Friday, January 15, 2010

Update on Yarn-Weighing Crochet Adventure

Am checking in to blog the results of my design experiment with weighing yarn on a digital scale. It came close enough to perfection that I'll be using the scale for planning other designs.

I came within 2 grams (0.1 oz.) of a 100-gram skein. It's likely that I would have come up short if I had not ripped out the longest row before beginning the decrease rows.

Would you like to see the finished result?
It will be a Tunisian crochet pattern on my new pattern website.

After simple damp-blocking, this triangular neckscarf relaxed into large enough dimensions to also serve as a shoulder wrap. In fact, the fabric behaved more like knitted lace while blocking. The Tunisian stitches grow to double the height of the usual Tunisian Simple Stitch.

I'll always remember finishing this project while sitting in the sun at Starbucks with my friend Colette. It was the start of a cold front that froze Florida, so I didn't notice that I was getting a January sunburn! As the freeze came, this alpaca wrap was the perfect layer with a turtleneck and cardigan.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Really Handy Gift for Crocheters & Knitters!

One of the most valuable tools in my crochet design studio is so simple and easy to find and use:

Why oh why did it take me so long to get a
digital scale? How many other crocheters and knitters are in the same boat as me? If you think you might use one of these, think again: you'll definitely use it and wonder how you got along without it. It's so much easier to plan projects with whatever scrap yarns you have stashed away. Below is a mini-tutorial on one of its many uses for yarnies.

It needs to be reasonably sensitive and accurate. Of course the more so the better, but you don't need to spend a fortune. I'm happy with mine and it cost $30 at Target. It switches easily from ounces to grams. I prefer grams because 1 gram is a smaller unit of measurement than 1 ounce, so I get a more fine-tuned result.

The Urgent Situation Causing Me to Buy a Digital Scale: I wished to crochet a triangular neckwrap with one large skein of yarn (Misti Alpacas Handpainted Alpaca Sock). I planned to start at one top corner and keep increasing until I used half of the yarn, then use the other half of the yarn to decrease over the same number of rows as I increased.

The Crux of the Issue: How will I know when I've used no more than half of the one ball of yarn? Exactly when do I start decreasing instead of increasing?

First I weighed the total amount of yarn (with label,
crochet hook, stitch markers removed). Yarn label says 100 grams. When I put both all yarn (crocheted and precrocheted) on scale with nothing flopping over the scale's edge, it weighed in at 103g. Isn't that nice? A 3-gram bonus.

Photo 1: When I weigh the crochet only, it says 55g! This means I need to rip out a few increase rows and start decreasing.

Photo 2: After ripping out 3 rows or so, the crochet now weighs in at 51g.

Photo 3: When I weigh just the unused yarn, it should say 52g, and it does.

I decide to flirt with danger and really put this yarn-weighing strategy to the test. Wouldn't it be deeply satisfying if I have exactly the amount of yarn needed to complete the triangle with none left over? I only gave myself a 1-gram buffer and have already started the decrease rows. I need to make sure that my gauge stays the same throughout!

Now to finish crocheting it and find out....

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

How Crochet Designers Celebrate

I've just mailed off a design that will appear in the Spring 2010 issue of Interweave Crochet magazine. I can blog some fun things about it as we get closer to the publication date.

Designers I've talked to celebrate after they mail off a design for publication because it's momentous! It means:
  • completed item has all ends woven in, photographed, measured before and after being wet-blocked and completely air-dried, then boxed up and shipped off;
  • the written pattern is completed, proofread, and emailed to the company;
  • schematics and other diagrams are created in a format that can be emailed (I still draw them on paper and then upload a photo of them; others scan them in or draw with software)
  • contract is signed and mailed or faxxed
A design event leaves behind a lot of clutter--rough drafts, submission guidelines, tools for finishing and blocking, yarn and swatches, candy wrappers.... so it's not surprising that most designers I know do a big clean sweep around their studio. That's what I'm going to do next.

Some designers go out for a nice dinner with their families. Do you know what else is common? Sitting in front of the TV totally vegging out! I don't need to do that this time because I didn't have to write the pattern for five sizes. Sizing crochet patterns turns the usual designer into a mumbling zombie LOL.

Others immediately begin their next design. This is the case for me this time, happily. I'm writing up lots of new downloadable crochet patterns to offer soon, and I love it! I love designing more than ever! I'm getting close to launching my own crochet pattern store so I can start blogging more about that.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

About the Tokyo Jacket Free Crochet Pattern at

I'm elated that I've been awarded the Set My Picot Free Award for Crochet Excellence and Phenomenal Fashion by the Fearless Leader of the Crochet Liberation Front :)

For the Tokyo Jacket design I actually have the "eureka!" moment on paper. Want to see it?
I remember that: "OO! OO! LACE SIDE PANELS!!" (dates from June 2008). You can see from that scribbly sketch that the construction is the simple & easy "T-shape," just like a traditional kimono (a cropped one). The lacy sections disguise this. So do my exaggerated corners. In other words, it's easier to make than it looks.

There's a Ravelry forum thread devoted to this pattern. I posted some comments there regarding the sleeves. Regarding adjusting the length of them, "The length of the sleeves is easy to shorten because they are crocheted from the shoulder down. Each row pair adds 2-3 inches as I recall."

Someone asked about making it sleeveless. My response was: "Normally [with T-shape construction] the shoulder seam lands part-way down the arm and looks bunchy or clunky, but here it’s all lace. So if you make the Tokyo Jacket sleeveless, the solid part will still land at your shoulder and look fitted to your size, but it won’t widen to fit your bust and hip. The lace takes care of that in the pattern. You could add your own lace panels at the sides to make it fit as a vest."

The yarn is Naturallycaron’s Country, which is the worsted wt. one with merino content (vs. Spa, which is the sportwt. one with bamboo content). Country doesn’t grow a lot from weight but it could from steam blocking (which I don’t recommend!). Spraying it with water to block is enough. Blocking photos and more in the previous blog entry.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Crocheting Triple Trebles & Other Tall Stitches

I revised and expanded this blog post in 2018. The images are updated too, so scroll down to view these before you fast forward nine years!

The release of my newest design, the Tokyo Jacket, makes this a good time to blog some tips I've learned about crocheting the taller stitches, such as Trebles, Double Trebles, Triple Trebles, Quad-Trebles (to name a few; these are all in US terminology).

If you already know how to do the Double Crochet stitch, it's easy to understand how to make the taller ones. To make a Triple Treble (Trtr), for example, you yarn over (wrap the yarn around your crochet hook) four times instead of once for a Double Crochet. You work the loops off of the hook in pairs just like you do to make a Double Crochet. The only difference is that you have more pairs of loops to work off.
In actual practice, one crocheter's Trtr can come out looking very different from another's. Sometimes the Trtr's come out noticeably shorter or taller, sometimes they look lumpy or stringy and thin. A common problem is when they look loose and loopy at the tops of the stitches.

Here's what I've learned so far. 

If you have other tips for crocheting the really tall stitches, I hope you'll add them in the comments section:

Tall fancy stitches love to be blocked. 

This probably sounds about as fresh and exciting as "take time to check your gauge" but would you believe that blocking can seem like a spiritual experience? The transformation is so worth it.

Pull your loop up higher.

    Some crocheters pull up their loop higher after they insert their hook in the next stitch. This can cause the stitch heights to vary. If you think of the base of a stitch as having two "feet" planted in a stitch, then pulling up higher while working the stitch creates longer "legs". 
    I first learned this about Double Crochets from Pauline Turner in her Crocheted Lace book (Martingale, 2003). Pauline explained to me why even experienced crocheters can have trouble getting a doily to lie flat: their stitch heights might vary from the designer's.

    I can avoid loosey-goosey tops of tall stitches two ways. 

    1. Firm up the loops on the hook. 

    First, after I yarn over 4 times for a Trtr, I tug on the yarn to firm up the wraps around the hook before commencing the stitch. 

    2. Use more yarn from the hook.

    Then, while working the loops off of my hook in pairs, I pull up a bit on the loops to draw some of my yarn from the wraps around the hook. Not all of the yarn for completing the stitch is coming from the ball of yarn, only what's needed after I take up any slack from the wraps around the hook. This way the stitches comes out uniformly neat and orderly looking. Basically, I crochet the really tall stitches like I'm on a budget.

    Photo on left was taken before blocking, the other was taken during blocking.

    I simply sprayed it with cool water, gently smoothed out the fabric on a towel, and let air dry. (Close ups: here and here.)
      I pull up a bit on the loops because it adds a fashionable drape to the fabric and gives the really tall stitches a limber, elegant look instead of chunky.

      Sometimes the yarn matters. 

      A right-handed crocheter wraps the yarn around the hook in a counter-clockwise direction. For a tall stitch, this repeated wrapping either untwists a yarn, or adds more twist--depending on whether the yarn starts out with a clockwise or counterclockwise twist (a.k.a. "S-twist" or "Z-twist").
      A 2-ply loosely S-twisted yarn was used for these Trtr fans.
      Can you see the plies separating within the stitches?
       (Click here for close up)
      Sometimes it's more noticeable than other times; it can make the tall stitches look stringy or uneven because it's more difficult to work the loops off the hook quickly without splitting the plies of yarn. It also depends on the gauge the crocheter's using, and on how the crocheter controls the loosey-goosey loops (see above).

      I'm a right-handed crocheter, and the yarn I used for the Tokyo Jacket is Z-twisted; so my hook was flying while I made a gazillion Trtr stitches for the design and I like how even they look.

      Crochet's lacy beauty really shines through with the tall stitches, doesn't it? I fall in love with crochet all over again when I use them.

      Wednesday, September 09, 2009

      Heaven is: Crochet Hooks for Every Need

      I'm happy to report three exciting crochet hook developments.

      1) Exquisite New Crochet Hook Sets for Connoisseurs

      Want to give or get the perfect gift for the next special occasion? Check out these beautiful new "Etimo" sets from a Japanese company called Tulip:

      I think of them as my "Cadillac" hooks because of what they feel like to have and to hold. The size range of the gold-tone aluminum set is 3.25 mm - 6.0 mm; the range of steel thread hooks is 0.5 mm - 1.75 mm.

      2) Denise Interchangeables: Now for Crocheters Too!

      Knitters have long enjoyed a spiffy build-your-own-perfect-needle-for-each-project system, organized in a portable kit. Take a look at the crochet hook version here.

      3) Tunisian & Double-Ended Hook Size Crisis, Addressed

      Consider the L/8 mm crochet hook. For years I've had one brand (blue Crystalite) for regular crochet, and gee, none for Tunisian crochet. Eventually I found a set of "Easy Tunisian" M, N, P flexible hooks (on eBay back when they were discontinued). Note, still no L.

      The next smaller size is almost* universally 6.5 mm ("K"), so with no L/8 mm, there's a 2.5 mm gap between a K and an M hook. That's too big for designing purposes. *I've seen one brand that's 7.0 mm, though not for Tunisian unless you make narrow strips.

      Even the 1.5 mm gap between K and L hooks is weird! Such a gap does not exist between any other hook sizes until you get to the jumbo hooks. Traditionally (and inexplicably) there's a 3.0* mm jump from a Q/16 mm to an S/19 mm. *Q hooks can sometimes be 15 mm or 15.75 mm, depending on the brand.

      That 6.5 mm-9.0 mm range is pivotal for certain kinds of fashion looks, certain kinds of yarn textures, and certain kinds of stitches. Without the right hook for the job, the designs can't come out their best, or worse: simply can't happen at all. Tunisian crochet designs are especially vulnerable.

      Besides the Denise hooks mentioned in #2, look at all the choice I have now with the ChiaoGoo Tunisian L/8 mm hooks I brought home last month from the CGOA Chain Link Conference. Bigger photo here.

      2009 is turning out to be my Year of the Crochet Hook. The last time I blogged about new crochet hooks was January 2007!

      Wednesday, August 26, 2009

      Chain Link Crochet Conference: SPARKLY

      CGOA's 15th annual
      national Chain Link conference, held Aug. 5-9 in Buffalo, NY was simply amazing. I have so much to blog about it that I haven't known where to begin. In the meantime I uploaded photos and tweeted about it. My tweets always show in the right hand column of this blog.

      I love the anniversary theme: Crystal Jubilee! It inspired me to crochet a special bling coffee cozy in case Buffalo had great espresso.

      In fact maybe I loved the theme a little too much :) Each time I pack for a conference I get a little crazy. I suddenly invent projects that make me pack too much yarn. This year I threw together materials for crocheting a variety of Crystal Jubilee Tiaras, in case I found the time during the conference, LOL. (I never did.)

      At the last minute
      on my way to the airport, I made this Crystal Jubilee Bracelet (turns out it's a 20-minute project). Later at the conference
      I crocheted a bangle version with glittery Jelly Yarn in honor of Mary Beth's birthday (see end of Tracie's blog post about the Chocolate Bar birthday; also see Dee's pics). I'm crocheting the birthday bangle in this photo taken at the Friday evening annual members' meeting. You can kind of make out the big pink crystals. It makes Little Loopy's eyes twinkle.

      Speaking of twinkling eyes, how could I not wear new eye bling for the occasion? My
      rainbow glitter eyeliner was so sparkly that along with the bracelet, folks at my dinner table nominated me for the Bling Contest!

      Dee Stanziano's post for the best play-by-play of the contest. Basically, at the Fashion Show dinner each dinner table seated about 8 people. The people at each table nominated the person at their table who displayed the most bling. These nominees went on stage together and then voting by applause began. Congratulations to First Prize Winner Joan Davis!

      All this
      Crystal Jubilee talk might be ringing a bell if you saw my last-minute pre-conference blog post about the silk vest. I'm happy to report that a) I completed it! I was weaving in the last ends at the dinner table; and, b) so many people asked for the pattern that I'll have some good photos when the pattern's ready. You might get an overall sense of it from this conference photo. Also, c) turns out it that embroidering crystal beads all over it would have been overbling, so it's a good thing I had the bracelet and eyeliner to ramp it up a notch, tastefully ;)

      Sunday, August 02, 2009

      Just Back from the Craft SuperShow in Orlando!

      Good thing I brought my camera! Here are some pics from the Craft SuperShow, a Craft and Hobby Association (CHA) event that was open to the public. All photos were taken on July 31.

      The highlight of the day for me was when I discovered that Todd Paschall was there with some of his amazing crocheted portraits! I've been following Todd's posts in online crochet forums for years. It was fabulous to finally meet him in person.

      My son had Obama in stitches (har har).

      The Mary Engelbreit booth was mobbed. I was able to snap a pic of some Mary Engelbreit crochet.

      The whole show was
      mobbed actually! We had Disneyworld-like lines of people waiting to pick up their pre-registered tickets!! The show organizers were great at keeping the line moving quickly. I loved seeing so many people interested in crafting.

      Another highlight of the day was finding out that one of my new designs is coming out soon. A photo of it being modeled was projected on a big screen. Why oh why didn't I take a photo of it?

      You can see more photos from the big event in my Flickr album. You'll see some new crochet and knit fashions for children. I remember also seeing great new patterns for wraps and shawls and afghans and throws but didn't get photos of those.

      Isn't it funny how you can be holding a camera in your hand and not think to use it? Except for when you do?