Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Crochet - don't be nervous; its easier than you think~!

Breaking it down, there isn't a lot to it:

Slip Knot
Single Crochet
Half Double Crochet
Double Crochet
Triple Crochet
Double Triple Crochet
Slip Stitch

7 stitches, which when combined, can take the visually simple to eye-popping stunning.
So those are the stitches.

These are the techniques:

Working from side to side.
Working in the round.


Lastly, there are the turning chains:
1 for single crochet, 2 for half double crochet, 3 for double crochet, 4 for triple and 5 for double triple.
Turning chains at the beginning of each row or round in order to create the proper height for the stitch that is being utilized.

In putting that together, you learn how to thread the yarn through your hand, and how to comfortably hold your hook while executing the stitches.

Once you learn how to execute the stitches, and what they are called, you don't have a whole lot to worry about because you are going to follow a written pattern that contains all that information.  A pattern tells you what yarn to use, the proper hook size, how many chains to start with, what stitches to use, what combination of stitches (if combos are used), and where to put them.

These are the basics -- don't be intimidated.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Make Two Anxiety

Reverse shaping--making the left and right sides of a vest;
or making 2 sleeves, 2 pantlegs;
or in the instance of stuffed animals and such, 2 ears, arms, legs, etc., can cause some anxiety for any stitcher.

This also holds true for items made in pairs - gloves, mittens, socks, slippers.

One solution that can often be used for both knit and crochet work is to make 2 simultaneously.  In knitting, it can be easy enough to work the same pieces together on the same needle - this is particularly true for small pieces.  On a doll dress, for instance, in knitting one can transfer the left sleeve stitches to a stitch holder, work across the back, transfer the right sleeve stitches to a stitch holder, work across the front, then work from left right front to left front side to side, or in the round, and take care of the sleeves last.  I do this all the time.  It ensures that the same amount of rows have been worked, and that the sleeves are indeed the same length.  It works great for Barbie shorts/pants too.  If you find you can use this method, please do.  It will save some frustration.

Working two pieces at the same time can be done for crochet as well.  I don't know many crocheters who don't own duplicate hooks in the same sizes.  Make both pieces simultaneous, row by row, or round by round.  If you don't have 2 of the same size hook, work one round, pull up a long loop as a place holder, and move to the other of the "pair" and work a round; continue alternating in that fashion.  Is it more a pain to work with one hook on two pieces at the same time than use two separate hooks for each row or round?  Perhaps.  However, the payoff is knowing that each row or round is exactly the same as the other.

These tricks come in handy even for the most seasoned stitcher.

Lastly, another trick is to work from "both ends" of one skein at the same time.  This is wonderful if you're making something small, or adding trim to a different area.  I recently made a puff sleeve vest and found myself making the sleeves by working from both ends of one skein.  By both ends, of course what is meant is the center pull and the outer portion of the skein...which assumes you're yarn is in skein form.

If you aren't using a skein, do yourself a favor and divide your yarn into 2 balls if you have intentions of working sleeves or similar.

That's it for now readers.  Happy stitching to you all.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Double Crochet - mind your margins~!

(a) slip knot (where it all begins),
(b) how to chain (the foundation of all things crochet), and
(c) single crochet (and there you have it, you know how to crochet), the most important lesson is double crochet, from side to side, and controlling your margins.

Statistically I can't say that the majority of what we crochet contains double crochet, but in my personal experience and that of people I've taught who choose their own projects, double crochet is a major player, even if often combined with single and triple.

When you're working double crochet in the round, it seems easier to keep track of your stitches without counting and paying attention--you go on "auto pilot" sometimes.   However, when you're working double crochet from side to side, you shouldn't go on autopilot until you have learned to mind your margins.  Pay strict attention to your stitches, especially when you are a beginner.  Its very easy to unintentionally:  increase a stitch on the right hand side, and decrease a stitch on the left hand side.

Since we increase by making 2 stitches into the same stitch or space, and the initial chain 3 that is needed at the beginning of a DC row takes the place of the first DC, its crucial to pay attention to working the 2nd stitch and not placing a DC into the first stitch/same stitch as where the 3 chains reside.      That -- would give you a resulting increase and ... too many stitches.

At the end of the row, NOT working into the top of the 3rd chain on the 3-chain-turning-chain-that-took-the-place-of-the-first-double-crochet-of-the-last-row......WHEW...creates a decrease.  If you happily went along crocheting and not paying attention to these rules, it might appear in the first row where this happened that all is well.  It might look fine after the next row also. However, at some point those stitches start making a visual difference, and then you have to rip back your work and begin again.  Not so big a deal if your stitch count is 20.  If your stitch count is 120 and you've made this mistake 5 rows back....ARGH....its enough to make you mad (that you didn't pay attention).

If it looks fan shaped, you've been adding stitches, most likely by working the first stitch after making 3 chains--which is an unintended increase.  If your project looks like a triangle, a trapozoid, or some other    shrinking margin, you've not been working the turning chain/last stitch of the previous row, or a combination of issues on both ends.

Your first course of action in ensuring "goal post" margins is to utilize the rules of double crochet...that is:  1) 3 chains take the place of the first DC, so make the actual DC in the 2nd stitch;  and
2) work that last stitch which is the turning chain.  
Another method to employ is to count your stitches after every row, as a backup.  
Also, look at your work from time to time - stop, look, see that all is well (or not).

Sunday, October 7, 2012


I know this will seem pretty basic, but if you're thinking about crocheting/knitting, you've got to buy supplies and likely you won't know exactly what to purchase, or that you could save $ when you do.  Crochet/knitting - its as expensive as you wish it to be.

When you first go buying supplies, take a look in your Sunday newspaper fliers and/or the internet web pages for your local craft store.  Around here (northern NJ) it would be ACMoore, Michaels, Joanns.  All 3 have web coupons for 40-50% off one item, and/or 20-25% off the total order (sometimes with exceptions) but still, good deals.  ACMoore and Michaels have Sunday fliers in the Star Ledger.

I'm fairly certain that each retailer will cross-honor the others' coupons, but with exceptions. Do use a 50% or 40% off coupon for a set of hooks or knitting needles (of course, you'll want to use it on your most expensive item, whatever it is).

When you are web surfing before you shop, pay attention also to what yarn is on sale.  When you're new to crochet or knitting, you're going to want to start with worsted weight yarn.  Buy what's on sale, because it really won't matter, except to your budget.  Personally, I'd suggest Red Heart Super Saver in a light color (I do not suggest Caron's Simply Soft for learning),  a size I crochet hook, or size 8 knitting needles.  That right there is all you need to begin.

Eventually, you'll want to add supplies to your craft kit, like small sharp scissors, a fabric tape measure, darning needles.  Stitch markers can purchased, or use paper clips, bobby pins, safety pins.  Even a scrap piece of contrast color yarn will come in handy as stitch marker and, in fact, many people when crocheting amigurumi prefer the piece of yarn because rather than removing and replacing it, it can simply be left to run up alongside of the project until its done then .... just pull it out.  Row counters are handy for knitting as are gauge rulers.

It doesn't hurt to have extra hooks/needles handy. Oftentimes we work on several projects at a time. It doesn't so much matter to crochet--you'd pull up  a long loop to not lose your place. However, with knitting, necessarily your needles will be left behind with the project holding all the stitches in place.  
Don't believe me?  Think you'll never have more than one project going at a time? Trust me, you will.

Look at Ebay for oddlots of hooks, needles and accessories. Before you bid....know that you're getting a deal.  Know ahead of time what that lot would cost you if purchased new.   You'd wind up kicking yourself if you paid too much for used items...but speaking from experience, I've won some lovely craft lots on Ebay.

Also, if you are the garage sale type, you can sometimes find hooks/needles/etc.....but beware of second hand yarn.  If it looks old, it is.  If it looks raggedy, it is.  If you have it in you to "sniff" garage sale yarn, take a small wiff.  If it smells musty or smoky, its better to leave it behind.  You could purchase it and wash it intact (stuffed into the legs of old pantyhose), but I've heard horror stories about garage sale yarn.  Sometimes, mice had set up house in it and you won't know until you got to the middle and found some chewed ends and droppings.  Ewwwwwwwwwwww.   Beware of garage sale yarn.  Also, if someone gives you yarn, examine it carefully and use your common sense whether or not its usable or should be trashed.

When you've learned how to crochet or knit, and you decide that you want to continue doing either (or both), you have plenty of time to move on to fancier more expensive yarns and treat yourself to pricey implements, gadgets and accessories, if you want to.

It doesn't have to be expensive when you start -- no one is happy with a first project cashmere potholder~!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Stuffing: poly fill vs. natural fiber fill (corn), and yarn for tight spaces

When you're making a stuffed toy, pillow or amigurumi (ami) you have options for your stuffing material.  For tight spaces like narrow arms and legs, I like to use yarn.  It is easy to slip/stuff some yarn, the same color as the arm/leg, into the tube and be done with it.  The benefit of that is:

a) you've got the yarn on hand;   and
b) it doesn't show through the stitches (for instance if your work is black, white poly fill can and show through).

With more than a tiny space to fill, your options are fill, such as polyester fill (polyfill/polyfil) or eco-friendly fiber fill made from corn.   Mountain Mist brand makes both of these, but there other polyester fill brands on the market.

Unfortunately, Mountain Mist Fiberfill, while boosting that it is eco-friendly, is a mess to work with.  It is very fiber-y.  After using it once, I decided against it.  Small fibers were all over my immediate workspace, my table and my project.  A thin dusting of it went everywhere.  Worse, it went into my nose and I suspect into my lungs.  After using it, I was sneezing it out!  I cannot imagine it is good for the lungs, regardless of how it might be good for the environment.  Also, it was crumbling out through the stitches of my project!  Imagine giving a stuffed animal to a baby who is going to hug and love it and be sniffing out those fibers.  Not good.

It has the feel and look of cotton candy--when you break a piece off, it literally breaks off.   Also, I wondered how it would stand up to repeated washings, since it also reminded me of cotton balls.  No one would intentionally use cotton balls to stuff a crochet/knit project unless they were desperate and never intended the item to be washed.  Once washed, the item would likely stay flat and never "bounce back" into shape.    So, the eco-friendly FIBER fill gets a thumbs down from me.

Conversely, this product from the same manufacturer gets a thumbs up:

Notice the "100% Polyester" on the bottom.  The fibers are long spun strands that keep their shape, pull apart (not break apart) nicely, and when washed it will bounce back into shape.  There is a reason this has been used for decades to stuff pillows and such.

By no means is Mountain Mist the only manufacturer of polyfill either, here are a two others:

You have to love it when a product, such as polyfill - goes by the brand name poly-fil.  That pretty much says it all!!!!

Lastly, the polyester fill is cheaper than the eco-friendly-corn-fill.

I've heard some very frugal crafty people will use scrap fabrics and scrap yarn to stuff their stuffies.  I haven't done this, and I can't speak to it one way or the other, but its an option I thought I'd mention.

However you choose to stuff your projects, happy stuffing to you all.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Easy crochet blanket, made to whatever size you desire


Easy "striped" blanket, worked from side to side, then turned 1/4.  Sides become top and bottom, add fringe. Make in solid one color, 2 or 3 colors.  Finished size depends on how many chains you start with (which determines the HEIGHT) of the blanket.  See notes about changing colors.

I make this often and is so simple and basic that anyone could have, and may have, come up with the same idea.  Feel free to make and sell finished blankets.

Supplies:  Worsted weight yarn, G or H hook.   Gauge unimportant.

Make enough chains to represent the desired HEIGHT you want the blanket to be.

Row 1:  1 Double Crochet into 4th chain from hook. 1 Double Crochet into each chain to end.  Turn.

Row 2:  Chain 3 (represents 1st DC now and throughout).  1 DC into 2nd stitch.  Chain 1, skip 1 stitch in previous row, make 1 DC into next stitch.*  Repeat * to * across until you reach the last 3 stitches. See below Special Instructions to finish this row.

SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS.  IF your 4th stitch from the end of the row contains 1 DC, then you will chain 1, skip the next stitch, make 1DC into the 2nd to last stitch, make 1 DC into the last stitch.  Your row will be complete. Turn.... HOWEVER.......

IF your 4th stitch from the end of the row is an unworked/skipped stitch, make 1 DC in the 3rd stitch from the end, chain 1, skip 1 stitch and make TWO DC in the last stitch.  Your row will be complete.

Remaining “holey” rows of skipped stitches and chains always begin with chain 3, 1 DC in 2nd stitch (followed by chain 1 and skipped stitches across) and end 1 DC into each of the last 2 stitches (preceded by the 3rd stitch from the row’s end having been skipped/ch 1). 

ROW 3:  Chain 3, 1DC into 2nd stitch, 1DC into each stitch to end.

ROW 4:  Ch 3, 1DC into 2nd stitch.  *Ch 1, skip 1 stitch, make 1 DC into next stitch.*  Continue across to last 3 stitches. Ch 1, skip one stitch, make 1DC in 2nd from last stitch, and 1DC in last stitch.

ROW 5 and 6, etc.  Repeat Rows 3 and 4 until blanket is desired width.  

Turn so the stripes are now vertical and add fringe to the ends in the natural loops created at the sides (now top and bottom) using 3 or 4 strands of yarn.

IF YOU WISH TO MAKE THIS BLANKET ALL ONE COLOR, continue repeating Rows 3 and 4 in pattern until you reach the desired width, fringe the ends. Done.

IF YOU WISH TO ADD DIFFERENT COLORED STRIPES, at the end of a row of continuous DC (as in Row 3) fasten off old color and leave the tail be as long as you want your fringe to be (the tail can be incorporated into the fringing process). DO NOT TURN.  GO TO THE BEGINNING OF THIS ROW AND add new color AND START AGAIN WITH ROW 3 (all DC across) with next row being Row 4 (the “holey” row).  As such, all color change rows start and end with Row 3, continuous DC all the way across.

The reason for not turning when changing colors is to keep the "front" and the "back" uniform.

NOTE:  on the above pictured example, I had started and ended with pink, but because it was so much pink and so little multi, when it was “done” I decided to add 2 rows of multi color in all DC on each side for balance.

^worked from side to side like this ^
...when desired WIDTH is reached, finish off.... give piece a 1/4 turn so the side margins become the top and bottom and stripes now run top to bottom, vertical (instead of side to side, horizontal), and add fringe through the loops now that the stitches run sideways.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reversible (two sided) granny square - the BEST pattern for one-color grannies!

Most likely, you've never seen this pattern.  I learned it in 1976. Betty, who taught me how to crochet, had amazing skills. Not sure this was her personal twist, but it has been my preferred method, even when presented with other directions. Since it is turned each round, it is reversible - no right/wrong side, no front/back;----this makes it perfect as a one-color-granny. It also inhibits the "slant" some people produce on one-sided squares worked "around and around." I know this isn't an issue for everyone, but is an issue for some.

While optimal for continuous rounds of solid color (with a color change whenever the maker chooses), of course, the yarn can be cut after each round with new color added, as in traditional grannies. The "magic" happens in the first corner of each round, and I promise, its a great square!

PLEASE READ THROUGH THE DIRECTIONS before starting so you know what is going to happen "before you get there." That is especially good advice for those who've made them differently--so you know how/why it is different--since the first corner of each round is unusual.


REVERSIBLE GRANNY SQUARE - with worsted weight yarn and a G or H hook:

Note, as written, this calls for 2 stitches between each cluster. If you desire 1 stitch between each cluster, that is fine, but you should instead make 4 chains at the start of each round, not 5. If you prefer no chains between clusters, you should at least make 1 chain between each of the two corner clusters and chain 4 at the start of each round.

The photos below are the first round, and the start of round 2; note after the chain 5 photo of round 2, the next photo shows the chain five flipped to the other side due to flipping the work.

chain 5, join with a slip stitch to the first chain to form a ring.

Round 1:  Make 5 chain stitches (these 5 chains represent 1 double crochet and 2 chains and will shape the LAST cluster in this round).

3 dc into the ring (1st cluster) ch 2,
3 dc into the ring (2nd cluster) ch 2,
3 dc into the ring (3rd cluster) ch 2,
2 dc into the ring slip stitch into the 5-ch loop (completes the 4th cluster and the first round).

Chain 5 (starts the next round) and turn your square like a page in a book (to the left, assuming you are right handed).

<- this photo illustrates finishing the first round; the photo above it illustrates how the round will look coming full around to the first 5 dc.

<- this photo is the first round completed, and the chain 5 of round 2 appears on the right hand side, BEFORE TURNING (like a page in a book) to the other side.

<- this photo shows the square flipped to the other side; notice now that the chain 5 is on the left hand side.

<- this photo shows how the chain 5 bends to create the corner, and illustrates where the next 3 dc will be placed in round 2.

The next photo shows all 3 dc placed into the same corner of round 2.

Note:  Your square has been turned, and the chain 5 represents 1dc, 2 chs.
Make 3dc into same corner space (represents 1/2 of this 2-cluster corner) ch 2.
The remaining 1/2 of this 2 cluster corner will be completed as you finish this round.

In next corner make 3 dc , ch 2, 3dc, ch2, (second 2-cluster corner).
In next corner make 3 dc, ch 2, 3dc, ch 2 (third 2-cluster corner).
In next corner make 3 dc, ch 2, 3dc, ch 2 (fourth 2-cluster corner).
In last (which was the first) corner space, alongside and before the initial ch 5, make 2 dc, and slip stitch into ch-5 loop.
This completes the round.
Chain 5 and turn your square.

Round 3:
Note:  Your square has been turned, and the chain 5 represents 1dc, 2 chs.
Into same corner, make 3dc, ch 2 (half of the corner done; remainder to be completed as round is completed).

*Into next ch-2 space (NOT a corner): 3 dc, ch 2.
Into corner space make 3dc, ch 2 3dc, ch 2.*

Continue around as established repeating from * to * until you complete this round at the corner with 2 dc, slip stitch into ch-5 loop.  Chain 5, turn.

Successive rounds: As established in Round 3.

When your square is as large as you want it to be, sl st into the last 5 ch space, pull up a loop and cinch, cut yarn. ***

*** If you do want to change colors, remember to turn your square, then add the new color and chain 5 as the start of your corner, continuing as established in pattern.