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.

Crisscross Mesh- The Easy Top

I have long found that using a fine weight yarn and a large crochet hook can create some stunning effects, and my latest design is no exception. The Crisscross Mess Top can be found in the Spring 2018 Special issue of Crochet! Magazine Boutique Style Crochet and I think that you will really enjoy it.

photo courtesy Annie’s

The yarn used for this design, Juniper Moon Farm Zooey DK, is a cotton/linen blend at 60%/40% respectively. It has a slightly uneven texture, being that it is a bit thinner/thicker in some places then others, but not drastically. It is not necessarily the first yarn I would have thought to design with, but I am very happy with the results. Find a more in depth review and thoughts of this yarn from my post in June 2017, here.

The design for this top is really pretty simple. It is rates as easy, and honestly….it is. Basically the large hook and fine yarn do all the work. You simply work 2 different size rectangles, and sew them together, then add sleeves. It only utilizes one crochet stitch, so it is pretty straight forward, yet has a really nice effect. There is no need to worry about shaping, or anything of such, the sleeves use what is referred to as short rows. Short rows are basically the act of not finishing a row, leaving stitches unworked, then when returning to work a row in the same direction you then work the unstitched stitches. Basically if you have 10 stitches in row 1, you work 5 stitches in row 2, as a result there are 5 stitches in row 3, then in row 4 you work the 5 stitches of row 3, and the 5 unworked stitches in row 1, resulting in 10 stitches. Really this is the only technique in this design that is not “repeat Row 2”.

To help the fabric open up, I actually hung it up when I blocked it. The weight of the wet fiber helped pull the stitches open even more than the stitches themselves. This helps give it a casual chic look. However it is definitely not a “wear it alone” type of top. You want to have something underneath, so that effectively makes this a statement type piece.

So if you are looking for a bit of a current fashion statement, give this design a try.

Crochet Cursing! Blocking?

ScannedImageI am going to use a curse word in the world of crochet…Blocking. Okay I said it, and I admit it is not my most favorite part of crocheting.
Over all my many years of crocheting, I never blocked my work, but I have a new understanding and appreciation for it in the more recent years.
So in my earlier years of crocheting I mostly created afghans made of acrylic yarn, really looking at it, blocking would not have made much of a difference in my work. But as I began using more natural fibers, I can really see the difference blocking has to offer. This is even true of some of the new synthetic yarns.
I began to thinks about blocking different when someone expressed it as “a way of setting the stitch”. This one phrase opened up a new line of thought about this process, and caused me to investigate how this technique affects my fabric.


Unblocked, they look okay, but the detailing is not as evident.

So what is blocking? Blocking is the process of using moisture to open up the yarn fiber and set it into a desired shape. Yes, you may have already crocheted it into the shape you want, but the original structure of the yarn want s to pull it to itself. By adding moisture, (using a spray bottle of water, or steaming with an iron) the fiber in the yarn relaxes and opens up to the structure you have created. For best results, you should test the blocking on a swatch to determine what the best method of blocking is. Essentially this is a “lay flat to dry” kind of project.
This process is not only used in your finished fabric. The method of getting a fiber wet and setting it to a desired structure actually takes place in handspun yarns as well. It is referred to as “setting the twist”. After a yarn is plied (more than one strand spun together in the opposite direction of the single strands), it is submerged in water to remove the air. It is then snapped like a whip to remove the excess water, and hung to dry, sometimes even weighted (hanging weight at the end of the hank) to set the twists of the yarn. So setting a stitch by blocking is much like setting the twist in the yarn to begin with. It allows the fibers to “receive a new memory” of how to sit and where to belong.


Blocked, you can see more of the open work, and everything is a little crisper and more defined.

I do not use blocking to attempt to create something other then what I stitched, I do not attempt to get an additional several inches to my project and become something it is not. I use it to open up my open stitch work, my lace, help set my edges straighter, help my yarn to know where its new home is.
I guess I really cannot call it a curse word any more; it is a functional tool in my bag of techniques…but still not one that I love…