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~!