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R2D2 Pincushion DIY

Star Wars Day was a few days ago so it’s completely fitting to share this R2D2 pincushion DIY I made a few years ago.

I was brainstorming ideas for a crafty gift exchange in an online group. My giftee was a big Star Wars fan and her favorite craft was quilting. Around the same time I’d been browsing CraftyPod and had come across Diane’s plastic canvas needle book with built-in pincushion.

The puffy pincushion immediately made me think of R2D2’s top dome and I wondered if I’d be able to do something similar atop a plastic canvas base. It worked but I did one thing wrong so I’ll tell you what to do so you don’t make the same mistake I did!

You will need:

I started out by making the base, so I could later cut the circle to the proper size. This is easier than making the dome and needing to fit your design for the base into those constraints.

I found some good sample images for R2D2 online and drafted out a cross stitch pattern for his body. If you copy my chart you will need a plastic canvas rectangle that is 26 holes high by 67 holes wide. You can also stitch the body first and cut it out afterwards if you prefer.

Following the chart above, cross stitch the body design onto your plastic canvas. The majority of Artoo is white with some smaller gray areas and some blue.

Once the base stitching is complete separate your yarns into plies and use them single-strand to work backstitch on the outline areas. Black is used for all the main panel shapes and round areas, gray is used on both blue grills and blue is used for the vertical dashes on the front section. Note that the red border is the boundaries of the design and is not stitched.

Using white yarn, whipstitch around the lower edge of the body. Leave the sides and top unstitched as they will be used in seaming later.

I only gave Artoo only two legs in this design as he was standing upright and the third leg would not be seen underneath. I think it would look even better and more authentic if you made him tilted back with all 3 legs visible!

To make his legs stitch the above chart twice onto plastic canvas. When working be sure to mirror the gray segments at the top so the two legs are opposite (see image below).

As before the red designates the boundaries of the design and should not be worked.

Using single strands of black and gray yarn, embroider the outline details on both legs.

Using white yarn, sew the two legs into place on the body, following the placement as shown above. Sew down directly through the two layers of plastic canvas making tacking stitches 1 square high, and following along the sides and top of the legs. Be sure to put the correct leg on the correct side.

Using white yarn, whipstitch the two side edges together. This will join his body into it’s cannister shape. This base structure should be able to stand on its own on the two legs.

Now that you have your base diameter set you can cut out an appropriately-sized ring from your plastic canvas circle.

Lay your plastic canvas circle on top of the body and mark which ring of holes is closest to the top’s diameter. If you don’t have an exact match pick the one that is slightly smaller. I removed the inside of my ring leaving only one hole to stitch, but this proved unnecessary in the end as I did not wind up putting my pincushion through the ring as was done in the inspiration project.

With gray yarn, fill the outside row of holes by stitching up and down through them, then again to fill the alternate holes. You want at least one or two rows of holes filled with gray yarn in case they show later. Also trace your new circle onto a piece of heavy cardstock or foam core and cut it out.

In the image above you can see the size of my original ring and then the one I cut out. You can also see my foam core disk.

Test your alcohol markers on a corner of your white fabric. You want to find the right colors that match your blue yarn while also making sure that your markers won’t feather at the edges. You want a marker that will allow you to draw shapes that will retain crisp edges and not bleed into other sections. With the markers I had on hand and my particular fabric, Spectrum Noir worked best. I liked the color of the Bics better but it bled a little more and I didn’t want to take a chance on ruining my design.

Knowing that the dome would be puffy, I added about 2″ extra to my disk’s diameter and traced out a larger circle. Using a clear image of R2D2’s dome as a reference I sketched out roughly where the various components went, and then colored it all in with my alcohol markers.

Then I cut out the dome. This is where I messed up. I forgot to take into account that gathering the fabric would mean losing at least the outer 0.5″ underneath my foam core disk. I SHOULD have cut out Artoo’s dome leaving a good 1″ minimum of white around the edges. You can leave this outer ring white or alternately you could extend the colors that touch the edges outwards for at least 0.5″.

To create your pincushion you’ll want to thread your sewing needle with thread and pass a running stitch all the way around the circumference of the dome. As you can see in the top right image, when you start to pull on the thread it will gather your dome into a cup shape. Unfortunately mine gathers part of Artoo’s details and they get hidden underneath. You’ll want to arrange your gathers so that it is the excess white fabric that gets gathered underneath and the full dome pattern is visible above.

Once you’ve stitched your running stitch turn the dome over and add your stuffing. Place your cardstock or foam core on top to give your dome a solid, flat base. Then gather your threads tightly and secure in place. You can run extra threads across from side to side if desired.

The last step for assembly is to attach the dome to the base. Use your same sewing thread and needle to secure the plastic canvas ring to the underside of the dome. Then use gray yarn and your yarn needle to whipstitch the two plastic canvas pieces together. You might need to ease in some stitches if you don’t have a direct 1-to-1 line up. It can help to pin the dome in place with locking stitch markers, marking each quarter so that you know the dome is in the correct position. (Be sure that he’s facing the right way!)

With that, your R2D2 pincushion is done! Yours will look better than mine because his whole head will be showing. Still- I’m happy with him and best of all the recipient loved him and sent me a pic later of him put to good use holding her pins.

Happy (belated) Star Wars Day!

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How to Make Plastic Canvas Gift Tags

Looking for a different way to label your gifts this holiday season?

These personalized plastic canvas gift tags are quick and easy to make and are reusable as charms after the wrapping paper’s been recycled.

You only need a few supplies to get started:

  • plastic canvas – I used 7-ct but if you have a more complicated design that you want to fit into a small area, you can use 10-ct or 14-ct. (The “count” is how many holes per inch).
  • plastic lobster hooks – metal will work just as well. You can even cannibalize hardware from broken keychains or charms you already own
  • yarn – scraps from other projects will work great for this
  • yarn needle
  • scissors

The first step is to choose your designs so you can create a chart. My example tags were made for a young boy whose name starts with a “B” and was really into Minecraft, and a young girl whose name starts with “K” and was really into Monster High. So I decided to put their initials on one side and something iconic from each theme (Creeper & Skullette) on the other.

I used Excel to create my charts but you can just as easily use graph paper. If using Excel resize your cells into squares and then use the color fill to draw your designs, 8-bit pixel-style.

For the Creeper tag I went with a square shape since most Minecraft mobs have square heads. I then “drew” a capital b in a grid of the same size as the Creeper face. I decided not to do the typical blend of colors for the Creeper since this was just a quick add-on to the birthday party gift we were giving, but you can get as creative as you’d like!

For the Monster High tag I found a free-use Skullette chart and used the size of that chart as a basis for my “K” chart, which I drafted in a font similar to that of the Monster High lettering.

You have freedom to design anything you’d like for your tags! Your only limit is the total size you’d like your tags to be, as the bigger your design, the bigger the results.

The next step is to cut out plastic canvas pieces the sizes required for your tags. Remember that it takes 2 holes on the diagonal to make 1 continental or cross stitch with plastic canvas, so if your grid is 10×10 pixels then you need to cut out a piece of plastic canvas 11 holes x 11 holes, etc.

Stitch your pieces as desired. I used continental stitch (half of a cross-stitch) and did the green background for each piece first, leaving one piece with a tail about 3-4 times as long as the full perimeter. This is optional but by leaving the seaming yarn as your tail it’s one less end to hide later.

After the green I filled in the spaces with black for the “B” and the Creeper’s face.

I followed the same process for the other tag, working from background first to the details last, so the details would remain sharp and not risk getting fuzzy at the edges. First I did the white background (flipping Skullette so the bow would be on the right since the original chart was for Perler beads which get flipped after ironing), then the purple (as I didn’t have pink scraps handy), and finally the black, which I also used to backstitch some shading under the “K”. I didn’t do the tail trick for this one as I wanted to seam it with a different color.

To seam, hold the pieces with wrong-sides together and go from back to front through the first corner 3 times. Next whipstitch around the first side and when you get to the next corner, go through it 3 times again, and continue this process around. When you get to the corner where you’d like to put the hook, do the first corner wrap, then wrap twice while also going through the hook’s jump ring, then go through the corner alone once more.

After all 4 sides are fully seamed you can skim your needle through one side’s wraps and pull the yarn through, for about an inch, then trim the excess as close as you can.

These little tags are under 3″ making them perfect to clip onto a schoolbag or tote.

They really add a personal, handmade touch to a gift without taking too much time or costing the bank.

Have fun creating your own!

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How to Enlarge Pattern Charts Physically and Digitally

It’s been almost 2 years since my Order of the Phoenix blanket was published in the Knitting Magic book. 

There it is on the cover!

The Black family’s ancestral home played a huge role in the source book (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoneix) so in honor of today being Sirius Black’s birthday I’m going to answer the number one question I get asked about my pattern: how to enlarge the charts.

In case you missed my previous post about it, The Order of the Phoenix blanket is a circular throw that features motifs representing Harry’s scar as well as phoenix feathers and flames to represent the phoenix’ rebirth. A primary feature of the blanket is the text “The Order of the Phoenix” that goes around the center.

As the book is under copyright I’m not allowed to share a digital version of the charts when people request it, nor use that as my example here in this post. Instead I’m going to use my Lullaby baby blanket pattern for reference as they are both similar in having a charted band of words going around the center.

Lullaby was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of the now-defunct St-Denis magazine, that supported Veronik Avery’s yarn line of the same name. It has a deep border of garter feather-and-fan lace and features the words HUSH * BABY * SLEEP * BABY * around the center.

Using my hand for scale you can see that the charts are of relatively similar size between the two pattern books:

Obviously I had to blur out the charts themselves but you can still see the suggestion of where the words are and so the instructions I give for Lullaby will work just as well on Phoenix or any other chart by any designer.

There are a few different ways you can enlarge your patterns, depending on if you start with a physical or digital pattern, and on the result you want (physical or digital enlargement).

How to enlarge a PHYSICAL pattern (book, magazine or printout)

There are 2 options for enlarging a physical pattern.

Option 1: home scanner/copier/printer

Most home printers these days have a built-in copy/scan feature. If you scroll through the copy settings you can find an “enlarge” option that will allow you to increase the size of the chart in the printout.

You can also use the printer’s scan function to get a digital copy of your pattern that you can enlarge with any of the following digital methods.

Option 2: public photocopy center/machine

You can find both self-service and with-service public photocopiers at commercial copy centers like Staples. You can also often find public photocopiers at your local pharmacy or library.

This is a direct photocopy from my pattern. My hand is provided for scale.

This is an enlargement of the same page, made using the photocopier’s built-in enlargement option. Most photocopiers can handle legal and oversized papers. In this case, I used the 129% option to print on the largest size paper available (11″x17″).

You can see the difference between the two sizes.

The HUSH chart, for example, is 1.75″ high by 6″ wide in the original (and copy), and 2.25″ high by 8″ wide in the enlargement. These differences might make printing as-is enough of an enlargement for you, or you can take the enlargement and use it as your starting image to photocopy again even larger…repeating the process as-needed until the resulting chart is of a size for you to work with comfortably.

How to enlarge a DIGITAL pattern

There are many options for enlarging a physical pattern. I will be demoing these methods using my computer and/or an iPad. It is possible to do them all on a smart phone as well but since the point is to enlarge a chart to make it more convenient to work from, I’m going to assume you’re going to be working from your tablet or computer/laptop and not the smaller screen of a phone.

Option 1: from a physical file

Take a picture of your chart with a smart device and then email it to yourself so you have a digital file to work with.

Alternately you can upload it directly to an accessible storage media like Dropbox or Google Drive, or upload the image directly into a data-processing app like Microsoft Word, Excel or OneNote, Google Docs or Sheets, or your favorite annotation app/software. From there you can proceed to the enlargement instructions below.

Option 1b: from a digital file

You would use this option if you already have your pattern in a digital format. In this case I’ll be using the sale pattern version of Lullabye.

Use your favorite screenshot app to take a picture of the chart on your screen. I like Microsoft’s built-in “Snipping Tool” but you can use Snagit or any others including the “print screen” button yon your keyboard. As the “print screen” key method has a few extra steps, both ways are shown below. TIP: enlarge the chart on-screen before taking the screenshot so you are already starting with a larger version.

A) Using Snipping Tool (or other screen-grab software)

Open your pattern document (ie: Word doc, Excel file or PDF) on screen. Make sure the chart (or section of the chart you wish to capture) is in full view, then open your screen-grab software.

Click “new” to start a new screenshot. The software will freeze the entire screen as it currently looks.

As it says on the prompt – drag the cursor around the area you want to capture. Use your mouse to drag a square or rectangle from one corner to the opposite diagonal, making sure your desired image is fully inside your boundaries.

You can see the red boundaries on the image above. I started my capture at the upper left corner and dragged down to the lower right (where the cross is). Everything inside the red rectangle will be part of my screen-grab. I made sure to include my chart’s legend as well as the instructions on the bottom.

After you release the mouse after dragging, your cropped result will appear within the software’s window. If you don’t like the results, or are missing part of your chart, simply click “new” to start over and drag again.

Once you have the results you want, click “file” then “save as” and save the image to your computer. I keep a folder for every project I work on so I would save it in there for easy reference but you can save it to your downloads or anywhere that you would like.

B) Using your keyboard’s “print screen” key

Open your pattern document (ie: Word doc, Excel file or PDF) on screen. Make sure the chart (or section of the chart you wish to capture) is in full view, then tap the “print screen” button on your keyboard. This will take a screenshot of your full screen – everything showing on your monitor.

Open any software that will allow you to paste and then crop an image. I’ve used Word, Excel and Paint regularly with great results, and many other programs will work as well. My example is using Word.

Place your cursor anywhere on the page and use ctrl-v or click file‚Üípaste to paste your screenshot into the document.

You can see the image of my screen is now pasted into the Word document – background, taskbar, clock and all.

Click on the image within the document itself.

This will bring up a “Picture Format” tab at the top of your Word window. Click on it.

If you look over to the far right of the ribbon bar at the top, you will see a “crop” option. Click on it and you will see black crop bars appear on the border of your image. We will use those to remove all the excess parts of the image, leaving only the chart you want to work with.

Drag the dark black crop marks to surround only the part of the image that has your chart. As you drag you will see the edges of your image get shaded. Those are the parts that will be cropped out of the final image.

Keep moving the borders from the top, sides or corners until your chart is isolated. Then click anywhere outside of the image.

The shaded areas will disappear and you will be left with your desired chart.

Right-click anywhere within the image and choose “Save as Picture”. Now you can save your cropped chart image anywhere on your computer for use in the following enlargement step. In this example I kept all 3 words and the legend as one image, but if you want to enlarge each word even bigger you can repeat this process 3 times to crop out each individual word and save it as its own chart image.

Enlargement Instructions:

Once you have your chart in digital format enlarging it is really easy!

Option 1: Paint, Befunky or other photo-editing software

Insert or open your saved chart image into your favorite photo editing software and resize it to enlarge. You can save the image in its larger size and print it at home or email it to your local copy center for printing. You might also find that having it large on-screen is enough for your purposes.

Option 2: Word, Excel, Docs or Sheets-type data processing software

Open your favorite processing software and use the “insert” feature to add your digital chart image. Once inserted you can drag on the corners to resize the chart. You can also right-click for more editing options. Once you have the image large enough for your purposes you can use it on-screen or print it for a large paper copy.

Option 3: PDF Annotation Software

There are a number of computer and iPad/Android programs that will allow you to annotate a PDF. To use your favorite one, insert your chart image into Word or Sheets as per Option 2 and then save your file as a PDF. Open the PDF in your annotation software and you can zoom in as well as make notes or highlight directly onto the chart.

My favorite annotation software is OneNote, and I use it daily for making notes, highlights and annotations on PDFs as well as images for all my crafting needs. It is free but since it might not be widely-used I’m putting it as a standalone option below:

Option 4: OneNote

I use OneNote extensively and find it an invaluable tool for any crafter/hobbyist. I love that I can import an image of a chart, blow it up as big as I’d like, and then in draw mode can use my Apple Pencil or finger and the highlight pen to highlight chart rows as I go just as I would on paper. The ability to undo mistakes is a big improvement over paper charts and I can also annotate as I go.

I like to insert my digital chart image into a new page created for my current project.

Tapping on the image will allow you to move it on the page as well as to drag the corners for an initial resize. You also have the option to rotate the image if desired, though as the chart in this case is rectangular I prefer to use the width of my iPad.

You can resize the image even larger if needed. Use two fingers to pinch and zoom out to enlarge the chart to its maximum size.

My favorite thing about OneNote is how I can work on my charts completely digitally. Here I’ve left part of the chart un-blurred so you can see how I use it. It’s possible to make notes about dropped sts, missing yarn-overs or any other reminders for yourself, as well as to switch to a highlighter pen in your favorite color and nib width and mark off your rows as you go. Better than on real paper- if you make a mistake you can easily erase the highlighting so you’ll always be able to keep track of exactly where you are.

I do use the Apple pencil as pictured above but you can do the same with your finger tip or a stylus, including change the pen nib size so everything is clear and legible.

I’ve used this method for everything from complicated cable knits to incredibly detailed 18ct cross stitch and it works perfectly every time. It also syncs to my OneNote account so I can access my chart on the computer or on my phone or even log in from any internet device so I can bring my work with me where ever I go.

I regret that I cannot share the charts for my Order of the Phoenix blanket pattern, but no matter what project you’re working on hopefully the above tips and techniques will help you enlarge your charts into something you can work with comfortably. If there are any other tips or techniques you’d like to learn about, feel free to message me or leave a comment below!