Teaching Inspired

It is a bit amazing all the accomplishments my crochet students have made. This last week at the El Dorado County fair in Placerville, CA they were awarded Best of Show, several Blue ribbons, and even swept entire categories. I am proud of each and every one of them, even those that did not enter.

 

Thinking back over the several years of teaching, I can remember my first student, and the lessons I learned from her. I live in a smallish community, and am multiple generations within it. I don’t look too hard for additional family as I probably have more relations or connections then one person really needs in life. So when my kindergarten age son began taking art lessons after school, it was not much of stretch when I found out the teacher was a cousin. Technically she was married to my second cousin, but why get to technical.

 

www.lindadeancrochet.comMy son took lessons all year and over the summer she invited him to her home to continue. During conversations over these lesson she learned that I had successfully completed the Crochet Guild of America’s Masters of Advanced Stitches and Techniques program.  As a result she requested that I teach her to crochet in trade for payment for the art lessons. I know that part of the reason she wanted me to teach her was to have more discussions, and help her gain insight into the childhood of her husband as he is a quiet man that doesn’t speak much on this topic.

 

She took lessons from me for about a year, encouraging me to attend the CGOA annual conference, which ended up launching my crochet career. She encouraged me to begin teaching at a local coffee shop, which I did for 4 years…one night a week with drop in lessons, until the shop moved twenty minutes away, now I teach regularly at my local yarn store as well as at national conferences and events. She was a support, she helped add a new spark to my life.

 

She passed away a few years later, only months after her pancreatic cancer diagnosis, but I remember well the lessons I learned from our crochet time, the class is about more than just the stitches. It is about the relationships, it is about the community, it is about the stories, and it is about sharing the confidence of your own ability and fostering confidence to grow in others. My current students may not realize how my teaching style was built, but they continue to help me remember the important lessons every time we meet. Thank you for the early education Judy, it will forever be with me.

Crochet Really Is The Love

There are moments that crochet can remind you that how powerful and important the skill can be. One such moment happened recently, as I was repairing an afghan that was brought into my local yarn store.

Repairs can seem intimidating, but really they are just a bit time consuming. Often the most difficult part is finding yarn or thread that matches the piece being repaired. Fortunately I am a bit of a pack rat, so I have a pretty extensive yarn collection. This allows me to have some flexibility in finding a suitable yarn to use. The next really important thing is to catch all of the loose loops of the stitches still intact to ensure that they do not unravel further. This also helps to see where the damage actually stems from and helps gain insight in how to fix it.

The repair that I just completed was one that can be fairly common, any time there are many stitches worked in one place there tends to be more stress on the yarn the stitches are worked into. Sometimes these strands fail and allow all the stitches to become unsecured at the base.

When I undertook the repairs I did not know the story behind it, I did not know the special memories or meanings in these stitches. I just knew that it was important to someone. I never strive to “improve” the quality of the piece, if loose ends are not securely woven it, I just check to make sure that they are not unraveling the fabrics. I try to keep the character that the piece came to me with. I try to just bring the fabric back to whole so that it can continue to be treasured.

I often later learn the stories, some for a grandmother’s handiwork, a sister’s gift, and in the case of my last repair a wife’s final gift to be shared with the first grandchild. It is on these occasions that I really appreciate how much crochet is more than just yarn and stitches, it is love. I am fortunate that I can help that love continue to shine.

Crochet Hats De-Mystified

It is interesting that you completely forget how you felt about something before it became common place. Okay, that sentence could apply to many things in today’s day and age, however I was personally thinking of my crochet. A conversation I had with a student juggled a little something free in my mind about hats.

I find crocheting hats a pretty relaxing past time at this point in my life, enough so that the yarn I post about on Fridays … that swatch usually becomes a hat…but I didn’t always feel that way. Hats were intimidating to me, probably because the only crochet hats I had seen as a kid growing up were usually worked vertically with short rows. I had never really seen a top down, or even bottom up worked crochet hat, until probably college.

Top down hats start as a flat circle

That does make my crochet life sound a bit sheltered, maybe it was. I did teach myself after all and I primarily crocheted with “hand-me-down” yarn form other people’s stashes. I made doll clothes and scarves, but if it was something to be adorned or admired, I made afghans …hundreds of them.

Anyway, when I would contemplate working a hat, I was always befuddled by the dome shape, and having it actually fit. Little did I realize how easy it was to make, so easy that since I learned it I have never looked back. Essentially a top down crochet hat begins with a flat circle. Yes, a flat circle. This seems a little counterintuitive, but it works. Creating a flat circle simply requires adding the number of stitches worked in round 1 to be added evenly throughout all other rounds. Meaning if I begin the first round with 12 double crochets, then I add 12 double crochets evenly in each following round, so round 2 would have 24 double crochets, and round 3 would have 36 double crochets.

After the circle is worked to a point where the outer edge, the circumference, measures the circumference of the head (usually somewhere between 20” and 22” (51-56 cm) for a typical adult), then you quit working any increasing stitches and continue working even (a single stitch in every stitch around), until you have the hat the desired length.

Here is a really basic pattern for a hat, nothing fancy…

Using any yarn and a corresponding hook,

Rnd 1: Ch 4, 11 dc in 4th ch from hook, sl st to top of beg ch. (12 dc)

Rnd 2: Ch 3, dc in same st, 2 dc in each st around, sl st to join. (24 dc)

Rnd 3: Ch 3, dc in same st, dc in next st, [2 dc in next st, dc in next st] around, sl st to join. (36 dc)

Note: Depending on your yarn and hook only continue working Rnds until circumference of hat is met with circumference of the circle, then work Body of Hat.

Rnd 4: Ch 3, dc in same st, dc in next 2 sts, [2 dc in next st, dc in next 2 sts] around, sl st to join. (48 dc)

Rnd 5: Ch 3, dc in same st, dc in next 3 sts, [2 dc in next st, dc in next 3 sts] around, sl st to join. (60 dc)

Rnd 6: Ch 3, dc in same st, dc in next 4 sts, [2 dc in next st, dc in next 4 sts] around, sl st to join. (72 dc)

Rnd 7: Ch 3, dc in same st, dc in next 5 sts, [2 dc in next st, dc in next 5 sts] around, sl st to join. (84 dc)

Body of Hat

Ch 3, dc in each st around, sl st to join. Repeat this Rnd until hat is desired length.

Fasten off and weave in ends.

Make a few hats, and considering helping your local community by donating a few to your local homeless shelter.

A Simple End Two Ways for Crochet

I have found some debate on how one ends their work. This might seem like a something quite simple, but there a couple of different ways I have seen it done, and I am sure there are others.

Finish off. www.lindadeancrochet.com

Pulling the cut yarn through the last loop on hook.

At the end of a pattern it will say finish off or fasten off, both essentially mean the same thing, cut your yarn and end your work. It is the process to end your work that can get some discussion. No one really talks about it, as many are afraid that they may not being doing it correctly and they don’t want anyone to know. So this gets discussed in small private groups that people do not feel judged in, or when a brand new crocheter asks the question to a large group.

The two most common I have found in my discussions are to complete the stitch, leaving 1 loop on the hook, cutting the yarn and pulling through this one loop. This does leave a slight “bump” at the end of your work, because in a sense you are creating a knot. I will be honest, this is the approach I most often use, I like to feel that the end will not come undone, basically it is a piece of mind for myself.

Finish off. www.lindadeancrochet.com

Pull cut yarn though the end of last stitch.

The second is to finish the last stitch, cut the yarn and pull it through the last stitch. This is the method used when working an invisible join, and l feel it can have a really nice finish off, if you are prepared to weave in your ends immediately. There is the benefit of not having any extra little knot at the end of the work, giving a soft even feel across the entire fabric.

There really is not right or wrong way to finish off, it is a matter pf personal preference. You may feel that in some instances a different finish can benefit your work, and that is fine. As always as long as you are happy with your work, that is all that is important.

Hourglass Waves- A Stunning Stitch

I really enjoy putting some classic stitches together in ways that you may not have considered. My latest design does just that. The Hourglass Waves Baby Afghan uses the Catherine Wheel Stitch to create a ripple and an hourglass appearance.

It is really the color work that makes this design come to life, and believe it or not, the color really do have an order to their repeating pattern. However the various stitches can through off this simple pattern creating a great visual interest. It is obvious that this is not your everyday baby throw.

Hourglass Waves Baby Afghan by Linda Dean www.lindadeancrochet.com

Hourglass Waves Baby Afghan Photo courtesy Crochet Now Magazine

Featured as a design in the latest issue of Crochet Now Magazine, issue 13, this blanket is one that does not just mark itself as something for a baby, it can easily grow for a toddler, a child, and created larger a great design for a teen or adult. The next opportunity I get I think I may make enlarge my own and make a version for my son. I really think he would love it in primary colors.

Sometimes people can hear the stitch pattern Catherine’s Wheel and instantly get a bit fearful, but this stitch pattern is not as difficult as you may think. Essentially it is a row of large shells, or fans, basically a large number of double crochets (treble crochets if you happen to be in the UK), worked min the same location. This is worked across a row and the following row is essentially a large decrease, worked in between the shells, pulling up loops in each of these stitches, making the fabric edge straight again. This blanket utilizes this very technique, but then highlights the shapes it can create with rows of single crochet (double crochet in the UK).

Hourglass Waves Baby Afghan by Linda Dean www.lindadeancrochet.com

Hourglass Waves Baby Afghan Photo courtesy Crochet Now Magazine

I love how the pattern is not something that you see every day, it has dimension and character.  I hope you find this design inspiring too.