Posts in Crochet Camp
Cherry Delicious Pot Holders
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IMG_0645

Inspired by a photo of a vintage pattern that fell out of a stack of old knitting and crochet magazines, I couldn't help but fall in love with making a cute little cherry potholder.  Finished size is 5.5"/14cm squared - intentionally small to make it a rewarding beginner pattern. This pattern uses:

Chain

UK Double/US Single Crochet

Slip stitch

Working Flat

Working in Rounds

The PDF patterns have step by step instructions for the stitches used at the back of the pattern.

Download them here:

Crochet Camp UK Pattern
Crochet Camp UK Pattern
Crochet Camp US Pattern
Crochet Camp US Pattern

This pattern is part of Crochet Camp, a month long crochet extravaganza here on the blog! Head here to find out all about it and join in!

Getting Started: The Equipment

I remember the first time I walked into my local yarn store. Shelves filled to the brim with yarn in every colour, size, and thickness imaginable. I must have spent hours in there, that first time. Wandering from shelf to shelf, looking at the ball bands, wondering how to decipher the hieroglyphics on them, trying to match hook to yarn. "Lace", "4ply", "aran" the words meant nothing to me, at least in this context and I simply had no idea where even to start. Six years on, my best advice for new crocheters as to where to begin is two fold:

1. Start with a pattern you want to make. Starting from something is so much easier than starting from nothing. Plus, finding a project that you really want to see finished is a great motivation to learn the skills needed to complete it. We will talk later in the course how to go about identifying good patterns to start with.

2. Ask for help. Be it online or in person, a friend, a blogger or the staff at your local yarn store, people who crochet (or knit) usually want to share the love.  When in doubt - Ask!!

Starting out can be slow and frustrating, like any new skill, but in the end you will hold something in your hands that YOU made. Pretty awesome, if you ask me.

No matter which pattern you start with, you will need the 2 basic supplies of  yarn and hook to get going.

Yarn:

Thickness:

The pattern you have chosen should tell you the kind of yarn you need. In the case of the Cherry Delicious Pot Holders, we are using Aran weight cotton. Yarn is graded by its thickness - starting at extremely fine lace and cobweb yarn and moving up to Super Chunky/Bulky.

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20130714-IMG_1398-Edit

Yarn is graded on how many "wraps per inch" one can measure.  In a nutshell, if you were to wrap your yarn around an object, and line each wrap up as above, how many times around would measure 1 inch?  Now, this isn't something you need to know or memorise when you are buying yarn, but it can be a useful tool for thinking about how the thickness of each yarn weigh compares.

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20130714-IMG_1389-Edit-Edit

Generally speaking, thin yarn makes smaller stitches and a thinner, more drapey fabric. Thick yarn makes bigger stitches with a thicker, often stiffer fabric.

When picking a project as a beginner, it is a good idea to start with a smooth yarn that is a DK, Aran, or Chunky/Bulky in a light colour.  This is a nice middle ground, where the yarn isn't too thin that you can't see what you are doing, but not too thick that it is unwieldily. A light colour (and a smooth texture) will enable you to see what you are doing.

Fiber Content:

With the rise in popularity of knitting and crochet, there has also been an increase in the kinds of yarns available - from fuzzy eyelash yarn to wool in every sheep breed imaginable.  Broadly speaking you will find manufactured fibers, natural fibers, and some combination there of in your online or local shop.

Acrylic:

Acrylic yarn is a manufactured fiber that is very light, very cheap and readily available.  A few dollars or pounds can buy enough for a child's jumper - hard to match in any other material.  Acrylic is hypoallergenic, vegan and rarely requires special washing techniques.

There are some drawbacks to working with acrylic.  It can sometimes feel a bit strange on your hook, often referred to as "squeaking", it has a tendency to pill, and can result in static. Using a yarn that is a blend of acrylic and wool can minimise some of these factors.

Wool:

From the softest Merino to the naturally tweedy Shetland, the variations available in 100% wool is astounding.   Wools is often lovely  to work with, with none of the "squeak" of acrylic. The amazing properties of wool has been documented elsewhere, but it is an excellent temperature regulator and can resist and absorb water, without the wearer getting wet. Also, as a beginner, it is very resilient and can be pulled out repeatedly (if you need to).

Wool yarns can be more expensive than acrylic. They also may require special care, so check the ball band for washing requirements. Superwash wools have been specially treated not to felt. Wool is often blended with other fibres to give the yarn the qualities of both, for example nylon is often blended with wool to create harder wearing materials for socks.

Cotton and Bamboo:

Cotton yarn is very smooth, giving great stitch definition. It doesn't have much stretch in it, so if you are a tight crocheter, it can be a bit tricky.  Quite inexpensive and resilient, cotton makes a great material for homewares.  Bamboo has many of the same properties as cotton, but tends to have more sheen and drape.

Other Fibres:

The list of fibres that can be made into yarn or blended with one of the above, is endless.  Silk, alpaca, soy, milk, cashmere, and mohair (even camel!) fiber adds interesting and unique textures to yarns.  These types of fibers do tend to be more expensive, but they can be worth it for that special item.

The best yarn for starting out will be smooth, with a good amount of twist in it. Wool, Acrylic, or Cotton blends are good places to start.

Interested in the ethics of wool and manufacturing?  Annie from Knitsofactso has a brilliant series on the subject looking at the ethics of  bamboo yarn and superwash wool.

Crochet Hooks:

Of course, you can't do much with your yarn if you don't have a hook to go with it.  You will find the size of hook you require in your pattern or on the ball band of the wool.

Sizes of hook are determined by their diameter generally in millimetre increments, though Americans also use  letter and number hook sizes.   Most hooks will have their size written on them, but a hook or needle gauge can help you figure out the size of the writing has worn away. The size of hook determines what amount of yarn is taken into the stitch. A smaller hook takes less, a larger hook takes more.  However, this is a very personal and changeable equation based on how you crochet and the yarn you are using.  We will talk about this more in week 3 and 4 when we look at gauge.

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20130714-IMG_1397-Edit

Hooks can be made out of plastic, bamboo, metal (usually aluminium) or hard wood.  Plastic and metal hooks tend to be the cheapest, with hard wood being the most expensive. Generally, the type of hook you use comes down to personal preference.  Starting out, I usually recommend metal, as they glide quite nicely through most yarns.

Other Tools:

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20130715-IMG_1411-Edit

A pair of sharp scissors and a tapestry needle are also important pieces of you crochet supplies.  They can be bought at most yarn shops and sewing stores, even the grocery store. For a tapestry needle, look for a large eye and a blunt tip so you don't snag your work as you weave in ends. A hook gauge and stitch markers aren't crucial kit, but can be handy depending on the project.  Locking stitch markers are suitable for crochet.

Getting Started: Slip Knot, Holding the Hook and Chain

Ok, so we know know something about yarn and hooks.  Today, we are putting the two together. But, before we begin, a quick note on terminology.

Tail: the cut end of the yarn

Working yarn: the end of the yarn that is attached to the ball of yarn.

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20130715-IMG_1456-Edit

Slip Knot:

Its time to channel your inner Scout and make a slip knot.  Most of the time in crochet, you will start your work with this clever little adjustable knot.  There are a number of techniques to make one and if you use a different method, its not a big deal...as long as the knot is adjustable, you will be fine.

1. Start with a loop as above. Bring the cut end in front of your loop.  You need a decent sized tail, but not too long so it gets in the way.  6"/15cm is about right for most things, unless the pattern tells you otherwise.

2. Flip the loop down over your working yarn.

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20130716-IMG_1527

3. Pull the working yarn through the loop you made.

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20130715-IMG_1459

4. Pull the ends to tighten.

5. Insert your hook into the loop. Pull the working end of the yarn to tighten it on your hook. Not too tight, leave a bit of space between the hook and the knot.

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20130715-IMG_1464

Holding Your Hook:

You should hold the hook in your dominant hand.  Most people hold their crochet hook either like a pencil

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or a knife.

Its up to you how you choose to do it, but you need to find a way to feel comfortable.

Usually, the yarn is held in the opposite hand to the hook.  You need to create some tension on your working yarn by wrapping it around your forefinger, wrapping it through your fingers, or another method you feel comfortable with.

Holding the hook in your dominant hand and the yarn in your non-dominant hand, you then should pinch the end of the slip knot in your non-dominant hand.  This helps give you control of the work.  I hold my work very close to the hook.

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20130716-IMG_1522

Note:

Those who have knit in the English style before learning to crochet often feel more comfortable holding the yarn in the same hand as their hook and bring the yarn over the hook.  If this works for you, great. I usually encourage people though to bring their yarn over their hook from back to front, rather than wrapping it around from front to back as in knitting.  This makes stitches later on slightly easier.

Chain:

1. Place your yarn over your hook from back to front, either by moving your yarn or by moving your hook around the yarn.

The yarn you just placed over the hook is called a yarn over.

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2. Use your hook to pull the yarn over through the loop already on your hook. It helps to twist your hook to point downward to catch the yarn as you pull through. One chain stitch made.

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20130715-IMG_1472-Edit

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you make as many chains as required in the pattern.  You count your chains by counting the "V"s you made, but do not count the loop on your hook and make sure you don't mistake the knot for a stitch.

The back of your chain will look like this:

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20130716-IMG_1511-Edit

Working into your chain:

most of the time, you will work into one loop at the side of your chain.

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This is the easiest way of working into a chain. At other times,  patterns will as you to"work into the back bumps/back bar of the chain". In this case, this is where you should be placing the stitches.

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20130716-IMG_1517

Some tips and trouble shooting:

Holding your hook and yarn and getting your hands working together is often the hardest part of crochet.  It takes practice!!  Work on getting your hands to co-operate.  Chain a lot of stitches before you start on a pattern and work on getting the chain made in one fluid movement.

If your chain doesn't look like mine, there are a couple of things that could be happening.

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20130716-IMG_1513-Edit

1. Tension. We will go into this with more detail later, but not everyone crochets the same.  Some people are looser, some are tighter.  Someone with very loose tension will have a chain that looks like the one on the left. There is nothing wrong with this chain as such, its just that the looseness means that you can see the underside of the chain through the gap between the stitches. It can look slightly loose at the bottom of the stitches once you work into your chain and make it harder to tell where you put your stitches.

2. Twisting: the other common problem with chains is that they can twist as you work on them.  This isn't a show stopper, but it can be solved by holding the yarn closer to the end of the crochet hook, moving your fingers up with each chain. A similar problem happens if your hook comes out of your work and you start working on the back of the chain.  Always aim to have the "V"s of the chain facing you.

Tomorrow, we will look at actually making our stitches into the chain and working evenly in rows to make a square.

Experienced crocheters: anything else I am missing?  Any tips on getting started?

UK Double Crochet

Do you prefer American terms?  Click through to the US edition of this tutorial. Confused that there is even a difference? Check out the terminology Cheat Sheet. Hooray! You made a chain! Get you! *high five and belly bumps*.  I am not kidding when I say the hardest part is over.  Getting the hook and yarn co-ordinated is really tricky. From here, the only way is forward.

While you could festoon your house with chain stitches, they generally are just the base of a project.  Your next step is working stitches into them.

Working Double Crochet into a Chain:

Start by inserting your hook into the second chain from the hook . That first chain is skipped because you need some space to turn your hook and  raise the row the correct height.  This is usually called the turning or beginning chain.

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2. Place your yarn over the hook.

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20130715-IMG_1476-Edit
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3. Using the same technique as making your chain, catch your yarn over in your hook, twist your hook downward to  pull the yarn over through the first loop on your hook. 

4. Yarn over again.

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20130715-IMG_1479

5. Pull the yarn over through both loops on your hook. One double crochet stitch made. 

Work across your chain.  You will work into the next unworked chain until you have no chain stitches left to work.

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(in this example, there are 9 stitches. We made 10 chain stitches, but missed one at the beginning of this row.)

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Turn your work. For those who are right handed, you will always work from right to left.  For those who are left handed, you will always work from left to right. 

1. Make 1 chain. This is your turning chain.

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20130715-IMG_1487-Edit

2. Insert your hook into the first stitch (not the turning chain).  You will insert your hook under the 2 loops of the "V" at the top of your work unless your pattern says otherwise.

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20130715-IMG_1490

You are going to work your double crochet stitches in the same way as before.

1. Yarn over your hook.

2. Pull through the stitch.

3. Yarn over your hook.

4. Pull through both loops on your hook.

Work until all of the stitches in your row are worked.  As a beginner, it is a good idea to count your stitches in each row as you work across. This helps you spot miss stitches early on. Count the "V"s at the top of the row.

Counting Rows:

Continue working rows as above.  You can keep track of how many rows you work as you work them by counting in your head, using pen and paper, or using a  stitch counters.

You can also count the rows in your finished piece. This is unfortunately tricky for double crochet.  It can be hard to see the ends of the rows and the stitch creates a very dense fabric.  However, you can see where the stitches are worked into the previous rows and count there.

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20130716-IMG_1536-Edit

Alternatively, you can use the horizontal bars to count your rows. These are created on every row on the back side of the stitch. As you look at your piece of work laid out, you will have 1 horizontal bar on every other row on each side. (Note: there isn't usually a right or wrong side when working crochet in rows, unless specified or using more advanced stitches). Use these to "see" the rows of single crochet and count accordingly.

Common Problems:

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20130716-IMG_1528

Perhaps the most common problem when working in rows with double crochet is the piece developing a triangular shape. If your rows are getting shorter: this is usually caused by missing a stitch at one or both ends. Make sure you are making your turning chain and then working into the first stitch, as noted above.  Also, your last stitch of the row often looks like it is hanging off the side a bit.  Ensure you work into it as well.

If your rows are getting longer: make sure you are not working into the turning chain at the start of your row and you are only working 1 stitch into each stitch.

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20130715-IMG_1487-Edit-2

Kathy Rudd gave a great tip in the Facebook Group on this problem, she said "Put a stitch marker in your first stitch of the row so when you are working back, you know that stitch is the last one. I usually have a marker on each end of a piece and just keep moving it up as I work. Keeps me nice and straight!"

When you have worked all of the rows you need and the pattern indicates you should "break yarn" -  simply cut your working end of yarn, about 6 inches away from your work and use your hook to pull on the last loop to bring the newly cut end through your stitch.  This secures the work temporarily until you can work the next section of directions or weave in your ends.

Tomorrow, we have an incredible interview from a very talented designer and we will be looking at working in rounds.

Slip Stitch and Working in Rounds (UK Version)

Do you prefer American crochet terms?  Click here for this tutorial in US terminology.

Slip Stitch:

Because they take up very little space, slip stitches are almost invisible and are normally used to join stitches or work across to a different stitch or space in your project without breaking yarn.

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1. Insert your hook into the stitch (or chain) where you want to place the slip stitch.

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2. Yarn over.

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3. Pull through both loops on the hook. 1 slip stitch made.

Making a Circle:

This method of working in a circle begins with chains.  We will cover another method, magic loop, in week 3.

1. Make 4 chains. You will make this chain into a loop by working a slip stitch.

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20130717-IMG_1541-Edit

2. Insert your hook into the first chain you made (in this case, the 4th chain from the hook).

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20130717-IMG_1543

2. Yarn over hook and pull through both loops on your hook. (this is a slip stitch)

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20130717-IMG_1545

3. Chain 1.

Instead of working into the chains, as you would when working in rows, you work around the loop. Insert your hook into the hole made by the circle.

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20130717-IMG_1547-Edit-2

4. Make 6 double crochet into the centre of the circle. You will work all of your stitches in the same way.

- Insert your hook into the  centre of the circle made by the chain stitches.

-Yarn over, pull through the centre of the circle.

- Yarn over again, pull through both loops on your hook.

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20130717-IMG_1556-Edit-2

Close the round by making a slip stitch into the 1st stitch.

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20130717-IMG_1558

Round 2:

In order to make the circle grow evenly, you need to increase the number of stitches in this round.  You will,

1. Make 1 chain.

2. Make 2 double crochet in each stitch.  To do this, you work 1 double crochet as normal, then instead of moving on to the next stitch, make a second  double crochet into the same place as you made the first. (Note: That first pair of stitches is worked into the same stitch you joined with a slip stitch.) Repeat this in each stitch around.

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20130718-IMG_1593-Edit

You should end the round with 12 double crochet.

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20130717-IMG_1560-Edit

Round 3:

- 1 chain.

- 1 double crochet, 2 double crochet into the next stitch. Work this sequence a total of 6 times, so you have 18 stitches at the end of this round.

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20130717-IMG_1561-Edit

FYI: When working in rounds, crochet has a very clear front and back.

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20130718-IMG_1582-Edit

Common Problems:

There are a few problems that people often have with crocheting in a circle:

1. The circle waves and looks like a sea creature.

This is caused by increasing your stitches too quickly.  Circles need to be increased evenly to lay flat.  Rather than repeating myself, I am going to point you to an older tutorial on the basics of a flat circle here.

2. The circle turns into a bowl.

This is caused by increasing too slowly.  refer to the same tutorial here.

3.There is a crooked seam.

Ensure you are working your slip stitch into the 1st stitch of the round, not the chain. If you have problems knowing which was your first stitch, use a stitch marker to help you remember.

4. I don't like that I can see the seam.

Did you notice in the photo above the very distinct slip stitch seams?  The yarn that I use in the tutorials is very bulky (T-shirt yarn from here) and the slip stitches are very visible.  However, even in a thinner yarn, a faint line of slip stitches is often visible. If you want to hide or minimise the seam:

- pull the 1ch at the beginning of each round very tight so that it is almost invisible and then go on to work the round as above.

- rather than working a slip stitch, at the end of the round, remove you hook from the working yarn.  Insert it through the first stitch of the round, catch the working loop with your hook and pull it through. Continue as normal.

remove hook rounds
remove hook rounds

(click here to enlarge)

Other techniques for seamless or invisible joining in the round:

cutting the wool

turning the rounds

- work in a spiral. Rather than raising the rounds with a chain, by working consistently in a spiral, there will be no noticeable seam, but there will be a bump at the end of the round. You should mark the beginning of your round with a stitch marker. You still use the same pattern of increases.

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20130718-IMG_1586-Edit

For another comparison of the different techniques of working in the round, check out this post at Crochet Spot.

For some awesome videos on straight seams from Crochet Ever After here. Anyone else have any tips about working in rounds?

For all of the Crochet Camp posts, head over here.

Guest Post: Left Handed Crochet

After a chat on twitter last week about left handed crochet, Rachell from The Little Room of Rachell agreed to come over to give some tips on Left Handed Crochet. 

Leftie Crochet

When I’ve crocheted in public I’ve sometimes had comments about looking “cack-handed”, been told it “looks really odd like that” and been asked “Don’t you find it hard - doing it like that?” The last one just makes me laugh. Actually I like being different to the majority, although when I was learning to crochet it was a different story as I grappled with instructions and illustrations where the hook was always shown held in the right hand. I tried to squint and imagine it all reversed, but this wasn’t very successful at the beginning.

I have heard that you can learn from, or teach, a right hander by sitting opposite them and copying their actions as if they are a mirror image. I haven’t tried this approach yet. I need a willing victim to try this experiment.

Useful Resources

In the end I found a small range of teaching aids. The best one was a smallish booklet I found on Amazon called Crochet Unravelled by Claire Bojczuk, which is for complete beginners and uses illustrations for left and right handers. I can’t tell you how good I found this straightforward guide. To be honest I credit Claire Bojczuk with teaching me to crochet. I don’t know her, we’ve never met or corresponded, but I think I’d give her a bunch of flowers if we ever did!

YouTube videos showing left handed demos can be really useful as they’ll show you ways of holding the hook and how to scoop the yarn in a clockwise direction (as opposed to the righties who scoop it up anticlockwise.) When I was learning I watched sometimes, just for the pleasure and encouragement of seeing another leftie. I don’t know any other left handed crocheters and sometimes just watching for a few minutes can set you on your way; especially if you’re having problems visualising what to do, don’t know where to go into a stitch or are just feeling a little fed up of instructions written for a right hander.

Simply Crochet magazine has a how-to section at the back every issue which includes a photo tutorial for some stitches for left and right handers. This approach seems to be pretty rare compared to most crochet and craft magazines.

There are several Ravelry groups for left-handed crocheters, where I’m sure you would be welcome to ask questions and seek advice.

Equipment

Although I do use left-handed scissors when cutting lots of paper or fabric, I haven’t found that I’ve needed any different tools for crochet. If you do know of something crochet related for lefties I’d love to know about it, please.

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20130715-IMG_1487-2

Crocheting in Rows

If you’re left handed you’ll be crocheting rows from left to right. When you begin your first row (called the foundation row) you’ll be working along the chains from the left to the right.

When a pattern tells you that the foundation row is the right side of the work, remember that’s the side where the cut tail of the yarn will be hanging down on the right hand-side. If the foundation row is the wrong side of the work then the cut tail of yarn will be on the left. I leave the tail hanging until the end, as it can help me see which side I need to darn into.

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20130721-IMG_1601

Crocheting in Rounds

As a leftie you’ll be crocheting around to the right, or clockwise. This is worth remembering when you start using symbol patterns. These types of patterns show the stitches going to the left for right handers. You will be doing the same stitches, in the same order but going around to the right. It’s a bit like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time! Are you beginning to see why the moral support of YouTube videos, books and tutorials for lefties can be so encouraging at times?

Final Thoughts

Leftie crochet is just a case of remembering that the pattern will be written assuming that you’re right-handed 99% of the time. Most of the time this doesn’t matter at all, but just pause and think about the instructions before you begin. For example: if you’re going to try some colour-work you might need to reverse the instructions, unless the design is symmetrical. So, if you’re told to follow the chart with odd numbered rows going from right to left, just remember that your rows are going to be from the left to the right.

Is all this confusing? As clear as mud? Don’t worry - once you’ve got the hang of crochet as a leftie everything will become second nature and you won’t think about it too much, apart from sometimes when you might find yourself saying ‘Oh these crazy right-handers….!’

About Rachell:

My German aunty and cousins came over to visit when I was quite small and brought me a Sindy doll. One rainy English day they crocheted clothes with scraps of wool, without a single pattern, and very quickly Sindy had a huge wardrobe. After that I really, really wanted to learn to crochet. I was given The Ladybird Book of Crochet and tried hard to master it. It wasn’t to be, partly because the drawings were all for right-handers. I did get the hang of chains but that was it. Years later I suddenly decided I’d have another go and so, in 2011, I studied crochet magazines, books, videos and blogs like my life depended on it. This time I wasn’t stopping until I’d cracked it. I crocheted in the car, first thing in the morning, in hotels on holiday and long into the night - I was a woman obsessed. I started my blog as a way to keep an online journal of my progress, keenness and connect with others.

Thank you Rachell! Head over to her blog to read more about her crochet adventures!

Are you left handed?  Any tips or tricks you want to share to help other lefties?

Granny Squares A Gogo
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IMG_0751

Welcome to week 2 of Crochet Camp!  This week is all about granny squares!  Today, I am publishing the first of 2 patterns this week. This is the most basic of granny square patterns - showing you how to do single colour and multi-colour squares and then string them into bunting. Tomorrow, I will cover the basics of UK treble/ US double crochet and joining colours.

Later in the week, we have another pattern that shows you another option for using your granny squares, plus we will be looking at some of the techniques and stitches you need to make a granny successfully.

Crochet Camp US Pattern
Crochet Camp US Pattern
Crochet Camp UK Pattern
Crochet Camp UK Pattern

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for a year's subscription to Simply Crochet.  Also, for those of you who had asked, the kits are back in stock.

UK Treble Crochet

Do you prefer American crochet terms?  Click through the the US version of this tutorial.

Treble Crochet:

Treble crochet stitches are worked as following  (shown working into a looped chain, as required in the Granny Square pattern, but the stitch is the same if you are working into rows)

The beginning of each row or round starts with 3chain. This gets the row/round up to the correct height.

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20130722-IMG_1605-Edit

1. Yarn over hook.

2. Insert your hook into the stitch or space. Yarn over and pull through just the stitch or space (3 loops on hook)

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20130722-IMG_1607

3. Yarn over and pull through 2 loops on hook (2 loops on hook)

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20130722-IMG_1610

4. yarn over and pull through 2 remaining looks on hook. 1 treble stitch completed.

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20130722-IMG_1611

Some tips about treble crochet:

1. Generally speaking, you will need 3 chains at the beginning of each row or round of treble crochet to raise it to the correct height.

2. Because these chains are large, you normally count them as if they are a treble crochet stitch, rather than ignoring them as we did for UK double crochet. In a pattern this is commonly written as (counts as 1tr).  This also means at the end of a round, you will join your round into the top of the 3 chain, rather than skipping it as we did with double crochet.

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20130723-IMG_1644-Edit

For the neatest join, I work under both loops of the top chain (ie into the "V", as you would for normal stitch)

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20130723-IMG_1647
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20130723-IMG_1648

Working in Rows:

In rows of treble crochet, you need to work your end stitches into the top of the 3-chain. This can be very hard to see, so it is important to count your stitches.

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20130722-IMG_1619-Edit

A note about turning chains:

One common question is whether you work your turning chain at the beginning or end of the row.  In my experience, it is easier to work the turning chain at the beginning of a new row, after you turn your work. This means the "V" of the stitches are pointing out and not twisted. It makes it both easier to see where to go and makes the edges neater.

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20130722-IMG_1622-Edit
20130722-IMG_1621-Edit-2
20130722-IMG_1621-Edit-2
Granny Squares: Tips, Tricks and Inspiration

There is no question that granny squares are a crochet staple. From blankets to cushions, bunting to garments, grannies are very versatile and there are as many ways to make, shape, join and crochet them as you can possibly imagine!! I am always cautious with granny square advice because its one of those things that every one does a different way and no one is wrong.  Today's post coveres how I join new colours and points you out into the world for more tips, tricks and inspiration.

Joining a New Colour

(or if I HAVE to make a granny square, how I do it for the least amount of end weaving afterwards)

After I finish one colour, to secure the end, I slip stitch over to the next chain space in the work.

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20130722-IMG_1626-Edit

I then tie a slip knot onto the hook with the new yarn.

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20130724-IMG_1670

Inserting my hook into the chain space where my previous colour ended, I pull up a loop from behind and pull it through the slip knot on my hook. This counts as 1 chain.

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20130724-IMG_1671-Edit

I then chain 2 more (counting this as a stitch) and continue my pattern from there.

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20130724-IMG_1677

As I am working, I carry the tail ends of my yarn at the back of my work, and work around them.  This encases them in the stitches and means I will not have to weave in ends later.  I generally work this way for a few stitches, carrying the yarn at the back of any chain spaces.  I then tug gently on the tails, and cut them close to the last stitches that encased them and they pull back underneath the work, hidden and finished.

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20130724-IMG_1672
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20130724-IMG_1668-Edit

To Knot or Not to Knot?

A common question is whether or not to tie off the new and old ends when you change colour.  This is entirely up to you and the yarn you are using. Knots are often unpopular in knitting and crochet as they have a tendency to pop through to the front of your work. Slip stitching at the beginning of rounds, working over your ends, and starting a new yarn with a slip knot on your hook are all good ways of preventing unravelling without tying off. For wool and acrylic - the yarns tend to be "sticky" enough that the ends don't have much of a chance to unravel.

Joining Granny Squares

So now you have made a million granny squares and want to join them.  There are hundreds of ways of joining granny squares.  Here are some of the most popular.

Joining Flat with a Slip Stitch (via Attic 24)

Joining as You Go

Joining as You Go (via Attic 24)

Joining Using a Needle and Thread with a Whip Stitch

Joining with a UK Double/US Single Crochet (this is the method I tend to use)

Granny Join

Other Shapes:

Grannies aren't just triangular. They come in as many shapes and kinds as you can imagine.  Some of my favourites:

Granny Mandala

Granny Bunting Triangles here in UK terms, here in US terms

Granny Hexagons

or check out a couple of inspirational pinboards chocked full of granny inspiration:

Granny Crochet Squares by Born and Bred

Lydia Joiner's Crochet Granny Squares

or Vickie Howell's Gaga for Granny Squares board.

Tomorrow we have another granny pattern and a guest post. I promise Granny Square awesomeness awaits!!

This post is part of a series for Crochet Camp 2013.  Just joining in? See the FAQ here and the full list of posts here.

Guest Pattern: Granny Square Bag

What to do with granny squares?  The possibilities are endless, hey? Blankets, bunting, garments... How about a bag to get you started?

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20130715-IMG_1444

Ali Campbell from  Hooked!! A Crochet Addicts Blog and Get Hooked on Crochet has graciously agreed to share a lovely bag pattern with us.  Ali is a crochet teacher extraordinaire. Ali started to teach crochet to friends a few years ago. When she moved to Dorset, she was fortunate enough to have enough space in the aptly named  “Old School House” to dedicate a room in her home to being a full time Crochet Classroom, so she progressed from only teaching One to One classes to holding regular monthly workshops for up to 6 students to both beginners, improvers & intermediates, all of which have been well attended & 4 week workshops were regularly turning into 6 or 7 weeks!

Ali runs the Crochet eLearning course, available as  Course 1 – The Basics, Course 2 – The Next Step & Course 3 – The Finishing Touches . She is about as passionate about crochet as they come.  She is also having a major operation today, so a massive good luck from me!!

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20130715-IMG_1438

Download the pattern here:

Crochet Camp UK Pattern
Crochet Camp UK Pattern
Crochet Camp US Pattern
Crochet Camp US Pattern

This post is part of a series for Crochet Camp 2013.  Just joining in? See the FAQ here and the full list of posts here.

Magic Loop

Are you a Lefty?  Click here. Up until now, our projects in the round have started with a chain that is joined in the round, that we then worked into. This is a fine method.  It works really well and is pretty easy to follow...

BUT, starting in this way, more often than not, leaves a hole in the start of your crochet.  For some things, this doesn't matter.  However, if you are making items like a hat, amigurimi (little crocheted soft toys) or anything where you don't want to see what is behind the work, you want to minimise that hole.

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20130717-IMG_1561

This is where magic loops come in. Sometimes called adjustable loop, adjustable ring, or magic ring, this is a great way to start your crochet off on the right foot.

Start by placing your tail of your yarn behind your working yarn.

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20130729-IMG_1763-Edit

holding on to the point where the yarn crosses, insert your hook into the big loop.

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20130729-IMG_1764

Yarn over and pull through the big loop.

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20130729-IMG_1765
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20130729-IMG_1767

Work the number of chains and stitches required by your pattern. Your stitches will be worked into the loop.

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20130729-IMG_1768-Edit
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20130729-IMG_1770

Pull on the tail to close.  It is a good idea to weave in and tie off your tail, as sometimes this can work loose. 

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20130729-IMG_1772

Some other magic loop tutorials:

Crochet Me has photo tutorials of all of the major methods of starting in the round.

Stacey Trock has her own technique for magic loops. With photo tutorial and video.

She has another alternative for magic loops, she calls the "sloppy slip knot". Check out the tutorial here.

Pattern: Beginner Flower
IMG_2354
IMG_2354

Long time readers will recognise this little pattern.  It has been around for awhile, and has gone through a couple of adjustments over time.  I still think it is a great beginner pattern to learn from.  With its magic loop start, varying stitches, working into 2 sides of the chain and 3d construction, it teaches a number of skills that will be extremely useful for other projects in the future.

Plus, its cute, quick - the best kind of crochet!

Crochet Camp UK Pattern
Crochet Camp UK Pattern
Crochet Camp US Pattern
Crochet Camp US Pattern

Did you see the Simply Crochet giveaway has closed?  Well, if you didn't win, Simply Crochet has given us a great discount on subscriptions, offering 3 Issues for £1, look here for more details.  Also, check out the yarn giveaway here.

(this post is part of Crochet Camp 2013.  Just joining us? Check out what is going on here and see all the previous posts here)

Reading a Written Pattern

There is no question that the problem I hear the most is teaching crochet is that students struggle to read patterns.  The combination of learning both a new skill and the new language of crochet patterns is tough - there is no doubt.  This is then often combined with poorly written or quality controlled pattern writing and can cause a lot of frustration.

What to Look for in a Pattern?

I am not going to beat around the bush here - there are a lot of bad patterns out there. Mistakes creep through no matter how hard a designer tried, but when you are starting out, there are a few things you can look for to quality check your patterns before you begin.

- What do other people say?

Having a pattern recommended to you is a great way to start - maybe via a blog or a super-awesome Facebook group or a friend.  Knowing someone who has made it and recommends it probably the best way to weed out the unreadable patterns. If you have found the pattern on a blog post, read the comments to see if there were any problems. Alternatively Ravelry has a rating and difficulty system, so people who have completed the pattern can give feedback on how the pattern worked for them. This is a great system for beginners to both search for the level of pattern they are after AND weed out the good from the bad.

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 06.50.22
Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 06.50.22

- Is is tech edited and/or tested?

A technical editor checks the readability and maths of a pattern. They check that the instructions will actually produce what is intended and the wether the reader has all the info they need. A tester debugs the pattern and double checks the sizing. Both are elements of quality control and important steps in releasing patterns.  No matter how many times a designer looks at something, mistakes are missed and another set of eyes is crucial to get it right.

I work with the ultra fabulous Joanne Scrace to tech edit all of my patterns - even the free ones.

- Does it come from a known entity?

While I absolutely believe that we should support new designers, if you are just learning crochet, it may be an idea to stick with known designers, magazines and books for those first couple of patterns. These sources will have quality control measures in place and it is there business to make things work. Many designers who sell patterns will also have free patterns and it is worth checking those out before you buy to see how the designer works and if their style is OK for you.

Free isn't always free

There is so often a temptation to always go for free patterns...and who doesn't like a freebie?  However, a word of caution.  As with everything online, there can be a problem with quality control. Use caution, read over the pattern first to see if there are any blindingly obvious elements that don't look right and contact the designer if you get stuck.  Most of us want to help you make our designs - that is why we got into this job in the first place!!

Reading a Written Crochet Pattern

When you get to the basic instructions of a crochet pattern, there are a number of things you need to know in addition to the common abbreviations.  In many ways, its like a code or another language that tells you how and where to make stitches. Unfortunately, each designer and publication will do things a little differently, which can add to the confusion. While I don't believe that there should be any sort of dogma in pattern writing, people do need to understand what you are telling them to do.  And while testers and tech editors can really help with pattern clarity, the reader still needs some basic pattern information.

Let's look at an imaginary line of pattern:

round
round

At the beginning of the line, you should have some indication whether you are working in rounds or in rows.

round numbers
round numbers

Immediately following this, you will have an indication of what row/round you are currently on.  Numbers in brackets (parentheses) refer to the corresponding instructions for different sizes, working from left to right, smallest to largest. If there is a "-" in the instruction, this means that this particular instruction doesn't apply to that size.

beg chain copy copy
beg chain copy copy

Next up, you should have some indication of what the beginning chain will be.  You should also have an instruction, either in the pattern or in the beginning instructions of the pattern, of how this stitch will be counted in your stitch count.  This is done because the first stitch at the beginning of a row or round in crochet needs to be raised up to the correct height of the rest of the following stitches, otherwise the work will be sloped. A designer needs to make a decision whether or not this is counted as a stitch and what works best with the pattern.

hdc in dc
hdc in dc

In this example, the next section of instruction means to make 2 half double crochet stitches into the next stitch of the previous round (the pattern tells us the previous round was a double crochet) and then make 1 half double crochet in each of the next 2 stitches.  This is often when there variation occurs in crochet patterns.  When I first started writing patterns, I would have written "HDC2, 2HDC" for the same line...not terribly clear.  If you do come across problems in any designers patterns - ASK!  Don't get in a muddle.  Its not worth the frustration.

number after brackets
number after brackets

In this case, that line of pattern is in square brackets (some designers may use normal parenthesis/brackets) .  This tells us that bit of pattern is repeated the number of times directly after the second bracket.  In this case, 4 times.  There may be variation in relation to sizes, following the same left to right, smallest to largest order.

astrix
astrix

When instructions are preceded by a *, this means to repeat that sequence of stitches as many times as indicated, usually to the end of the round or row.

join
join

'Join' means to join the round with a slip stitch. This is usually used at the end when working in rounds.

turn
turn

'Turn' means to turn your work. This may not be in the line if there is a general instruction at the beginning of the pattern for how to deal with turning.

stitch count
stitch count

The stitch counts at the end of the row tell you how many stitches you should have worked in that row or round. This may be followed with the specific stitch that is used in the round/row, the word "stitches" or nothing.

Does that help anyone? I certainly hope so!! Experienced crocheters, have I forgotten anything?

(I could not have ever written this post without the stellar tech editing skillz of Ms Joanne Scrace, she taught me most everything I know.)

Tomorrow we will look at Reading Crochet Charts. Who is excited?!?

This post is part of a series for Crochet Camp 2013.  Just joining in? See the FAQ here and the full list of posts here.

Reading a Crochet Chart

When I first moved to the UK (and before I knew the difference between tabloids and proper newspapers), I used to buy the Mirror every day before work, not for the news or the celebrity gossip, oh no, it was all about the Codebreaker section that would keep me happily entertained as I crossed London to my job in Victoria. I directly link my love of codebreaking to my love of Crochet Charts.  Once you have "cracked" it, you have before you an amazing international communication device to read and understand crochet patterns.  None of this dc/sc rubbish or uncertainty about where on earth the hook goes. In addition, for visual people, crochet charts can really help with pattern understanding.

At a glance, crochet charts tell you so much about the pattern - where your stitches go, which loops they are worked in, the relative height of the stitches and they even provide an almost schematic-like glance at what your finished object will look like.

The Symbols

Crochet charts are based on an internationally recognised symbols that correspond to each stitch or instruction.

Crochet Chart Cheat Sheet UK
Crochet Chart Cheat Sheet UK

click image to download PDF of UK terms. US terms available here.

One of the great things about crochet symbols is that they look like how you would make that stitch. For example, the horizontal bars in stitches relate to the number of yarn overs at the beginning of that stitch (except for half treble/double stitches).

treble-sts
treble-sts
other sts
other sts

It is the same with most special stitches, they are made to look like how one would make the stitch

With the exception of the わ symbol used in Japenese patters to mean magic loops, even the start of rounds make it instantly clear how the project starts.

joining
joining

Reading Rows:

Once you have the basic principle that each symbol relates to a stitch, reading charts becomes that bit easier.

shell-chart-whole
shell-chart-whole

- The chart is read from the bottom up and are written for right handed crocheters, unless other wise specified.

- A solid triangular arrow shows the direction of work at the beginning. An outlined triangle shows where the work should be bound off.

- After the initial chain, you work from right to left across the row, then on the next row, from left to right, continuing on in a zig zag fashion up the chart. In a full chart, the rows will be numbered at the beginning of each row.

- Stitches should be aligned in columns to show you which stitch you work into for the next row.

- Chain stitches hanging off the ends of the rows (as in the 1ch shown on the right hand sides of this chart) do not count as stitches, but merely raise the row.

- Chain stitches in line with a stitch from the row below do count as stitches

The other kind of chart in rows you may come across is one for a stitch pattern.  These are often found in books of stitch patterns or sometimes as part of written pattern as a way of making the stitch clearer.

shell-chart
shell-chart

- Pattern repeats are generally shown either highlighted in a colour, or Japanese patterns will often show the number of stitches in a repeat with a bracket underneath the beginning chain.  This is useful if you are working a stitch pattern and need to know how many chains to work at the beginning.

- The number of rows in a pattern repeat are often shown as numbered rows on the side.

Work in Rounds

Working in rounds follows the same basic principles as working in rows.  Symbols correspond to stitches.

crochet-chart
crochet-chart

(this is the pattern for this week's flower)

- Rounds are generally worked counter clockwise.

- Rounds are numbered next to the chain stitches that begin the round

crochet-chart-rounds
crochet-chart-rounds

- Arrows will show the direction of work, or where a round is worked without a slip stitch join to raise the rounds.

crochet-chart-arrow
crochet-chart-arrow

- Charts DO NOT distinguish whether your work into the stitch or into the chain space (as in row 5 above). You will either need to refer to the written pattern (if there is one) or use your knowledge of crochet to figure out how to deal with that round.

For the more visually minded, charts can be a real breakthrough when it comes to understanding crochet. Plus, being able to read crochet charts literally opens up a world of new patterns.  Some of the most original patterns available are from Japan, where all of the patterns are charted.  Check out Pomadour 24's etsy shop for an amazing selection of Japanese craft books.

Other Crochet Chart Tutorials:

- Dancing Barefoot Japanese Pattern Tutorials

- My Picot's list of crochet symbols. - perhaps the most comprehensive list of crochet chart symbols.

  This post is part of a series for Crochet Camp 2013.  Just joining in? See the FAQ here and the full list of posts here.

Welcome to Crochet CamP

The day is here.  Crochet Camp 2013 starts TODAY!! I can't tell you how excited I am to start this journey with you.  I am passionate about crochet and creativity and how important simply making things  can be. No matter how many courses I have run, I still get nerves on the first day and this is no exception!

This week's pattern, the Cherry Delicious Pot Holder, can be downloaded from here.  There are both UK and US versions available. Don't worry if you are a complete beginner (or your kit hasn't arrived) and you can't get started right away. We have a couple of beginning lessons to get through first, and in some ways I think it is good to hold off until you can work on the first few skills all together.

I have also published the first lesson, Equipment.  As posts go live, I will add them to the Table of Contents. If you fall behind, that is where to go to follow along. It is also where the Crochet Camp logo in the sidebar will take you.

Wondering about the differences between UK and US crochet terms, hook sizes or yarn weights?  I have a really handy cheat sheet available for down load:

cheatsheet
cheatsheet

(Download the PDF here)

I will be publishing all of the patterns and instructions in both UK and US terms.  Not sure which one you use? I love how Stacey from Fresh Stitches describes the difference  - When you hear "cricket" and you think of an insect, you probably use US terms. If you think "sport", you probably use UK terms.  (Also check out Stacey's adorable amigurimi (aka stuffed/toy animal) patterns)

If you have ANY questions, head to the facebook group as a first point of call.  Otherwise, leave a comment or drop me an email at hello@slugsontherefrigerator.com

Want to follow along?  Use the Bloglovin' or Feedly or subscribe via email links in the sidebar.

Finishing School

Perhaps the most loathed of crochet-related tasks is finishing: edging, sewing up, weaving in ends, blocking...they all get a  bad name.  I get it, when you finish that final stitch, you just want to be DONE.  But, trust me, using some basic finishing techniques will really make your project shine.  

Weaving in Ends:

Once you reach the end of your work, cut the yarn, leaving at least a 6” tail.

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20130802-IMG_1814

Pull the tail through the last loop on your hook to secure your stitches. Use a tapestry needle or your hook to weave the remaining ends in securely into the back of your work. If you are working in rows, there may not be a clear wrong side, so use your pattern for guidance or choose one. Weaving the end into 3-4 stitches in 3-4 different directions will ensure they do not pop out later.

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20130802-IMG_1817
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20130802-IMG_1820

To Knot or Not to Knot:

Some people really like to tie off their yarn. This can work well in some situations to secure your end if your project is going to get a lot of use.  However, knots have a tendency to work themselves to the font of your project and always in a place that is super obvious.  In most cases, if you are working with a wool yarn, the yarn will be "sticky" enough to keep the ends in place an no tying is needed.

Sewing Up and On

Sewing Applique:

Crochet is a great fabric for sewing things onto.  Its lines of stitches make it easier to see that you are getting all of your items placed and spaced correctly.  It may help to pin your applique into place before sewing. Straight pins, safety pins or locking stitch markers work well for this.

Once you have your items placed, thread your tapestry needle with the yarn you want for your stitching.  Use the same colour as the front piece if you want to hide your stitches.  Starting from the back of your work, pull the needle through all layers. I work my stitches just under the "V" of the stitches.

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20130802-IMG_1810

Most of the time, I  use running stitch or back stitch to sew Applique to crochet (as in the Cherry Delicious Potholder).

Running Stitch: Thread needle with yarn and work up and down through the crochet fabric with even spaces between the stitches.

or

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20130802-IMG_1811

Back Stitch: Backstitch is similar to running stitch, except you will work a portion of the stitches back on themselves. Pull the stitch through the crochet fabric and then back into the underside behind where the thread came out. The needle is carried under the fabric to the point of the new stitch, where it is brought up again and back to where the thread was brought up on the last stitch.

Continue all the way around. Deal with the ends of the sewing as you would with ends at the end of your project, with the added bonus of being able to use a crochet hook to pull your ends underneath the applique (between the two layers of work) to hide them.

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20130802-IMG_1812-2

There are  other stitches you can use, depending on the effect you want. Blanket Stitch and Whip Stitch are both very popular.

Seams:

Not specifically relavent for any of the Crochet Camp projects, seaming crochet pieces together is a good skill to have. Most of the time, I will slip stitch a seam closed. Using a slip stitch to join different parts of your crochet project makes a really strong seam. In my experience, it also is very easy to make the seam nice and straight.

To crochet a seam, lined up the 2 pieces of your project, right sides together. Insert your hook through all 4 loops of the stitches, yarn over hook, and pull through the 2 pieces you are joining and the loop on your hook. Repeat to the end of the seam.

If you are concerned about the seam having a bit of a crimp in it, use UK double crochet/ US single crochet instead.

Edging and Working into the Ends of Rows

Most of the time when you are working in rows, you will need to edge your work to give it a nice finished edge. There are many many kinds of edging, but the principle is the same, you need to work into the ends of the rows ( where you turned and chained).  In taller stitches, it is pretty easy to see, but it can be harder if you are working UK Double Crochet/US Single Crochet. Aim to work 1 stitch for each row you worked, unless your pattern says differently.

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20130802-IMG_1821-Edit
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20130802-IMG_1822

Blocking

Blocking is my favourite part of finishing up a project. I just love how it takes a lumpy and misshapen object and makes it lay perfectly and nicely. When working with wools that have a high natural fibre content, you are able to block your project that will help the yarn relax into the shape you have made. There are many different blocking techniques. Steam blocking uses an iron with a high steam setting - hover your iron over your project, being careful not to press or you may damage the work or flatten the stitches. 

I normally use wet blocking. This can take longer to dry, but does tend to give most consistent results. 1. Wet your work in lukewarm water. Use wool wash if you have some around.  Hair Conditioner is also useful to help soften scratchy fibres. 2. Gently agitate your work (not too hard, lest it may felt!) 3. Rinse in cool water and gently squeeze out the excess water. 4. Lay your work flat on a towel and roll up to extract as much water as possible. 5. Lay the item out on a flat surface, shaped as you would like the final object to look. It may help to pin the edges down to help it stay in shape 6. Leave to dry fully.

Pattern: Cold at Night Hand Warmers
IMG_1105
IMG_1105

*sniff* here we are in our final week of Crochet Camp. Hasn't it flown by?

This week's main pattern is this set of fingerless mitts. This is the first pattern that we have done that is written in a more standard crochet pattern format.  There are 4 sizes to choose from, and you will work through the instructions for your size by following the relevant set of instructions in brackets (re read the How to Read a Crochet Pattern post as a first step if you get confused).  I really wanted to end with a pattern like this so that if you have ANY questions about this kind of pattern, myself and more experienced crochet campers can help you through if you get stuck.

Puff Stitches

Most of the pattern is worked in puff stitch clusters.  This is my favourite little stitch.  I use it at least 3 times in my book and it is already in one pattern of book 2.  Yes, "obsessed" IS the word you are looking for, but I don't care.  In my mind, this is what I love about crochet - little round stitches that create a gorgeous texture and warmth.

To make a puff stitch, place your yarn over your hook.

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IMG_1099
IMG_1101
IMG_1101

Insert your hook into the specified stitch, yarn over again and pull through the stitch.

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IMG_1102

Yarn over again, insert your hook back into the same stitch, yarn over hook and pull through the stitch.  You will have 5 loops on your hook. 

IMG_1103
IMG_1103

Yarn over again, and pull through all of the loops on your hook.  1 Puff Stitch made. 

If you find you are snagging your hook and catching strands of wool as you work the Puff Stitch, try working a bit looser and try keeping your hook pointed down and the back of the hook pushing the top of the loops and yarn overs up as you go through.

IMG_1104
IMG_1104

To make the puff stitch cluster, you will make 1 Puff Stitch, chain 2 and 1 Puff Stitch all in the same stitch.  On your second and subsequent rounds, you will work your Puff Stitch cluster into  the 2ch space in the middle of the cluster. 

Crochet Camp UK Pattern
Crochet Camp UK Pattern
Crochet Camp US Pattern
Crochet Camp US Pattern

Click to download the pattern now.  Good luck and you know where to find me if you need me.

Tension Headaches
20130806-IMG_1835

Tension (or Gauge) is the number of stitches and rows measured usually in a 4"/10cm square. You gauge is effected by:

  • The stitch 
  • The hook
  • The yarn
  • Your personal style

Tension isn't crucial for every pattern, but it will effect everything you make.  For items like crocheted flowers, a looser tension will mean a bigger flower, but for a cardigan, it will mean one that may not fit the intended recipient.

Controlling Your Tension

Quite often, I will see comments about people "trying to work tighter/looser to get gauge".  While, yes, if you crochet extremely tightly or extremely loosely, then working on your technique is a good idea.  But if you are going to be working on a pattern that really needs to fit - it is a much better idea to change your hook size.

The diameter of your hook controls the amount of yarn taken into you stitch.  A bigger hook takes in more yarn , making the stitches bigger.  A smaller hook takes in less yarn, making the stitches smaller.

Remember that your gauge can change.  While I am a loose crocheter and knitter at the best of times, pregnancy and hand fatigue both make my gauge MUCH looser.  If I am working on large projects, I often need to change hooks half way through.

Making a Swatch

At the beginning of the pattern, you will see a line of instruction that reads something like:

gauge

This tells you that using the suggested hook and stitch, you measure the number of stitches and rows specified in a 4"/10cm square. (note: some designers will use a different measurement for their square, 2" is a common alternative)

The most straight forward way of making a swatch is to work a square using the number of stitches and rows in the tension guide. However, you may need to adjust for any half measurements or special stitches indicated. 

20130806-IMG_1836
20130806-IMG_1836

For garments or items where fit is going to be crucial, make a swatch bigger than just 4" square  to ensure tension is right across the garment.

Things to note:

- If you make your swatch  and it is smaller than 4"/10cm square (ie you need MORE stitches and rows make up 4" than the tension guide), then you need to use a bigger hook.

- If you make your swatch and it is larger than 4"/10cm square (ie you need fewer stitches and rows make up 4" than the tension guide), then you need to use a smaller hook.

- If only your stitches OR your rows match the gauge, then you may need to think about changing the yarn you are using.

- If your item is only very small (perhaps a hat, a baby's cardigan, a set of gloves), it is not unthinkable to actually start the pattern if you can measure your gauge from the first  portion. Treat it as any swatch, with a wash and a block, but then continue on from there once it is dry.

- Make sure you wash and block your swatch as you plan on doing with your finished item. That is the only way you can be certain that your finished project will be the size you need it to be at the end of the day. If you have to change hook or yarn, repeat the process of washing.

More about Tension/Gauge:

- the tension of your crochet effects the drape of your project

Substituting Yarn

So, you have a pattern you want to make and it suggests a yarn, BUT the suggestion is too expensive, unavailable, or maybe you just don't like it.  So you find another yarn, But how then do you go about choosing from the 1,657,243,091 yarns available?

b's 350-2
b's 350-2

1. Look for Alternate Suggestions in the Pattern.

In most of my published patterns, I try to offer 2 yarn choices - the yarn that the pattern is made in and at least one other. I always try to ensure there is a more budget friendly option of the two (but admit that I don't usually suggest 100% acrylic yarns).  It is quite common practice to give yarn alternatives in patterns, so look there first to see what the designer suggests. (note, we do not list alternatives in The Crochet Project patterns, because as part of our yarn support agreement, we promote their yarns exclusively).

2. Find a Yarn of Similar Weight

Your pattern should tell you is the weight of the yarn.  As a first step towards yarn substitution, you want to find something that gets the same gauge as required by the pattern.  Choosing a yarn of similar weight is a good place to start, so DK = DK, etc.  If you can't find what you are looking for, don't forget you can double up yarn as discussed in our handy dandy cheat sheet.

Whenever you make a yarn substitution, you need to swatch and adjust your hooks accordingly.  Don't forget - if you are getting only one part of the gauge (only rows or stitches) it may be that the yarn isn't suitable.

(Now, this is actually more flexible than this - you CAN get the same gauge by pairing different weights of yarn with different hooks, but that is a more complex lesson than I am going into.)

b's 350-3
b's 350-3

3. Find a Yarn of Similar Properties

The easiest way to substitute yarn is to look for yarn of a similar make up.  If the yarn called for is a 50/50 wool/alpaca mix, then start looking there.  Of course you can substitute other materials  - but if you are making something with a lot of drape, then make sure your yarn can do that for you.  Check out this great run down of different fibers or really want to dig in deep, why not check out The Knitter's Book of Yarn.

4. Get the Right Amount

Your pattern should list the amount of yarn required - either in lengths or in balls/skeins.  You will need to figure out how much of a new yarn you need to make your pattern. If the pattern lists a yardage/meterage, then the math should be straight forward.  If it is listed in balls - it would be better to look at how many meters/yards are in each ball/hank and use that to calculate how much yarn you need.

For example: my pattern says I need 5 balls of Rico Merino Aran.  I want to use Rico Creative Cotton Aran instead.

Rico Cotton = 85m/50g ball

Rico Merino Aran = 100m/50g ball

My pattern calls for 5 balls of Merino, which makes 500m

500m of Cotton = 5.88 balls  (500/85) (I would need to buy 6 balls to make the pattern)

5. Still Confused?

ASK!  I have said it before and I will say it again - ask your local yarn store.  Most are filled to the brim with people who love talking about wool. Alternatively, Ravelry is the mega tool for yarn geekery.  Go to yarn>advanced search and use the tick boxes at the side to choose the weight and properties of the yarn you are looking for.  When researching yarns for book, I use Deramores search function, as this also helps me figure out  the price of alternatives.

Still Coming Up in Crochet Camp:

- Interviews with Claire Montgomerie of Inside Crochet and the Island Wool Company

- A Guest Pattern on Ripples by Joanne Scrace

- Tunisian Crochet - an overview

IS THERE ANYTHING I HAVEN"T COVERED THAT YOU WERE DYING TO KNOW?  This is your last chance to ask!