Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sturdy Baskets to crochet

One popular project with simple single crochet is the Basket.  It usually goes something like this: Start at the center with a small chain ring.  Single crochet 1 round into the ring, then continue in a coil in single crochet, increasing as needed (it generally averages out to about 6 stitches per round) until the base is as big as you want.  Then stop increasing, but continue stitching until the basket is as tall as you want (or you run out of yarn).  Finish the top edge simply with a round of slip stitch to make it nip in a bit.  For a fancier top edge, consider a pattern stitch:  Ripple, or chevron, adds a fancy edge and nips in, too.  For stability or extra sturdiness, make it tall enough for the top to fold down.  For a basket that holds its shape, use a sturdy yarn (more like cotton or a tough acrylic), nothing soft like alpaca or any acrylic intended to be soft.  All very well and good. 

Some years back, I made a bunch of sturdy baskets, holding 4 strands of worsted weight acrylic and stitching with a size I (5.5mm) hook.  It felt good and sturdy, and made baskets that did not stretch out of shape.  I was going through a divorce at the time, my life was in turmoil, and I had a lot of emotional energy to channel through my hands.  It felt perfectly normal.

Now that my life is much calmer, I simply cannot work that tightly.  It hurts my hands.  But I still make sturdy baskets – with bag stitch.  Here are samples of the old and the new:

The single crochet versions have rows that go straight across - two blue baskets in back.  The bag stitch versions have rows that look more diagonal.  The big one in front is made out of Zpaghetti, from Lion Brand.  The 2nd from the left is upside-down, making it a teacozy.

In rows, the stitch looks like this:  Set-up row:  Ch2, turn.  *skip 1sc, sc in the next ch space.  ** Repeat from * to corner, working (sc1, ch1, sc1 in the corner space.  Then repeat from * to ** to the end of the row, ending with sc1 in the last stitch.
Pattern row:  Ch2, turn.  *Skip 1sc, sc into the sc of the row before last, enclosing the ch1 of the last row. ** Repeat from * to the next corner, working (sc1, ch1, sc1) in the middle of the corner turn.  

Here is a sample instruction for a triangle, made in the round (from a previous post):   Bag stitch Triangle.  Ch3, sl sto to join in a ring.  Rnd 1: (ch1, sc1 in ring) 6 times.  Place marker in last st to mark end of round.  Rnd 2:  continuing in a coil, (ch1, sc1 in next ch1 space) 6 times.  Do not move marker just yet.  Rnd 3: *Ch1, (sc, ch1, sc - 1 increase made) in sc below next ch. Ch1, sc in sc below next ch.  Repeat from * around - 3 increase points made.  Move marker from rnd 1 to last st made into that sc.  Rnd 4: ch1, (sc, ch, sc) into middle ch of increase in previous row, then (ch1, sc into sc below next ch) across the side to next increase point.  Repeat rnd 4 for pattern for desired size of cloth (4-6 inches across is a good size, but that is just a suggestion, moving the marker every 2nd round, when you stitch into the marked stitch.  Finish off with 2 slip stitches, cut yarn, remove marker, and tuck in loose ends.  

I will have samples at my booth next month.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Short Hooks

Short crochet hooks
Another experiment is to see how long a crochet hook really needs to be.  I cut a couple of hooks off just after the thumb rest, so my hooks are about 3 inches long.  

I end up crocheting with my fingers rather than with my whole hand.  The shorter hook is convenient for joining motifs in the last round:  Slip the back end of the hook through the second motif and make a slip stitch through all loops – it makes a nice look that is different from slip stitching into that same stitch. 
Flat joining motifs in last round

I will have a selection of short hooks at the show for anyone who wants to try it out for herself.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Entrelac in crochet

Two entrelac sweaters in crochet, a bit fuzzy photo
Some years ago I played with entrelac in crochet. Here are two sweaters I made that way.  The one on the left is out of DK weight yarn; the one on the right is out of worsted weight. Traditional entrelac in knitting makes a fabric that is a bit puffy because the blocks are in stockinette stitch, and knitting is like that. Garter stitch entrelac comes out flat.  Crocheted entrelac comes out flat, too.  These were done in single crochet. For each of these sweaters, each square has the same number of rows and stitches.  I chose a block size geared to the armhole depth I wanted.  Of course, the neckline was shaped by omitting blocks or half blocks.

To get a straight edge, I started with a row of triangles along the bottom.  For sweaters, this had the advantage of pulling in the bottom edge.  For an afghan, I might make the block fabric first, with the jagged edges, then fill in the edges afterward.

Annie's Attic had afghan patterns using the entrelac technique.  One really interesting one used a variety of stitches from single all the way to trebles, so the blocks were not square but formed scallops.  Annie did a lot of really creative crocheting.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Net backdrop.

Booth construction is a new challenge.  Fishing line, specifically 20 or 25 pound fishing line, 10mm crochet hook.  Ch-3 net stitch.  Fairly quick to make.  Very stretchy.  Feels kind of fun.  Tied to the side beams and a few points across the top, I have a net ground for hanging things.  Still need to arrange how things will hang, but here I’m just testing to make sure it won’t break easily – some archival pieces (contest winners from the 70’s and 80’s, plus sweaters pictured in my Threads articles, and some fun little cardigans for smalls).  The black background simply covers my bookshelves – at the show it will be a clear view to the next booth on each side.  I may like this.  We’ll see if it works.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Round and Round Pullover or Top to crochet

works fine for dolls, too
An enduring quality of knitting basic socks is that the process is blissfully brainless except for a couple of places to think a little bit.  Pulling together my samples, I came across a bunch of sweaters and tops – for myself, for 18” dolls, and for smaller teddy bears – all from the same ‘round and round’ pattern concept that is pretty brainless, except for a couple of places to think a little bit. 

Schaefer Lisa 3, a lightweight yarn
I start with a narrow band of single crochet rib for the neck – skinny for a simple neckband, wider for a collar.  Making the strip long enough to be a pullover and the front will be low enough that it won’t rub my neck.  The sweater is identical front and back.  Mark 4 points for where the increases will be, then continue in a coil until the yoke is as big as desired.  Then joining front and back, adding a few stitches for the underarm and skipping the sleeve stitches, continue in a coil with no more increases for the length of the body.  Going back for each sleeve, rejoin yarn and stitch in a coil for each sleeve.  And that’s really about it.
Persio bulky weight yarn

Of course, there are Measurements That Matter:  bust, sleeve length, upper arm.  The actual numbers vary depending on the measurements I start with.  The initial increase points can just be set up in quarters along the starting long edge, but for a more fitted top, the sleeve sections are smaller than the front/back sections – and there’s arithmetic for that.  I usually mark the underarm point and do a double decrease every 4th round to taper the sleeve.  Decrease 10% at any lower edge if you want it to look trim before finishing off.  

Using sweater yarns and a simple pattern stitch (like the one below), the focus is on the yarn/texture/color.  The results have been consistently satisfactory.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Small Hounds-tooth check in crochet

Going through my swatches and samples, I came across a simple cap in one of my favorite garment stitches:  (sc1, dc1) across, then in each round sc in the dc and dc in the sc.  (It looks a little different in rows.) If you change color each row/round, you get a small hounds-tooth check without even trying. I love that about crochet.