Which Way Do I Turn?

Does it matter which way I turn? Do I have to chain first? These are two common questions that any crochet instructor is asked when teaching the basics.

My typical answer is, “as long as you are consistent, it does not matter”, but that is not quite true.

The reason I give my answer above, is because I know that the student is taking in a lot of information and do not want to overwhelm them with small details that may discourage, and in the long run it really may not make a difference in your work.

However, there are some subtle difference to the direction you turn your fabric and effects of your fabric. I am primarily writing from the view point of right handed crocheter, but in the parentheses I note the left handed viewpoint).

Turning Your Fabric

The standard way to turn your fabric it to turn it like the page of a book (like you have been reading the last page of the book and need to turn back to the beginning). Turning this direction keeps the working yarn to the back of the fabric, in the same manner of placement as when you complete your crochet stitch.

Turning like a page of the book (right handed)

Turning the fabric in the opposite direction the working yarn is placed in the front of the fabric. While you can still create a stitch creating a yarn over feels a bit different, maybe even awkward. This placement also sets up some challenges depending on what stitch is being worked next.

Turning the page backward (right handed)

I have primarily found this with working a back loop single crochet. By having the working yarn in the front of the work, it can make it difficult to get the hook placement in the first back loop as it is not readily apparent and thus this stitch may be skipped.

To Chain or Turn

So, then to turn and chain, or chain and then turn? As long as you are only turning 180° there is no real apparent difference. In either case, if the chain is created on a fabric that has the yarn to the front of the work, the back side of the chain is facing forward. If the fabric is created with the working yarn to the back the chain will appear to have a slight twist.

The chain created when the fabric is turned like a book (right handed)…notice how the back of the chain (the bumps) are facing the edge and there is a slight twist.
The chain created when the fabric is turned in the opposite direction of a page (right handed)- notice how the back of the chain (the bumps) are facing you

So to summarize, if you find that the first stitch of a row feels a bit different than the other stitches, check the way you are turning and see if it makes a difference, but do not worry about when and how you chain, it works the same either way.

Cotton Yarn is not Created Equally

The weather is changing and I want to crochet with cotton, but not all cotton is created equally.

When going through the craft store aisle of yarn, finding a cotton yarn for you project can be a bit challenging. The mainstream market seems to only have room for cotton crochet thread and a medium weight cotton that is often associated with dish towels. (Need to know more about yarn weight? Here is some info)

As I venture into my small local yarn store I do find a finer weight yarn of cotton, but it states “Mercerized”. It has a nice sheen, but is this what I need for my project?

Knowing a bit about cotton, can really help you to avoid any mistakes with projects in the future.

What is Cotton?

Cotton is a plant based fiber, well it is actually a cellulous based fiber that protects a plants seeds in what is referred to as a boll. The fiber has a short staple, meaning a short length. Due to the short nature of the fiber it is spun together more times than might be necessary for a wool yarn. This is strictly due to its length.

When long fibers are twisted together they have more points of contact when lying next to each other, so just a few twists can hold them together. With cotton being short, however, the fibers do not have as many points of contact, and thus have to be twisted together more times to ensure that they stay twisted together.

It is this high amount of twist that can cause cotton to shrink on its first wash. When water finally makes contact with the spun cotton, the cotton actually relaxes and while it softens up, it also can be less stretched and thus “shrink”. Unlike wool this reaction will only occur once, and for any use forward the cotton will remain completely stable.

What is Mercerized?

Many like to use cotton yarns for dish clothes, however this is where you need to understand the term “mercerized”. Cotton when spun can have a soft, fuzzy, halo around it. You find this in most medium weight cotton yarns available on the market today. The term mercerized is a process in which the cotton yarn is essentially singed and the fuzzy halo is removed, leaving in its place a sleek shiny yarn.

Note the top yarn (pink) has a shine, this yarn is mercerized. The bottom yarn (green) has a softer, slightly fuzzy look, it is not mercerized.

So why is it important to know about mercerized? Well, for started mercerized cotton does not absorb water like un-mercerized yarn. Meaning if you wanted to make a dish towel mercerized cotton will not behave in a manner that you desire. This is a pretty important distinction, and one worth repeating. If you want to make household items that will absorb liquids, do not use mercerized cotton.

Mercerized cotton I find to be lovely in garments and shawls. It has a nice sheen and feels like cotton, but unlike my T-shirt, if you hit me with a water balloon it will not pull dramatically down with the weight as it will not be absorbing the water.

Where Can I Find Cotton Yarn?

You might have to do a bit of looking to find cotton yarns for you project, but it is worth the trouble. Here are a few suggestions:

Thermal Stitch in the Round

Some crochet stitches can take on a different feel and appearance if worked in a different direction. One such stitch is the Thermal Stitch.

View of Thermal in the Round from Even Rounds

This stitch creates a dense double layer fabric that has a unique honeycombed or waffled effect, which reminds me of long-johns with little indented squares. To learn the traditional method of this stitch technique check it out in this tutorial.

I pick up this stitch again recently and begun playing with it in the round. This stitch is typically worked at only half the row height increase of the single crochet stitch, working in both its on row stitch and the one adjacent. As a result of this one, stitch stacked upon one stitch approach it takes a bit of thinking to work the flat circular increases.

The first hurdle is to actually begin the round. You really need to work 2 rows of fabric in the same beginning stitches to ensure an even fabric consistency throughout. I have found two approaches to this in the round.

Please note that I worked this fabric as a different color on each side, as it really helped me to keep the process understandable. In doing such I would drop the color, leaving the working loop for the color live and pick up the new color, switching like this between every Round. In addition, I worked the entire fabric in a spiral method, meaning I did not join the rounds when completed, I simply began the next stitches in the next round. This was also so ease of keeping track of my location in the work. I have to play a bit more with the end of the Rounds, as even working in a spiral they appear to easily as the stitches become a bit clustered and dense, but it does allow for the thermal stitch to be created.

Beginning:

Method one: The magic loop/ring/circle. Essentially this technique involves making a loop of yarn and crocheting in this loop, like when crocheting over item (like the demonstration here making holiday wreaths).

Round 1: Work 8 single crochets into the loop (color cream), turn.

Round 2:  Drop color from round one, join new color (color yellow). Working between stitches in between the stitches of Round 1, [insert your from behind the magic ring, and through the top loop closest to you in Round 1….this feels a bit awkward, but essentially what you are doing is inserting your hook into the bottom ring and the loop of the stitch in round 1, yo, pull through a loop, yo, pull through 2 loops] repeat 8 times, turn. -8 sts

Pull ring closed.

Working Round 2 of Magic Circle method, inserting hook behind ring and through top loop closest to you,
Working Round 2 of Magic Circle Method as viewed from the Wrong Side
Thermal in the Round, Completed Round 1 & 2

Method two: Working into a ring. Chain 4, and slip stitching to the first chain to form a ring.

Round 1: Ch 1, 8 sc in ring (color white), turn. -8 sts

Round 2: Drop color from Round 1, join new color (color yellow) to one “leg” of the single crochet stitch, insert hook through same point as join and the top loop closes to you of Round 1, yo, pull through a loop, yo, pull through 2 loops, [insert hook into one “leg” of next single crochet and the top loop of next stitch, yo, pull through a loop, yo, pull through 2 loops] 7 times, turn. -8 sts

Thermal in the Round, Round 2 working in the “through the stitch leg” method. Insert hook through one “leg” of the stitch and the top loop closest to you.

All Subsequent Rounds….Working the Increases

Increases need to happen in each Round, but you are essentially working the same increase for 2 rounds. Meaning that the stitch count for Rounds 3 and 4 will be in same, the same number of stitches are worked in the white, the same number in the yellow….like working two separate fabrics at once. However the increases are slightly different in approach.

Round 3: Dropping yellow and picking up white, insert hook through the front loop of Round 1, and the top loop closest to you in Round 2, yo, pull through, yo, pull through 2 loops, insert hook into same location as stitch just made and rework stitch, this is your increase. Work 2 thermal stitches in each stitch around, turn. -16 sts

Thermal in the Round, Odd Round increase

Round 4: Dropping white and picking up yellow, [insert hook through the front loop of Round 2 and the top loop closest to you in Round 3, yo, pull through, yo, pull through 2 loops, insert hook into the same front loop of Round 2, and next top loop closest to you in Round 3 (note there are already twice as many stitches in Round 3 as there are in Round 2…so there are less front loops to work into then there are completed stitches, as a result you need to increase Round 4 by working 2 stiches in the same Front loop, but do not in the top loop closest to you)] repeat 7 times, turn. -16 sts

Thermal in the Round, Even Round Increase, first stitch
Thermal in the Round, Even Round Increase, second stitch

You work the same formula for a flat circle (you can find that here), in all the rounds going forward. I tend to think of the rounds in sets, a pair of one odd round and one even round (Round 1 & 2, Round 3 & 4, Round 5 & 6, etc.) Working all increases in Odd number rounds by working into the same front loop and the same top loop closest to you. Working all Even Round increases as the same front loop but different top loop closest to you. All non-increase stitches are worked as traditional Thermal Stitch (see tutorial for basic stitch)

This subtle difference in the increases between the rounds is one reason the different colors helped me. I could remember that every time I used the yellow yarn I was doing an even number Round increase.

Thermal in the Round view from Odd Rounds

This process takes a bit of practice, but the resulting fabric has a nice textured look, and the dense nature lends itself nicely to pot holders, trivets, wash scrubby, I could even see a nice warm hat in the future.

A Bit of a Color Change Difference

Some color changes are a bit different than others. The way to change the color in a stitch is the same, I discuss that here. However, there times when a couple of other little tricks can make the color change smoother, and your fabric much more eye catching.

One of these times is when the color change may occur within the rows with a shift of the stitches, like a line of color moving diagonally. The color change is not exactly in the same location as the row below, so to have a really clean look you may have to start a new yarn each time or end up with a color strand laying awkwardly across different color stitches.

A diagonal color change, without ends to weave in, and a visually consistent look.

I for one really do not want to weave in as many ends as it would require to shift a color change every row, so there are a couple techniques I use to reduce the ends while keeping a smooth color edge.

For starters, when I change the color I toss the “old” color stand over the fabric, so that it is on top of the stitches. After completing the row of stitches and returning to the color change point, if I am changing the color before the last stitch of the color I change the color but leave a slightly loose tension in the new yarn. I then crochet over this yarn until I reach the same color, and crochet the next stitch over the loose tension strand in the same color stitch.

When the color change happens after the last time it was changed.
The loop brown strand, is the pulling up of the color a row below, then it is worked over until the color is changed.
The color change is completed, and the “old” yarn is then tossed to the opposite side of the fabric, over the fabric. This helps assure that the yarn is in the correct location for working on the returning row.

If the color change occurs after the last stitch of the color, I pull the yarn that will be changed up and crochet over it until the stitch it needs to be changed in.

When the color change happens before the last time it was changed.
Leave a little slack in the yarn when it changes color.
Crochet over this “slacked” yarn, until at least into the same color below.

Essentially I am working over the color change yarn until it is needed. This helps me keep a smoother look while actually being able to stay sane while working up and finishing the fabric.

Know your Ply Improve your Crochet

Yarn makes such a difference in your crochet. Often when we think of yarn color, or weight, maybe even fiber, but we often do not think about the ply. The ply however can really make a difference in our project.

So, what is ply? Well it helps to understand some basic yarn construction. Yarn is comprised of fibers that are spun together in one direction, this direction can be either clockwise or counterclockwise, the most import think is that all the fibers are spun in the same direction. These spun fibers are now what is referred to as a single, meaning a single strand of yarn.

Singles can be used as a yarn all by its self with no need for plying, but this yarn tends to be a little less stable, and honestly if you have to rip back your work it is not very forgiving. It also has a tendency to pill more in the final project, so something that is getting a lot of use may look aged quickly. However there is a benefit to this yarn, it is evenly round, its “tube” is an even circle.

The top yarn is a single, meaning it is not plied.
The bottom yarn is a 4 ply yarn, meaning that 4 singles are spun together in an opposite direction from the spin of the singles.

Plied yarns, take multiple singles and spin them together in the opposite direction from the original twist. Meaning that if the single was spun clockwise then the singles would be plied counterclockwise. This tension between the different directions of the spinning help create a stable yarn that holds up well.

So now how can your plies make a difference in your crochet if it is a stable yarn? Well it comes down to how “round” the “tube” is. If you ply two singles together you then have 2 round tubes spin together, the result is not a final “tube” that is really round, it is more flat of oval at best. There is nothing wrong with this, but the rounder the yarn the more stitch definition you have. This can be important when working textural stiches, as a cable stitch may not “pop” as much with a 2 ply yarn, verses a single.

Three swatches, using the same stitch, but the yarn changes the look.
The top swatch is a 6 ply yarn.
The middle swatch is a single.
The bottom swatch is a two ply yarn.

The more plies a yarn have typically the closer to “round” it becomes, while staying more stable. So yarns with a greater number of plies does allow textural stitches to shine more.

In some projects this may not be noticeable, but it is good to know, to ensure your project comes out the way you intend.