy shop here (I don’t have a couch to put it on so I don’t mind parting with it!)

Also be sure to follow me on Twitter!

Happy sewing!

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