Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Settling into the season

Talk about a year of learning!  Booths at Stitches West in February along with three local craft fairs since September have given me lots of information about what to do next:  The big challenges are to have finished pieces that are less expensive and to develop a pattern format that is not gauge dependent.  

I've been stitching that way all my life, but communicating it to an audience expecting something different is a challenge.  My next pattern may be the random stitch crescent shawl/scarf, since I've made a dozen of them this year in a bunch of different yarns.  Like most of my pieces, the concept pattern is available for free, but I need to charge money if people want something with pictures and more specific instructions.

As we approach 50,000 page views for Stitchwhisper.blogspot.com, I see people from all over the world are checking us out.  My sock post has been hit well over 11,000 times, which is very nice.

I still haven't had time to organize my photos to add them to posts - too busy making things.  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

October update

I haven't gone this long between blog posts in a long time, but September was very full:  there was my first craft fair table, five days at the county fair, and then a knitting retreat, plus making more inventory for my next craft fair, coming up after Thanksgiving, and life in general.  Here are some posts I am working on:

1.  In joining motifs, the slip stitch join is very common, but I don't always like how it looks.  The slip stitch is generally done with the ws facing of the edge being joined.  Joining with a chain stitch instead is a good alternative - there is evidence to suggest that this is what was originally intended by the instruction to slip stitch.  The idea is to insert the hook into the space being joined on the adjacent edge, along with the live stitch, then making a chain stitch (yarnover and pull through all).  The rs of everything is facing all the time - no ws facing at all.  Pictures show the difference.

2.  I recently needed a pin for a lacy shawl and found that sewing together two large buttons, one interesting button to show and a plain flat button on the underside, did the trick nicely.  There are a lot of novelty buttons out there.

3.  Over two dozen Christmas tree ornaments, with a clever display tree, deserves a picture.

4.  Plus, I promised updated photos to clarify my previous post.

Need to make samples and photos ... with any luck, I will address these soon.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Joining Daisy Motifs in crochet

Somehow you acquire a vast quantity of daisy flowers, made from the daisy loom – very retro.  How to join them?  You have a picture.  Can’t be that hard, right?  Then you try it, and then it is confusing.  I just had that experience and came up with the following notes to clarify the joining - so here are my rough notes.  I plan to make clearer samples and update the pictures.

So here’s one way that made sense to me:

This method is like some lace/doily patterns, like the Forget-Me-Not pattern from the Workbasket series.  It was popularized by the Japanese some years ago, with their method of making and joining motifs as-you-go.  I have seen it most recently in the US, by Kristin Omdahl in her book, Seamless Crochet.  This join is a 2-row process of chain stitches and slip stitches worked around the motifs with the right side facing pretty much all the time.  The concept can be applied to just about any motif.

Overview:  Stitch partially around one, then another, then another, until a row of motifs are partially finished and joined.  Then rotate the whole thing and stitch back, still with the right side facing, finishing the edges of all the motifs – except the last one, the first one you started with.  With each row, the motifs are mostly finished in one row, then finished in the return row except for the last one.  When all the rows are joined, a final row finishes the unfinished bits, ending up where you started.

Here’s how to start joining the motifs on hand:
1. For the first half of the process:  Pick a motif, and join the yarn at one petal of Flower 1 (F1), with a slip stitch (see the left side of the photo below).
2. (Ch3, sl st in next petal of same flower) 7x – for a total of 8 finished petals of F1
3. Pick up the next flower (F2), and sl st into one petal.  Notice there are NO ch sts between the last sl st of F1 and the first sl st of F2.
4. Ch3, sl st in next petal of F2.  Sl st in matching petal of F1.  Notice that you just made a U-turn.  I refer to the U-turn later.
5. (ch3, sl st in next petal of F2) 6x – for a total of 8 finished petals on F2.  At this point, F2 becomes the new F1, and you pick up a new F2.
6. Repeat from step 3 until you have joined as many flowers as you want for the width of the piece.
7. Now for the second half of the process – you don’t join any motifs on this part:  On the last flower joined, finish all the petals – that flower is finished (see the flower on the right of the photo here).
8. Ch3.  Sl st into the U-turn before the next flower.
9. (Ch3, sl st into the next petal) 4x to finish the petals of the next flower.  In the photo, the live stitch is just ready to make the slip st into the 4th (last) petal of the middle flower.
10. Repeat 8 and 9 for each flower across, up to the last flower of the row, ending with step 8.  (ch3, sl st into the next petal) 2x in the last flower, leaving 2 petals unworked.  End with a slip st in a petal, leaving the 2 unworked petals – you’ll come to those later.  That motif is the new F1.

So the first row of the finishing makes a big, swoopy line, with U-turns; and the second row of the finishing is much more shallow.

To start joining the next row of motifs:

1. Pick up the next flower (the new F2) (unattached in the photo to left), and make a slip stitch into one petal.  Ch3, slip stitch into the next petal, then slip stitch into the slip stitch of F1, which is the flower to the left on the bottom of the photo.
2. Ch3, slip stitch into the next petal of F2, then slip stitch into the NEXT flower in the first row of flowers (F3), the flower to the right in the photo.
3. Ch3, slip stitch into the next petal of the F2, then slip stitch into the next slip stitch on F3.
4. (Ch3, slip stitch into the next petal on F2) 2x – at this point, half the petals on F2 have been finished.  This now becomes F1, and it’s….
5. Time to pick up a new flower (the new F2).
6. Slip stitch into a petal of the new flower F2.  Ch3, slip stitch into the next petal of F2.  Slip stitch into the matching slip stitch of F1 (the previous flower).  There should be an open triangle, of sorts, in the space between the 3 flowers.

To read the diagram to the right:  Start at the top, on the left, where the X is.  Follow the line up and down and around to the end of the row, on the right.  Continue the line around the last motif, then see the zig-zagging to the left, with little X’s where the slip stitches connect to the U-turns.

Back at the start, two petals remain unworked as you start joining the next row of flowers.  Notice that the top and right sides of the piece are finished, while the left edge will have unfinished petals until the whole thing is joined.

In this final picture, I'm getting ready to start the 2nd/return row for the 2nd row of motifs.  A 3rd row (at the bottom) is waiting to be joined.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Paper Clips

Split ring marker and cable needle
There are a lot of different stitch markers and cable needles.  Simple ones, fancy ones, pretty ones, artistic ones, all kinds.  But can I find one when I need it?  Shake your head no.  Paper clips, however, are everywhere, which is part of why I like them so much.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Splitting the Yarn

Experienced stitchers, including Elizabeth Zimmermann (from whom I read about this), have said there is no wrong technique, just techniques that may be misplaced.  That means that what I did may not be a bad thing, but I just should not have done it right here.  Case in point:  Splitting the yarn.  In stitching, splitting the yarn can make the fabric look sloppy and not-quite-right, while stitching carefully not to split the yarn makes clean, well-defined stitches.  So generally folks say not to split the yarn.

Loose end at end
Beginning tail
And yet:  Splitting the yarn is perfect for tucking in loose ends when the fabric has a loose gauge and the yarn itself is inclined to stay where it is blocked.  

Projects using lacy pattern stitches often have a solid border to give a place for the ends - being careful to have loose ends only along edges that will have that solid stitch border. 

But I have a scarfy thing stitched very loosely - Bernat Handicrafter crochet thread, #5, stitched with a size K/6.5 mm hook, using a chain-1 net stitch.  There are no solid places to tuck in the loose ends.  

So here's how I finished the ends:
Chenille needle

Use a chenille needle.  That's a hand-sewing needle with a sharp point and a big eye.  The eye has to be big enough for the yarn to go through.  The point has to be sharp to split through the yarn of the fabric.

First pass: Run tail through a few strands, splitting the yarn
Thread the needle with the tail - always always leave generous tails to make finishing so much easier.  Start by running the needle along the edge for an inch or two, going through the threads of the fabric.

Second pass back through the thread of the first pass.

Then, make a second pass, back through the thread to where you started.  This part is easier because the needle can just run in the middle of the thread of the first pass.

Trim any excess yarn/thread to finish.

Trim excess to finish.  Where's the end?
Caution:  Fiber content makes a difference.  Lacy things are fun to make out of rayon yarn/thread, which can be really really really slippery.  It may be best to secure the ends with some matching sewing thread, but that's a more complex process.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Side track: Repairing latch hook, part 1

back side of little rug
Recently, I was asked to take a look at a little latch hook rug in need of repair - to fill in places where the yarn had fallen out.  The little rug, about 24x40 inches, was made by the grandmother of the current owner, probably in the 1930's.

I know how to latch hook.  I've done a fair amount of crochet repair.  How hard can it be?  So I agreed to see what I could do.

I know from repairing crochet that it's never that simple to repair/restore an old piece.  Really messed up areas are the result of little messed up areas that got worse - there are levels of damage and repair.

Here's what I learned so far from this piece:

1.  Of course, matching the color is always a problem.  Since the original yarn is wool, the replacement yarn should also be wool.  Thanks to a suggestion from a friend, I will take some new wool in colors I think might work and lay it out in the sun to fade them quickly.

2.  The areas around the bare spots have yarn that is worn down -- those are shorter than the good strands, and shorter than replacement strands, so some of them may need to be replaced, too.

3.  But here's the real challenge:  The rounded bits in the picture are where each strand of yarn is folded in the latch-hooking, not the ends of the hook strands of yarn -- that means all those bits of yarn are just waiting to fall out, basically held in place by the natural tendency of wool to stick to itself and stay put.

3.a.  The client likes the flattened, rounded texture of the surface.
3.b.  She wants the finished surface to be a consistent height.
3.c.  The strands of yarn of the new bits I've added -- what latch-hooking actually looks like when it is new -- seems messy to her and is not desirable.

So while I might/could wiggle those old strands a bit to re-seat them, that might disrupt the flat, rounded look of the surface that the client likes.  It might be better to fill in the empty spaces and then trim the new bits to have the same height as the flattened surface, or somehow worked them to be flattened in a way that they won't fall right out.

I am disinclined to add a finish to the backing to help secure the knots better when the whole project is done.  My experience with adding a finish to the back of a hooked piece to secure the knots has been disappointing:  It left an unpleasant finish that got tacky in hot weather and collected dirt, and it made any future repairs impossible because it permeated the basic mesh.

Searching for information on this on the web has not led to much information.  Fortunately, the mesh is in good shape, so I can work with it.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Monday, June 15, 2015

String markers

Sleeve with marker
Recently a knitting friend asked the group if anyone had a row counter handy, because hers wasn't.  I realized I don't use a row counter.  There are a lot of really fun tools out there for counting rows and otherwise keeping track of shaping when instructions indicate to do something or other on a regular basis.  I have tried using row counters and pencil-and-paper to keep track of where I am and what I need to do next.  I end up keeping a couple of pieces of string in my kit, instead.

Here's a sleeve where I decreased 1 stitch at each end of every 6th row >>>

The sleeve is stitched from the armhole down to the wrist, with the armhole at the bottom of the photo and the wrist at the top of the photo.  It is stitched in rows, joining the end of the row to the beginning, then turning the piece to do the next row.  The marker is a yellow piece of thin string, which came at a very reasonable price from a tube of some incredible yardage from the hardware store.  Don't know the fiber content- it's not relevant.  It is smooth and thin and contrasts with the yarn of the project, which are the bits that matter.

Attaching and using the string marker
When I started working the sleeve, I attached the marker in the first decrease.  At the end of the same row, I remembered to decrease again, because what I am doing is decreasing 1 stitch at each end of the row.  The string is just hanging there, waiting for the next time I need it.

Since I am decreasing every 6th row (that's an even number), I know that I will always do a decrease row with the same side of the fabric facing me (in this case, the RS).

So at the end of that first row, I decrease.  Then I worked 5 more rows without doing anything with the marker.  But I do look at my piece to keep an eye on where I am in the process.  It is easy to read the rows.

When there have been 5 rows worked even, and I'm starting the next row, I catch the string as I make the decrease, enclosing it in the stitch.  At the end of the row, I decrease again.  If I were afraid of forgetting that decrease, I could have enclosed the marker string in that decrease, too, or used another thin string to mark those decreases, too, but that seemed redundant.

No pieces of paper.  No row counter.  It's just the piece of string.

Another good thing is that if the decreases are done correctly, the string in the piece shows how nicely the decreases line up over each other.

Once the shaping is done, I untie the knot securing the beginning of the marker and just pull it out.

It would have worked just as well to use a shorter piece of string, without securing it at the beginning.  Then, as the sleeve grew, I would pull the string to mark the current decrease, having it just long enough to mark the previous couple of decreases.

String is good.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Top Down Baby sweater variation

Top down baby cardigan - front
Starting with a basic sweater pattern, it is fun to fudge and change bits to suit the yarn you have on hand and how you want the finished piece to look.  In 2000, Victorian Video / Yarn Barn of Kansas put out my video for crocheting a top-down cardigan.  The DVD version came out in 2005.  I like this pattern because the neckband has a bit of shaping so the front neck is lower than the back.  Also, the button bands use a solid stitch (bag stitch) to be sturdy.  

I have made a couple of these in my own size, to wear as everyday sweaters.  The first one (made in 1999 or so) is starting to wear out.  The pattern still works, which is nice to know, but it is for a basic cardigan.  

Recently, I had 3 balls of Baby Ull (a fingering weight, machine washable wool), one each in three colors, and chose a 3.75 mm hook.  Since the yarn is thinner than the suggested DK weight (and 4 mm hook) in the pattern, I followed the instructions for the 2T size - I knew 150 grams of yarn would be enough.  It came out small, which is not surprising, and the finished chest size is 19.5 inches, a small baby size.  

Top down baby cardigan - back
I liked this yarn combination for a baby/toddler sweater.  Starting at the neck, I stitched the yoke, changing yarn each row to make stripes.  The pattern stitch alternates 1 row double crochet with 1 row single crochet.

Then, for the body, which is just a rectangle, without any shaping, I wanted something more fun, so I switched to just one color and threw in a sampling of cables (on a double crochet ground), with V-stitch on the sides.  This is not given in the video - it was simply a good place to doodle with the stitches.  The gauge was tight, so I increased 4 more stitches at each underarm than the pattern called for.  It turned out there was just enough yarn for the body, with very little left over.  The finishing single crochet row for the lower edge includes decreasing 10% - same as "sc8, sc2 together to decrease 1".  This is handy so the bottom edge will keep its shape over time.

The sleeves used a variation on the yoke pattern stitch, alternating 1 row double crochet and 1 row (sc, skip 1, ch1).  I switched the colors from one sleeve to the other - it just looks funner that way - edging the cuff with the contrast color.  Because the end of each row joins to the beginning of the row (no seams to sew), I could change yarn each row.

The button bands are one contrast color, with the other used for the neckband/collar.  Then the edging around the whole thing is with the neckband color.  For all the edgings, including the cuffs, instead of the normal crab stitch, which can make a hard cord, I chose a light crab stitch, alternating 1 crab single crochet and 1 chain stitch.  This lighter crab stitch is really good for a simple edging in general.

The whole sweater measures 10 inches from the center back neck to the lower edge - it is a small sweater.  With the combination of different design elements, a simple sweater concept comes out looking pretty fancy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Crocheted cable sweaters

It's been a while since I stitched up a cable sweater, but a friend wanted me to make one for her.  So I pulled out a bunch of handy Aran-style sweaters from ages ago and thought about how to proceed.

Crocheters have a bunch of different ways to create cable effects.  Since I am aiming for a wearable garment, comparable to a knit, I prefer to mimic the structure of knitted cables, working on a ground of double crochet.

Back in ancient history (70s/80s?), McCall's Needlework and Crafts magazine had a series of 6 contests, each with a different yarn company, challenging readers to interpret a specific garment shape with a specific brand of yarn.  This bright pullover is from the contest co-sponsored by DMC, with a challenge to make a short-sleeved pullover with a square neck.  I had wanted it to be blues and greens, but could find only red/orange/yellow thread.  This won 3rd prize (the first 2 were knitted), and has the structure of a traditional flat 4-piece garment.

I didn't finish the turtleneck pullover one in time for the deadline for another one of the contests (I entered only 2 in all), but it was fun to make -- a picture sweater with a blue sky leading to a mountain top with skiers shown as cable lines down to the trees.  I used front/back post double crochet for a mock ribbing a lot back then.

Then I started working out the specifics of top-down construction and threw in cables.  This one has increase lines in the regular raglan positions, but it also has increases at the top of the shoulders, so the sweater has little pointy bits at the top of the shoulders, making it weird to wear.  Learning curve.
Then there was the toddler sweater using a sport weight yarn and following the traditional gansey shape described in an article in Threads magazine.  It had both cables and lattice with different stitches.

The last big cable sweater I made had a lattice fabric, with different pattern stitches in the lattice space, also using a sport weight wool.  By then, I had worked out the concept for the top-down, one-piece construction, with the saddle-shoulder shaping that isn't as casual looking as the standard top-down construction.  With the large grain fabric of crochet, it is fairly easy (once you see your stitches) to choose what line you want the increases to form.  The project starts with all the important bits right away, and then once that is done, it's just straight stitching until the piece is big enough or I run out of yarn.  Understanding the construction, then, means I can throw in any pattern stitches I want, and the sweater becomes a doodle.

After looking at my past, I worked up a sampler of possible stitches to figure out what I wanted to do.  The yoke start looks kind of scary because there is so much going on:  shaping, neck shaping, pattern stitches, all at the same time.

This current project for my friend uses Plymouth Homestead, a worsted weight wool.  This is less than one skein (100 grams) of yarn:

I generally figure 600 grams of worsted/DK yarn for a medium lady's sweater, which ends up about 40 inches around at the bust, about 22 inches long at the center back, and with long tapered sleeves.  At the end of two skeins, I had finished the yoke and was about 3 inches down the body.

The edges look a bit wobbly, and since crochet stitches are  not perfectly up-and-down, there is a hint of torque.  But it seems to work out in the finishing just fine.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Anne of Green Gables

The sad notice of the passing of Jonathan Crombie (Gilbert Blythe) the other day brings on a nostalgia of fond memories.

Anne of Green Gables – I loved the books growing up (eons ago), loved the dramatization on TV (has it been 30 years already?).  Interviews about the show revealed the meticulous attention to detail, with authentic reproductions of the clothing and furnishings of the period, making the early part of the last century come to life.
2 (bottom) and 3 (top) stitch
versions of Crazy Stitch

Lots of crochet sightings.  Marilla’s shawl, especially, led me to Crazy Stitch, from Victorian Crochet, published by the Dover Press in 1974.  Such a sensible, versatile stitch, despite the name, no wonder Marilla used it.

That stitch is a staple in my repertoire – for garments, coasters and washcloths, throws, wristers, purses – anything that can be constructed from a square or rectangle.  A great way to use up scrap yarn.  Makes a fabric as open or solid as you want.  Gives very straight edges stitched corner to corner (on the diagonal).  Gives charming scalloped edges stitched in rows.

Scrap yarn throw
Interweave Press bought the rights to the Weldon series and is publishing it, which includes other crafts along with crochet.  The Dover version (ISBN 0 486 22890 8) is a compendium of the crochet patterns from the series (plain and Tunisian/tricot), and is no longer in print.

The older book continues to be a favorite in my library.  One pattern that never fails to bring a smile is the

Gentleman’s Vest
Required, 10 oz. of brown or grey double Berlin wool, and a long wooden tricot needle No. 6.  
Make a chain of 58 stitches, and work in plain tricot for the length of the front of the vest, about 24 inches long will be right.  
Work a second front in the same way.  
Send the two pieces of tricot to a tailor to be made up into a vest.

That is the whole pattern (tricot is what they used to call plain Tunisian or afghan stitch).  Clearly, how a pattern is written tells you a lot about the intended audience.  What a glimpse into another world!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Crochet Feather and Fan Mobius Cowl pattern for sale

short mobius in feather & fan
lace weight yarn
This is my first pattern for sale in a really long time (this century).  The Crocheted Feather and Fan Mobius Cowl pattern is more of a recipe, including a tutorial on the mobius join, the mock decrease (for preventing gaps), and starting with foundation stitches.  It runs 7 pages and is at my Etsy shop for $7.00.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Planning a website – MaryCrochets.com

With all my posting on Ravelry recently (Crochet group, mainly about project/pattern questions), I just noticed it's been over a week since I posted here.

I haven't been just sitting around eating bonbons, though.  My first pattern is almost ready to come out on Etsy, linking to Ravelry - that's the Mobius Feather and Fan Cowl to crochet.  And there is a website in the works, to bring together access to patterns, blog, classes, heirloom repair service, and shop.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Seeking Test Crocheters for a Mobius Cowl to crochet, with feather and fan variation

Worsted weight mobius in
Feather & Fan crocheted variation
Recently, a 100-gram skein of worsted weight alpaca ("Rockstar") suggested itself to me, and I decided to try something fun with it.  Mobius cowls, once you've done the twist, are satisfying, relatively brainless projects that make one look remarkably clever in the final product.  So I thought, why not a feather and fan mobius cowl?  So that's what I did, and it worked nicely for me, and I want to prepare the pattern for sale.

Writing the pattern stretched into six pages, including instructions for:

  • the mobius concept, 
  • foundation double crochet,
  • foundation stitch for the pattern stitch, and 
  • Crocheted Feather & Fan
    lace-weight mobius
  • the crocheted feather and fan pattern stitch.

Would you like to test the pattern?  

The pattern has lots of options and is written in a style that includes narrative sections to explain the idea along with standard stitch information.  The point is that the stitcher is free to choose what type of cowl to make.

Double crochet mobius in
variegated boucle yarn
If you have the time and inclination to give this a go, comment to this post with your contact email information - I won't post the comment, but I will contact you for the next step.

I am looking for a few people to work up some form of the pattern, as well as review and send comments on the pattern instructions so I can have feedback on my process.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Homage to the Granny Square

The traditional granny square is an elegant design, arguably the single iconic design of crochet.  There are free patterns, even videos, for it all over the web and from the major yarn companies, along with lots, even books, of variations.  It is a one-row repeat, including solid bits (good for weaving in loose ends) and open bits (so the block works up quickly) - you can't get much simpler than that.  The corners hint at shell stitch.  The sides hint at filet crochet.  There is enough structure to be the basis for all kinds of ornamentation.

It even incorporates a systemic paradox (making it also iconic of the human condition, if one's thoughts wander that way):  The basic increase is 16 per round, which means that a block more than 10 rounds or so will tend to ruffle and not lie flat because double crochet grows at about 12 increases per round to lie flat.  This usually does not matter because most granny squares are about 6 rounds or so, and you sew a bunch of them together to make your blanket.  If you make a blanket out of one really big square, you may not care that it does not precisely lie flat -- just more blanket to love.  Or your gauge may be loose so it will lie flat.  Like any iconic thing, granny squares can work a bunch of different ways for different people, and it's all good.

If you work in a tight gauge, the chain-one spaces aren't too big - but those squares come out pretty hard.  I wanted a softer drape, but the chain spaces were fairly big, and I wanted a pattern for a motif that isn't so open but still had the solid bits to enclose ends and open bits to work up fast.  I also wanted the option of joining blocks in the last round or stitching blocks together later.

What I came up with clearly does not have the simplicity of the iconic granny square:  it is a 2-round repeat.  I work it as a coil, which means it has the asymmetry that comes with coils.  While it seemed really intuitive for me, I realize it does involve a bit of paying attention.  Here's what I came up with that I have enjoyed:

Note:  For this pattern, each row instruction has a beginning bit, then a repeated bit that starts with a *.  When you get to the **, ignore it until you read the instruction that refers to that mark.  This is very traditional pattern notation, but some people may not be familiar with it.

The first 8 rounds or so
1.  Chain (ch) 4, slip stitch (ss) in last ch to form a ring.  Note:  you can start with a magic ring, or ch3 or ch5 - the point is to have a ring to work into.  Finishing will be easier if you lay the tail along the ring and enclose it as you make the single crochets of the first round.
2.  Set up row 1: Ch2, sc in the ring.  Attach a marker in the ch space just made - remember to move the marker to the new ch2 space in each round to keep track of where each round begins/ends.  (Ch2, single crochet (sc) in ring)  6 more times.  Ch2.  It may feel strange to end a round with 'chain 2', but this is a coil so we are easing into the beginning of the next round of the coil.  Trust me.  And don't forget to make the ch2.
3.  Set up row 2 - the corner points: Continuing in a coil, (sc, ch2, sc) in marked ch2 sp to make a corner point.  Move the marker to the ch2 space just made. *Sc2 in the next ch sp for a side.**  (Sc, ch2, sc) in the next ch2 sp to make the next corner point.  Repeat from * around one time (3 full times in all, then ending at **).
Note:  If needed, attach a marker to each ch2 corner point so you will know them when you see them.
4.  (Sc, ch2, sc) in the next ch2 corner space (move marker to ch sp just made).  *(Ch2, skip 1 sc, sc in next sc) across to next ch2 corner space ending with a sc into the first sc of the corner. ** Ch2, (sc, ch2, sc) into the ch2 corner space.  Repeat from * 3 more times then a bit more to get all the way around the block and end at **.  Ch2 to finish the round.
A completed block, in place
5.  (Sc, ch2, sc) in marked ch2 sp for the corner point (move marker to ch sp just made).  *(Sc2 in the next ch sp) across the side.**  (Sc, ch2, sc) in the next ch2 corner sp.  Repeat from * around one time (3 full times in all, then a bit more to end at **).
6.  Repeat 4 and 5 for the pattern.
7.  Finish off at the end of a round with a slip stitch that 'refinishes' the first sc of the increase in the first (marked) corner.  By 'refinish' I mean:  make a slip stitch to merge the end of the last round into the square, rather than having a jog at the end.  Insert the hook back into the first single crochet of the corner, as if you had not done the last bit (yarnover and pull through the 2 loops) to finish that stitch.  Then yarnover and pull through the stitch - to re-finish that single crochet - and through the loop on the hook to finish the slip stitch

For this project I ended each block with Row 4, joining to the neighbor square with (slip stitch to matching ch2 space ch1) instead of (ch2).

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Etsy Shop Open

Well, I've finally done it:  My shop on Etsy is MaryRhodesCrochet.  The starting inventory includes doll clothes, toddler sweaters, baskets, and scarves.  Coming soon:  patterns.  Oh my.  Soon, I expect to have a group on Ravelry to connect with pattern testers.  

What a glorious adventure!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Splitting Yarn

Dividing a ball of really thick yarn
into two balls of thinner yarn
Sometimes a yarn comes along in a perfect color, but it's just too thick.  Many yarns are available in worsted weight in colors not available in thinner weights.  Crochet works up thicker than knitting, so thinner yarns can work better for crocheted fabrics.

Lion Brand Thick & Quick:
split on left with L/8mm hook
whole on right with P/11.5mm hook
Sometimes yarn has been doubled for a project, and now that the project is over, it would be nice for the remainder to be split back into its parts.

Sometimes there isn't enough of a yarn to make something, but there would be enough if the yarn were thinner.

Splitting, or unplying, yarn takes a little time, but it isn't hard.

People who know about spinning may gasp a bit at this exercise in going backward.  Unplying yarn results in yarn that is structurally different from what you started with, so the fabric you make out of it will be a bit different from the thicker fabric that the original yarn makes.  The resulting yarn has a softer twist, is a bit fluffier, and is weaker than a yarn with more twist.   Splitting or unplying works only with yarns that are plied -- where 2 or more strands are twisted together to make the yarn.  Many worsted weight yarns are 3 or 4 plies.

Splitting a yarn with an even number of plies (2, 4, 6, for example) is simpler because the resulting balls of yarn can be the same size.

A solid color 3-ply yarn can be split into a 2-ply and a 1-ply, then doubling the 1-ply makes it the same size as the 2-ply.  The two resulting balls will be slightly different, technically, but at my level of stitching, they work up the same - I have not been able to see any difference in the resulting fabric.  If the yarn is multi-colored, it does not work to double the single ply because the colors won't match up.

Implements to secure the strand
To start, you will need an alligator clip (found at the hardware store) or a binder clip. Even a ponytail band can work, but it can be tricky if the yarn tangles with it.  Once you have that, here's how the process goes:

1.  Start by splitting a bit of the yarn, a few inches, to identify the two strands you want to end up with.  If the resulting strands break easily, the yarn is not good to split - don't bother to continue.  If the resulting plies hold their own nicely, continue to the next step:
2.  Draw out a length -- a yard or two -- of the yarn.
3.  Use the clip to secure the ball so more won't come undone.
Secure the strand to the ball
before splitting
4.  Let the ball hang and twist as the two strands come apart.
5.  As the ball spins, wrap each split strand around a hand to start each ball.
6.  When one length of yarn has been split, remove the clip.
7.  Draw out another length of yarn.
8.  Re-attach the clip to secure that new length of yarn to be split.
9.  Let the ball hang and twist as the strand continues to split.
10.  As the ball spins, continue to wrap the resulting yarn, each into its own ball.
11.  When that length of yarn has been split, remove the clip.
12.  Repeat from Step 7.

Repeat steps 7 through 11 until the thick yarn has been split into two balls of thinner yarn.

If you are simply separating strands you held together for a project, they won't be that tightly spun together anyway, so you may be able to divide out the separate yarns quite a bit before they start to tangle and need the clip to give the process some order.

Best to do this in an area where the floor is clean and does not have too much lint / dust bunnies floating around to get mixed in with the yarn.

It is not unusual for some fiber to join the two strands and slow down the process.  Gently assert your authority over the process and separate the two strands to continue.

I prefer starting with yarn that has been wound on a ball winder.  This makes a shape that is easier to manage.  But splitting yarn from a pull-skein works just fine, too.

The strand can come from either the center of the ball or from the outside.  I prefer the outside because the ball keeps its integrity better.

The resulting yarn can be twisty.  If the new yarn is just one ply, don't be tempted to go an additional step to untwist it -- you might end up with a lot of roving and no yarn at all.

Unsuitable yarns for this process include:
  • Single ply yarns can't be split.  
  • Novelty yarns are often combinations of completely different strands, so the nature of the split yarn would be different from the original yarn.  
  • Some yarns are made of plies that are unspun or so loosely spun that they are very weak when split.
  • Ribbon or tape yarns - they are not plied.  
Shown above is Lion Brand Thick and Quick, an extreme example.  The label recommends a size 13 (9mm) knitting needle or size N (9mm) crochet hook.  I'm aiming for a sweater out of this yarn, so my sample out of the whole yarn uses a size P (11.5mm) hook.  I'm using an L (8mm) hook for the split yarn.  With my gauge, if I used the 9mm hook with the unsplit/whole strand, the fabric would be very stiff, like for a basket or a rug.  Interestingly, the split yarn has the look and feel of a single-ply handspun, which gives it a classy look.

Another yarn ripe for splitting is Plymouth Fantasy Naturale (right), a chunky weight cotton in lots of colors and interesting combinations.  The yarn is very well defined and twisted, so it splits easily, resulting is a perle-like thinner yarn.

First split
Second split
I came across a hank (100 grams) of Fantasy Naturale in a pastel combination of blue (2 plies), green (1 ply), and yellow (1 ply).  I really liked the idea of one ply each of blue and green, to make a mottled aqua,  Splitting the yarn that way left the second ball of blue/yellow (see First Split picture), which was not so attractive to me.  So I split that again, ending up with a ball of the aqua, a ball of blue and a ball of yellow, now looking rather creamy.  Each ball is 140 yards long (according to label information), My plan for them is doll clothes:  a lacy cardigan with the aqua, maybe underthings with the cream, and another cardigan or vest with the blue.  The point here is that the initial color (large ball in the First Split picture) ends up looking very different after splitting.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Stitches West 2015

Top down sweaters, floral garland, and sampler wall
The Stitchwhisper booth at Stitches West 2015 (#846) was a wonderful success!  For four days, I talked with lots of visitors about all manner of crochet ideas, all leading to patterns and finished pieces to be posted soon to Etsy, and more pieces to be available at the Scotts Valley Artisans Co-op.

My focus on crochet is on the fabric, rather than on the stitch, so my pieces don't look like afghans or doilies.

Block and diagonal garments, shawls, and samplers
Crochet is more complex at a basic level than knitting.  That means that pattern-writing for knitting doesn't always work well for crochet.

Knit stitches are simple, so it is easier to make gauge.  Knit fabrics in process are on needles, making them difficult to measure.

Crochet has more complex stitches, so making gauge can be a real challenge, if not impossible for a lot of folks.  Crochet is worked one stitch at a time, so measuring the fabric in process is usually very easy:  you just lay it flat and measure it.

It makes more sense for crochet patterns to be written based on measurements than on gauge -- I've worked this way for decades.  The concept patterns on this blog very often are about measurements rather than stitches and rows.  And now my patterns will show how it makes sense.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Repairs can be magical

Wonderful afghan in need of repair
This wool blanket was the last finished piece by a woman who could no longer crochet after a massive stroke.  Her sister was the lucky recipient of this piece and was sad when holes developed.  There were a few runs where a single yarn had broken, and the center seam was loose.  Once those were fixed, there were a couple of places that looked like a moth had gotten in - but only a couple of those.  

The main bits to fix
Matching yarn is always a challenge, but I used so little that you'd have to look real hard to see where that is.  

And everyone lived happily ever after.
Symmetry restored - which side was repaired?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Variations on a Theme

Recently, I got thinking about how the same stitch looks really different depending on how it is worked up.  So I did an experiment.  I started with a fairly generic pattern stitch:
stitch diagram/chart
The pattern stitch is basically 1 row of a traditional shell stitch, followed by a row with a V-stitch and a (sc, ch, sc) made in the middle of the shell of the previous row.  Both rows have a multiple of 6 stitches. (An aside: Actually, the (sc, ch, sc) is (sc, ch2, sc), but the (ch2) counts as one stitch, so whether it is actually 1 ch or 2 ch doesn't matter that much.)  The shell stitch makes a scallop; the V-stitch row straightens out the edge.  I made samples out of worsted weight yarn (Encore by Plymouth) in rows, triangles, rounds worked from the center out, and strips.  Staggering the two rows, there is a 4-row repeat.

Starting with the pattern in just rows:  the two pattern rows alternate, so the shell stitch row is always right side (RS) facing on one side and the V-stitch is always RS facing the other.  The two sides look different, making an orderly fabric that looks crocheted:

Rows - shell stitch RS facing - this looks smoother to me.
Rows - V-stitch RS facing looks a bit more rough.

Next, a triangle - starting at the center top at the back of the neck, small, and increasing out, with an increase line down the center.  The increase line in the middle adds a visual element that breaks up the order of the plain rows.  The last row is the two short sides with the scallop-y edge.   The (fairly) straight line across the top is the row ends.

Triangle - looser gauge

A looser gauge version (left) makes a squishy fabric, that drapes well in different directions.  In a tighter gauge (below), the long edge isn't so straight - that means the corner isn't really square.  Both triangles are the same size, but the one with the looser gauge is 2 rows shorter.

Triangle - tighter gauge - not so straight across the top

In the round, starting at center

How does stitching in the round look different?  It is more dynamic-looking than the straight rows, with increase lines radiating out from the center and stitches going in different directions.  Stitched as motifs and joined together, the increase lines would create a visual lattice crisscrossing the fabric.  Ending with a shell stitch round gives a scalloped edge.  Ending with a V-stitch round would make a straighter edge and also would make joining motifs easy in the last round, with a slip-stitch joining to the neighbor block replacing each ch-1.

One repeat edging
Then there could also be narrow strips:  A single repeat is asymmetric. The wider strip is a repeat-and-a-half to be symmetrical.  There's a lot of experimentation in crochet, using thread patterns with yarn and yarn / afghan patterns in thread to see how they look different.  These could be charming for a strip afghan, as edgings, weaving ribbon through the holes for baby headbands, or as bookmarks.
strip, handy for mile-a-minute construction

This is just a few variations on one pattern stitch, in one yarn.  I like to try out different stitches to see how the fabric plays out:

  • Is is better for garments or for afghans or for threadwork?  
  • Does the stitch pattern get lost in a loose gauge that drapes nicely?  
  • Does the fabric get too stiff in a firm gauge that shows up the stitches better?