Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Recycled Crochet Binder (Steeking)

I didn't intend to make this binder cover.  I really had wanted to make a purse. But sometimes my projects don't turn out the way I expect.  Like the bag in the picture below, for example.  I loved working with the moss stitch so much when I did my Dynamite Cowl that I wanted to do something else with it.  A cool slouchy bag with a zippered flap for the top.

I spent days (DAYS!!) working on the bag, and when it was done it looked so cute laying out flat .

And it looked so awful sitting up. It wasn't something I would carry. Even putting handles on it wasn't going to help.  I had intended to line it, but honestly, that wasn't going to help the shape.  I was so frustrated and disappointed in the whole project that I almost frogged the whole thing to get my yarn back, but I had put some seams into the bag that were going to make frogging an unpleasant challenge.  Luckily, that was when we all started talking about doing some recycling projects and it made me think about my disappointing bag in a different light.  Sure, it was not what I wanted to carry as a bag, but it would make a really fun cover for my calendar binder!

**A note about the binder: I am trying to figure out a way to keep the chaos around here organized.  I have tried using DayRunner daily schedules to keep things (blog, new patterns, books, doctors, dentists, school holidays, etc) running smoothly, but I can SAY I'm going to work on something, but I have external forces (kid, grandma) that don't always allow me to actually do what I've scheduled.   And Google Calendar has been working pretty well for me as a Month View calendar to kind of keep me on track, but I can't take it with me when I'm out in the world beyond my laptop since I don't have it on my phone, and I don't really want to learn how to sync it since my phone screen is cracked and I don't want to mess with it anymore than I have to (ugh, kid!).  So now I'm thinking that printing out monthly calendar sheets and carrying around a 1/2" binder (even though it's not purse friendly) is the way to go to keep Crochet Dynamite running smoothly.  I can use sticky notes, and see all of my plans at once.  Does anyone else have a good organizing system?  I'm going to give this one a try, but if it doesn't work, I'm out of ideas... Leave comments below if you've got any ideas for me.  Thank you for listening to the rant, back to the recycling!**

This isn't a tutorial on how to make a ridiculously labor intensive crochet bag.  It's a technique to save something that still has beauty in it from being thrown away.  I'm sure you've seen old crochet blankets in yard sales and thrift shops for prices so cheap that you couldn't walk away without it.  This is the perfect project for them.  You won't feel bad if you're cutting up an old blanket that's seen better days so that it can become the world's coolest binder cover, right?!

This technique is a down and dirty version of steeking, a technique sometimes used in knitting to make fair isle cardigan sweaters.  (The piece is knit in the round, and seamed up the front so that it can be cut apart.  Then the cut edges are knit over, which become the sweaters button bands, so that no one can tell that it had been cut.)  This version is a little less precise, but it's fast and the results are pretty cool!

Recycled Crochet Binder
1/2" binder
Crochet piece that you don't like/want/need in its current form
Marker (I used a sharpie)
Thread to match crochet piece
Sewing machine.  Borrow one from a friend if you don't have one, or go to a sewing lounge and hang out with some other crafty gals while you do your thing.  But the sewing machine part is very important.  Don't try to hand sew this...
Yarn to finish the edges of your project My piece was made out of cotton worsted weight yarn, so I just used some of the left over darker blue to finish the edges.  If you're working from a thrifted/hand-me-down object, pick a yarn that matches the piece in both weight and color: for example: using a similar color dk or sport weight yarn if it's a baby blanket that you're cutting up
Crochet hook to match yarn weight I used a size G hook with my worsted weight yarn
Yarn needle

First off, make sure that the crocheted piece that you're using is large enough to completely cover your binder.

With the binder inside the crocheted piece, use the marker to draw lines on the fabric where the ends of the binder are.

Remove the binder.  Using a small stitch length, and a narrow zig-zag, use the sewing machine to sew along the lines that you drew. (Um, be very, VERY careful with this part. Go very slowly. Don't force the fabric through your machine.  If you force it, you could break your needle mid-seam like I did.  The shrapnel went flying and I got hit on the cheek with a chunk of metal from the  broken needle.  Thank goodness it wasn't my eye, because it left a little welt where it hit! I don't think this is a dangerous project, and you don't need safety goggles, but please go slowly and be careful)

Now comes the really scary part.  Being very careful not to cut the sewn seams, cut away the excess crochet fabric.

Now go grab your binder and cover it with the fabric again.  The edges are a little rough, but it looks like it's a great fit!

Using your yarn and crochet hook, crochet over the cut edges!  I crocheted the piece around the binder (since I don't intend to ever take the binder out) by crocheting the inner flaps directly to the outer cover (like a peechee folder).

Because my piece was made in moss stitch I crocheted 1 single crochet stitch for every 2 rows as I went along the edge (adjust your stitches for the fabric that you're working with).  For extra reinforcement, when I finished the first row, I did a second row.  Then I fastened off the ends and wove them in.

I really like how it came out.  It's something that I'll use a lot, even if it doesn't work as an organizational binder it'll still be a great place to keep patterns.

I think there's a lot of potential in this technique.  I want to experiment with using sewing patterns to make more complicated projects in the future.  I love the idea of creating something unique and fun out of something that was otherwise going to be discarded.  Recycling this way has so many possibilities!


For more fun recycling with crochet projects, check in the January 2013 section of my Free Crochet Patterns page.


  1. Hi, I am just finishing you Londondon bag love it as far a a take along calender I went to Staples and bought their month at a glance size is about 11 1/2 by 8 inches and fits in my bag I copy down what is on the computer to this. If I have any other info/appointment that needs to go on the home calender that I made/got during the day while I am out I add them when I get home usually at the end of the day when I am able to plan out the next few day. I used heavy card stock and stapled some pockets to the front and back flap and covered the staples ends with crochet heart and flowers attached them with glue

    1. Hi! Your calendar sounds really cute! I'm going to have to go check out the calendars at my local Staples! Thanks so much!
      xo Jaime

  2. Oh that is a cool idea.

  3. That is the simplest explanation of steeking I've ever seen. Always been intimidated to try it...... well, also, of knitting fair isle sweaters.... someday when I'm ready to try them, I will remember your helpful notes -- or, more likely, the next time I have a piece of crochet/knitting that needs a makeover. Thanks! :)

  4. Seriously plenty of awesome advice!

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