Taking a Look at the “Extras” that make Crochet

ScannedImageI usually find myself to be a very simple person. I have crocheted for more years then I care to count, and have never thought about much more then my hook and my yarn. However recently I have started to look at “accessories”.

It probably came about from a ceramics class. A group of former students/friends arranged a day out to a local studio called “Color Me Mine”. It is apparently a chain of studios that have ceramic pieces for purchase, that you can then glaze and they will fire in a kiln, resulting in a personalized project that has a professional feel. At our studio day it was arranged for us to create our own yarn bowls.DSCF0937

A yarn bowl is a newer concept to me; it is a bowl that holds yarn but has decorative edge that actually functions in reducing your yarn from tangling. So balls of yarn are contained and do not run wild in the house and the pull of the yarn is from the same place every time. I admit, in the past I managed unruly balls of yarn by placing them in a tennis shoe or hiking boot, but this bowl seems to be much more effective. Of the finished pieces I had the pleasure of seeing, they are all beautiful.

Funny how one open door to a new thought can open the door to many others. As this experience had me looking at travel holders for hooks, bags, hooks in general, even coffee cups. So when I was attempting to find a “thank you” gift for a friend, instead of looking at the usual yarn, I began thinking of other possibilities. One that I have decided to undertake and make myself, a hook/needle travel case.

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Small pouches for hooks/needles

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Wrong side of sewn fabric, 2 sets of pockets are created with folds. (hook/needle pouches sewn on the main pocket)

It has not been as difficult as I would have first thought. I found a fabric I liked in my stash, a velvet or velour type in a dark green; I cut a rectangle of 13”x 30” (33x76cm), and then began folding. I folded up 8” (20cm) from the short side, and then folded it in half back down (so that the velvet side of the fabric was facing outward, while at the same time lining the pocket). I then began to stitch creating a pocket and then slender pocket of ½” (1cm) width to hold hooks/needles. I then created a second set of pockets behind the hooks, by pulling up the recently sewn pocket about 2 ½” (6cm) and stitching the sides down. I also placed a couple of additional seams over the stitches created in the hooks sleeves to make about 3” (7.5cm) pouches.

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The crochet fabric is sewn to the velvet fabric, wrong sides together.

Now that the stitching was done, it was on to the crochet. I made a piece of crochet fabric from some rayon yarn I had, and utilized the Tunisian simple stitch to highlight the subtle color changes, in a size of a 9”x13” (23x33cm)rectangle. Matching the 13” (33cm) sides of the velvet and the crochet, with wrong sides together I stitches the seam, as well as at either end of the of the 9”(23cm) side of the crochet fabric to the velvet piece, and finally stitched the last side of the crochet fabric in place leaving the remaining velvet fabric unstitched (this is used to fold over the hooks/needles). Then sew on some ribbon ties and I think it looks good.

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Tied up and ready to go!

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Just needs to be filled!

Looking at accessories for the world of fiber, is opening up many new ideas….it seems like a whole new world!

Tunisian Full Stitch….How I Found It for Myself

ScannedImageMany years ago I taught myself to crochet, I remember seeing the “Afghan Stitch” in the book I was using, but I was never interested in doing cross stitch embroidery, so I never looked at it too long. Then several years later I was taking a free form class and the teacher mentioned using some Tunisian Simple Stitch in the piece for fun.

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Tunisian Full Stitch

Well what I remembered of the stitch, insert you hook, pull up a loop, repeat, and then work them all off, so I proceeded to do just that. What I was not paying attention to was working behind the vertical bar; instead I worked between the vertical bars, you know that space that somewhat reminds me of chain space, and pulled a loop up. Later I realized my error, but I was sure that I was just doing a different stitch, however when I began looking around for the name, I couldn’t quite find it.

I searched on-line and through various books, and found some different names for it. Some called it “net stitch”, others “Basic Stitch”, and as Tunisian Crochet is becoming more mainstream and the terms more universal I have finally found it; the “Tunisian Full Stitch”.

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Working in the space Immediately next to the current loop on the hook

As I stated earlier there the stitch is worked between the vertical bars, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Since the stitch staggers on either side of the stitches below, you need to make adjustments at one side or the other of the fabric, or you will be making a piece that is not square. To make this adjustment on the beginning of one row you work a stitch immediately in front of the loop already on your hook, and end that row pulling up a loop in the last space between vertical bars. Then work the usual Return Pass (Chain 1, *YO, pull through 2 loops; rep from * across, until 1 loop remains). On the next row, you skip the space immediately next to the loop on the hook, and work in the rest of the spaces between vertical bars to the end of the row, insert hook in the chain-1 of the Return Pass below, YO and pull up a loop, then work the Return Pass again. Alternate these rows throughout the fabric. You will notice that the side that the Return Pass is begun, the edge will not be perfectly straight and this is normal, as you are adjusting a stitch to the last stitches every other row.

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Working the last stitch in the last space between vertical bars. This is the row ending to working the first loop in the space immediately next to the hook.

I personally really like this Tunisian Stitch, I am not sure if it is because it is the stitch I stumbled upon early on, or if it is because it does not give you a set straight line appearance but pulls the eye diagonally instead. The fabric does have a lot of stretch with this stitch and I find that useful in many designs, not to mention it is a fairly forgiving technique.

Air Pockets…They make the Difference

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Rugby in the rain. We received about 8″ with this storm, completely welcomed after nearly 2 months of dry and warm weather.

ScannedImageThe other day, while standing in the long overdue rain, watching my son’s Rugby game, I was thinking about what makes my crochet hat and gloves warmer then my denim jeans. The answer is simple, but also kind of surprising; air. The more little pockets of air that are trapped next to the skin, the warmer you can stay.

The process used in twisting the yarn and creating little knots, creates little pockets that trap air. Depending on the yarn and stitch combination, different levels of warmth can be created; this is why lace can be warmer than expected. The more things are compressed and made tight and dense, does not necessarily create a warmer fabric as it can press the air out of the work.

This is true with the yarn as well. Often it is realized that wool is warmer then bamboo, this is because of the fibers that are used. Bamboo, even though it is a plant fiber, is processed and extruded in factories creating a long smooth yarn that absorbs moisture, and thus in hot weather will keep you cooler by wicking away perspiration and allowing it to be evaporated. While the animal fibers that are utilized in wool yarns, are created naturally to keep the animal warm and dry. This is done by the crimp of the fiber itself.

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2 locks of wool, notice the crimp of the fiber

Wool fibers are not like hair, they are crimped (like the fashion in hairstyles from the 1980’s), it has stretch (like elastic) and it grows in clusters (a patch grows together and can be plucked out together as one group). This nature helps to create air pockets in the yarn that is being created (depending on the process used, more or less air can be trapped).

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My single crochet ribbed hat over my denim pants

So while my woven denim might be durable it does not offer as much warmth because the amount of trapped air is limited. But that hat, made only out of single crochet ribbing and my gloves made from back loop single crochet kept me quite toasty in comparison.

Learning the Hank (part 2)

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From Hank to Skein with Blue Heron Yarn

ScannedImage(Continued from April 19, 2013 post)…. So I finally understood the concept of a “hank” of yarn, it was intimidating me anymore, so I would simply open it up and roll it into a ball. Needless to say I had nothing but a tangled mess. After freeing the large loop of yarn so that I could unravel it from its loop, I learned that it might want to hold on to its neighboring thread and pull it ever so slightly with it, moving the neighboring thread from where it sat and growing into a mess. It took me hours, and even then I needed to cut places and work out knots that I had made, it was a head ache.  But this time I was not discouraged. I would find a process.

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Let the loops hang smooth, note the yarn that ties to loop together, keeping the yarn in place

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Usually you can fond the end of the yarn tied to a securing yarn, that holds the loops in place

After playing with some hanks I learned that before I even attempt “freeing” the yarn from its loop, I need to make sure the loop in smooth, not twisted, that it hangs nicely, this will definitely help. Then I need to place it somewhere that will keep it taunt, maybe over the back of a dining room chair, but I found that I use my knees (not very lady like but effective for me), I have learned that some people use a swift…it reminds my somewhat of an umbrella, but without the fabric. This expands to the size of the loop and will spin as you pull the yarn). Then I can make it into a ball, if I want to pull it from the center I can wrap the yarn around an empty toilet paper tube (open finishing wrapping it up, I can pull out the tube and use the middle yarn, as pulling from  the center means that the yarn will not be rolling around that floor as I use), or there is a little tool called a ball winder that you place your yarn end in and crank its little handle and it spins it onto a tube, to make a pull from the center skein.

So why is yarn placed in hanks? Is it just to give you a little more of a work out, or to look fancy? Actually it does have a reason; it places less stress on the yarn. By being in that “loop” it helps the yarn to relax, where putting it into a skein or ball, the yarn in the center is under more pressure than the yarn on the outer edges. This may be a subtle thing, but it can make a difference in some processes and designs, especially if the fiber has been sitting in this more pressured state of a long while. If you think about it you have seen this with a basic skein of yarn, when you pull out the beginning end, it is often bent of twisted, where by the end of the skein it is smooth. So if you want to use a hank of yarn, only wind it into a ball when you feel you are ready to use it. It will help the yarn stay consistent.

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Notice the hank lets you view the length of the color change, whereas the skein it is less obvious

One of the benefits I have found with a hank, it a purely visible one, I can open a hank to a loop, and see how long the color changes are for a variegated yarn. This is something that I have difficulty seeing in a skein.

I have found that I am not alone in my understanding of this “yarn hank”, so I hope my experience will help you take the step to attempt a yarn you may not have used because of the way it is presented. (And I have since learned, that most of these Local Yarn Stores, will in fact wind the hank into a skein for you at purchase, you just have to ask). Take the plunge and explore the world of fiber!

So Now I’m Making Fabric- and Losing Labels

Making fabric sounds like a high tech industrial trade, big machines and fine threads, but really I do it daily. Crochet is simply creating fabric. When I finally made this realization it opened up a world of possibilities. I’ll admit it; I crocheted for nearly 25 years (maybe even 30) before I tackled anything resembling a sweater or garment, it was just too intimidating.

My first afghan

My first afghan

I made afghans galore, many different color combinations, styles and stitch patterns, but to make a sweater or cardigan that just seemed like too much. I had seen knitters following grids and using stitch markers so I assumed that crocheting a sweater would be much the same. But I took the plunge as a challenge to myself to use a gift certificate at a local yarn store, and make something nice for myself.

So I found a cardigan sweater that had a stitch pattern that looked enjoyable, and then I found some really nice yarn. I carefully read through the pattern and then jumped it, it was at this time I heard somewhere that I was making fabric, and it opened my mind to look at this pattern differently. If I was thinking I was making a sweater I felt intimidated, but when I looked at it was making fabric that I was shaping to fit a sewing pattern, it removed the point of intimidation. I could make crochet in any shape. So I concentrated on making these shapes and then put them together.

My first garment.

My first garment.

My first garment made. Crossing this threshold inadvertently caused me to begin designing (even though I didn’t realize it at the time), as I took sewing patterns and crocheted fabric to fit the pieces in stitches that I like and put them together. I have never looked back.  This has taught me that removing the label I place on things and giving them a different name has helped me to look at it in a different light and add something new to my life, this includes my role as a mom, a wife, a friend. I never realized that I had definitions in my words that dictated how and what I did, but changing the view as increased life’s possibilities.

Who would guess that crochet could have taught me that.