How to Crochet with Cassette Tapes – Yes, Really

So my thought for the Back Page of the Summer 2012 issue of Interweave Crochet was to create a new-technology accessory out of old-technology components. Specifically, I planned to crochet an iPad cozy using cassette tapes.

My first clue that I was treading on dangerous ground was this: When I asked my husband if he had some cassette tapes around, his eyes lit up as he remembered the box stashed somewhere, stuffed with his beloved Steely Dan and whatnot. “Oh yeah, I can get those out,” he said.

“Great,” I said. “I want to crochet them.”

His brow furrowed, then his eyes opened wide. “You mean …”

Yes, I was going to dismantle the cassette tapes. Suddenly, he couldn’t recall where he’d put them.

Then, I was at my office local coffeeshop and noticed a young man at a neighboring table—inserting a cassette tape into a cassette recorder!

Turns out he’d had a fail with his computer and was unable to use new technology to record his music. Plus he had a stash of  his late uncle’s music, available only on cassette tapes and unable to be converted to digital format for his use. So he hied down to the local big-box and scored an RCA tape player for about fifteen bucks. And there he was, headphones on, listening to his cassette tapes. It’s bad, he says. But in a good way. He likes the scritchiness, the skips, the demands—fast forward to what you want to play, rewind to hear that riff again. It’s a machine that needs him to interact with it.

Further sleuthing reveals that cassette tapes are making a comeback in the indie circuit, particularly in the UK. It’s harder to pirate, these musicians believe. My new friend, Sam, is aware of this movement. He appreciates it. He doesn’t particularly like the music they produce, but hey, he has his own tape recorder and his own music.

In 2011, the Oxford English Dictionary, in its occasional feng shui-ing, cut the word “cassette tape” to make room for such 21st-century words as “sexting.” They may be putting it back before long.

Another coffeeshop buddy allowed as how sure, you can create iPod play lists. But they’re not as romantic as mix tapes. There’s not the time involvement, the careful stop/start, the awkward requirements of making a cassette tape from various sources. The order is everything, and you have to plan that ahead of time. A mix tape is a true labor of love. (Though not without its danger—you may recall Friends Season 6, Episode 17 “The One with Unagi,” when Chandler plays a mix tape for Monica and it turns out to be the mix tape that Janice made for Chandler. Tense hilarity ensues.)

So I had to look for truly obsolete technology. Eight-track anyone? We’re there. Make a messenger bag that fits a cassette-tape player. Out of 8-track.

Play it again, Sam.

Want your own cassette-player messenger bag?

First, score some 8-tracks. I found mine for a ridiculously low price at The Scrap Exchange in Durham NC. This store has all manner of everything you have ever forgotten about or never knew existed. Maybe you have something like this in your neck of the woods? If not, try thrift stores or your buddy’s attic (but do not raid your SO’s shoebox of tapes, even if there is no 8-track player in the house)

Now, dismantle the 8-track. This is tricky business. Do not try to wind the 8-track to its end. Unlike, cassette tapes, 8-tracks do not have an end. It is a mobius, winding continuously around a single spool.

Approach the 8-track something like a coconut: Insert a screwdriver in the seam along the edge. Whack the end of the screwdriver with a hammer to open the edge.



Then slide the screwdriver around the edge to break it open.

Be careful about whacking too hard–you do not want that tape to unspool (ask me how I know).

Look at that contraption! Some of the 8-tracks have a large central spool, like this does (in the half dozen or so tapes I cracked open, no two were the same). They have an itty-bitty pinch roller; the older 8-tracks have rubber pinch rollers. This tape has a plastic pinch roller (upper left of the tape guts there). The plastic pinch roller marked the beginning of the end of 8-tracks, as the cheaper parts made the already fragile system even less reliable.

Snip the tape. Do NOT remove the tape (omg, i get sweaty just thinking about >that< again). Leave the tape in the case and wind it onto a large object.  I used a cone of warping yarn to wrap the tape around (since the warping fairies have not yet arrived to warp my floor loom—a story for another time).

Take breaks while doing this. It might seem like you can wind forever, but when you stop, you’ll find that your wrist is useless for a time.

Take a look at your hands.  That’s The Moody Blues on your hands, my friend. It washes off pretty easily, but don’t handle anything until you wash up. And don’t wear your favorite white skinny jeans when you’re doing this work (I’m sorry—should I have told you that already?)

You can just crochet a rectangle. Or you can scavenge the tape for parts, like I did.

Rnd 1:Using the 8-track spool as the starting point, (sc, ch 1) in the spaces of the spool, working the same number of sc in each opening (Full disclosure: I initially worked just sc around the spool. On Round 2, I discovered that it is impossible to find the top of the stitch to work into. So I raveled it—don’t ask what that looked like—and reworked it with ch-1s so I’d have something to work into.)
Rnd 2: work (sc, ch 1, sc, ch) into each ch 1.
Rnd 3: (dc, ch 1) in the next ch-1 sp around.
Rnd 4, Start turning your circle into a square: Figure out how many ch-1 spaces you have, subtract four, then divide by four to find x (not an even amount? Round up as best you can. Nobody will see the fudging). *(Dc, ch 1) in x ch-1 spaces, then work (dc, ch 4, dc) in the next ch-1 sp, rep from * three times.
Rnd 5-6: (dc, ch 1) ch-1 spaces, (dc, ch 1, dc) in ch-4 space.

By now, you should have a rough square that reaches to the top of the cassette player and just over the side edges. Now, work back and forth in (dc, ch 1) rows along the bottom edge. Keep crocheting until you have enough “fabric” to reach around the bottom, up the back and over the front again. It will look like a big rectangle with a whorly thing on one side.


To put it all together: Make sure the cover fits: Line up the front edge with the edge of the tape player. Wrap the “fabric” around the back and over the top. The back should lap over the front by about three inches. The sides won’t quite meet. Put a stitch marker right about where the flap ends.

Now, join the sides: Join tape with a slip stitch at the top edge. *Work a dc in the front edge, then work a dc in the corresponding stitch on the back side, rep from * until you reach the bottom. Cut the tape. Repeat on the other side. Cut a piece of tape or fabric, slide through the middle stitch on the flap, tie the ends. And you’re done! Unless you want to add a lining ….

To add a lining, place the cassette cover on a piece of paper or brown paper bag, flap folded over. Trace around it. Remove the cover, then add another line 1/2-inch away; this is your cutting line. Fold a piece of fabric, so you have a double layer. Trace the outline on the fabric. Cut the fabric. Turn under the short edges 1/4-inch, then ¼ inch again, to hide the raw edge. Press, then sew along the fold. Fold the fabric right sides together, matching short edges, and sew along the seam. Turn right side out. Press if it’s lumpy. (The right side will face out, so it will show through the 8-track stitches.) Insert lining into cassette cover and whipstitch along top edge, using sewing thread. Sew the inside back along the fold of the flap.

And you are done! Rock on!

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