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TUTORIAL: Easy Beautiful Bows

Posted under Holidays and Celebrations, Life, Tutorials No Comments

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bows on packages1

We all know presentation matters. It’s the difference between having your chicken carbonara in a microwave dinner tray or on fine china with a nice garnish. If you want to impress your friends for dinner, you garnish the plates before you carry them out to the table. Why not add that little, easy extra touch to their gifts too? Everyone on your list will be impressed with your new found wrapping skills, and the pile of goodies under your tree will look so nice that your living room could be on the cover of a magazine!

There are dozens of tutorials around the web on how to tie fancy bows, and several use a tool called the Bowdabra. I’ve used the Bowdabra for hundreds of bows as I used to make them by the dozen every year for a major big box shop to sell. The store required the Bowdabra be used for production. The shop would charge up to $100 for a single bow. I’m not kidding. I made a bow out of $20 retail cost of ribbon in about 15 minutes for a man to put atop the car he bought his wife. The bow was sold to him for $100. That was in 2006 too, so they charge even more now.

But here’s the secret. You don’t need a bowdabra. You don’t need hours upon hours of practice. You don’t need special floral wire…which ends up being a pain in the butt to hide nicely later since it’s never the color of the bow. All you need are some scissors, wire edged ribbon, and something on which to put your bow. I’ve used wrapped packages here, but bows could be tied around newel posts to decorate your home, jar lids , a dog collar, or anything else you need to dress up for the holiday season. So grab your package, a roll of wire edged ribbon, and your some sturdy scissors! Just don’t use your nice sewing scissors or your good wrapping scissors! Cheap but durable is the best as the wire edge on the ribbon may damage your finest scissors. I use a pair of scissors I picked up at the dollar store. Kids’ school size Fiskars will also do the job nicely.

First, unroll some ribbon. Cut away the midsection of your ribbon leaving the two wires exposed for about 4 inches for an average sized gift bow. You will need much longer wire tails if you’re going to make a car-sized bow. Make a small bow first to figure it all out before digging into 50 yards of wide wire edged ribbon for that car bow! On my ribbon the wire edges are covered in silver foil which makes cutting away the center faux velvet area easier to see. You can throw out the cut away portion or use it for other crafts…like making matching gift tags!

Cut away the midsection of the ribbon leaving the wire.

Next, place the edge of your cut away where you want your finished bow to be on the package. Wrap the rest of the ribbon from the long spool end around the package and back to where your cut away section is. You can wrap the ribbon around the package however you want, straight around, the classic criss-cross, or the clothing box diagonal.

Wrap the ribbon around the box so the end meets the rest atop the package.

Now twist the long end around 180 degrees right as it crosses the cut ribbon. It should look like this with the underside of the ribbon showing on the side closest to you and the right side up on the side away from you. And yes, that’s a bar code on the package. Santa uses bar codes to track packages. There’s just no other way to successfully route so many packages in one night!

The first twist

Now wrap the right wire tail around the  bow twist, behind it and back up into position. Repeat with the left tail. Pull your ribbon’s long free end tightly to snug up the join. You may need to also twist the two tails together once like a twist tie if it’s still loose. To finish, pull one tail out to each side of the package. The wire bits should be like a horizon line, the spoon of ribbon coming at you, and the package wrapped up with the basic ribbon around the box portion.

The first cinch

Odds are it looks ugly where the bow will go, but the rest of the box looks nice enough with it’s ribbon. if you want to do the classic criss-cross bow, now is the time to wrap the ribbon around the package going the other direction. Just pull the spool end to the right, wrap around the package, and repeat the twisting steps above to anchor the end again when you get back to the future bow location. For a diagonally wrapped package, your first wrap around the package would look just like this with your ribbon now ready to start the bow in just the right spot.



From this point forward, all the bows are made exactly the same. Your next step is going to be to make the big loops of the bow. There’s no knot tying here, just some folds and twists. You want to try to make your folded pieces about the same length as each other. Bring the ribbon that’s coming toward you back away from you making the loop the desired size for your bow. As you cross the center point of the bow, twist the ribbon 180 degrees so it’s upside down at the cross. Our goal is to always keep the pretty outside of the ribbon on the outside of the loops and the wrong side of the ribbon to the inside of the loops. Your first loop should look something like this.



Continue making as many loops as you want in this manner. You’ll alternate which side of the package the loops are on, your side, or the side away from you. When you have enough loops, end your last loop without the twist you’ve been putting into each cross of the bow’s midline. I’ve tried to fan out my loops a bit as I made them, but there is still just one per side alternating as the stack gets taller. Don’t worry if it’s still not a pretty bow. The magic happens later.



We’re almost done! While one finger holds the folded loops in place atop the package, use your other hand to fish out the wires from below. You’ll have one wire on each side of your loops. Twist these two wires together as tightly as possible atop the stack of ribbon twists in the center of the bow.


Now, fold the tail of ribbon still leading to the spool over the bow once more back the way it came and toward you again in one twist free loop that’s smaller than the rest of your loops. I aim for one about half the size of the rest of the loops. This one doesn’t have any twists because we want the edges of it to look perfect and because of how it rests against the wire twist ties.  As soon as you’ve got this loop in, twist those ties tightly once more. If you have extra tie length remaining, you can fold them around the backside of the bow.



Finally, cut the tail of the ribbon that’s leading to the spool of leftover ribbon. Be sure to cut this at an angle so it looks as fancy as the bow you’re making!



This still is a fairly ugly bow, but now’s when we work our magic and turn a lump of ribbon into something special. Snake a finger into the smallest loop on top of the bow. Puff it out and make sure it looks good filling in the center of your bow and effectively hiding the twist tie wires.



Now, work your way around the larger loops sticking your fingers inside the loops and fluffing them open. The wire edge of the ribbon makes the ribbon stay fluffed up into the 3D shape you want rather than laying flat against the package. Be sure to tug the loops left and right from the forward and backward stacks they were made in. This will fill out the sides of the bow nicely. You’ll also want to curl the cut tail over your finger so that it looks like another loop.



Now you should have one fantastic bow atop your package! If something doesn’t look quite right, go back and pick, pull, and tug at the ribbon until the loops hold the shape you want. Wired-ribbon ‘sculpts’ quite nicely!


bow step later


With how quickly these bows go, you’ll have all the packages you agreed to help Santa wrap done in no time!


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Duplicate Stitch Tricks and More Free Charts

Posted under Free Patterns, Hexipuffs, Knitting, Techniques, Tutorials No Comments

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I’ve been a but quiet for a while due to increased pain levels and being busy as a bee designing new hexipuff charts for the Beekeeper’s Quilt!

The new charts are primarily a series of buildings and more flags. The reason I’m making so many flag designs is that I’m trying to collect mini skeins from as many countries as I can and knit them into puffs for my quilt! I will be knitting each flag as I receive yarn from that country. If you’d like to send one in from your country, shoot me a message on Ravelry! I’m Swamps42 over there. So far I’m set for yarn from the United States and Canada only! I am expecting yarn from Cuba and the UK any day now though!

Of the new charts, which are all posted for free via the hexipuff chart tab at the top of this page, the castle is the one that tempted me most to get out a needle and do some duplicate stitching. Duplicate stitched puffs take much longer than a plain puff, for me about an hour and a half longer. I do think it’s worth it though, don’t you?

The chart


The resulting puff

Whenever I post picture of my duplicate stitched puffs on Ravelry, my inbox is filled with PMs from people asking how I get my duplicate stitched puffs to look just right. Common problems with duplicate stitching include the background color showing through, the puff looking bunched up, the duplicate stitching unraveling over time, and the design not being centered on the finished puff. I’m pretty good about responding with my tricks, but doesn’t it seem better to have a photo tutorial to send folks to with all the tricks I’ve learned over time through my own successes and failures?

The Duplicate Stitch Tutorial of Win

***I’m assuming you know the basics of how to duplicate stitch by following the Vs of existing stitches. If you have no idea what duplicate stitching is or how to do it, please visit a beginners tutorial and then come back here for all the tricks that take your basic duplicate stitching and make it look professional!

Of course, first you need to pick a chart and knit your puff with the appropriate background color(s). Here I’ve chosen the castle chart. The background in this chart is two different colors. I cast on with green yarn and switched to blue just before starting the increase row to move up to 16 stitches. I then finished out the hexipuff as per my usual modifications. I use Judy’s magic cast on and eliminate the last knit even at 10 stitches row as the three needle bind off counts as this row if you want a puff that isn’t top heavy. Don’t bind off the puff yet. Just stop knitting after the decrease down to 10 stitches row. Split the stitches on the front of your puff onto two needles and leave all the back stitches on one needle. This will make it easier to get in and out of the puff to weave in ends.

Next, thread your needle with your first color working form the top of the puff down. I’m doing grey. Turn the puff inside out and weave in your ends. The appropriate way to weave in ends requires you to split the ply (or fibers in a single ply) of the existing stitches, purls on the inside of a puff. I usually go one direction horizontally, back, and then up or down one or two stitches just to be sure my yarn is really solid and will hold up to repeated washings. If you’re using something really slippery, like a silk, you may want to run it through a few more times just to be sure. By splitting the ply, you not only assure yourself that your tail won’t be visible from the outside of the puff, but it also provides a more secure grab on your yarn tail.

Now, turn your puff right side out and decide on which stitch to begin with. I find the best results come from duplicate stitching a design from the top down. You will get more complete coverage with your top yarn, but we’ll get there. For now, pick your first stitch at the top of the design. If you are knitting your puffs with the same modifications that I am, your loops on the needles are the bottom row of 10 stitches in the chart. So the third stitch down from the needles on the first stitch on the right hand side of the right hand needle is the furthest top right stitch of the castle!

One of the most important tricks I’ve learned in duplicate stitching is the importance of NOT making twisted stitches. This means that to get a smooth stockinette finish on your duplicate stitching, you need to take directions into account. If you’re moving to a stitch left of the current stitch, you need to go through the current stitch from the right to the left, moving toward the next leftward stitch. Alternatively, if you’re working right to left on a row, you need to move right to left when you insert the needle under the V of the stitch above. Here you can see me working from left to right and so I’m inserting the needle left to right. Remember to work your duplicate stitching somewhat loosely! You want it to be soft and stretchable just like the original knitting!

The other big trick you’ll notice here is that since I’m on the second duplicate stitch of the row, I can pick up only the grey V of the stitch above and not the underlying original blue stitch. This helps prevent any blue yarn from showing through the crook of the V in the duplicate stitch!

It can also be very helpful to grab a bit of fiber or even a full ply of yarn from the neighboring stitch as you’re continuing along a row. This helps prevent your background from showing through in vertical stripes, an otherwise common problem. Here I’m working from right to left and have grabbed a bit of the grey yarn from the previous stitch to the right to help the current stitch and the one to the right stay snugged up against one another.

Continue working top down and side to side in this manner until your first color of duplicate stitching is complete.

Carefully turn your puff inside out again and weave in the tail of your duplicate stitching yarn just as you did when you were starting out. Now, you have loops of both your background yarn and your working yarn, grey. You can split the ply and weave your tail into any of these. If you weave into grey purls, your tail will not show up between stitches on the front of the puff. Of course a mixture or even all background yarn is fine too, just so long as your tail is securely woven in through the ply or fibers of the existing yarn.

Cut the excess grey yarn, thread your needle with black yarn, and weave in the end just like you did to begin working with the grey yarn at the beginning. Turn the puff right side out, and insert your needle through the first stitch. Remember to work from the top of the puff down. It is also important when filling areas like windows here to catch a bit of the wall yarn on either side of the window to make sure the stitches stay snugged up against one another and no blue yarn shows through. Here I’ve grabbed a bit of the right side’s grey wall fiber, the two V legs of the black duplicate stitch above, and a bit of the left side’s grey wall fiber. This stitch is sure to stay snugged into place and banish the blue to the background where it belongs!

Again work from the top down filling all the black stitches. If you need to strand across an area on the back, try to catch a bit of the black yarn underneath the purls of grey duplicate stitches on the back to help secure it. Remember to keep a loose tension as you’re duplicate stitching. If you don’t allow your duplicate stitching yarn to be fluffy, you won’t get good coverage. This is why embroidery floss is not good for covering large areas in duplicate stitch. My preferred fiber for duplicate stitching is the same fingering weight yarn I’ve used to knit the puff. I used all Knit Picks Palette colors to do the castle.

When you’re done with your final color of duplicate stitching, weave in it’s end on the inside as before and turn the puff right side out. I like to stretch my puff in each direction at this point to help the stitches settle into place and make sure there aren’t any gaps or mistakes. The reason a bit of background yarn shows through at the bottom of the door is because there is no stitch below it. Your bottom stitches will look like this unless you also duplicate the purl inside the V. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth it. You can barely see the background with the zoom and flash on a camera. In person you’d really, really have to be looking.

Stuff your puff and bind off. Weave in your final tails and enjoy your perfect picture puff!

Remember guys, if you knit a puff with my charts I’d love to see it and feature your hexipuff on my blog! Drop me a line in the comments here or to swamps42 on Ravelry!

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