Crochet Disintegration- Knowing the Points

In all my crochet repairs I have learned some simple truths…there are points of crochet stitches that are more likely to break, disintegrate, or fail. Granted this is only understanding a “natural” break after wear or use, not the type of repairs that occur after the puppy finds a new toy in grandma’s afghan. Understanding where these points of natural breaks occur are really help in making repairs, and it also helps me understand how my stitches work together in the final fabric.

Fixing Disintegrating crochet stitchesIf you think of your crochet fabric as the construction of a building it is much easy to see that there are some points that are “load bearing” and where future repairs might need to happen. These “load bearing” points usually happen in a place that stitches are worked into. For example, the center of a motif is a classic area for a structural fail. Working multiple stitches in this one point puts a strain on the yarn, especially when the stitches are worked only over 1 strand of yarn.

Working in one loop, either front or back loops, of a stitch also is a point of stress on the yarn. This one strand of yarn is bearing all the stress of any tugs or pulls, and depending upon the composition of the yarn, or the twist of the ply on the yarn, some fibers do not handle this stress as well as others.

If you encounter these points of stress beginning to fail in your fabric, there are some simple ways to make the repair.

The first step if to thread a yarn needle and catch all the loose loops from the base of the stitches that affected.

After securing these loops, the next task depends upon the stitch that has failed. If it is a center of a motif, one can usually thread yarn around the join or center of the motif, working under all the stitches in the center and essentially creating a new center loop, and secure this new loop.

If it is the top of another stitch that has failed, well this become a bit more of an operation. Dependent upon how damaged the stitch is, you may need to remove the stitch and re-stitch it, or simply catch its loose loops and using a threaded yarn needle “sew” in the manner of which the yarn would be pulled through if being stitched. This process takes a bit more confidence, and maybe some practice, but you can save history with a bit of patience.

The best tip I can share for fixing the disintegration points, is not to attempt to work everything in one sitting. I find that I can only work for about 15 minutes at a time, as it is such focused work. Do not feel that it is a quick undertaking. Be patient, and it will come.

 

Testing Myself- Teaching Crochet

I am getting ready for my latest test…oh, I mean teaching opportunity! I am teaching this July in Portland, Oregon, at the Crochet Guild of America’s annual crochet conference (also known as Chainlink).

I say I am getting ready for my latest test, because ready that is how I feel, and the way I treat it. I put a lot of work in behind the scenes for my classes, to ensure that I cover the topic in the most approachable way, and then have a couple of back up approaches in case the explanation doesn’t resonate with the audience.

So, I am brushing up on a couple of different topics for Portland, like Drop Spindle. I will be teaching a 6 hour class on creating your own yarn using a drop spindle. I am doing extra research on various drop spindles, various fibers, the history, and different approaches to spinning, to make sure I am not missing any information.

I am acquiring all of the materials a student needs to learn with and then some. I have a material fee for the class, because I want to make sure that my students get the best materials to learn with. I personally hate taking a course and attempt to get the items needed, get to the class and find that I found products that were not necessarily best for understanding the concept. Fortunately, when I procure materials for my class I can often get a discount for bulk purchase and pass that saving on to my students.

I am also testing and investigate more ways to dye yarn for my course Home Dyeing –Safe & Simple. There are always so many ideas that come when diving down a rabbit hole of content, and this class offers that as well. I find myself adding more approaches and techniques every time I teach this course, as so many new ideas have been generated and various artists are cultivating new techniques. Often times questions that student generate in class can add to the material of future classes, giving me new areas to research.

Beads are another skill that can be ever evolving, my course Beading Three Ways, really should be renamed at this point, as I have added a few other ways over the years. From student questions, to new books on the market, to revisiting older techniques, this class probably covers at least 5 ways to work with beads now.

Probably my historically best attended class is What the Pattern Does Not Say. This class also is constantly revisited by me to add more content and update the terms. I find that the most daunting things for crocheters in understanding patterns, and I offer a fresh approach to understanding how to read a pattern, while pointing out tips and tricks that maybe causing you to fail, even before you start.

So even though this is only 4 classes, I will spend countless hours, days and weeks preparing.  Then during the event of teaching the real test begins, ensuring that my students feel comfortable, that they feel inspired, and that they feel accomplished when they walk out of the door. Then it starts all over for my next teaching engagement.

Consider joining me, you can find the class listings at crochet.org.

 

Jogged Edges- Just Finish the Job

I have mentioned in the past that I had been crocheting for quite a few years before I ever attempted to a sweater. I actually remember the exact “awe ha” moment that spurred me to consider it, I was feeling under the weather, and was grabbing a quick bit at a deli before my work shift began at the local drugstore. A conversation with the sandwich artist behind the counter somehow came around to crochet. He had asked about how to make a sweater, if it was all on piece of pieces put together. My mind automatically shifted to sewing patterns from my days in my 4H sewing project, and it then hit me…I had been crocheting fabric all along. I only needed to crochet the fabric to the shape of the pattern and put it together.

I mention this as I have received some questions lately about the shaping of pieces to create a sweater, and that I often design them with jogged edges. The art of crochet, I have found, is a bit more forgiving than sewing with fabric (granted, I can sew, but it has never been my favorite past time). I have found that crocheting the most basic of shape of the fabric, without worrying about matching the lines exactly, but getting the basic shape, is all that is really necessary to be successful.

My jogging edges are most frequently found in neckline shaping, and the “bell” shaping at the top of set in sleeves. Yet, in the finished garment these jogs are not noticeable, simply because of seaming and edging. Edgings smooth over these jogs, creating a nice completed finish, while seaming pieces together the jogs can actually allow for a bit more stretch. In the seaming I am usually whip stitching (the act of inserting the needle from only 1 side of the fabric and pushing through to the opposite side, bringing the needle and thread over the seam and reinserting the needle from the same side).

The edges do not match up perfectly on the sleeve seaming, however, you are not usually seaming the top of a stitch to a matching top of stitch. In this process you are often seaming tops of stitches to the sides if rows, and the jogs help you better fit this together.

Basically, don’t worry about over thinking your crochet, minor tweaks and simple tricks can smooth it out and get the result you are hoping for.

 

 

Decrease Stitches Like a Pro

Decreasing basic stitches in crochet is easier than you might expect.

The process may have always been relatively easy, but it has not always been written in a manner that was universal in understanding in patterns. The current term I see most is the type of stitch (single or double crochet) followed by a number, then followed by “tog”, and it is all just one little abbreviation; such as sc4tog.

Breaking it down a bit helps you to better understand it, so sc4tog, is essentially “single crochet 4 stitches together”. Patterns will usually list this process in its special stitches section, but with some further understanding you will not have to find this “Special Stitch” description. 

This stitch decrease process is one that I describe as a “monster with 1 head and multiple legs”, meaning when you are finished there will only be 1 stitch (the classic “V” top and back loop section of a stitch at the top) while working over multiple stitches. It makes a solid fabric, without any holes that can be created in other decrease methods that have you simply skip the next stitch.

If you keep in mind this simple rule, than you will be able to work this technique no matter what the notations. You work the indicated type of stitch until you are only 1 yarn over and pull through away from completing, then you start the next stitch.

So if you were working the sc4tog, you would insert your hook into the next stitch, yarn over, pull through a loop-STOP. You now have 2 loops on the hook, and one more yarn over and pull through will finish the stitch, so this is when you begin the next stitch. So you insert your hook into the next stitch, yarn over and pull through a loop- STOP. To finish a single crochet you would perform one more yarn over and pull through, but you are still decreasing. You currently have 3 loops on you hook (1 more than the number of stitch “parts” you have worked). Repeat the process of inserting your hook, yarning over, pulling through a loop until you have 1 more loop on your hook then the number indicated in the abbreviation, in this case, until you have 5 loops.

Now, you yarn over and pull through all 5 loops on your hook.

Basically you are working 4 stitches part way, and then completing them all together.

This same principal applies in you are working a decrease in double crochet, such as dc3tog. You would begin a double crochet in the next stitch, stopping when you only have one more yarn over and pull through to finish the stitch. You then begin the next stitch, and repeat the process.

By understanding the basic concept, it has helped me be more independent in work a pattern, I don’t feel like I need to work the explicit directions of the special stitch section, I am more free to enjoy the process. Other tips that help, are understanding and recognizing your stitches….find more information here.

Tips for the Mundane

There are some truths about crochet that no one ever seems to share, we all hit a period where we are bored. This could be a stitch pattern, the act of moving the hook, the feel of the yarn. Everyone I have ever met does put things down from time to time, but they never really admit it.

It does not matter if you crochet for a living or just as a hobby, sometimes we find a mundane point. However, I have found a couple of ways through this period.

Ask yourself why. Is it that the stitch is not exciting? Is pattern is taking too long to finish? Is my attention being pulled in another direction?

We have all been there, and there is no shame in it. I have found a couple of approaches to get through it and still actually end up loving crochet again.

First, take a break. This is not a bad word and it does not mean that you are done with the craft, it simply means that you need a point of rejuvenation. Usually when I put my hook down, I find that I still need something to keep my hands busy and fidgety in the evenings when sitting with the family in front of the television. For me I then pick up work puzzles, maybe some Sudoku or word searches, I don’t quite have the disposition for crosswords but there are plenty of different puzzles to keep me entertained.

However, sometimes you need to get a project finished, there is a deadline…maybe you need that gift for the baby shower in 3 days. In this case, I have to set small goals. It can be as simple as completing a set number of rows of the pattern every time I sit down with it in my hand. This really depends upon that stitch pattern, but maybe it is as simple as getting through one of the row pattern repeats. Maybe it is getting to the next color change, or the next color change in the yarn. I set myself a visual point and work toward it. I find that this helps even more if I have a small reward for myself at the end, maybe I get a cookie or such, maybe then I get a nice stretch. It does not have to be anything big, it just has to be something to break up the monotony.

Sometimes it is as simple as changing projects and putting one in “time out”. I find this happens most on projects that I was first intrigued by, but then quickly discovered that the design was a really rather simple stitch repeat, like an entire afghan worked in only double crochet rows. There is nothing wrong with it, it just is not very exciting, and frankly if I do not have a reason or deadline to actually complete it, I might not get it finished. In this case I just have to be honest with myself. There is no harm in using the yarn in another project.

I wish I could say that I never put down my hook, that I have endless creative energy, but alas that is not what works for me. There are times I need to find another focus to help but my love of crochet back in focus.