Long Anchoring Loops

One of the things that makes crochet so unique is the fact that you are working with only one live loop and you can work a new stitch anywhere. However this is also the things that can make pattern reading a bit more challenging, as you attempting to understand exactly where the stitch it to be placed.

This can readily become apparent when working stitches rows below, or around stitches in different places. For example, working a front post double crochet 2 rows below, can create a dramatic effect but can be difficult to explain the placement in written words.

The other point that is not always noted is the when working stitches in rows below, is that it helps to create “long loops”. If you keep your usual stitch tension you can often find that your fabric will pucker or become distorted, but a simple trick of pulling up the anchoring loop a bit taller can alleviate this problem.

With the term “anchoring loop” I am referring to the first “Yarn over and pull through” of a stitch. The loop immediately following inserting the hook in the stitch. I use the term “anchoring” as it is a step found in every stitch, and it adheres it to the fabric. Without this anchoring loop the stitch does not attach to the other stitches.

So, when pulling this loop through the other stitches (crochet fabric), you need to pull the loop up higher. High enough that when you finish the stitch you are working that it is even with the adjacent stitches.

Adding Some Height with Extended Stitches

When I am teaching I find that if my students make a mistake, it is because they are attempting something more advanced than they had learned. One such “more advanced stitch” is working Extended Stitches.

Extended stitches are a great way to make more gentle curves, or even help make gauge, and they are pretty easy to create. The technique of extending can be used with any crochet stitch, and only adds one additional step.

To create the stitch you start whichever stitch you are work, just as you always do. Meaning if you are creating a single crochet, insert you hook in the indicated stitch, yarn over and pull through; if you are creating double crochet, yarn over then insert in you hook in the indicated stitch, yarn over and pull through. The extension happens right after the “yarn over and pull through”, this is the point in a stitch that I refer to as “anchoring” as it secures the stitch being created to fabric being created.

After “anchoring the stitch” you yarn over and pull through a loop, essentially creating a chain. Then you complete the stitch as usual. This little added chain gives a little extra height to the stitch, however it does not make it as tall as the next typical stitch in crochet. This helps create a gentler curve in a gradual stitch taper.

There is only a slight difference in the appearance of these extended stitches, and that is a little extra “v” at the base of the stitch post.

Steps for working typical crochet stitches, note: all photo examples are worked to the left of the typical version of the stitch for comparison:

Extended Single Crochet (esc):

Insert hook into indicated stitch, yarn over pull through a loop to anchor, chain one, yarn over and pull through 2 loops.

Extended Half Double Crochet (ehdc):

Yarn over, insert hook into indicated stitch, yarn over pull through a loop to anchor, chain one, yarn over and pull through 3 loops.

Extended Double Crochet (edc):

Yarn over, insert hook into indicated stitch, yarn over and pull through a loop to anchor, chain one, yarn over pull through 2 loops, yarn over pull through 2 loops.

Fast Finishes- Change Colors with Less Ends to Weave

There is always more than one way to do things, and let’s be honest we all want to know the easiest ones. In crochet this usually comes down to finishing work, not many people really want to weave in ends. So when looking for a quick project that meant that we often avoid work with multiple colors, yet I have a simple trick to share.

This trick works best with a two row repeat, meaning that the pattern has you repeating the same two rows throughout, like when you see “Rows 5-95: Rep Rows 3 & 4 forty-five times”. This “rep 3 & 4” indicates a two row repeat.

Now if you change colors after ever row repeat, meaning work two rows of a color and then which to the next, that you will be changing colors on the same side of the work. Now if you use two colors you have a relatively small distance between these changes.

Instead of cutting the yarn and changing colors it is easy to pick up the color needed for the change and “carry” the yarn along the edge. You want to ensure that you do not pull the yarn too tight, or too loose, during these changes. The picture provided shows what I am attempting to explain. 

So to finish off this technique you simply work an edging on the side. This can be a simple row of single crochets or something more elaborate, but you want something that will prevent theses “carried’ strands from becoming snagged.

I find I work designs more like this in the “rush” time up to the holidays. I use to do a lot of one color projects, but now I want something that looks a little more stylish and intricate so I work these simple color changes to save the time on finish work. Less ends to weave in, means I finish that much faster.

See if it helps speed along your project.

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.