Monday, October 1, 2018

Dr. Strangeknot, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Post Stitch

Back when I was a tap dancer, Jimmy Slyde shared with me the best way to learn a new language: “Get yourself a lover who speaks it,” he said with a wink. “You’ll figure it out pretty quick.” In other words, put yourself in an immersion situation and add intrinsic motivation, et voila! You find yourself increasingly comfortable and speaking the language becomes second nature.

Let me back up a little bit. I am mostly self-taught as a crocheter. I think that’s fairly common, and even those who originally learned from a class or family member have probably expanded their skills using books or online tutorials. The internet is an amazing resource, but with so many lessons and patterns, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Conversely, when you are looking for something very specific, you may find yourself sifting through masses of content before you find the information you need.

So I was making satisfying progress working through granny square patterns when I came upon an intriguing raised stitch: FPdc, or Front Post Double Crochet.  Intriguing, beautiful, and...absolutely impossible for me to figure out. I could make double crochets just fine, but I had never really looked at the components of the stitch - front and back loops, spaces, and of course, the post.  Also, “insert hook front to back around the post” was confusing - you come at it from the front, but you are going toward the back, and then around to the front again...assuming you can find the post at all.

What did this intrepid crochet learner do?

I avoided patterns with post stitches, of course!  Maybe not so intrepid after all :(

But then came the love story. It’s my wife’s, really.  She fell hard for a skein of yarn on the Yarnover Truck - Indigodragonfly Merino Silk DK - and Maridee recommended a pattern to show it off. The Muirlands Cowl is cozy and beautiful, and made up almost entirely of post stitches. I love my wife very much, so I took the plunge.  I swear to you, by the end of the second round those stitches were no problem, and I ended up with  this gorgeous thing:

So don’t be afraid of Dr. Strange Knot, whatever stitch that may be for you.  Hang out with it, figure it out like you love it and can’t live without understanding it. Or, you know, just find a fun way to practice it ;)

I miss you, Jimmy, and thank you for your wisdom - I bet you never thought it would apply to crochet as well as tap dancing and foreign lovers :)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Chain 20: What I Learned

Hi everyone!

July (and August) came and went, didn’t they? And what ever happened to that Chain 20 challenge?

I found out that the one-a-day format was too much for my current circumstances (toddler, puppy) and the nature of the challenge (exploratory, open-ended). I found myself squeezing in the exercise at the end of the day and feeling like there wasn’t enough time to properly photograph and write about the experience. Although I had given myself permission to take a quick photo and write a single sentence, I felt driven to write so much more, and to take photos from different angles to show how stitches behaved.

I came up with Chain 20 based on music/dance improv exercises.  The basic idea is that you just GO; no thinking or planning, just a simple framework and an open mind.  You can start with something familiar just to get your fingers moving and then try something unplanned - a double crochet where you would normally do a single.  What happens to the fabric? It gets taller, it pulls a bit...and what happens when you keep up with the dcs, or make progressively taller stitches?  It might not be pretty or functional, but you will have learned something about your yarn and stitches, even if it’s what not to do next time ;)

Needless to say, I did not complete the challenge as planned.  But I did discover a practice that excites me and I’ve already started using what I learned to create larger designs.  I will continue to Chain 20 and, with the luxury of time and space, write about what I learn.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Chain 20 Crochet Challenge

Hey there hookers!

I’ve been experimenting with different shapes and stitches, but now I have a jumble of swatches and partial balls of yarn and no record of what I’ve done or how. I wanted to start being more systematic about my explorations, so I decided to create the Chain 20 Challenge.

I want to set myself up for success, so I’m keeping it simple. For me, the challenge needs to be short and both well-defined and flexible. So here it is:

  1. Everyday for the next 20 days I will make 20 chains and use them as a foundation to crochet something. 
  2. I will take a picture of what I come up with and write at least one sentence about what I did.

There’s the well-defined part; now for the flexibility.  

  1. I will allow myself to create more than one piece on a day if I know that, say, my wife’s birthday falls in the middle of the challenge, and I might want to focus on her instead of noodling around with a hook. I will still post one picture a day, though.
  2. I will allow extra chains if necessary for turning or pattern repeats.  I just want to use 20 to give myself enough room to work but not so much that the swatch takes forever.

I’m not sure what I will do about blocking...I think I’ll see how the time works out and whether the toddler and puppy will allow for finishing, blocking, and photography on the same day.

Stay tuned for my first...thingie!

Monday, November 13, 2017

T-shirt sweater design Part 2

I was eager to start crocheting, so I decided to start with one half of the back, starting from the bottom. Here is what I have so far:

It is sloping up on one side just the way I was hoping it would!  I struggled for a while about how to do the increases, but settled on doing sc2tog a few stitches from the edge to keep things neater.  I tried to find a good way to increase by a single stitch, but the stitch pattern makes that very awkward, since it is made up of two stitches that alternate with the rows above and below.  In other words, the pattern requires that the row you are working into consists of alternating sc and ch stitches.  If you decrease by a single stitch, you end up with two scs or two chs in a row, which throws you off until you decrease again.  I was concerned that decreasing by two would look choppy, but keeping the increase away from the edge seems to have taken care of that.

In addition to crocheting, I have been working on a schematic using Autodesk Graphic for iPad.  It's a vector graphics program that you can use if Illustrator is a bit too rich for your blood ;) Here is what I have so far:

The picture is not coming out very clearly, I will try to fix it.  But I'm having fun with the program, and the schematic is much easier to work with than my messy paper and pencil version.

I'll be back soon with more progress!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Designing a sweater from a favorite t-shirt

I've "discovered" a new crochet stitch (in other words, I learned a stitch that has probably been around forever). Tamara Kelly of has a great tutorial for the Moss Stitch, which produces a flat fabric with good drape, perfect for a light sweater.  I decided to use a t-shirt to determine measurements and try to create a pattern.

I have never done this before, so I am very much making it up as I go along.  I am documenting the process on my blog so that I can do it more efficiently next time.

Step 1: Create a gauge swatch

  • Moss stitch creates slightly shorter stitches than regular sc, resulting in essentially even row and stitch counts.  In my case, using an I hook and fingering weight yarn, 20 stitches measured 4.5", and 20 rows measured 4.25"
  • I am impatient to start crocheting, so for now I am going to call it 4.5 st/inch and 4.5 rows/inch. It is possible that I will regret being imprecise.
Step 2: Measure the T-shirt

  • I pinned the shirt to blocking mats without stretching. I decided to leave the sleeves for the time being because they did not want to lie flat.  

  • Then I started measuring. Here's what I came up with:

Try to ignore the chicken scratch around the edges :)

I'm going to stop here so this post doesn't get too long, but I will be back with more progress. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pattern preferences?

I don't know if anyone is reading this, but if you are, I would love your opinion on how to write out repeated stitches.  The one I'm struggling with could be written like this:

Dc in each of next 4 dc

Or this:

Dc in next 4 dc

Or this:

(Dc in dc)x4

The first one is probably the clearest, but seems very wordy, and is definitely cumbersome to write.

The second one is a little more efficient, but could potentially be confusing - it's possible that the pattern could be directing you to do one dc in all four stitches at once.

The third one seems both accurate and concise, but it looks odd if it comes at the end of a larger repeat.  For example:

[V-st in ch sp, sk dc, (dc in dc)x4]x2

I guess you could also say

*V-st in ch sp, sk dc, (dc in dc)x4*, rep * to * x2

But I find that asterisks can be confusing...
Anyway, I would love people's thoughts on this.  Also feel free to tell me that I am insane for thinking this much about it :)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Hello again!

It's time to wake up the blog!

I've been crocheting more, designing more, and generally getting inspired about yarn. I'm super excited to finish the shawl I'm designing, as well as the diagram and written pattern. My goal is to have three patterns on Ravelry by November 1. That might be overly ambitious, but the designs are all done, I just need to write them know, in a coherent way that other crocheters can understand :)

I'll be back soon to talk about my process.