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.

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, 

Working the Star Stitch

There are various ways to create a stitch in crochet, and one that can turn peoples head a bit is one that is often referred to as the star stitch. I am not completely sure where this stitch gets its name, to me it does not really look like a star unless I count the middle of the night squinting I do at the little light on the smoke detector and wonder if I need glasses. It has the light radiating in a couple of directions, a bit like light through a prism.

Some find this stitch intimidating, as it looks more difficult than it is. Essentially this stitch is worked very similar to a single crochet decrease over multiple stitches, but instead of working it over several stitches you are working it with the parts and components of just one stitch. This makes really the only difficult part of this stitch is knowing where to place your hook.

I find it easiest to work a row of basic crochet stitches, either a row of single or double crochet, then working the star stitch in subsequent rows. This does not mean that you cannot work the start stitch directly into a foundation chain, it is simply my preference to have a little more fabric to hold on to.

The stitch is worked by first inserting the hook into the “eye” or hole of that was created by the last yarn over and pull through of the adjacent stitch, you then yarn over and pull up a loop.

Next insert the hook around the last “leg” of the adjacent stitch. I tend to only pick up the front portion of the “leg” and do not worry about putting the hook all of the way through the fabric. Yarn over and pull up a loop.

For the third insertion point (fourth loop on your hook) you insert your hook into the stitch in the row below, which has already been worked into by the adjacent stitch, once again yarn over and pull up a loop.

The final insertion point is to insert your hook into the next stitch, and pull up a loop.

You will now have 5 loops on you hook, yarn over and pull through all 5 loops. Now chain 1, this will create the “eye” that the next star stitch will begin being worked into.

 

 

 

 

If you are beginning a new row, there is no adjacent stitch to work into, so you pick up loops in the turning chain in the same manner as you would for the stitch. The turning chain is typically a chain 2 to match the height of the stitch, you then simply insert your hook into each chain and pull up a loop in each chain, insert the hook in the base of the chain and pull up a loop, then insert the hook in the next stitch and pull up a loop.

This stitch can create a dense fabric, so prepare to use a large hook if you want a bit more drape. Also, this stitch has a very different look if it is worked in the round, without turning every row. If you like this look, yet need a flat fabric there are people that cut the yarn at the end of every row and then reattach and work with only the right side of the fabric ever facing forward. This is a really nice look, I am just not a fan of weaving in that many ends.

So give this stitch a try, it does share interesting texture and appearance, something not every stitch can garner.

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.

 

Pechin is a New Classic- A Great Shawl

There are a couple of stitches that always seem to make their way into my work. I find that I create multiple projects using them, and still I never tire of working them. My latest design from Manos del Uruguay and Fairmount Fibers, Pechin, falls into this category.

This shawl is worked from the center of the neck outward, utilizing a simple chain and single crochet combination. I find that this stitch allows that yarn to really be the feature. It creates a light, airy fabric that embodies the yarn to go as far as it can. By this I mean that you can go a long way with just one skein. As an example, Pechin is only a 2 skein shawl (using Manos del Uruguay Milo), and a really good sized shawl at that.

For Pechin, I broke up the chain stitch pattern with bands of shells. This creates a visual break as well as a bit of dimension. The bands gradually space further apart in this design to help keep the flow balanced, and I feel it helps give a really classic look.

I have to admit, I could work this shawl over and over again. The stitch pattern has a nice rhythm, and just enough details, at just the right time, to keep it from getting boring. I also feel that it really has a beautiful balance between the design and the yarn, they feel at harmony with one another as neither over powers the other.

Okay, that might seem a bit wordy or dramatic, but what I mean is that it is a pattern/design in which you can appreciate both the yarn and the design at the same time. I have spoken in the past about how you select a yarn or pattern to bet let one or the other be a highlight, like not using a variegated yarn in a design that is heavily textured, as the yarn will win over the design (read more here). Pechin however, has a balance that allows the yarn to shine as well as the design, and this is true even if the yarn is variegated.