Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Dreaded Chain Ring

In a world where we learn new things by starting with something simple and easy, then moving on to something more challenging, crochet is counter-intuitive by starting with the difficult stuff.  One of the trickiest instructions in crochet is :  "Chain 3, slip stitch in last chain from hook to form a ring."  Then the first round of stitches is worked into the space of the ch3 ring.  Motifs can start this way, as can baskets and hats and doilies and anything else that starts at a point in the middle.  Sounds easy, right?

As an aside:  It works better if you lay the tail along the ring and enclose it in the first round.  That way, when you do the finishing, pull the tail before weaving it in, to make the center/starting hole as small as possible.

Starting without a slipknot - it helps to do all this loosely - here's what the starting chain 3 looks like:

Insert hook in 3rd chain from the hook (the first chain), like this:

Yarnover and pull through everything to make a slip stitch - and that closes the ring.  This is where it gets existential:

Oh, bleep!  What 'ring'?!  There's no ring!  Deep breath.  Trust me.

Chain 1, to snug up and define the slip stitch that joined and made the ring.  It still looks like not-a-ring, but have faith.  Insert hook into the middle of what is there:

Once you start stitching into what might be the center of the ring, it starts to make sense, maybe.  As you make each stitch, slide it over next to the previous stitch:

Here is the ring, with 7 single crochets made into it:

Of course, the hole in the center is obvious, now.  The tail is enclosed in this first round of stitching so when I go to do the finishing, the hole can be closed up.

The number of stitches crammed into that first round limits how small the hole can be closed in finishing:  more stitches, bigger hole.

I like this way of doing things for several reasons:
1.  The ring is solid enough that it won't loosen or break over time.
2.  It gets me to focus to start the project.  Being able to follow an instruction, as given, makes me more confident as I move on to the next instruction.
3.  But also, I've been doing it this way for a long time, so I'm used to it.

But there are different ways.  Here's one:  Chain 2, single crochet as indicated into the 2nd chain from the hook.  Again, enclosing the tail makes finishing easier later.  Here are 6 single crochets made into the 2nd chain from the hook.

Looks pretty much the same.  Which leads to the point:  Just starting is the important thing.  How you do it is up to you.

While we're at it, here's another way:  wrap the yarn twice around a finger - that makes a ring.  Insert hook into the ring and lift the ring off the finger.  Yarnover, draw up loop through ring:

Chain 1, single crochet as indicated into that big loop.  Here are 6 sc made into that big loop, also incidentally enclosing the tail, which is important:

Pull the tail to tighten the loop:

Again, looks pretty much the same in the final analysis.  The only weakness here is that the loop can break over time, or loosen up.  It can also break while you are tightening it, so do that gently but firmly.

Finally, another option is to take some other thread or yarn or something (I used about 12 inches of black buttonhole thread here), make a slip knot with that, making a biggish loop.  Then, insert the crochet hook into the slip knot loop, using the yarn you want to crochet with, draw up a loop, and start stitching as indicated - ch1, sc6 in this case.  Notice the starting tail is loose-looking, but don't stress about that.  The important thing is to start stitching.  I didn't even bother to enclose the yarn tail:

Pull the tail of the buttonhole thread to tighten the starting slip knot.  Again, looks the same.  And later, I can snug up the loose beginning.

The whole process is to get started on the project.  If you can get started on your project, you did just fine.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Crochet for knitters

RS of sample - includes edge samples, some bobbles,
surface slip stitch, and seams.  Also looks like a goofy person.
As practical as knitting is for all kinds of things, sometimes crochet is faster and easier for a few details.  Most common is the crab stitch edge to finish a knitted garment.  This sample has a number of examples of crab stitch edging.

Crochet can also be useful for seams and for embellishment.  When adding crochet to a knit fabric, choose a hook that is small enough to work comfortably into your knit fabric and is also big enough for your yarn.  F/G/4mm is a common size to use with worsted or DK weight yarns.  

Note that yarnovers in knitting are counter-clockwise Q, while yarnovers in crochet are clockwise P.  If that sounds confusing, just remember to wrap the yarn the normal way when knitting and the other way when crocheting. 

Crab Stitch
Edges:  Crab stitch is a name for doing single crochet from left to right, so the stitch is twisted.  If you haven't tried it before, there is an existential learning curve, and you may need to keep at it for a dozen or more stitches before it starts to make sense.  It really is just single crocheting from left to right, but the trick is for each stitch to be twisted.  A variation is to start a single crochet the normal way (from right to left), but rotate (twirl the hook around one time) to twist the stitch before doing the final yarnover and pull through.   

Lite Crab Stitch 
Crab stitch makes a very solid corded edge.  For something just a little lighter, consider lite crab stitch:  alternate a crab stitch with a chain stitch.

You can crab stitch directly into the edge of the knitted fabric, but sometimes the stitching can look different depending on whether you're stitching into row ends or into stitches.  In that case, it can be useful to start with a setup row, using the same yarn as the fabric, to make a consistent base for the contrast edging.
Shell Stitch border - very traditional

Other traditional edges include simply stitching a single row of a pattern stitch, like Shell, or Open Shell, or Crazy Stitch.  Including Picots makes the row look fancier by adding little pointy bits.  
Shell Stitch with picots

For a flared edge, consider - instead of binding off - doing a (slip stitch to bind next stitch off the left needle, then chain 1) all the way across.  To add a flared edge to an edge other than the last row, pick up stitches along the desired edge, stockinette a few rows (enough to make a ruffling fabric), then do the (slip stitch, chain) combination to bind off.  The massive increase of (a) switching from knit to crochet, and (b) adding the chain stitches will make the edge ruffle out a bit.  Working into the live stitches makes the knitted fabric shape itself into the expanded edge.

Seams:  Three-needle bind-off, mattress stitch,  and Kitchener / grafting are such perfect ways to join fabrics in knitting, you'd think crochet wouldn't have anything to add.  (An aside:  Did you ever notice that mattress is just like grafting, only tighter and on row ends rather than in stitches?)  If your yarn is really textured or delicate (like mohair), it may not be suitable for using with a yarn needle, and the three-needle bind-off is only for, well, binding off, which still leaves other seams to do.  

I learned the (slip stitch 1, chain 1) seam when altering a store-bought knitted sweater where the sleeves were too long and could not be shortened at the wrist.  Taking the sleeves out and shortening the sleeve cap worked just fine -- and the armhole seam had been joined that way.  Here, the seam is worked in a contrasting yarn, and you can see it on the right side.  It blends in much more if you use the same yarn as the fabric. 

Other seams make sense with projects like joining motifs.  In a pattern the instructions may simply say to whip-stitch, or just 'join'.  I generally don't care for whip-stitching seams because it tends to come apart easiest.  If the motifs, joined together, are coming out too small or too dense, it can make sense to join them with a lacy zigzag crochet that adds more fabric as well as 'give' between the squares.

Embellishments:  Even the most sensible knitter can have an embellishment emergency, and a few very simple concept tools in your kit can come in handy.  The simplest basic flower and leaf is easy, quick, and makes you look clever.  Other common embellishments include the Bobble (either worked in or added after), and Slip Stitch (as an alternative to Duplicate Stitch, and it is handy for designs that don't follow the grid-like structure of the knitted fabric).  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Home Again

The chaos of unpacking
Golly, what a great time!  Wonderful to see so many friends from way back - I did attend the first few Crochet Guild conferences and taught back in '97 or so - but that is just history.  Lots of encouragement to see my classes offered at San Diego next year.

The fishing-line net worked well on the side walls for hanging all kinds of samples.

Feedback from visitors helped define my ideas better.  Some people recognized my name from posts on Ravelry, which was cool.

I usually crochet with short hooks and had some to share with folks who hold the hook with their fingers rather than with their hands. Will any of them find it easier, or just different in a good way?  Or will it seem like a total non-issue?
There really is some order to this.

Shipping has its own language - freight and drayage and packages vs shipments and carriers and how to arrange for all of it - a whole learning curve right there.

This conference is put on by the knitting and crochet guilds - each a 501(c)(3) organization.  We're talking volunteers and committees here - lots of folks who do it because they love the crafts.  The atmosphere there is different from the Stitches conferences, which are bigger and more commercial.  It takes a huge amount of effort and attention to details to pull it off - it's amazing it happens at all!

Compliments to the people who did the yarn bombing:  it was tasteful and artful.  The scarves on the dog sculptures out front looked very appropriate.  The dream catcher ones were well done.  The garden creatures at the restaurant, among the plants, were delightful.

The hotel was very pleasant with helpful and friendly staff.

A week to get home (after visiting with family), then straight back to work (which has nothing to do with crocheting).  Finally the weekend let me unpack, get some sleep, and organize my thoughts.  Great to be home.  Even better to be planning the next step.  Onward!