Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fringe as you stitch? Corded Fringe


Here's a neat trick I first saw briefly in a pattern book for baby blankets, Leisure Arts #288, Fisherman Crochet for Babies, by Anne Rabunough, 1983, which is discontinued.

Useful on ends of scarves as well as on afghans. You make it in one row of single crochet. Get out a bit of yarn -- just some worsted weight is fine -- and a hook so you can try it yourself. Make an edge of 10 stitches or so that the fringe will go on. The piece will be easier to handle if your swatch has a few rows in it already.

In the next row, ch1 and turn. Sc1 in the next stitch. *Now, pull the loop on your hook out until it is twice as long as you want the fringe to be. About 12 inches is a nice length. Pull gently, pinching the single crochet so it doesn’t get all tightened up. Keeping the hook at the far end of the loop away from the row, and holding the loop taut, twist the loop many times -- about 20 or 30. As you carefully fold the twisted loop in half, back on itself, it makes a short cord. Insert hook back into the last single crochet, as if to work the last yarnover and pull through to finish the stitch (as shown in the picture). Yarn over and pull through to refinish the stitch. ** Sc1 in the next stitch, and repeat from * as desired.

This is great for fringe using smooth yarns. Of course, you can experiment with how it will work up with novelty or other yarns like mohair -- traditionalists may think such yarns are completely unsuitable for this technique. You don’t have to make the fringe with only one stitch between them; you can put them wherever you want. You can even make several in one stitch, repeating from * to **. Shorter corded fringe could be appropriate for a baby’s blanket because it is so sturdy.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Uh-oh...

For many of us the passing of Halloween, followed by the election marks the iminent arrival of the holidays. And most of us who enjoy handcrafts also enjoy producing gifts with our own two hands. All too often, however, that means making mind-numbingly boring projects over and over again, or embarking on a series of projects that are entirely too amibitious for the time available in which to make them.

Chances are some of your handmade gifts will be scarves, but how to escape the boring without making something too complicated or garish? Invest in a stitch dictionary. A scarf is nothing more than a long rectangle. So find a stitch you like that goes well with the yarn you have in mind, and make a REALLY long swatch of it with a garter or seed stitch border around the edges.

In selecting a stitch, decide whether you want it to be reversible. If the instructions say purl every other row, chances are it is not reversible. I'd also suggest not using a cable pattern: they're bulky for a scarf and look odd on the back because of how the cables twist the fabric. Lace patterns can be a good idea, especially the more open ones, because the holes distract the eye from the differences between sides.

When the scarf is done, it might need a little something more. One of my favorite ideas, especially for women's scarves, is to fringe the scarf in contrasting yarn. For a really chic look, use a chenille, ribbon, or other smooth novelty yarn in the same color as the scarf for the fringe. For a less formal look, choose a plain yarn in a contrasting color for the fringe. Black works pretty well for most colors. In either case, the fringe continues the fluid look of the scarf while the contrast of texture or color frames and sets of the pattern stitch or texture of the rest of the scarf.

Friday, November 7, 2008

kitchen fabric

Practical Crocheter wrote last time about a good pattern stitch for making dish cloths, so I thought I'd write a little about dish cloths in general.

Dish cloths and potholders are great small projects. They're portable, versatile, and really useful. And once you've worn one out in the kitchen, it can still be used as a rag for yuckier messes than you would normally use a dish cloth for. I save my old ones for washing the car, for example--which is a lot more discreet than using your worn out underwear.

Anyway, in either knitting or crochet, kitchen fabric is an excellent way to test out new pattern stitches. And this way, those squares get some use rather than collecting in your yarn closet. As long as the stitch is at least somewhat solid, it can be used for a dish cloth. Potholders need to be thicker, so they are best made out of solid stitches, thick yarns, or both.

Practical crocheter made the point that dish cloths are best made out of cotton for its absorbancy, but you can also use corn fiber (if you have some lying around), which seems to soak things up pretty well too. Unfortunately, when cotton gets wet initially it swells up a little, so it is not very good for scrubbing things. For that, I prefer linen (the rough kind), hemp, or really cheap acrylic, the last of which doesn't absorb water at all.

On that note, acrylic is a form of plastic. All synthetic fibers ultimately are. So you can also make a good scrub pad out of strips of plastic grocery bag. And I've heard of people using the tape from cassettes or VHS tapes, but those will degrade faster than other forms of plastic.

Potholders, on the other hand, don't need to be absorbant. They just need to insulate. They are best made out of wool, cotton, and other natural fibers, because plastic can melt. This is especially an issue if you use a gas range and are going to use these things near the oven or stovetop. It's a lot more pleasant to put out a burning potholder than to scrub plastic goo off your stovetop.

That said, I prefer wool for potholders, specifically the kind that can't go in the washing machine. That's because when I want a potholder, I usually opt to crochet it in order to get a thicker fabric. Unfortunately, though, crochet has bigger holes between stitches than knitting does. So I make potholders out of wool and then felt them in the washing machine. It closes up the holes, thickens the fabric, and increases the fabric's ability to insulate. And any animal fiber other than silk will do .

I also think that kitchen fabric is a great way to use up those little scraps of yarn that accumulate from finished projects. I try to keep mine sorted according to fiber, and then use several to make what I need. As long as the fibers are of a similar thickness and behave similarly in the wash, there's no problem with mixing them.