Yes, Swatches Lie…Well Maybe….

Yes, swatches lie. Well that is a bit harsh…really they can be a bit misleading.

To start with there is the famous question, “Do I need to make a swatch?” Well only if you want to ensure that you meet the gauge of the pattern. Gauge helps to ensure that the pattern comes out the same size, but it also ensures that your fabric has the same drape as that of the original design. If this is important to you, then yes, you need to swatch.

That being said there are some road blocks that stop many people from making a swatch.

First there is no actual directions for making a swatch, the gauge lists the number of stitches and rows that fit the given measurements, but that is where the information ends. If you are a new crocheter this can be a bit difficult to decipher, as you need to read and understand your pattern and then make assumptions from this.

One of the ways to make these assumptions is simply to make a chain longer than the given measurement for the gauge. By a rule of thumb add make the swatch at least 40% bigger than is measured, so if it states 4” (10cm), make a swatch of 5 ½” (14 cm). This is so you can take the measurement from of the stitches and rows without using the edges of the swatch, as the edges can distort the measurement.

If the gauge gives a stitch pattern, work this in rows until the rows measure larger than the given measurement. However this is only step one.

The next step to ensure you are getting an accurate measurement is to block your swatch. Essentially you want to treat your wash as you would the finished item, so if it is hand washed then hand wash, if it is machine wash then machine wash, and let dry.

Now you can take the measurement and to ensure that you meet gauge, to proceed with your pattern. If you need to adjust your hook size to obtain gauge you will need to repeat the process in a new hook size and repeat.

However here is the honesty, very few of us go through these steps. I know when I get my yarn I want to dive right in and get to creating, but sometimes I do have to pay the price for this. I may need to rip back and rework if things are not coming out as expected.

So how can I find a happy medium between creating a swatch and just enjoying my crochet? My tip is to check my work regularly. I may block an item before I head to bed, after a day of stitching, and check my gauge in the morning. If it is on course I feel free to continue onward, if it is a bit off it is a day to rip back and begin anew. This may be a bit of a gamble in losing a day’s worth of work, but it keeps me enjoying my stitching while still being happy with the outcome.

Cutting Crochet- It is Possible

I have been quite a few questions lately about how to cut crochet. Granted it is not a simple process, but it is a skill you can acquire, with some simple understanding about your fabric.

First what do you want to cut your fabric? Maybe the beginning chain is way too tight in comparison with the rest of the fabric, and you would love it fixed. Maybe you made the something the wrong size, an afghan you made to wide, a sweater you made too long. The reasons can be vast.

To begin with cutting crochet fabric is unique and different almost every time you do it. The approaches to cutting across rows for fabric (horizontally) and cutting through stitches (vertically) might be similar, but horizontally is a bit easier. So let’s start there.

Before cutting through a row of stitches you want to run a thread through the bases or “feet” or the stitches that are being worked into the row to be cut. This thread will help prevent the fabric from unraveling.

Once the thread is in place, cut the row off. Now remove all the excess yarn bits. You should have crochet stitches that are now worked on a thread. It is relatively simple to finish this fabric off by a new fabric to the base of the stitches on the thread and crochet into the “bottoms” of each stitch. Once all the stitches are worked into, you can remove the thread.

To cut vertically in the fabric, the approach is similar to run a thread through the stitches adjacent to those being cut, but it can be more difficult to ensure that each loop that encompass a stitch is secure in this process, so I add an extra stitch. After running a thread through the stitches, you can cut the fabric (note, if you want to save both sides of the fabric from the cut you will need to run a thread on either side of the cut to ensure that neither piece of fabric unravels).

Once the fabric is cut, gently remove the excess yarn form the fabric at the cut, being careful to watch each row and ensure that no yarn is unraveling past your thread. If it is, as you have missed a loop, place a removable stitch marker in the “uncaught” loop. This removable stitch marker can be as simple as a paper clip. After removing the excess yarn and determining unsecured loops on the edge you will need to join with yarn and crochet over the edge, making sure to incorporate the unsecured loops into the new stitches you are creating. This will assist in preventing them from unraveling. After you have successfully crocheted the edge you can remove the thread. You may find that the edge still looks a bit shaggy, so you may have to weave in assorted ends throughout the edge to ensure a tidy finish.

Like I said it is not a project for the faint of heart, but it can be done. If you want to progress in further in cutting your crochet fabrics, I would suggest checking out teh work by Vashti Braha of Designing Vashti….she went down the rabbit hole with Self Healing Stitches and such….find them here. Why Self Healing Stitches, Self Healing Stitches Resources, 

I am A #HumansThatYarn

Humans that yarn. Sounds like an interesting caption, but to the Craft Yarn Council it is a bit more than that.

The Craft Yarn Council is a nonprofit organization that is designed to promote all things yarn that includes certifying knitting and crochet instructors….it is an interesting course that I completed of crochet in 2012, and really has helped me to teach crochet more effectively. (You can find information about the program here). The Humans that Yarn campaign is an effort by this organization to hear the voices of those that craft with yarn.

Often as crocheters it seems like we are defined by the fact that we are not knitters, and this campaign gives us an opportunity to talk about who we are and what yarn means to us, so I thought I would share my thoughts.

For me I really do not remember a time in my life without yarn somewhere around. As I have talked about in the past I taught myself to crochet at the age 10 from a book, but it wasn’t from a true desire to crochet as much as it was to learn and create. It just happened that I had access to yarn, hooks and the book.

Most of my yarn came from others. Other people would give me there left over scraps and partial skeins. There was a time when I finally committed to creating my first afghan that I convinced my mom to allow me to purchase some yarn. I remember spending time going over patterns finding the one that I wanted to create. I remember standing in the aisle of the store putting various combinations of yarn together to find the perfect colors. I remember asking my mom’s advice on the color selection, she after all as in many different art classes at the time.

Yet yarn is not just a memory for me. It is a way of moving my hands and keeping my mind flowing it is being productive in even the most likely of times.

It might be that I tend to want to do or experience things that no one would quite expect to look at me. No one in grade school would expect me to be crocheting, I had many friends in high school look at me like I was crazy when they found out…although many still have the afghan I made them. I guess I liked a bit of the awe factor. Not fitting into any particular mold…I still find it appealing.

People that know me are no longer surprised by the crocheting, but they tell me they are inspired by my designing, teaching and taking it on as a business. The title “Crochet Designers” does garner surprise from people I meet, as they never thought of any career like it.

So I guess, my easiest summation for Who am I? when considering Humans that Yarn, I am contrite wanting to be different and a bit surprising while utilizing a common craft.

Share your #HumasthatYarn story, Who are You?

A Crochet High- Returning from Conference

Last week I was teaching at the Crochet Guild of America annual Chainlink conference in Portland, Oregon, and you know it had to be a good time when it takes you 4 days to finally unpack. Okay 4 days may not seem like long to some, but I am usually unpacked the same day I arrive home with the laundry in the washer….however this time I just didn’t have the energy, I left it in Portland.

I taught a variety of classes, interestingly enough, I taught 4 classes at a crochet conference and none of them were actually crochet. Well one was, but it was about understanding patterns and how to read them better, the other 3 were not nearly as crochet focused.

I taught how to use beads in your work in my Beads 3 Ways class. It was a room full and everyone put their own style and twist on the necklace we were creating. There were definitely some talented and creative people in that room. They took silk, and threads (from Kreinik threads), and beads (from Bead Biz) and learned different applications to add them to their crochet (or knitting) projects.

Then I spent the entire day teaching people how to actually make yarn in my Drop Spindle class. Everyone made yarn, which is an exciting prospect just in itself. We worked with some different fibers (from Weaver Creek Fibers), and got the hang of drafting, spinning, and parking. We then plied our works and got to experience how to card wool. I haven’t taught that class in a while, and I have to say I was so impressed with what the students created.

The next morning was the class that caused me to drive 12 hours to Portland…Home Dyeing…how to safely dye your own yarn. I am pretty sure everyone had fun in this class. I had to drive to ensure that all  the equipment needed was there for me, so it allowed us to set up dyeing stations and play with all kinds of fiber (from Lisa Souza Dyeworks), with a variety of dyes and techniques. The artistic expression of the students really came out when we just jumped right into all the colors and combinations. There may have been some trash talk, completely in jest, with the class next door as they were learning how to color pool yarn. I had to put forth a challenge that were we dyeing yarn that they could not pool, my fellow instructor and friend, Vashti Braha was up for the challenge. She and I really had brainstormed ways we could work our classes together, but that didn’t come together so this little challenge was a nice addition.

Then I blinked and just like that all my classes were taught. Granted there were plenty of other events that helped cause my days to fly by, there was the member meeting I lead, and the recognition of all the Master Program graduates and Design Competition winners, then the Fastest Fingers Competition where I judged the finals, and you can never forget the CGOA Banquet and Fashion Show. It really is a whirl wind, and I didn’t even join in the actives of the first day.

I have to admit, I have been hooked since I attended my first Chainlink conference in 2011, it just feels like home.

 

Gearing Up for Teaching

It is a bit satisfying, a bit unnerving, and a bit of second guessing getting ready to teach multiple classes at a singular event. This last month I have been prepping for 4 classes that I am teaching at the Crochet Guild of America annual Chainlink conference and it is almost time to put all that planning to the test.

I have been updating notes, writing handouts, doing current research and putting together samples and such. So this month I have been making yarn with a drop spindle and dyeing all kinds of yarn in a variety of ways.  I have been studying patterns and playing with beads. I have been mentally teaching my classes for hours, working on finer points and ensuring that I have everything in place.

In addition I have been putting together kits for materials for my class. Personally I do not enjoy taking classes that have lengthy material list, especially when it is not completely familiar with the things on the list. So as a teacher I have a small material fee, but I put together kits of the items needed. This might take up some room while traveling yet it is so worth it to have my students be successful with new techniques.

Now as I box everything up and start putting things together for my 10 hour drive I go over and over all possible items I might be forgetting. Life never fails I am sure I will remember something I need several hours from home, so I will be finding a replacement or improvising in class. That is what keeps it entertaining after all.

I really enjoy teaching, and how much I learn while giving instructions to others (I continue to take classes, check out why here). I am looking forward to the adventure that this week has in store…I will share my progress….