Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Split Single Crochet Stitch

My Honeycomb Socks in the Fall 2010 issue of Interweave Crochet use a split single crochet stitch for the foot. It is an interesting stitch and not one that I've seen used widely.  The definition is: insert hook between the 2 vertical legs of the next stitch, yarn over, pull up a loop, yarn over and pull through 2 loops on hook.

The part about the "2 vertical legs of the next stitch" is the part that is out-of-the-ordinary.  I've created a photo that I hope will help!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Making It Fit

I've always thought that the bust measurement was the be-all, end-all in measurements for a top or cardigan. Bust, waist and hip measurements are the 3 measurements that are listed on the pattern envelope for a sewing pattern. For a crochet or knit garment, the bust measurement is the one listed in the sizing area. So . . . what other measurements could there be? And how do they play into the construction of a garment?

Something called the Cross-Back or Shoulder-to-Shoulder measurement has turned out to be important for me. I am smaller than the "standard" measurement for the Cross-Back for my bust size, so a garment made exactly to the pattern will almost always be too wide at the neck area and hang off my shoulders. I have several tops that I constantly tug at to pull them back up onto my shoulders.

Bust, waist, hips and cross-back measurements are circumference measurements or measurements around the body.

Length measurements are also important for a good fit or a pleasing look. Back Waist Length is the distance between the little bump at the base of your neck to your natural waistline. I am of average height, so I don't usually have to make adjustments in the length area, but if you are taller or shorter, your garment will either be too long or too short.

Length is a matter of design or personal preference. Standard length for a top or cardigan is 5" below the natural waistline, while the standard length for a tunic is 9". I prefer my tops to be a little longer than the 5" as my midriff area is not as . . . enticing as it once was.

Next, I'll talk about getting all those measurements down.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Making It Fit

After that initial debacle with the sweater I made in my 30's, I didn't make another garment until I was in my . . . well, let's just say it was quite a while.  By this time, I had learned a valuable lesson--make an item at least 3 times. The why's and wherefor's of that wisdom is for another post.

I selected the Shapely Tank Top by White Lies Designs as my learning tool.  I chose a bamboo yarn by Southwest Trading Company in a gorgeous red and black.  I did a gauge swatch, selected the correct size and set to work.  The end result was good, but not quite the fit that I wanted.  It was wider than me, and it has grown longer as I've worn it. That's how I discovered one more thing to consider, fiber content.  Bamboo is oh-so-soft and comfortable, but it has a tendancy to stretch.

A few months later, I selected a cotton yarn by Gedifra.  I thought I would experiment a little and I knit this top in the round up to the armhole bindoffs.  I had a difficult time getting the top joined correctly to work in the round and ripped it out 6 times, but then I was on my way.  The end result for this top was better and I still wear it often.  But . . . it was still too wide for me, particularly in the shoulders. 

The solution to this problem seems quite simple in hindsight, but I must say that it didn't come quickly.  Over the years, I have gained weight, but that weight has not been distributed evenly.  While my bust has grown, my shoulder width has not, or at least not as much. So, the shoulder or armhole shaping has to be greater than the decreases for the size I selected.

Hmmm,  first it was gauge, then ease, and now additional body measurements that are important.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Making It Fit

The second problem that I had with my sweater-that-didn't-fit was the choice of size. My experience with creating garments had been in sewing. When selecting a size for sewing, the body measurements are listed on the pattern envelope.  These measurements do not represent the finished garment measurements, which is a totally different animal.

Crochet and knit patterns list the ACTUAL finished garment measurements. When I chose my actual bust measurement, the garment fit snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug on my body. The difference between the finished garment measurement in a sewing pattern and the actual body measurement is called ease.

Ease gives the garment some room; it allows you to reach up and grab something from a shelf without ripping the seams. Too much ease and people might compliment you on how much weight you've lost.

Just as yarn weights vary, so does the amount of ease per garment. There are industry standards, such as close fit (very little ease), standard fit (2 to 4" of ease), oversize (way more ease). In addition to the standards, ease is a matter of personal preference -- yours and the designer's.

Ease also varies with the type of garment.  A top will have less ease than a cardigan or jacket that is meant to wear over another piece of clothing.  Socks will have negative ease so that they will fit snugly.

Hmmm, now I have 2 things to consider when working on a garment . . . gauge and ease.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Making It Fit

I learned how to knit when I was in Girl Scouts. I made a baby sweater or two, but didn't knit again until I was in my 30's. I chose a pattern and yarn, and worked away. When I finished my sweater and tried it on, I was so disappointed, and disillusioned. Why put all that work into something only to have it swallow me?

I was sure I had followed the instructions correctly.  I had picked a size that corresponded with my bust size. My work (i.e., tension) had been good. So why didn't it fit?

As you might have guessed, there was more than one problem; and I'll talk about each of those in turn. 

First, I had paid no attention to yarn choice. I had no idea that yarns vary in weight or fiber content.  I simply thought that yarn was yarn. I still have that pattern today, so I took another look at it.  The pattern called for DK weight or double knitting, sometimes called sport weight.  I had chosen a worsted weight, which was thicker than the DK weight yarn called for.  Because my yarn was thicker, my garment was bigger--everywhere.  It was wider, and it was longer.

My yarn choice affected my gauge. Gauge is simply the number of stitches and rows per inch. The thicker the yarn, the less stitches per inch. If I knit or crochet a square with the same number of stitches and rows, but use different weight yarns, each of those squares will be a different size.

Hmmm, gauge is important.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Knit and Crochet Now!

I just watched an episode of Knit and Crochet Now! on my local PBS station.  I'm always amazed at the wealth of information!  This episode was on Entrelac and demonstrated the knit techinque with a pillow, and a crochet shawl.

Kristen Nicholas taught the entrelac pillow. She explained the technique very well and I felt compelled to go the the show's website and download the pattern.

Drew Emborsky a/k/a The Crochet Dude demonstrated the entrelac-inspired shawl. Man o'man! He is such a good teacher! And he shares his knowledge freely.  His demonstration was interspersed with little nuggats of "extra" details and "whys".

Brett Bara, the editor of Crochet Today! does an excellent job of leading both discussions.  I really felt as if I was watching 2 friends share their love of an art.

The show's website contains videos, free patterns and more.  Check it out and let me know what you love about it.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Honeycomb Socks - Reader's Gallery

Julie in NC made the Honeycomb Socks from the Fall 2010 issue of Interweave Crochet and shared a picture of her final creation.  I love the colors she picked!  Great job, Julie, and thanks for sharing with me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Keeping Track, Part III

Keeping track during a project can be simple, such as using a stitch marker on an increase row and no stitch marker on an even row. Or making a tally mark on a  notepad for each row or round worked.

When I began to work on garments, I found that I needed a different method.  There are more things to keep track of when working on a garment.  So I sat down with a spiral notebook and my pattern.  I have found that breaking projects into smaller sections or tasks works well for me. I have 2 girls in elementary school and my schedule seems to be in spurts rather than long blocks of time. Smaller tasks make me feel productive rather than frustrated.

Most patterns begin with the Back, so I label a page in my notebook as Back, drop down and make a bullet point, and write out the first step, usually "Cast on X number of sts with Y needles and work in ribbing for W number of rows".  If there is a tricky stitch pattern, I jot that down, and if there are increases or decreases, I jot down the number of stitches I should have when finished.

The next section of the back ususally involves working in a stitch pattern for a certain number of inches or repeats, and may include decreases for waist shaping.  I put my bullet point, and a brief description of what I should do, and then I fill in numbers for each row that I should work.  I underline the rows that require decreases/increases.  Sometimes, I put the number of stitches that I should have as a superscript over each row.  At the end of the section, I put the number of stitches that I should have before the next section starts. 

As I work, I put a slash through each row.  After I've run to the bus stop for the girls, I know which row I did last and which row I should start with next and whether it is a decrease/increase row.

I do the same planning for each section of the pattern--waist to armhole, armhole shaping, neck shaping and final bind off.  This planning phase gives me the chance to visualize the work I'm about to do, and to know whether I understand all of the instructions.  It also helps me plan my time better around my fits and spurts of time.  If I need uninterrupted time to work on a section (such as the heel of a sock) and it's time to be Homework Mother, then I know I need to put that off and work on something that keeps my hands busy, but not my mind.

Another benefit of planning is to identify pattern errors.  I know that publishers and designers work hard to keep patterns error-free, but sometimes it happens.  As I was planning the sleeves for a cardigan, the stitch counts just wouldn't work out. Finally, I realized that there must be an error.  I logged into Ravelry and did a search for the pattern and found that others had experienced the same problems.  I was able to adjust before working and then having to rip back.

I'm including a picture of a planning/working page for a cardigan I've worked on.

I'd love to hear about any tracking ideas that have been useful for you.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Snowflake Mosaic Rug

My Snowflake Mosaic Rug is included in the October 2010 issue of Crochet World.  This rug does take some concentration, but the end result is well worth the effort!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More on Keeping Track

In my last post, I talked about the importance of keeping track of your work in progress.  Do I always keep track?  No, of course not?!

I keep track when:

  • multiple pieces (such as a garment) are involved and all pieces will need to fit together
  • there is a row repeat that is longer than 2-3 rows
  • I make socks (Sock #1 and Sock #2 should be the same length from cuff to heel and from heel to toe)
  • I am following a graph with colorwork, or intricate stitch patterns
How do I keep track?  Hmm, let me count the ways . . .

  1. The simplist way to keep track is to make tally or hash marks on a slip of paper.  I have used small pads of paper that I can tuck into my project bag or that can sit neatly and indiscreetly on the table near my workplace.
  2. Another simple way to keep track is to purchase a counter.  I bought a package of 2 for a small amount at my local hobby store.  They are designed to fit onto knitting needles, but I put a small bit of yarn through the middle and hung it on my sock with an interlocking stitch marker.  At the end of each row or round, I turn the dial to add a row.  This also works well when knitting 2 socks at once; a recent project had a 10-row pattern repeat and I used the counter to keep track of which pattern row I'd just completed.  Because I was working on 2 socks at once, I wasn't concerned about the total number of rows I'd worked from cuff to heel or heel to toe.
  3. I love working with color and textured stitches, and I usually work those kinds of project from a graph (such as the Mosaic Diamonds Rug), so I keep a copy of the graph close by and check off each row as I complete it.
  4. I also make good use of my iPad and use the KnitMinder and Tally apps (also available for iPhone or iTouch). Both apps contain multiple counters which can be advanced (or ripped out) with a touch of my finger. 
I find that garments are more complex and thus require more complex methods of keeping track.  I'll focus on my methods of planning and keeping track next.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear about any ways that you have of keeping track of your WIP.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Keeping Track

You've selected a pattern and yarn for your next project . . . now what?  Keeping track of your work as you go is a useful habit to develop.  But, there's no denying that many of us are "seat-of-the-pants" creators, and planning and writing down "stuff" hampers our creativity and takes the joy out of the process of crochet or knitting.  I love to get my hook or needles and get that luscious yarn wrapped around my fingers and flowing through my hands. The feeling is right up there with a chocolate high.

For years, I sailed along with a small notebook or pad of paper by my side, making tally-marks after completing a row or checking off a row on a graph. I survived by looking at my work to determine where I left off in my last session or by counting rows completed.  My projects were primarily home decor or purses; items which required little shaping and were not expected to fit a body or fit to another piece. 

Eventually, I began to take on more complex projects, such as the Mosaic Diamonds Rug, the Adirondack Socks and the Honeycomb Socks.  For these types of projects, my notes were useful for making sure that I worked the same number of rounds on the cuff or foot on sock 2 that I did on sock 1. I made the Day to Evening Shrug in the May 2009 issue of Crochet! magazine, and my notes became more involved because I tracked the number of stitches that I should have after each increase or decrease row, as well as tracking the number of rows on the fronts and back. This project was worked with a 4-row repeating pattern, so I also needed to know which row I'd worked last.

 Basically, I used my notes to keep track of where I'd been so I could go to the same place on another piece.

And I was happy.  I was well-adjusted.  I was successful.

And then I began to knit more often.  Knitting did not come as easy to me as crochet.  I felt all fumbles with TWO needles and all those live stitches (but that is a post for another day).

The projects that I knitted were garments, so each piece had to fit together with more pieces.  In addition, I was not as quick to decipher the knitting language of patterns. Counting the number of rows worked was and is still harder for me with knitting than crochet.  Confusion and frustration were in abundance.

Quite by accident, I discovered the value of what I call Planning Your Project. I had decided to make a top for a second time and my notes were all ajumble. I sat down with a spiral notebook and began to put the pattern instructions into bullet form for each section of the garment.  Essentially, I built a road-map for where I needed to go.  The cool thing is that this road-map also served as my tool to keep track of where I'd been.

I see you nodding your head in agreement, but I can tell by the look in your eyes that you don't see the value in this Planning thing. 

Planning removed much of the confusion and frustration for me because I made myself really read the pattern or pattern section before I started stitching.  Like an athelete, I could visualize each section before I started it.  If there was a part I didn't get, I knew up front.  This saved me time because I could work out the kinks before I started stitching or stitch along merrily until I got to point X when I knew I needed some help. It also saved me time in ripping out work that was incorrect.  My stitching time was pleasurable again because I could really just stitch and not worry.

Planning also saved me lots of headaches on a cardigan I did this year.  I had knit the back and fronts and was ready to work on the sleeves.  As I plotted out my rows and decreases, I noted that the stitch counts were not matching those printed in the pattern.  Finally, it dawned on me that there might be an error in the written instructions, so I signed into Ravelry and found that others had had the same problem.

On another day, I'll talk about when I track and how I track. 

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Honeycomb Socks

My Honeycomb Socks are included in the Fall 2010 issue of Interweave Crochet!  Making color choices for these socks will be as fun as crocheting them. For the foot and toe, I used the split single crochet.  This technique gives a smooth texture to the sole when worn.  I used Spud & Chloe by Blue Sky Alpacas which is a blend of superwash wool and silk (yummy!).

Additional pictures are shown here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Selecting A Project

When I teach beginners, I start out with basic stitches and ask the student to focus on mastering the hand-eye coordination before moving on to making "something".  But there comes that day when it is time to make "something".  So . . . where do you start when selecting a project?  What things should you consider?

I like to start with the "something" and decide what it will be.  Do you want home decor, something useful, something pretty, something to wear? Are you ready for a large project or do you want something that will be finished quickly? 

Great first projects are scarves, dishcloths or washcloths, hot pads, placemats and/or coasters.  All these projects are relatively quick to make and don't require shaping (i.e., they can be square or rectangular or even round).  They also don't require a large quantity or fine yarn.

Once you've decided on the "something", it's time to find a pattern. There are many places to find patterns.  In my post on free online pattern resouces, I listed links for several sites that offer free patterns. Public libraries are a good source of pattern books; bookstores, as well as stores that sell yarn and your local yarn shop have many patterns to choose from.

Now that you have the pattern, what should you look for?  I always like to start with the Skill Level. If you are a beginner, choose a pattern with Beginner or Easy Skill Level.  Next, look through the Materials section and make sure that nothing out of the ordinary is called for (such as a hairpin lace loom).  Finally, scan the pattern instructions.  If you know all or most of the instructions, I'd say you are ready!

Ready to select a yarn, that is. For most of us, our hand automatically reaches for yarns with rich textures.  You guessed what I'm about to say.  Avoid boucle or nubby yarns to start with.  At this stage, you've trained your hands and brain to work together, but your eyes still need some training as well.  Smooth and light-colored yarns aid your eyes in "seeing" the stitches.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Adirondack Socks

The pattern for my Adirondack Socks is now available for purchase in the Interweave Store.  These socks are fun and quick to make. Use this link to hop on over to Interweave and check it out:


Friday, June 11, 2010

Game Day T-Shirt Rug

My Game Day T-Shirt rug is included in the August 2010 issue of Crochet World. This was a fun project! The logos on the t-shirts created little bits of unexpected glimmer for each stripe.

Monday, May 31, 2010

All About Tunisian Crochet

Tunisian Crochet has facinated me for a long time.  I love the "look" of Tunisian fabric.  I love the possibilities that it opens up for projects. And . . . I love the process of Tunisian!

Tunisian crochet (also called Afghan stitch) might not be as well known to you as traditional crochet.  The following is list of resources and tutorials about Tunisian crochet:

In addition to the tutorials listed above, I found several experts on Tunisian.

Enjoy checking out these links.  Which is your favorite?  Share your experiences with this great technique.

Friday, May 28, 2010

7 Crocheted Gifts for your Child's Teacher

The school year is winding down and I'm looking for gifts that are quick, easy and useful to make for the children's teachers.

  1. Potholders or hot pads -- Who doesn't need a new potholder or hot pad?  You can practice a new stitch pattern with yarn from your stash (just be sure to use a natural fiber such as cotton or wool), add a clever border and you're done!
  2. Dishcloths  -- I admit I'd never used a dishcloth until recently, but now I'm hooked (I was always a sponge-kind-of-gal).  Another great way to practice stitch patterns.
  3. Bookmarks -- Have you ever met a teacher who doesn't love to read?  Bookmarks can be quick to make (so make several).  They can be lacy or dense, colorful or neutral.  Crochet Pattern Central has a page of links to free bookmark patterns:  http://www.crochetpatterncentral.com/directory/bookmarks.php
  4. Cell Phone Cozy -- This might sound cliche, but nonetheless, it is a useful gift that can be fun to make.  It can be felted and embellished with needle-felted flowers or a simple sc pocket crocheted in the round.
  5. Amigurumi toys -- Does your school have a mascot?  Does the teacher have a special love for panda bears or penquins?  Has the teacher built in a particular theme of study for the year?  This area is wide open for ideas and the projects can be quick and fun to make.  It can also be a conversation piece or teaching device for years to come.
  6. Market bags -- Whether the teacher uses this gift as a market bag, a beach bag, or a bag to carry books to and from the library, he or she will enjoy having something handmade.
  7. Coasters -- Just in time for sipping a cold drink!
Enlist your child's help in selecting the project, the yarn and even in making the gifts. You might kick off a life-long (or at least a summer-long) interest in creating and giving!

I'd love to hear your ideas for teacher gifts.  Please leave a comment.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tools of the Trade

How do you keep track of your WIPs? How do you know which row in a 4-row repeating pattern that you worked right before you answered that phone call? Or how do you keep up with the number of stitches you should have after each decrease row when shaping armholes?

I recently bought an iPad.  BTiP (before the iPad), I used slips of paper, spiral notebooks, sticky notes, etc to keep up with all the details of my project.  And they all worked well for me until . . .  I found the app for the iPhone and the iPad called KnitMinder.

KnitMinder allows me to put in all the pertinent details about my project (yarn, hook/needle size).  It includes a logbook that is helpful to make notes (got to make sure I work the back and the front the same).

But my favorite tool in KnitMinder are the Counters. Yes, that's counters, as in more than one.  I've used a row counter, a pattern-row counter, and a decrease-row counter--all while working one project. All with the touch of my finger. To advance a counter, simply touch the number.

KnitMinder saves the information so that when I put my project away for the day, all of the data is there for me the next day when I start again.