Category Archives: Cheap Tricks

Envelope Rosette.

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Cheri-I cannot believe that it is Christmas Advent already. Time to get back in the swing of ornament making.

In the last few months I have picked up another collection and this is an incredibly cheap one. I have begun to collect envelopes. Not for stamps, or anything like that, I  collect them for the inside. the envelopes have amazing graphics that are printed on the inside. They are quite beautiful, and a great source for interesting paper, and I am always looking for a craft to make with is.

This is where my ornament comes in.


Interesting paper


circle template


Start by cutting out circles from the patterned paper and cut them into four pieces. Then roll them into a cone and glue the edges together. I made 18 for the outer rosette and 13 for the inner rosette. Glue them together on the edges and form a rosette. Do the same with the smaller circles and put them on both sides. For the inner part of the rosette, I cut small strips from a different envelope and and curled it. There you go. Very easy and cost me nothing to make, but what an impact the pattern makes.

How simple can it be? Hope you like it and if you have any questions make sure to e-mail us.


Completed hotpad made from a washcloth and crochet

World’s Best Hot Pads – Made from Washcloths

Completed hotpad made from a washcloth and crochet

This is a very photo heavy how-to to make the best hot pads ever. I learned how to make these from my Aunt Harriet. She wasn’t really my Aunt, she was a friend of my Grandmother’s who the family adopted. Harriet Saine was a wonderful woman and is greatly missed.

Her hot pads are famous in our family. Every year at Christmas she would pull out this gigantic stack of hot pads and every woman (with a house or apartment) would get to pick two. Sometimes Harriet brought so many we would get to chose a third one. When Harriet passed away, I got her supplies for making these hot pads. In her supplies were her crochet hooks. There is one that is completely eroded down to a nub. I had no idea you could even do that to a metal crochet hook. I cannot even begin to create as many of these as Harriet was able to. I am amazed every year I am able to make these for the family that she was able to do this every year for as long as I can remember. This is my homage to Aunt Harriet.

Supplies for the hotpads

The supplies for these hot pads are very few:

Cheap washcloth (this means no embroidered stripes or thick edges)

Crochet thread

1″ plastic rings

Crochet hooks (size 4/2.00mm and size 8/1.50mm)

Pins (optional, though recommended)


You really do need to use cheaper washcloths for this project. Cheaper washcloths do not have a high thread count and make it much easier to get the crochet hook through the fabric for the first round of stitching. You also are much better off using plain washcloths, the ones with no embroidered stripes or thick edges. The stripes are very difficult to get a crochet hook through. That is not to say impossible, but it will hurt your hands if you have to force the hook through these stripes very often. I have somehow managed to collect around 50 washcloths to make into hot pads. Eventually, I will have to stop buying them.

The crochet thread can be any sort. I now have a huge collection of thread from variegated, solid, metallic, to threads with differing thickness. I personally prefer the variegated for my hot pads. I really like the effect it makes. I currently have 2 Rubbermaid tubs of crochet thread, and like the washcloths, I may eventually have to stop buying new colors. (I have a bad habit of buying every new variegated skein I find.)

For the plastic rings, you can use any size you prefer, but I tend to buy 3/4″, 1″ or 1 1/4″. I just have to make sure that I grab two of the same size for the set of hot pads (I always make sets of 2).

I use a size 8/1.50mm crochet hook for the first round of stitching and a size 4/2.00mm crochet hook for the decorative round of stitching. The size 8 goes through the fabric of the washcloth much easier and I like a slightly larger hook to make the edging, this is just personal preference though.

To make:

You fold the washcloth in half  and pin it to hold it in place. As you stitch, it tends to drift and you will end up with a lopsided fold. Holding it with the fold closer to you, begin the first single crochet in the upper left hand corner, at the midpoint of the corner.

First single crochet stitches

Continue your single crochet stitching around the corner, the first short side, next full corner, and to the folded edge. Keep stitching along the fold, next full corner, and up the second short side of the washcloth. You stop your stitching at the midpoint of the upper right corner. At this point, you have single crocheted around three sides of the washcloth (1/4 of the way finished).

Single crochet around three sides.

Now you need to open up the washcloth and put the two midpoints together (be sure to remove your pins). This makes what in the origami world is called a balloon fold. You connect all four corners of the washcloth at the top of the hot pad and this creates 4 triangle shaped wings. The photo below shows this fold in a flattened view from the top. You can see the four corners of the washcloth stitched together, although in the photo, the edges are not yet completely stitched. Putting a couple of pins into the wings will again help keep your folds straight and prevent you from having a lopsided hot pad.

Start of second round of single crochet stitches

You stick your crochet hook through the two pieces of fabric at the midpoints of the corners and start single crocheting down the short side (from here on, all the sides are short sides). Continue around the washcloth (you will stitch over your first round of crochet as you go) until you are again back at the top. This should have closed all the sides and created the 4 wings and top and bottom points (1/2 way finished). You are now ready to start the decorative edging. You can also remove all the pins now.

Here the single crochet is finished and you are ready to start the decorative edging.

I switch hooks to the larger size 4/2.00mm hook and double crochet at this point. When I started making these hot pads, I used to make different types of edgings. You can experiment until you find one you like. I like this one and it is very easy and pretty. Single crochet twice and insert the hook under the first single crochet on the opposite wing of the hot pad. You will use this stitch as the post to stitch 3 more double crochet stitches around. Finish off with one single crochet. This completes one scallop. You will make one of these scallops in every other single crochet stitch from the first round.

dc in first sc, *dc around first dc 3 times, sc, skip single crochet and dc in next sc, continue from *

Double Crochet post stitch

First of the three DC stitches

Second of three DC stitches

Third of DC stitches

Decorative Edge Finished

Add Ring

When you finish the edging and are back at the top of the hot pad you will add your plastic ring. You don’t have to add a plastic ring, but so many people like to hang their hot pads from hooks. You can skip this part entirely if you don’t want to hang your hot pads. You single crochet around the ring making sure to completely cover the plastic ring. I finish the ring with one final single crochet back into the hot pad. I tie off the threads and pull the ends inside the hot pad with the crochet hook.

Finished Ring

You have now finished your first hot pad! As I said above, I always make these in pairs and would now start my second one. I can make one hot pad in about an hour (1 and 1/2  if I am interrupted a lot).

Pile of finished hot pads

I have tried to photo the whole process, but if you have any questions, or want another photo, just let me know. I hope you enjoy these hot pads as much as I and my family do!

Happy Crafting,


Finished hot pad

Crocheted earmuffs in cream and black wool yarn.

Crafty Challenge 12: Headwarmer – Earmuffs

Crocheted earmuffs in cream and black wool yarn.

Our most recent crafty challenge was to make a headwarmer. This could be in any color, material, style or shape. Cheri was ahead of us all and posted her adorable recycled sweater hat here. We gave ourselves 3 weeks to make this particular challenge as we were all still recovering from the holidays. I had mine done in less than a week and then had to try very had not to talk about it or brag about it. Of course, this early birdness of me is now completely offset by my late posting.

I love earmuffs, but have never been able to find a satisfactory pair. The never stay on my head or they don’t cover my ears very well. I also hate hats as I have very static prone hair. I knew as soon as we started talking about a headwarmer challenge that earmuffs were my challenge.

I bought a cheap set of fleece wrap-around earmuffs for less than $2. I then cut the fleece off the wire and used the wire for the base of my earmuffs. I have some lovely wool yarn, one skein in cream and another in black. I also received this gigantic spool of very fine black alpaca yarn on year for Christmas. I took all three yarns and crocheted my earmuffs with this lovely and warm combination.

Crocheted earmuffs made on wire frame.

I crocheted 4 circles in double crochet, all the same size and just big enough to cover my ears. I then held two of these circles on either side of the ear part of the wire frame and using half-double crochet, I stitched the circles together. I really wanted the double thickness which provides amazing protection from cold and wind. You could also put some stuffing or quilting in between the two circles if you wanted poofy earmuffs (this would be very cute for a child).

After stitching both circles on the frame, I then single crocheted around the length of wire between the ear pieces. To keep from having to weave-in ends, I folded the ends from the ear pieces under the single crochet. This made the back wire a little thicker and made it so I only had the ends from this last stretch to weave-in.

Crocheted earmuffs in black and cream wool yarn.

This completed my earmuffs. This project took me all of about 2 hours and most of that was just figuring out what stitch I wanted to use to make the circles. I have been wearing these for weeks now and just love them. They are comfortable, very warm, and I haven’t had cold ears at all this year!

Happy Crafting!


Headwarmer challenge

Hat from a sweater.


Sweater- I found a beautiful wool sweater at Goodwill for under $2.00. Stripes make measuring easier



Sewing machine

Embroidery needle and floss

Lay out the sweater and cut all the seams. This will give you a good idea of how much fabric you have to work with. Fold the fabric over in to an inside out rectangle. Sew along the top and the back. This will give you a tube that is closed at one end.

Turn right side out and grab the two corners at the top of the hat. Sew through the triangles created and then tie your thread very tight. This will give you some very cute kitty ears.

Turn up the hem and tack in several places with needle and embroidery floss. I made several knots all the way around.


Place a cup on the wrong side of the fabric and mark with a marker. Cut out the circles. Embroider a running stitch around the outside of the circle. Gather it up, this makes a yo-yo. Run a stitch around the outside of the yo-yo and pull tight to make the flower petals. Do this 8 times or the number of petals you would like. Sew a button in the center to make a center.

Attach the flowers evenly around the outside of the hat.

And there you go, a beautiful, unique and very warm hat that any little kitty/flower girl would love.

hat 009

Completed hat

hat 006

Close up of flowers




Breaking News! Shocking Project 365 Exposé!

Manny the Mannequin is Real Genius
behind the Link the Cat cartoon series.

Upon hearing the ping of incoming email, this reporter found an anonymous, ominous message with the subject “DID YOU KNOW! I didn’t know and I wanted to know and there it was; proof positive that Cheri has been putting her name on another’s work.

When confronted with the following photos, Cheri had no comment and refuses to answer this reporter’s follow-up calls. Shame on you!

Manny the mannequin drawing Link the Cat Escher Eye
A photo speaks a thousand words.

Apparently while Cheri folds her laundry, Manny the mannequin draws the Link the Cat series.

Manny the mannequin drawing Link the Cat Escher Eye
Proof of perfidy.

Forced to lie down on the job, Manny puts his best foot backwards.

Manny the mannequin drawing the cartoon Link the Cat Escher Eye
Manny and his nearly finished cartoon "the Escher Eye Link."

Manny refused to answer any questions being a mannequin of few words.

-This Reporter

Sewing with Vintage Thread

Vintage thread spools

Loryn: Conventional sewing wisdom says that shouldn’t sew with old thread, because it breaks too easily. This is one of those areas where I ignore conventional wisdom, and I think you should, too.

I see lots of vintage thread at garage sales and auctions, and I buy it whenever I can. The best part is that you can get a wide range of colors that are hard to find in modern thread. I haven’t had any trouble with old thread breaking, but I wouldn’t use it for parachutes or the crotch seam of your pants!

My favorite use for old thread is for topstitching, especially the small, brightly colored spools from the 30s to the 50s. You can find it in great colors, it’s usually 100% cotton (so it has great luster), and only using it for topstitching makes a small quantity go farther.

Vintage thread spools

I use larger spools of thread from the 60s and later for general sewing. Just like with the older thread, you can find it in unusual colors to match vintage fabrics, and you can find lots of different weights. And you just can’t beat the price!


Cheap Trick: Dyed Jeans

I love dark blue jeans. However, they can be hard to find and most often are not in my size or in a style that I prefer. And when you do find some that fit, am I supposed to buy two or three pairs of the same exact jeans?

Also, with the cost of jeans now, I have not been buying any lately. So, Mom and Cheri’s garage saleing to the rescue! Mom picked up 4 pairs of jeans for me on one of their rounds and I ended up taking 3 of them home. The only problem is that they are all in the standard denim blue color. This is not to say that I won’t wear them, just probably not to work.

The other night I was dyeing some pants of my husbands black (he had a bleach accident) and I decided on a whim to throw a pair of the new-to-me jeans in the dye bath too. When they came out, they were the most wonderful shade of dark blue! I am so happy! Now I just have to buy some more black dye and I will have several pairs of wear-to-work jeans.

Photo of me in my newly dyed jeans.
Wow! A sunny day at last!

WooHoo! I never would have figured that black dye would do this to jeans. The other great thing that came out of this dye job is that my jeans don’t have any of the “fashionable” pre-worn spots. Those really irritate me when done on the darker blue jeans. I think they stand out too much, so this takes care of that little peeve of mine.

Cheap Tricks: iPhone Bag

Cheap tricks are great and most of the time, they are things you just don’t think about, you just do them. Today, I did one that I had to think about. I love lounging around my house in comfortable clothes. However, very few of those pajama type bottoms that are the perfect lounging wear actually come with pockets where you can stash your phone, and since I like to listen to audio books and music while working around the house, I definitely need someway to carry my phone around. Hence, I created the Kitty Bag (named after the fabric I used, not the actual application of the bag, although, if the Kitty Bag were big enough, our cat, Jamison, probably wouldn’t mind being carried around in the bag too).

I bought this absolutely adorable, kitty-patterned flannel some time ago. It was just too cute to pass up a few yards and was on sale to boot.

Black flannel with neon kitty figures.

You can see the three pieces I cut out of it today. They are all cut selvage to selvage (45″). I then sewed the long, thin strips at one end, right sides together. Then I sewed this even longer strip into a tube, again right sides together and turned it for the handle. The last piece of fabric (which is about 1″ wider on each side than my iPhone) I also sewed right sides together, leaving the selvage side open to turn the fabric through.

Next I ironed the two pieces (thank you Loryn for stressing ironing projects, it really does help). After determining the length of the handle (the handle is actually sewn all along the sides of the bag, so it needs to be long enough to go from the bottom of the bag over your shoulder and back to the bottom of the other side of the bag) I ended up cutting off about 3 inches on each end. I made the bag to go across my body, not just over my shoulder. Then I sewed the handle in, starting with the front panel of the bag, down and around to the bag with only about a 1/8″ seam. I did the same thing with the other side of the bag. This created a flap of the extra body fabric.

Side view of the handle stitching to the body fabric

I needed to decide how much of a flap I wanted and I also wanted something to weight it down a little and after digging through my supplies, found a pretty ribbon that looked perfect with my neon kitties. I cut off about three inches from the flap and turned it under and wrapped the ribbon all the way around and sewed two seams, one towards the top edge of the ribbon and one at the bottom. This also has the benefit of closing the opening left from turning the fabric.

Finished bag.

All-in-all, this was about 1/4 yard of fabric (if even that much), 6″ of ribbon, black thread and some time, all of which I had on hand today. It was done very quickly (about an hour) and works just perfectly. It is also big enough to hold my ear buds and hangs just at my hip when wrapped across my body. Then flannel lining helps protect my phone from damage or anything else I choose to stuff in it.

Finished bag open to show my iPhone.

Well, time to get some housework done now that I can carry my phone around and bop to the music. Have a wonderful Saturday!

P.S. Sorry about the odd lighting effects, I just got my very own studio lighting and haven’t quite got them where I want them.

Cheap Tricks—Take a Tissue!

Loryn: Sometimes, you do something so thrifty that you’re amazed at your own cheapness. That’s just what happened for this cheap trick! I love this vintage mirrored tissue box, but it really irritates me that the tall square tissue boxes cost the same, with half the tissues. One day recently, I took a handful of tissues from one of the large bulk boxes, folded them in half with the folds facing the top, and put them inside my vintage tissue holder. Don’t stuff it full, and the tissues pop up perfectly! From the top, no one will be able to tell just how cheap you are!

Cheap Tricks: A Tray in the Hand …

A baking sheet makes a great tray
A baking sheet makes a great tray ...

This post kicks off a new series we call “Cheap Tricks,” little things you can do to save money by creative re-use and plain old frugality.

This week’s Cheap Trick came about when I needed a tray to carry my dinner. I love vintage trays, but they’re bulky and take up a lot of cupboard space. Enter my stand in, a quarter sheet pan. It’s just the right size, and the high rim keeps any spills contained. This one is a commercial baking pan from GFS. I’ve heard many serious cooks rave about commercial bakeware, and this pan was right around $6. They’re great for cookies, too! If you’re in the market, buy it from a restaurant supply store. They’re exactly the same as the ones sold in fancy cooking supply stores, at less than half the price.

If you’re wondering about my dinner, it’s a quinoa vegetable stew. Kristin’s quinoa dish reminded me that I need to fix it more often. I don’t really use recipes, so I just threw together some sauteed onion, canned tomatoes, a bag of frozen veggies, and a 1/2 cup quinoa. Healthy and tasty!