Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Base Recipes

My favorite kind of cookbook provides base recipes with recommendations for variations (a basic white sauce recipe, with tips for turning it into alfredo or bechamel, for example). The best patterns are similar. They teach you how to think about what you are making, rather than just about how to make it.

My current project involves making lace edgings from Rita Weiss's Traditional Edgings to Crochet, which is a compilation of patterns from several vintage pattern booklets. One of the patterns I've tried (shown below in size 10 thread with a US size 7 steel hook)taught me a basic lesson for mocking up a decent looking lace edging.

  1. You make one or two repeats of some form of shell stitch. Turn.
  2. Work net stitch about halfway across the previous row (*ch 5, sk 2, sc1 in next st, rep from *). Turn.
  3. Work shell-type stitch(es) into first chain loop (or two if you have two shells).
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 as desired.

The result is scalloped on both sides, although slightly more lacy on the side where you start the net stitch row, and the process is altogether simple and satisfying. What follows are instructions for three examples that I improvised (shown in size 8 thread worked on a US size 6 steel hook). They are simpler than the original pattern, but it would not be hard to come up with something more elaborate.

Edging #1

Ch 4
Row 1: In 4th ch from hook (dc1, ch1) twice, ending dc1, turn.
Row 2: *Ch5, sc1 in next ch1-sp, rep from * once, turn.
Row 3: Ch3, dc1 in last sc of prev row, in same sp (ch1, dc1) twice, turn.
Rep rows 2 and 3 for desired length.

Edging #2

Ch5, sl st in 5th ch from hook to form ring, turn.
Row 1: Working in ch5-sp, [*Ch1, sc1, (ch1, dc1) twice, rep from * once, ch1, sc1] turn.
Row 2: (Ch5, sc1 in next ch1 sp) 4 times, turn.
Rep these two rows as desired.

Edging #3

This edging is actually symmetrical, with the net stitch parts occuring on alternating sides.

Ch5, sl st in 5th ch from hook to form ring. Turn.
Row 1: Ch3 (counts as tr1), [tr1, (ch1, tr1) 4 times, tr1] in ch5-sp, turn.
Row 2: Ch3 (counts as dc1, ch1), sk1, (dc1, ch2) in next ch1-sp, *(yo, draw up loop, yo pull through 2) in same sp, yo draw up loop in next ch1-sp, (yo, pull through 2) 3 times, ch 2, rep from * twice more, dc in sam sp, ch1, sk1, dc1 in last st of prev row, turn.
Row 3: (Ch5, sc in next ch-sp) 4 times, turn.
Rep these three rows as desired.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Missing Piece

Sometimes yarn labels can be less than helpful. Most yarn is not packaged in the United States, and most yarn companies are located in non-English speaking countries. Since their primary markets don't speak English as a primary language, many companies omit English language information from their labels. And some product lines hire marketing people who decide that a minimalist label design is the most attractive, meaning that important and useful information is omitted from the yarn label altogether! It can make yarn shopping a little bit like solving a mystery.

For those of us who sometimes buy secondhand yarn or who have extensive stashes, it's not uncommon to come across a naked skein or partial skein. No label and we don't remember or have any pertinent information about the yarn.

What to do?

For those international labels, here's a little chart of fiber translations:

Some labels include different Eastern European languages, but most of those also have either German or Greek.

If your yarn does not have any fiber content information, you can also do a burn test. Trim off a little piece of the yarn (a few inches long is good), and, holding it with tweezers, set it on fire. If the resulting smoke smells like burning hair, it's an animal fiber. If it melts, it's synthetic (nylon, polyester, microfiber, acrylic, etc.). If it burns quickly, it's cotton or some other plant fiber. Obviously, blends will do a combination of the above. While this test won't give you precise information, it is helpful for guessing how the fiber will wear and wash. And you may be able to narrow down the possibilities further. A very soft yarn that gives smoke that smells like burning hair is more likely to be alpaca or angora than wool, and if it sheds a lot or is kind of fuzzy, it probably has some angora in it, for example.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Making Darts

I really enjoy crocheting garments in one piece from side to side (where each row has one end at the hem of the garment and the other end at the shoulder or neck). I find it convenient, in that it's really easy to avoid seams. Many crochet stitches have a very nice drape when turned sideways (shell stitch and "single crochet lite"--described below--are two of my favorites). Since many crochet stitches have a strong horizontal line, side to side garment construction can produce flattering results by creating vertical lines. It also allows for vertical stripes.

However, shaping can be problematic. Regardless of how a garment is constructed, doing shaping in crochet looks different from shaping in knitting. It doesn't have the same directionality and can look odd if done incorrectly or with certain pattern stitches. With side to side construction, this is even more the case. In knitting, side to side garments can be fitted with short rows (in which the knitter works only part of a row before turning her work, thus adding more fabric to one area and less to another). In crochet, because the stitches are self contained and bigger, short rows are difficult to accomplish in such a way that they do not create a hole in the fabric.

At the same time, making part of a row shorter than the rest of the row is also difficult. But one of the main flaws of side to side construction in crochet is that the row ends tend to get wider over time. If you don't do something to bring them in, they will fan out with wear. And attaching crocheted ribbing around the bottom edge of the garment does not help, because it lacks elasticity.

My solution has been to add crocheted "darts." I identify a few places around the garment where it would be attractive, and create little areas in which I use a shorter pattern stitch than the rest of the garment to bring in the waist. In the photo below, the garment is made from shell stitch and the darts from single crochet lite (*sc1, ch1, sk1, rep from * Single crochets go in single crochets of previous row, and chains go over chains of previous row). The darts are located directly below the shoulders on the back.

In garments where I didn't want the appearance of darts, I've used a shorter stitch for occasional row ends throughout the garment (every fifth row, for example).

It takes a little experimentation and a little extra work with gauge, but I'm very pleased with the results.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sock Oops!

When I posted an update to the sock pattern with a new heel, I included notes for using a ch-2 net stitch instead of the sc/dc (brick) stitch pattern of the original sock published on the South Bay Crochet website ages ago.

Unfortunately, the instructions for the afterthought heel in net stitch makes a huge heel that is not appropriate. It is just plain wrong. Each ch2 space should be worked as 1sc for a heel the right size.

I am reworking the toe, too, so will post a new, shorter pattern. With any luck, it will work just fine.

String Markers in Crochet

Sometimes it is really handy to use a piece of string as a marker in crochet. Working in a coil, especially, you may want to remember where the beginning/end of the round is, and make sure it stays roughly the same place each round.

If you lay the string between the last stitch of one round and the first stitch of the next, that marks the point. When you get to that point after the next round, bring one end of the string back after the last stitch and before working the first stitch of the next round.

As you continue, notice how straight the dotted line is that the marker makes. That lets you know that the rounds are beginning/ending in line. If you were off on the shaping instructions, the line of the marker would get jagged and not look right.

As the piece gets bigger, just pull the string along, letting go of the earlier markings (because we know they are correct already), and it continues to mark the more recent progress.

If the notion of marking BETWEEN stitches is not appealing, you can just as easily include the marker in a specific stitch by laying it on the stitch as you insert your hook to make that stitch.

Either way, when you are done, it is easy to take out the marker by just pulling one end.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Speaking of Romanian Cord

Sometime, you may be in a position where you need a pair of cufflinks. Nothing fancy, perhaps, but some cufflinks. Starting with a bit of Romanian cord, made perhaps from embroidery floss, which comes in lots of colors, you can tie a couple of decorative knots in it, about an inch apart.
I tried it with two different colors of floss, to see which I would like better on the blouse.

Once you do that for as many cufflinks as you need, snip the excess, undo enough of the cord to have loose ends to fasten the ends in between the knobs, and tuck in. It is good to start with a long bit of cord so you have enough to manipulate to make the decorative knot. I ended up with a pair of blue ones with a simple knot at each end that was still small enough to fit through the buttonholes.
Then I tried them on, and they seemed to work just fine. It was a simple project that worked out just fine. I may try it again with other knots. It is important for the knots to be a little loose -- not to tighten them too much, or they lose their personality.

Friday, April 30, 2010

My First Saturday Project!

I posted here about making a point of doing charity knitting/crochet on one day every week--Saturdays, for me. Well, I finally finished my first project made this way, a baby blanket. While I didn't work on it every Saturday, I didn't work on any other needlework on Saturdays.

The blanket was made out of two skeins of Red Heart Super Saver my father-in-law sent to me. While that wouldn't have been my first choice of yarn and weren't my taste in color, they are perfect for charity work: low-maintenance, durable yarn is perfect for items given to children or the homeless. However, in crochet, Red Heart worsted really feels too thick for garments, but works well for blankets.

With two skeins of Super Saver (total 728 yards), I theoretically had enough for a baby blanket using a relatively open stitch and a size H of I hook. I started making traditional granny squares. At the end of the first skein I could tell how many squares I would end up with, but that number wasn't promising: 11.5. I needed to reserve some yarn to edge the blanket, too, so rather than 11.5 squares per skein totalling 23 squares, let's assume 18-20. In order to assure a generous edging, I went with 18, which does not tile well. A 3X6 square blanket is awfully long and narrow for a satisfying blanket.

By setting the squares diagonally, I got the most bang for my buck, creating a blanket with 18 squares approximately the same size I would have gotten from 20 squares. However, the resulting zig-zag edge can't be edged in a normal way, so I used chevron stitch (alternating rounds of single and double crochet) and finished it off with a round of light crab stitch (reverse single crochet, but worked [1rsc, 1ch]).

Until I have enough items to donate to my chosen charity (they take donations via pick-up, not drop-off), though, I have to store what I make. In this case, I'm letting my 15-month-old son play with the blanket, and the unusual shape has been a huge hit. He especially likes the corner squares, which he uses as a hood.

Using a diagonal arrangement of squares has been a really good choice. It's an economical use of yarn, adds visual interest, and is fun for children.

Next up? Toddler sweater. Stayed tuned.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Frog Picture

I posted a while back about using frogs as closures on garments (here). Now that my computer problems have been resolve I can share a picture:

This is a sweater a I made for my son. The frogs are crocheted Romanian cord made from some leftover size 10 bedspread cotton.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I'm out of thread, now what?

(found through Flickr, not my work, but the same pattern I used)

Recently, I crocheted a doily as a thank you gift for some friends. The pattern was from a designer whom I really like but whose work I had not yet tried. Moreover, the thread was an unmarked skein I had lying around. I thought it would have enough yardage for a doily of the size I was making, but I found out three quarters of the way through the project that I was very wrong. What was I to do?

First, I had already put a lot of work into the piece, so I was frustrated at the thought my efforts might be wasted. I put it aside for a few days (or a week) to let myself think. I didn't want to act out of emotion. Then I went back to it with fresh eyes.
I had stopped work when it became apparent that I had insufficient thread, rather than waiting until I actually ran out. So, looking at the pattern photo, I tried to visualize which rows (other than the final one) would make good stopping points.
I then looked at the pattern itself. Because the doily was round, it didn't have specific increase points. One row would involve a ridiculous amount of increasing and then be followed by several rows with no increases (until the piece went from ruffled to flat). Most lace patterns that are worked in the round provide information at the end of each round for the purposes of stitch counting. But because stitch counting can be difficult in crocheted lace, numbers are often provided in terms of "ch-3 loops per round," "shells per round," or some such.
I looked at the rounds in my pattern that I had not yet worked, and searched for numbers that were similar to the numbers for the last round I had completed. My last completed round included a lot of chain loops, so I looked for something with a comparable number of shells. I found a round about three rounds down in the pattern that fit the bill. I skipped to it, worked it, and then went around the whole piece in crab stitch. It worked beautifully, and I actually wound up with a few yards to spare.

The doily was smaller than I had planned, but definitely big enough to serve a purpose (about 12 inches across), and the recipients loved it. Being able to work with the unexpected is an important skill in needlework, but often involves working with numbers. However, learning that skill is incredibly satisfying and can produce surprisingly good results.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Let others learn from my error:

When traveling, be sure to bring appropriate hooks/needles for your yarn. It's frustrating when you have yarn you can't use [sigh].

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More on Charity Knitting

I love needlework. And when times are rough financially, knitting and crocheting for charity is a great way to contribute to the greater good without going into penury!

But it's hard to remember to do it. I always have some other project going. Well, I've decided to make time for it. I'm setting aside one day every week (Saturday) to work on a charity project rather than my normal project. Not only does this assure that I actually get it done, but it keeps me refreshed and energized about my rest-of-the-week projects and looking forward to working on my alternate project on Saturdays!

This really works for me, and I'd like to encourage others who love needlework to join me in this commitment. Leave a comment to tell me what kind of charity knitting you do!

Monday, February 22, 2010

I Love Frogs


No. Not those frogs (although I do think they're really cool).

These frogs.

I recommend making frogs out of crocheted Romanian cord (see this link for a tutorial). Make one piece of cord that's long enough for the knotted side and another that's long enough for the loop. Sew the two pieces into the shape desired, and then sew the newly made frog onto your garment. I recently did this with a sweater for my little boy. It was so easy. I made one piece that was long enough for me to tie a double knot in with about an inch left over on either side. Then I made a piece of cored that was as long as the loop needed to be plus an inch on either side. The excess inches I sewed together side by side and then sewed to the sweater. It's not fancy, and it didn't take me long, but it looks really cool, it works, it stays buttoned, and it's just as easy to wash as the rest of the garment. I used size 10 crochet cotton, and I think that gauge and material came out looking really clean and sharp.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

More on Socks

Socks are a great portable project, and they have long tracts of knitting (or crocheting) in which their maker doesn't have to pay too close attention to the project. Both features make the lowly sock a perennial favorite. However, their overall simplicity and the fact that you have to make two of them can lead to project boredom. Luckily, there are many, many different sock patterns available for different yarns, purposes, pattern stitches, and shapes.

Once one has made a few socks, it becomes fairly easy to free oneself from the pattern. The parts where one has to think (heel and toe) are proportional to the original cast on number and very predictable. Good thing, too, because what if you want to make a pair of women's socks from a man's sock pattern, or vice versa? What if you like the pattern stitch on a pair made from DK, but want to use it with fingering weight sock yarn?

I'm currently working on just such a project. I'm making a pair of socks for my husband, and I know from previous experience how many stitches around his socks need to be at the gauge I want to use. However, the pattern stitch I want is in this pattern (a lovely free pattern I found through Ravelry). It's for a different sized person and a different gauge. I also want to use a different kind of heel and include a short cuff at the top of the sock to give the top a more finished look. Since socks all follow a similar formula, it is very easy for me to take just the elements of the pattern that I like and apply them to my project.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Quick Sock Tip

Just a quick post (because I don't feel like getting out my camera).

If you are making socks (knitted or crocheted) and want to reinforce the heel and toe, try using matching polyester sewing thread. It comes in far more colors than reinforcing thread and won't change your gauge.

But when you do use that sewing thread, you will need to keep it contained in order to prevent nasty tangles with your yarn! Seal the spool in a zip lock bag and feed the thread out of a hole snipped in a bottom corner.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Revisiting a Basic Crocheted Sock

Almost ten years ago, I wrote a basic sock pattern that got published on the South Bay Crochet site and was also a free pattern at The Knitting Room in San Jose. The pattern below starts with that pattern and uses a much easier heel construction so the whole pattern is easier.

At the same time, as much as I like to crochet socks and wear the ones I make, I need to point out that crocheted socks are not the same as knitted socks -- they are not for everyone. Knitting makes a lightweight, elastic fabric; crochet makes a sturdy, textured fabric. This makes a difference in socks. In addition, wool (even machine washable wool) does shrink a bit. So if you crochet socks from traditional sock yarn (70-80% wool, and the rest is nylon), you may find that they shrink a bit after a few wearings. I have several pairs of socks that look fine, but they shrank just a little over time so they don’t fit any more. In response to this, I have changed my new favorite stitch for crocheting socks, which I address at the end of the pattern with a note on adjusting the pattern for this other stitch.

If you make these socks with yarn that does not shrink (a cotton/elastic blend is good, or acrylic), you will not run into the shrinking problem. Unfortunately, other fibers may not wear as well as the wool/nylon blend and may get holes in them more quickly in spots (like the heel and toe).

fingering or sport weight yarn, 100 grams/size E hook, or size needed for gauge: 5.5 sts/inch in patt,
DK or light worsted weight yarn, 100-200 grams/size G hook, or size needed for gauge: 4.5 sts/inch in patt,
heavy worsted or bulky weight yarn, 200 grams/size I hook, or size needed for gauge: 3.5 sts/inch in patt.
The gauges given here are suggested gauges to give you a sense of scale.

Note: The amounts of yarn given are for ankle socks to fit medium adult feet. For knee socks, you will need up to twice as much yarn. Also, socks for smaller feet will use less yarn than socks for larger feet.

2 markers

Instructions are given for fingering weight yarn, with changes for sport and worsted in ().

For better fit, measure:
length of the foot from toe to heel: _____, and
the size around at the instep/arch: _____.

Abbreviations (American):
Ch: Chain stitch
Sc: Single crochet
Dc: Double crochet
Sl OR sl st: slip stitch
Inc: Increase
Patt: Pattern stitch (as defined)
Sk: skip
Coil: work in rounds, but do not finish it at the end of each round, just continue on.

Pattern Stitch (worked in a coil, over an odd number of stitches): *Sc1, dc1. Repeat from * around.

Toe Increase: (dc1, sc1, dc1) all in next stitch.

To Begin: Starting at the toe, ch 10 (8, 6). Working into the bottom bump of each stitch, slip stitch in the 3rd chain from the hook and in each chain across, making the last sl st into the first chain. This reinforces the chain row at the beginning, giving a little extra strength. From here on, insert hook under both top loops of each stitch, as usual in crochet.

Continue in a coil (right side facing): Ch1. Sc1 into the first chain. Dc1 in next stitch. Continue in pattern stitch to end of side, ending with sc1. Make a toe increase in the next stitch to turn corner. Place 1st marker in the middle sc of the increase. Continue in patt st to end of side, ending with dc1 in last slip st. Sc1 in the ch1 that started this round. Make a toe increase in the next sc. Place 2nd marker in the middle sc of the increase.

*Continue in patt to next marker. Inc. Move marker to middle sc of new inc just made.

Find your instep size on this chart, and repeat from * for a total of this many stitches:
size Total # of sts
5” 25 (19, 15) stitches around
6” 29 (23, 17)
7” 35 (27, 21)
8” 39 (31, 23)
9” 45 (35, 27)
10” 49 (39, 29)

Remove markers and set aside.

(If you are working the OTHER PATTERN STITCH -- see below -- start that stitch here.)

Continue in patt, without any more increases, until the piece measures about 2/3 the desired foot length. Lay the piece flat (even though you are working in the round, when you lay the piece with the starting toe edge flat, there will be two side edges/corners). Place a marker in the sc at each side corner. Continue in patt to first marker, ending with a dc in the marked stitch. Count how many stitches are between where you are and the next marker: _____ (Hint: this should be an odd number).

Afterthought Heel: This is an idea I first heard about from the knitter Elizabeth Zimmermann. She didn’t care much for crocheting, but that is ok. She still had a lot of great ideas.

Remove marker. Chain as many stitches as you counted.

Dc in the sc of the remaining marker. Remove that marker.

That is all for the heel right now. You will return to it later. Now, continue with the leg:

For a straight leg: Continue in patt in a coil until leg measures desired length (from the chain row that made the hole for the heel, about 2-3” for baby, 4-5” for child, or 6-7” for adult). After last stitch, finish off like this: Slip stitch in next 2 sts. Fasten off, tuck in loose ends. Make 2nd sock to match.

For a bit of character at the top edge: When the leg measures as long as you want, consider finishing the top edge with a little something. For an easy edge, (sc1, ch1) in each stitch around one time, then finish off.

Knee Sock Option (requires more yarn):
More measurements:
Calf at the biggest size around: _____
Length of leg from the floor to just under the knee (length of sock): _____

After making the heel opening, continue in patt for the ankle (1” for baby, 2” for child, 4” for adult size). Place marker in center back dc.

*Continue in patt to marked stitch. (sc1, ch1, sc1) all in marked st, to increase 2 stitches. Move marker to ch. Continue in patt for 2 more rounds with no increase. When you get to the ch in the next round, sc in it. Move marker to current stitch each time you make a stitch in the marked stitch.

Notice that if you increase in a dc, it takes 2 more rounds to have a dc in the same stitch again, so the increases are on a 3-round repeat.
Repeat from * until the sock measures desired size around. Note: It would be good if you ended with a total number of stitches close to a multiple of 6 if you want to make the Chevron Ribbing.
Continue in patt without any more increases until the sock measures desired length.

Chevron Ribbing for knee sock: End sock body with sc1. Work 1 round in shell stitch, like this: *Sk 2, 5dc in next st, sk 2, sc1 in next st. Repeat from * around one time. Since you aren’t starting with a multiple of 6 stitches, you will have to fudge a little, by skipping only 1 stitch instead of 2, just a few times. End with 1sc in first sc of round. Mark this sc.
Next round: *Sc1 in next 2 dc. (Sc1, ch1, sc1) all in next dc. Sc1 in next 2 dc. Skip next sc. Repeat from * around once.
Next round: *Sc1 in next 2 sc. (Sc1, ch1, sc1) all in next ch1 space. Sc1 in next 2 sc. Skip next 2 sc. Repeat from * around for a total of 6 rounds, or desired length of cuff. Slip stitch in next 2 sts. Fasten off.

Now, back to the Heel:
This is a mirror image of the toe shaping: DEcreasing at each side a lot like how you INcreased at the beginning of the toe.

Setup round: With the right side of the fabric facing, rejoin the yarn with a slip stitch in the side of the last dc before the chain stitches you made for the heel opening. Starting with sc in the next st, continue in pattern across the last row of the foot to the other side of the hole, ending with a sc in the last dc. Dc in the side of the next dc to turn so you can continue around. Place marker on this dc just made. Working into the spare loop on the underside of all those chain stitches, establish the pattern stitch along the bottom of the leg edge, ending up with a sc in the last chain. Notice how many stitches there are on each side: _____.

Set up one decrease point: Yarnover, draw up a loop in side of the dc you joined the yarn in. Yarnover, draw through 2 loops (2 loops remain on hook). Yarnover, draw up a loop in next sc, Yarnover, pull through 2 loops (3 loops remain on hook). Yarnover, pull through all 3 loops to decrease 1 stitch. Put marker on this stitch to mark one decrease point.

**Continue in patt to stitch before next marker.
Heel Decrease: (Yarnover, insert hook in next stitch, yarn over, draw up a loop, yarn over, pull through 2 loops) 3 times. Yarnover, pull through all 4 loops to decrease 2 stitches. The middle part of this decrease should be the marked stitch. Move marker to decrease just made.
Repeat from ** until only about 2/3 of the stitches have been decreased, and only 1/3 are left.
Fasten off, allowing a tail about 5 inches long to sew a seam. And that is the heel
Tuck in loose ends. Make 2nd sock to match.

About that other pattern stitch:
Start the sock as usual.
(The bit about reinforcing the starting chain is not absolutely necessary. I usually start with Foundation stitches, making a row about 1/6 as long as I want around. That means that for a sock 9-inch around, I make a foundation row that is about 1-1/2inches long, ending with a starting toe increase. If this is confusing, skip it.)

When the toe is the right size (the same instructions as before), switch to a ch-2 net stitch: Ending with a sc in a dc, (ch2, skip the next sc, sc in the next dc) around. From here on, (ch2, sc in next ch-2 space) around. That is the pattern stitch. This makes a slightly lacy fabric that has some ’give’ either long or wide, as needed. The over-all sock will have a baggier look, but I think it fits better over time.

To make the heel opening, chain and skip the same number of stitches. To set up the pattern stitch for the leg, work (sc, ch 2, skip 2) across the chain stitches.

Yes, you are replacing each dc with two ch sts. So where the pattern refers to a DC, read ‘ch-2 space.’

When you come back to make the heel, treat each ch-2 as one stitch. Work the heel in the sc/dc pattern stitch because it is sturdy, just like the toe. That means, to set up the heel, do (sc, dc) in each ch-2 space, and just skip the sc's.

It's Time...

In today's tough times, many of us can't just go yarn shopping whenever we feel uninspired by our own stash. And I know I often find myself at a loss when I try to think of things to make for myself, my family, or my home. I already have stuff, and I don't need any more!

So I think this is a good year to recommit to charity knitting. There are so many great charities out there, with so many different needs, we should all be able to find something to do!

Have some luscious, left over, luxury yarns? Make a striped cap for chemo patients. Have some inexpensive, machine washable yarn you don't know what to do with? Make some baby things for a charity benefiting preemies or single moms. This is also a great way to try out those fun patterns that we bought, but don't have a purpose for at the moment. There's no more need to wait!

So here are a couple resources:

Interweave Knits has an extensive list of charities. Find one whose mission appeals to you or one that's local!

And if you want something a little more personalized, Craft Hope finds specific needs and asks people to fill them.

Let's all take this year to build communities and relationships.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Stitchwhisper is on Twitter! You can keep an eye out there for new blogposts and other thoughts. Our screen name is Stitchwhisper.

While you're at it, this months issue of Knitty is kind of fun, this is an interesting thing to do with doilies, and this is fun too--but in a weird way.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Finally finishing!

Here Harper has made a gorgous baby bonnet and really cute baby socks, and I'm finally finishing the blue cardigan in time to set it aside to wear in the spring or summer (it is a cotton/silk blend, and the fit is to go over a sleeveless top, not to go over long sleeves).
It looks a lot like a cardigan, which is a good thing because I want to be able to wear it to work in a grown-up office, and I am not making any kind of a craft statement about myself.
My next one will have pockets and be suited more for winter, with larger proportions to wear over long-sleeved shirts.
As Harper pointed out, as nice as it is to start new ideas, it is really nice to finish things, too.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Socks and Scrap Yarn

My son needed new socks. He had outgrown the old ones. I had the better part of a skein of yellow sock yarn. That should be enough, right? Wrong. As I started on the second sock, my son hit a growth spurt. That yellow yarn wasn't nearly enough, and I had no more of it. What to do?

I took out the foot beyond the gusset in the first sock, and made thick stripes using the yellow sock yarn and some navy tweed leftover from a pair of socks I had just finished for myself. Then I copied the stripe pattern on the second sock. They fit my son with room to spare! Mission accomplished!


I have socks that fill the need that I had, but they don't look good. They looked like I set out making yellow socks and didn't have enough yarn. Now what?

I looked around at my stash and found a little ball of size 10, white crochet cotton. Hmmm. If you don't look too closely at the socks, they look like black and yellow stripes. Sounds like a bee to me, and bees need wings. So I ad libbed two pair of white bees' wings out of the cotton, sewed them onto the socks and added a smiley face and antennae to the toe of each sock. Now my son has bees on his feet. Even my husband thinks they are really cute! I could even imagine doing this with different colors to produce butterflies, lady bugs, and other critters.

And how did I make the wings?

Using #10 cotton and US size 2 knitting needles:
CO 10
Row 1: k
Row 2: k1, inc 1, k to last st, inc 1, k1.
Rep these two rows until you have a total of 18 sts. K 1 row, and then place the first 9 sts of that row on a holder.
Over the rem 9 sts, k 4 rows even.
Next row: k1, k2tog, k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1.
Next row: k
Rep these 2 rows until 5 sts rem. BO.
Rep for rem 9 sts on holder.
Make a total of 2 per sock.

The moral of the story? If you want to make a "scrap yarn project," but are afraid that the emphasis will wind up on the "scrap" end of it, find ways to embellish the project (either with add-ons or with interesting stitches/textures/shapes built in) that will draw the eye to something else.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

An Interesting Stitch

This is the other noteworthy stitch I used in the baby bonnet. It was taken from Traditional Edgings to Crochet (Dover Needlework Series), which is a collection of vintage edging patterns that are now out of print. I think it's a really handy book to have on hand.

This stitch is the basis for a lovely edging in Ms. Weiss' book (number 1809) worked in size 30-70 crochet cotton. Worked with number 10 bedspread cotton, the pattern makes an edging that is too large for my purposes and is clearly not as delicate as it ought to be. Using just the first row of the pattern topped with a row of single crochet interspersed with ch-3 picots worked very nicely. In any case, this stitch was a fun one. While it isn't really suitable for making a fabric, I think I will use it in edgings and beadings in the future.

Ch a multiple of 6 plus 1.

Work one row of single crochet. Ch4, turn.

Working in the first sc from the beg of the row, work 1 tr. Sk 2, make a 3-tr cluster in the next sc (work 3 tr in same st, holding back final loop of each, yo, pull through all loops on hook), ch5. In the same sc, make a 3-tr cluster, but do not finish it. Once the three trebles have been begun, sk 2 and work an additional tr in third sc from hook, yo, and pull through all loops on hook (joint cluster made). *Sk 2, 3-tr cluster in next sc, ch5, joint cluster in same sc, rep from * across.

Lacy Flower Motif

This is the pattern for the motif I used on the back of this bonnet. I found it on Karen's Variety, but the pattern has since been removed from the website. Since it was posted there as a reprint of a vintage pattern and is no longer available on that website, I don't think there is any problem with my reposting the pattern here.

I think this is a wonderful pattern for the advanced beginner, because it uses just about every basic stitch you will come across in a crochet pattern and many common techniques.

Please note that I will be working through this pattern again in the next few days, as I believe I found a problem with it in the third or fourth round, but it was one easily solved by looking at the picture. For the baby bonnet, I only used the first four rounds.

  • For Tablecloth: No 20 crochet thread and No. 11 steel crochet hook

  • For Bedspread: String weight thread [no. 10 cotton] and No. 7 or 8 crochet hook

Size: Motif measures 3 1/4 inches square


  • ch = chain
  • st = stitch
  • sl st = slip stitch
  • sp = space
  • rnd = round
  • sc = single crochet
  • hdc = half double crochet
  • dc = double crochet
  • tr = treble crochet
  • dtr cluster = double treble cluster (see below)
  • tr tr = treble treble [or triple treble depending on whom you ask] (see below)


Ch 8, join with a sl st to form a ring.

Round 1: Ch 7, dc in ring. * Ch 3, dc in ring, repeat from * 5 more times.Join last ch 3 to 4th st of ch 7 first made (8 spaces).

Round 2: Sl st into first sp. Ch 5, * make a 3-dtr cluster, ch 10, ** makea second petal with a 4-dtr cluster into next sp, ch 10, repeat from **until 8 petals have been made. Ch 2, tr tr in top of first petal, thusmaking a ch equal to the ch 10 between other petals, yet keeping hook inposition for next rnd.

Round 3: Ch 4, 3 dc in sp, ch 5, 4 dc in same sp to form a shell. * (Ch 5,4 dc) twice in next ch 10. Repeat from * around (8 shells); ch 5 and jointo first ch 4 with a sl st.

Round 4: Sl st in 3 dc and in 1 ch of ch 5. Ch 8, dc in same sp, ch 5, scin next ch 5. * Ch 5, dc in next ch 5. Ch 5, dc in same sp. Ch 5, sc innext ch 5. Repeat from * around. Join last ch 5 to third st in ch 8 first made.

Round 5: Sl st in sp. Ch 5, * tr in sp, ch 1, tr in same sp. Repeat from *7 more times. Ch 1, sc in ch 5, ch 1. Make a second scallop as the first.* Ch 10, make 2 more scallops. Repeat from * around. Join last ch 10 tothe fourth st in ch 5 first made.

Round 6: * Ch 8, sc in 5th tr, ch 6, sc in sc, ch 6, sc in last sc, ch 6,sc in last sc, sl st in first sc (3 picot cluster made). Ch 8, sl st in scbetween scallops, ch 8, sl st in dc. Make a 3 picot cluster as before. Ch8, sl st in last tr of scallop. Ch 16, sc in 4th ch from hook, hdc in nextch, 2 dc in each of next 2 chs, 2 tr in each of next 2 chs, 2 dtr in eachof next 2 chs, 2 tr tr in each of next 2 chs. Ch 3, sl st in first tr ofnext scallop. Repeat from * around.

TO JOIN MOTIFS: To make a tablecloth with a scalloped edge, join themotifs diagonally across. Crochet together at the corner points and thetwo middle picots of the clusters on the sides.

FINISHING EDGE: Fasten the thread to a corner point. Ch 6, sc in the point(picot). Ch 8, dc in middle of the side of the point, p. * Ch 6, dc at thecorner of the scallop, p. Ch 8, sc in the middle p of cluster, p, ch 8, dcin p between scallops. Ch 8, sc in the middle p of the second scallop, p.Ch 8, dc at the corner of scallop, p. Ch 6, dc in the middle of the sideof next point, p. Ch 6, sc at the intersection of 3 points (corners of 3motifs). Ch 6, dc in side of point, p. Repeat from * around.


  • At alloutside points, use ch of 8 as at beginning and at intersection of 3points use ch of 6.

  • dtr cluster - thread over hook 3 times and work off 2 lps at a time,retaining last lp of each dtr on hook, thread over and pull through alllps on hook at once to form a cluster

  • tr tr - thread over hook four times and work off 2 lps at a time