Make Your Own Knit Journal

Every knitter needs a way to keep track of patterns, ball bands, swatches, notes, and all the other ephemera accumulated at the bottom of one's knitting basket. A knit journal is the solution. Sure, you could buy one ready-made, but making one is so much more fun!

Materiats i One three-ring binder or notebook with a cardboard or hard cover i Hot glue gun or sewing machine with coordinating thread (see directions for options)

i Swatches, knitted fabric, an old sweater, or other knitted piece sufficient in size to cover your notebook front and back i Scissors or a rotary cutter and mat i Buttons (optional), yarn for yarn embroidery, or other embellishments

Three-ring binders come in handy for corralling loose patterns, and if you need more pages, you can always add them — something you can't do with most spiral or hardbound sketchbooks or notebooks.

Directions

1. Lay out your swatches or other knitted fabric and make them the exact size of your notebook's cover.

For a 1-inch thick, 8K x 11-inch three-ring binder, for example, your piece should be 18 x 11 inches (11 inches tall and 2 times 8/2 + the 1-inch thickness on the side).

If you're using swatches, you may need to stitch them together, and if they're not quite big enough, you can always add on a little extra length or width using the log cabin technique from the earlier section, "Log Cabin Swatch Pot Holder." (Note: For this project, don't use pieces that are longer or wider than the final dimensions. Shortening knitted fabric, though possible, is more difficult than lengthening.)

2. Add any embellishments you want to the knitted fabric.

If you intend to embellish the knitted fabric with buttons, yarn embroidery, or other options, now is the time to do it.

3. Secure the knitted cover to the back of the notebook.

For notebooks with soft covers (such as thin plastic three-ring binders, thin cardboard sketchbook covers, and so on), you can use a sewing machine to stitch the knitted cover down around the top, side, and bottom edges of both the front and back covers.

For notebooks or binders with hard covers, apply a very thin layer of hot glue to the back cover (use a popsicle stick to spread the glue once it's out of the gun), and position your knitted piece. Then pull the knitted piece around to the front, apply another thin layer of glue on the front side, and press the knitted fabric into place.

With hot glue, less is more. When using the hot glue gun to attach knits to your notebook, a little goes a very long way. Use too much and it will completely soak through the front of the fabric, which isn't very attractive.

If you have a little more gift-making time, try this more advanced version: Remember the paper covers you made for textbooks in school? You can knit one! Follow these instructions:

Cast on enough stitches to stretch from the top of the notebook to the bottom, plus 1 or 2 stitches.

Knit until piece measures the full width of the book and its spine, plus 10 inches.

Wrap the piece around your book, leaving 5 inches inside the front and back covers, then seam together the extra 5 inches, top and bottom, to the front and back covers.

The nice thing about this is that the cover is removable, and you can put it on another knit journal when you fill up the current one!

Recycled Sweater Mittens

Recycling is good for both the environment and your wallet. This project and the next two all use yarn and old sweater pieces to make speedy one-of-a-kind gifts. So raid your closet or the thrift store, and get started! If you have a sewing machine, you can make these mittens in less than 15 minutes, not including washer/dryer time.

Materials i One sweater or other knitted piece, at least 50% wool or more (preferably 100% wool)

i Scissors or a rotary cutter and mat i Sewing machine or needle and thread i Chalk or marker for tracing hand i Yarn and yarn needle for embroidered embellishment (optional) i Paper for creating pattern

Directions

1. Trace your hand on the knitted material, using chalk or marker.

To make the mittens easier to put on after shrinking, make the cuff area a little wide.

If you're not comfortable tracing your hand directly onto the knitted material with chalk or marker, trace it in mitten position (fingers together, thumb pointing out) on a piece of paper. Draw another line 1 inch or more around this, making a simplified mitten shape.

  1. Cut two of the mitten shapes from your knitted material, flip the pattern over, and cut two more shapes.
  2. Embroider a design on the mittens, if desired.

Try yarn embroidery. Thread a sharp yarn needle with wool yarn in the color of your choice and stitch anything you like — monograms, daisies, straight lines, you name it! You can even follow an existing design if your knitted piece is striped or Fair Isle.

4. With right sides out (and therefore wrong sides together), stitch the mittens together around all edges except the bottom opening.

Don't worry about the bottom edge unraveling; felted material is permanently locked together.

Stitching the material with right sides together and then turning it inside out makes the mittens bulky and uncomfortable. When joined with wrong sides together, the stitched edge fades away as fibers from the fabric "knit" together over it with the wash.

  1. Run the mittens through the hot wash/cold rinse cycle of your washing machine to felt the fabric.
  2. Remove the mittens from the washing machine and try them on. Make adjustments as necessary for a better fit.

If the size is perfect, you're done. If they need to be a little smaller, put them through another wash cycle or directly into the clothes dryer on medium or high heat. To stretch the mittens out a bit, pull on them with your hands and then allow them to air dry.

To make the felted surface more even, you can brush it with a hairbrush to remove any pills or fluff up the fiber.

Thrift Store Sweater Bag

Bags are universally popular as gifts because they're useful in all sorts of situations. And handmade bags from knitted fabric are great because you don't have to worry about sizing. This recycled sweater bag is both easy and fun to make.

Materials

I One sweater with wool content of 50% or greater

I Coordinating yarn for I-cord handle, or purchased handles

I One pair of size US 8 (5mm) double-pointed needles for I-cord handle (optional)

I Sewing machine or needle and thread I Scissors or rotary cutter and mat

Note: You also can stitch together swatches for this bag if you have lots of them sitting around, or use pieces from multiple old sweaters.

Directions

  1. If you're using a single sweater, cut straight across it just below the armpits so that you have a tube. If you're using swatches or other pieces, sew them together into a tube shape the desired size of the bag.
  2. Turn the tube inside out and sew across the cut edge with your sewing machine or using a needle and thread (be sure to sew tight stitches by

The bottom (which is usually ribbing) is now the top of your bag.

3. If you're using purchased bag handles, skip to Step 4. If you want a braided I-cord handle, knit three 5-inch I-cords. Braid the cords and sew across the top and bottom edges on your sewing machine or with needle and thread.

Sewing the braided cord keeps the braid from coming unraveled in the washer.

  1. Run both the bag and the I-cord handle (if you have one) through the hot wash/cold rinse cycle of your washing machine to felt them.
  2. Allow the pieces to air dry, and stitch the handle into place or attach the purchased handle.
  3. Add yarn embroidery, buttons, other embellishments, or even a sewn-in lining if you like.

No one likes to freeze their hands when drinking from a can — thus the can cozy was born. This quick gift keeps hot stuff hot or cold stuff cold anytime. (Don't forget wool is an excellent natural insulator!) The knitted cozy is also great for water bottles if you're tired of condensation dripping everywhere.

A beverage cozy is much like a short wrist warmer. To knit one, simply follow the pattern in the earlier section, "Large-Gauge Wrist Warmers." But for a thick, deluxe cozy with its own built-in coaster, follow these steps:

Materials

I Old sweater or other knitted piece with 50% wool content i Sewing needle and thread i Chalk or marker for tracing can i Aluminum beverage can to use as template

Directions

1. Felt your knitted piece in a hot wash/cold rinse cycle of your washing machine.

Felting not only makes the knitted fabric denser but also allows you to cut and stitch it without fear of unraveling.

  1. Trace the bottom of the can onto the felted fabric using chalk or a marker. Cut out the circular shape.
  2. Lay the can on top of the felted fabric and cut a piece long and tall enough to wrap around the can, adding V2 inch for seaming.
  3. Embellish your fabric as desired.

You can yarn embroider a monogram or design!

5. With right sides together, stitch up the seam of cozy using a needle and thread.

Depending on the thickness of your felt, you may want to iron the sewn side seam to flatten it. Use lots of steam and the hot (or "cotton") setting.

6. Turn the cozy right side out, and position the circle from Step 2 on the bottom of the can, right side out. Sew the coaster to the bottom edge of the cozy.

There are many, many variations to this basic concept. Make a taller wine bottle cozy for a hostess gift, or make several cozies in sizes to fit around old glass jars and use them as decorative vases (group them in uneven numbers for maximum effect). Whatever you make, have fun!

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