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.

Change the Yarn- Tips for Yarn Substitutions

We have all done it, and sometimes it goes well, others it does not. I am talking about yarn substitution.

Honestly, I never really thought about the yarn I was substituting. I would find a yarn I loved then pick out a pattern I liked and just begin working up my stitches. I never looked at gauge, I never paid attention the fiber or even the weight of the yarn.

In some cases things worked out fine, in others I found myself with items smaller, or firmer, or just plain awkward looking. So I have learned, and it is time to share some insights.

First realize that the pattern you find was designed in a specific yarn. The way it looks in the photo is because of this specific yarn. Changing the yarn will change the effect, maybe the drape, maybe even the size.

Now what to compare to make the change.

Check the weight of the yarn. The weight is in essence the diameter of the strand of yarn, it can be assigned a number (from 0 lace-7 super chunky) or given a name such as lace, thread, sock, fingering, baby, sport, DK, worsted, Aran, chunky, craft, bulky, roving.  These numbers or names are assigned by the manufacture and finding matching yarns at least get you in the ball park that the yarns are similar.

However there are times that you pick up a yarn and it doesn’t have a weight listing by number of name, but it does have a knitting gauge listed. This gauge can help you make the weight comparison too. Yarns that have the same gauge, using the same size needles, will be also be compatible in weight. If the yarns are using the same size needles in the gauge but the stitch and row counts are not the same, the yarn with the higher number of stitches in the gauge will be thinner than the other.

Another way many compare the weight, is to compare the yard/meters and the ounces/grams of the skein. If a skein states that it is 400yrd/366m and 1.75oz/50g it would be compatible with a yarn of 425rds/388m and 1.75oz/50g, but not compatible with a yarn that was listed as 600yd/549m and 1.75oz/50g, as the latter yarn is much thinner. It is a comparison of yards/meters and comparison if ounces/grams that help you see if things are in the same ball park.

The next thing to consider when comparing yarns if the fiber content. In some cases it may not make much of a difference, but a few fibers act completely different from one another. For instance if you are substituting a wool yarn with a lot of bounce or springiness, with a 100% silk you fabric will not even resemble each other. The silk tends to have a lot of drape, it flows, and in comparison to the wool will be limper. Whereas the wool will have some stretch and spring back into place.

Yarns with similar fiber content will behave similarly, so use caution if the labels vary greatly.

Now that you have found a yarn to substitute, if you want to ensure that you will be happy with the outcome of your project, make a gauge swatch. If you make gauge and are happy with how the fabric feels and looks, make your project.

 

Understand Crochet Post Stitches

In crochet Post Stitches are all about where you put your hook. It really can be that simple, yet it can be intimidating. It is from post stitches that interesting textures and designs can be created. But first it helps to understand the basics.

To work a Front Post Stitch, the hook is inserted between the “body” of a stitch, from the front of the fabric to the back, then returned back to the front of the fabric. Causing a post (or “body”) of a stitch to be pushed forward. In all the examples I show here I am demonstrating with Double Crochet stitches (US Standard), but really any stitches can be utilized in this manner. Then the indicated stitch is completed as normal.

As for a Front Post Double Crochet -FPDC, (US Standard), you would yarn over first, insert the hook as indicated above, yarn over and pull through a loop to anchor the stitch, then yarn over pull through 2 loops, and repeat the yarn over pull through of the last 2 loops on the hook.

To work a Back Post Stitch the process is very similar, it is just placing the hook in the reverse order, pushing the post (or “body”) of the stitch toward the back of the fabric. Essentially inserting the hook between the “body” of the stitch, from the back of the fabric to the front, then returning the hook to the back of the fabric. Once again you complete the stitch as indicated.

When working a Back Post Double Crochet -BPDC, (US Standard), you would yarn over first, insert the hook around the post of the stitch from back to front, then front to back as described above, yarn over and pull through a loop to anchor the stitch, then yarn over and pull through 2 loops two times.

Knowing these stitch positions opens up many different stitch texture opportunities, such as basket-weave and cables, I have displayed here a simple basket-weave of alternating front and back posts, as well as working a front and back post stitch around the same stitch. Working around the same stitch you will have to skip a stitch between or work the stitches over a mesh base. Using the same stitches, and in this case even in the same order (alternating front and back post stitches), you can get very different effects. Try this stitch placement out for your self. 

 

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, 

Teaching and Still Learning

Why do I still take crochet classes? That was a question I was asked recently, and apparently many people do not easily understand the reason.

I must first admit, that I took my first crochet class in 2011, thirty years after I taught myself to crochet. I took the class because I happened to be invited to attend a Crochet Guild of America conference, and figured I would try everything it had to offer. I actually took a few classes at that conference, and realized that even though I knew quite a bit about crochet there was so much more to learn.

Crochet does not just have to be the working of a couple of stitches to create an afghan, which was my long standing practice with the craft, it can be an experience of bonding, an experience of growth, an experience of connecting. Taking my first class opened this world to me.

In each and every class I take I learn something new, even if it is a topic I thought that I knew really well. Every teacher has a different way to bring the material and information alive, in this process I see crochet from a different angle, and different history, and different life.

Yes, I might be going a bit deep, but crochet is so unique to each individual. Not only is all crochet handmade, as there is no machine crochet, but it is often learned from one generation to another. I often find students are unsure of their abilities in crochet, and I think this is due to the nature of learning in a personal setting from an older relative or neighbor. This might intimidate students from taking classes, it did for me for too many years, but overcoming the awkward discomfort I thought I would have has shown me more than I could have imagined.

Even as I teach more, I continue to take classes to retain and re-imagine what crochet can be. If you haven’t adventured into a crochet class, I really recommend you do. You will meet interesting people, learn stories and connect….everything that I realize I need.