Saturday, September 19, 2009

Colorwork: part II

As I described in a previous post, simple stitches in crochet worked in stripes of different colors can produce many pleasing, and often complicated-looking results.

By having many colors going at the same time can prevent the eye from detecting a regular pattern. So it is easy to work in new colors a old ones run out, producing a gradual, shaded effect.

Conversely, one can also create an obviously and intentionally striped effect.

A combination of stitches may also be used to increase the illusion of fairisle. For example, interrupting stripes of (sc1, ch1) with a row of double crochet can be very pleasing and improve the drape of the fabric.

One may also create vertical stripes using (sc1, ch1). When working in the round, verticle stripes will result if the single crochets are worked around the chains of the previous round. You use two colors and change them every round.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Starting the top-down sweater

Here is a picture of my sweater so far. My measurements are about a size 12. Since I am using sc-lite, a pattern stitch that is a 2-stitch repeat, each row has an ODD number of stitches -- that way every row begins and ends with a single crochet.

You may wonder why I don't use straight single crochet or straight double crochet. If you experiment with different stitches in crochet, you will see that each has strengths and weaknesses. Single crochet by itself makes a really stiff fabric if you work it at a firm gauge, and it stretches out of shape a lot if you use a loose gauge. I wanted something that would hold its shape and have a nice drape. I like the look of this stitch better than the look of straight double crochet for this type of thing.

WARNING: If you are not used to seeing your stitches, this may be tricky. If you don't want to be bothered and it seems like too much work, that is just fine. There is plenty of room in the world for all kinds of folks, and this technique is most likely not for everyone.

When you start at the center of something and work outward, you need to increase. Since the yoke of a sweater is a lot like a doily or a motif with the center cut out of it, I think about how many stitches to increase to make something that lays flat. For a single-crochet-type stitch, I need to increase about 6 stitches in each row for the piece to lay flat. Since I have 4 increase points for the yoke of a sweater, I will choose to increase 8 stitches per row. If I wanted to get tricky, I could increase for 3 rows (3x8=24) and then work without increases for 1 row -- that way, I would increase an average of 6 stitches per row over 4 rows.

Unfortunately, I would also have to think more: I would have to remember to count rows. I would have to look more closely at my fabric to make sure that on the row AFTER the row without increases I restarted the increases in the right place. I don't feel like thinking that much, and the net result -- for me, right now -- isn't worth the effort. So I am increasing 8 stitches per row, or one pattern stitch at each increase point.

Looking at the picture, you can see a visual seamline from the neck out along the shoulder, then down a bit of the armhole, then out again to the underarm. Kind of like a saddle shoulder design.

Now, there is actually one more bit of the line.

Row 1 actually starts at the neck back, so the little bits of the neckline that are up-and-down at the shoulder are also part of the visual seamline of increases.

And here is how I got there:

I like my neck-back edge to be about 5 inches across. Using foundation stitch for the first row, chain 2. (Sc, ch1) 3 times in the 2nd chain from the hook. This represents the point where 2 increase points come together, so it is a double increase. The chain that those single crochets went into is the Base Chain for those stitches.

For foundation sc-lite, do this: *Yarnover, insert hook in base chain of the last single crochet. Yarnover. Draw up a loop -- 3 lps on hook. Yarnover, pull through 2 loops -- what you just did represents the ch-1 space between two single crochets. Yarnover, pull through 1 loop -- this makes the Base Chain for your next pattern stitch (trust me). Make a note of that chain stitch you just made. Two loops remain on the hook. Yarnover and pull through those two loops -- just like finishing a single crochet, which is what you just did. Chain 1, like normal.**

To make the next foundation single crochet, repeat from * to **. Repeat until the piece measures (in my case) about 5 inches long. To end the row, (sc1, ch1, sc1) into the last base chain made -- for another double increase. You survived. It is all good. Just for the heck of it, count the number of single crochets across the back (not including the double increase stitches.

At this point, you have no way of knowing whether these increases were made to the front, sleeves or back. That gets decided in the next row.

RULES: For this pattern stitch, in every row, work sc into sc and ch over ch. That is the rule. Always ch1 to turn. To make an increase, (ch1, sc1 into the same sc) to add one patt stitch.

So here we go:

Row 2: Ch1, turn, sc1 into last sc made. (ch1, sc1 into same st) to increase. Ch1, sc into next sc. Ch1, sc into next sc. Ch1, sc1 into same sc to increase 1 patt st. (Notice that you have increased into the first and last sc of the double increase in the previous row.) (Ch1, sc1 in next sc) all the way across until you reach the double increase at the other end of the row. Increase into the first of that three-some. Work even for one patt stitch. Then finish off with an increase into the last sc.

Wow. Now look at your work. Doesn't look like much, but here's what you should have:
  • An increase
  • A little bit of shoulder edge
  • Another increase
  • A stretch across the back
  • A third increase
  • Another little bit of shoulder edge
  • And a final increase at the end of the row.
For the next few rows, continue this way: Begin with an increase. Work even to the nexe increase point. Increase on the first stitch of the next increase point. Work even across the back. Increase in the Last stitch of the next increase point. Then work even to the next increase point, and finish off with an increase in the last stitch. In this way, you will add 1 patt st to the sleeve bits and 2 patt sts to the back in each row. After about 2-1/2 inches (half the width of the back edge), it will be time to shift the line and start creating the front.

What you have now should look something like this

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Top-down crocheted sweater

You can almost always tell a top-down sweater because it has raglan sleeve shaping. Almost always.

Thing is, you get a raglan line because the increases (from the neck down) are centered over each other. If you don't center the increases -- make the increase in one row at the beginning or at the end of the increase in a previous row -- you create a visual seamline in any shape you want by increasing 'to the sleeve' or 'to the fronts' or 'to the back'.

I am starting a cardigan at the back of the neck, and it will have a saddle shoulder visual seamline, which looks more dressy than a casual raglan line. The advantages to top down include:

1. I have a limited amount of yarn and want a sweater from it. Dealing with the important stuff first, I can handle shorter sleeves or a shorter length and still have a sweater I like at the end. This way, I use as much of the yarn as possible and have virtually none left over. And even if I have plenty of yarn, working in one piece from the top down means I can make the sweater as long as I want, without any angst about running out.

2. Using a tape measure, gauge isn't the most important information to start with. In crochet, what you measure is pretty much what you get, since your stitches aren't restricted on needles. So my approach deals a lot with numbers and measuring. Some people don't like this; I am one of those who find this comforting.

The yarn I am using here is called Crespo, a cotton/silk/nylon blend in a light worsted weight (recommends #6 needle and 5.25 sts per inch for knitting). I have 8 balls of it, at 125 m per 50 gram ball -- about 1000 meters in all -- and I want to make a size 12-ish cardigan. I am using a size H hook. My pattern stitch of choice: I call it sweater stitch or single crochet lite --

Over an odd number of stitches, sc1, (ch1, sk1, sc1) across. Row 2 for pattern: Ch1 to turn. Sc1 in last sc, (ch over ch, sc1 in next sc) across.

I will have pictures in a few days.