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.