Friday, February 28

Crocheting Into Foundation Chains (& Other Chain Stitches)

Crocheting into Chain Stitches: Six Options
Crochet is all about options. 
I learned only one way to crochet Row 1 into the foundation chains back when I learned how to crochet. I didn't question it for years! 

Nowadays, when a project requires foundation chains instead of a thicker, stretchier alternative, I choose to crochet into the chains a different way than I originally learned. I specify it in my crochet patterns when it matters. 

Almost always when I need to specify which chain loop to crochet into, it's the bottom "bump" loop (see the top grey swatch at right). This is the loop that you need to use when making the "fat-free picots" referred to in this newsletter, the love knot stitch, and when beginning a new row in some star stitch patterns. Below is a how-to.

Update, Mar. 15 2014: Crochet Inspirations Newsletter issue #58 takes this topic further.

Chain Stitch Anatomy 101
Each chain has three loops.
  1. Front Top Loop: the one closest to you as you're about to crochet into it.
  2. Back Top Loop: the one farther from you, but still the top part of the chain.
  3. Bottom Bump Loop: Turn the chain over to see the third strand on the bottom. It looks different, like a small bump between the two top loops.
Three Loops of a Crochet Chain Stitch: Anatomy Lesson
When the crochet hook pulls "A" through loop "B-C", 
a loose chain will be completed. The B and C strands
will form the two top loops of the chain. The strand 
will be the bottom bump loop of the chain. (This image 
also shows the first step in crocheting a love knot.)

You can crochet a stitch into any one or two of these loops. This is how you get the six conventional ways shown in the six swatches in the upper image (i.e., insert hook under X loop or loops of the chain, yarn over and pull yarn through). Next, I've elaborated on four of the six options.

Four Ways to Crochet Into Foundation Chains

Starpath Scarf: a new downloadable crochet pattern by Vashti Braha
Starpath Scarf: New pattern now available!
Using option #1 gives it nice edges.
Option #1, The "bottom bump loop" only, grey swatch above: This one gives me my favorite finished edge. It's a popular option for those in the know. Neither top loop is used, so they show completely along the finished edge. This creates the same lovely chain-loop look as the other finished edge; in other words, the bottom edge of the first row looks the same as the top edge of the last row. Makes an edging optional, and makes seaming a pleasure.

Option #1 firms up the foundation chain (fch) more than crocheting into a top loop, so depending on the project, I make my chains a bit looser. I don't find it to be more difficult to do; the challenge is in the pattern writing! 

I feel that not enough crocheters notice this third bottom "bump" strand of chain stitches. Even if they do, the term for that loop is not as standardized and well known. This is the main reason I wrote this blog post.

Option #2. The top two loops, blue swatch above: This is the way I was originally taught - under both of the top loops of the chain. It results in a finished edge of little "bump" loops because the bottom bump loop of each chain is the only loop that's not included in the next row of stitches. This option tightens up a foundation chain the most. I choose this one if I'm crocheting beads into the fchs.

Flounce Charms: Option #1 required
for their Fat-Free Picots
The top two loops of a chain stitch actually resemble a chain link, and other crochet stitches have two familiar top loops like chain stitches, so this option is a logical and useful way to teach a beginner. Finding the front top loop (FL) or back top loop (BL) of a crochet stitch is a common occurrence for a crocheter, which makes the names for these loop familiar.

Option #3. Two other loops (the top back loop + the "bottom bump" loop), green swatch above: I've met some crocheters who prefer this option because It's the recommended option in most of the how-to books, often as an improvement over Option #4. It's a bit firmer and neater looking than #4, and a bit easier than #2. 

Option #4. One top loop (orange swatch): Some beginners are taught to crochet into only one top loop, which is actually thtop back loop (abbreviated BL in patterns; or BLO which means "back loop only"). Crocheting into this loop of a fch is helpful for beginners, because it's easier to fish around for only one of the three loops of every chain, especially the BL, because it sticks up a bit more than the other top loop (the FL). Another benefit is that the fch firms up less. It's the most discouraged option in the how-to books, though, because it can have a stringy, loopy, or messy look.
Option #4 is used for the Luckyslip Mitts.

I use this option sometimes if I'm crocheting slip stitch ribbing that I'll be seaming with slip stitches later; and sometimes when I crochet rows on both sides of the foundation chain.

Aside from my first choice, Option #1, I also like the rarely used top front loop only - the pink swatch - instead of #2, #3, or #4. It has a stable finished feel, a flat back, and a cute nubby front.

No matter which option you choose, try to pick the same top loop(s) of every chain of the fch, or else the next chain may look weird and your finished edge might look irregular.

Friday, November 30

Slip Stitch Crochet FAQ in My Classes

These are the questions I most often answer in slip stitch crochet classes and by email in response to slip stitch patterns. See also issue #45 of my Crochet Inspirations Newsletter.

Q: “How much more yarn does slip stitching use?”
A: It seems to use LESS! When I’ve used the same yarn and crochet hook size to make the same-sized swatches of all slip stitch in the back loop [Bss], all single crochet in the back loop [blsc], and all slip stitch in the front loop [Fss], the blsc used the most yarn of all. The Fss used the least yarn of all

Q: “Why doesn't my slip stitch ribbing look ribbed?”
A: Some crocheters don’t see the ribs forming until they look along the row edges while stretching them apart. You need at least 10 rows, which will create 5 ribs. Until then, it might seem like nothing’s happening.
Eva's Ribs Scarf free downloadable pattern

The ss rib is so corrugated, or accordion-like, that sometimes students don't see the ribs and valleys even though they're there! (This is what makes it such a great ribbing when you wear it, especially with wool and wool blend yarns.) At rest, the ribbing is even more compressed and springy than sc in the back loop, because sc “bodies” stand independently of each other and make wider ribs than the ss bodies do. Ss bodies mesh together more both in height and in width. 

Q: “Why do my edges look uneven?"A: Usually this is caused by accidentally increasing stitches, or decreasing them, or both. Placing a stitch marker in the first stitch of each new row is the best fix, because by the time you get to the end of each row, the end ss is usually partly covered by strands from the turning ch and is very easy to overlook. The result is a decrease. It can also be tempting to think the turning ch is another ss, but that would result in an increase.Another cause can be the turning chain. Once in awhile a student’s turning chains look loose and kind of messy along the sides of rows. The easy fix is to crochet a tighter turning chain. Some slip stitchers omit the turning chain altogether. If you do this, be sure to use stitch markers to keep the end slip stitch from melting away even more.

Q: “My foundation chain looks loose, and each row is getting tighter. I have the right number of stitches so why does it look like I'm missing some?”
A: Does your swatch feel stiff, and do you struggle to get your hook into the back loop of the next stitch? If so, then the stitches really are too tight. A common problem is when the stitches feel a bit too tight to crochet into, some crocheters reach for a smaller crochet hook to make it easier. This is the worst thing you can do. Instead, focus on making each stitch looser. The two top loops of the stitch should have a large enough space between them to fit the size of the hook you're using. (This is what I call "hook-led gauge" and is an intermediate skill that is worth learning for all kinds of crochet.)
Q: “I’ve tried everything so why are my slip stitches still too tight?”
A: Sometimes a crocheter is careful to make a loose ss, but then after s/he makes the NEXT ss, the previous loose one is tight! When this happens, the yarn is being pulled from the completed stitch while the next ss is being formed. This habit doesn't affect other crochet stitches as much, but ss are closely interlocked, so it's easy to affect nearby stitches.
For some people, making a slip stitch in two steps helps: 1) insert hook in stitch, yarn over and pull loop through stitch; pause, then 2) pull that loop through the other loop on your hook to complete the slip stitch. 
This tip tends to help long term crocheters who are deeply habituated to making their slip stitches (ss) quickly and tightly.

Q: “Why am I having so much trouble knowing which is the back loop?”
A: Slip stitches tilt away from you as you crochet them in rows. This causes their front loops to stick up in the air, tempting you to crochet into them. The back loops fall lower to the back of the row. Some crocheters overcompensate and look too far back for the back loop, and choose a loop from the row below instead. 

Q: “It isn’t stretchy. It doesn’t really seem like ribbing. Am I doing it wrong?”
A: The most common cause is choosing the wrong loop as the back loop. If you're choosing a loop from the row below instead, you'll make a thicker, less stretchy, less ribbed fabric. Understandably, some new slip stitchers accidentally crochet into that tempting front loop sometimes, instead of in the back loop. Rows of Fss are less stretchy and are not ribbed. Occasionally a crocheter mixes some sc in with their Bss or Fss. This tends to happen when crocheting ss with a two-step method (as if crocheting a sc, but without the final yarn over. The pause before completing the ss helps some crocheters keep their ss loose enough.)

Q: “Should I change to a smaller hook? Then I’d be able to crochet into the back loops easier and faster.”
A: No. Resist the temptation! A smaller hook would not solve the problem of crocheting ss tightly. If the back loop of a ss is too tight for the hook you’re using, it means you’re not using the hook size as a guide to how big (loose) your stitches should be. Some crocheters are accustomed to using the yarn instead of the hook size as their guide for how tightly they crochet.

Q: “What happens if you do a row of Bss and then a row of Fss (slip stitch in the front loop)?”
A: Try it! 
Beaded Slip Swoop Loop
Q: “Does it matter if I chain 1 when beginning a new row? Does it matter which way I turn?”
A: Sometimes it matters a lot, or a little, or not much at all. It depends on the crocheter and the project. I teach all slip stitch newbies to chain 1, and to be consistent about turning the same direction each time. Both of these habits help to make the last slip stitch of each row easier to recognize. I personally prefer to turn so that the yarn is at the back of my hook instead of front. 

In designs, I almost always use turning chains because I like the extra drape. See this newsletter issue: "Crochet That Pours". Undaria and Slip Swoop have 2 or 3 turning chains! 

Q: “How would I change the width of the Slip Slope Scarf?”
A: The short answer is that this would require a redesign. Many crocheters could figure out how to do this, using Slip Slope as a guide. The best thing to do is to crochet 2 complete short row “wedges” of Slip Slope. After that, not only will you have a swatch of how wide your scarf would come out if you change nothing as a starting point, you’ll also understand the simple system of short rows, and can then try your own variations. You could simply add or subtract a stitch repeat; or you could also shorten each short row more gradually, or less, to create wedges of different sloping angles.

Q: “Does slip stitch ribbing get any easier/faster?”
A: Yes! It’s a little faster than knitting, it’s as fast, or a bit slower than sc ribbing, depending on the crocheter. Fss is faster than Bss. All tighter ss is slower than all looser ss. 

Some ways to improve speed: 
- Focus on the unique rhythm of slip stitching. 
- Make the ss in ONE step instead of two for a swift, fluid motion. (Make sure your ss are consistently loose first.)
- Use a pointy-headed crochet hook. You may need to customize your crochet hook by filing the head of it.

Some ways to increase fun:
- Use bulky yarn for quick projects
- Listen to audiobooks & podcasts
- Add a pinch of stitch 'spice': change colors; short rows; use a fun or luxe yarn; mix different sts; add beads!

Tuesday, January 31

How to Crochet Spiky Puff Stitches

I used a different color per row for the how-to crochet stitch video below!
The Spiky Puff Stitch is what puts the 'palmetto' in the Palmetto Wristcuff! Don't the stitches look sort of like palm fronds? Also, the new pink one, above, looks like aloe vera plants when the spike stitches point upward. (Crochet jewelry pattern pdf for the Palmetto Wristcuff is downloadable at my DesigningVashti site and in Ravelry.)

I created a crochet stitch how-to video and uploaded it to Youtube today. I'm still practicing at making videos and it's not too bad! For my next trick I'm going to attempt to embed the video right here in this blog post.

If it doesn't work, here's the link to the video.

Sunday, October 30

Slip Stitch Short Rows: Basic Tutorial

The first row along the bottom is the longest (24 sts).
Each "row" or "rib" of slip stitches is really 2 rows.
The top row pair is the shortest (3 sts).
There's more than one way to crochet short rows. Click here: free crochet pattern -- for a scarf that uses the method that I'll describe here.

The stitch matters. I'm really enjoying using slip stitches worked in the back loop. It's also called "slip stitch rib" or "back loop slip stitch." I abbreviate it BLOslst
Photo #2: This is what the other side looks like.

Each "rib" of this stitch looks like 1 row, but it's really a pair of rows.  I like starting with a long row pair and then making shorter and shorter row pairs. One benefit is that the foundation row stays straighter this way.
Photo #3: two "wedges" of stacked short rows.

When you start with longer rows and then crochet shorter rows onto them, the ends of the short row look like a slope of bumps. (See top two photos.)

At my other blog you can see what it looks like when you crochet a long row into the ends of the short rows. 
Photo #4: Slip Slope Scarf in progress,
with stitch markers. The first 2 row pairs
of a new "wedge" show at the top. 
You can make them blend in or stand out. 

Either way, they flex, drape, and stretch nicely when you use this stitch and a larger crochet hook. Here I'm using a 6.5mm hook (K/US10.5) with worsted weight wool yarn (a.k.a. "#4 Medium Weight" or "Aran" or "Afghan weight").

Starting with a long row pair and then making each row pair shorter and shorter results in a wedge shape. Notice that each wedge has a sloping side and a straight side. 

Photo #5: One more BLOslst in that last
marked stitch will complete this row.
In the third photo, a second wedge is stacked onto the slope of the first wedge. If this rib stitch didn't look almost identical on both sides, it would be easier to see in this photo that the back of the first wedge is facing and the front of the second one is facing in this third photo.

Now for some impromptu iPhone photos while I finish the Slip Slope Scarf. You might not need stitch markers at all. I've added them in these photos because in the pattern I recommend them to people who haven't done much slip stitch crochet just until they can easily recognize the last stitch of every row. 
Photo #6: Row is now complete. Ch 1, turn.
(Just add a marker to the front loop of the first BLOslst you make in each new row. It's worth the trouble, I promise.)

In photos #5 and 6, I want you to compare how it looks when you have one stitch left to work into at the end of a row along the straight side of the wedge.

In photo #7, I chained 1 and turned, and then worked a BLOslst in each of the first four slip stitches. I placed a marker in the front loop of the first slip stitch of this new row. This row will be shorter; see photo #8.
#7: New row begun. 

Photo #9 gives you a bigger picture of how the sloped side is developing, while along the left is a straight edge--the stitches are only decreased when you reach the sloping edge. Make sense?
#8: I've worked across the new row to the last 3 slip
stitches of it. I'm going to ch 1 and turn,
leaving those last 3 unworked.

Photos #10 & 11 give another big picture: the current wedge has been completed: the last row pair has only 3 stitches in it!

#9: I chained 1 and turned, leaving the last 3 of the
stitches unworked. In this photo I've already crocheted
2 BLOslsts of this new row, and marked the first one.
And finally, photo #12 shows you how the stitch marker come in handy when you crochet a long row to begin another wedge. 

#10: A completed wedge. 
Actually, I think most people will not need the markers for this, because you know you need to find three stitches to work into as you do the long row, and I think this makes them easy to find. But perhaps the markers help point out the stitches, making the photos easier to understand?

#11: Reverse side of photo #9.
#12: Long row of next wedge has been
crocheted into each of the 3 unworked stitches of every short row.

Monday, August 15

Try a Linked Stitch to Close the Gap Between a Turning Chain and Double Crochet Stitch

No Gaps Along the Sides of Double Crochet Rows
Crocheters who don't like that gap or hole that happens at the start of every row of double crochet stitches {UK: treble} have developed their own favorite ways to lessen or eliminate it. These handy tricks tend to get buried in crochet books, if they are mentioned at all. It was also not so easy for me to find them around the 'net. For more, please see issue #25 of my Crochet Inspirations newsletter.

This post will focus on how to do the method that I like the best for my current purse project, with step by step photos below. The basic strategy is: use a traditional chain-3 as the turning chain to begin a new row of double crochet stitches, and to link the first double crochet to the chain-3. This handy method will be familiar to anyone who has already learned how to do linked double crochet stitches. 

I like it because it creates a solid, sturdy, stable selvage-type edge for rows of double crochet {UK: treble}. It's perfect for the purse I'm crocheting. No holes will show along each side edge of the purse after seaming. I've used a tight gauge with some Sugar 'n Cream cotton yarn.

You can link to the turning chain more than one way. The one shown here is the most compact. I'd use a more flexible one for clothing, and a looser gauge (larger hook size for the yarn).

All photos can be viewed at full resolution in this photo set. (Click on the photo in the set to see more viewing choices at the top of the image.)
Step 1: Chain 3 (turning chain)

Step 1: Chain 3 to begin a new row of dc, as usual.

Step 2: Turn counterclockwise so that the
backs of the chains face you
Step 2: Turn Counterclockwise {UK: anti-clockwise} 
If you're crocheting left handed, turn clockwise. Either way, the back bump of each chain should be facing you for this method. 
Note: I've noticed that the turning direction creates a distinctly different variations for this linked edge. See swatches in the bottom left column of newsletter.
Step 3: Insert hook in 2nd chain

Step 3: For this project, I'm inserting the hook under *two* loops of the 2nd chain. The edge comes out compacted this way. However, it's more common with linked stitches to work them into one loop, not two. In fact, the straightest edge of all happens for me when I link to only the leftmost front loop of the chain (instead of including that middle "bump" of chain with it.) If I didn't want such a dense selvage for the sides of this bag, I would insert the hook under one loop of the chain only. 
I make a point of turning my work so that the backs of the turning chains face me because I find it slightly easier to work my last stitch into the top of the turning chain if the front of it is facing me in the next row. Make sense? (You may prefer to work into another loop or two of the chain, and to turn your work a different way.)
Step 4A

Step 4A: Yarn Over Hook.
Step 4B: Pull up loop in the second chain.

Step 4B: Pull loop through second chain. The two loops on the hook now count as the two loops you would have on your hook if you were about to make a standard double crochet stitch {UK: Treble}. No need to yarn over to begin the dc {UK: tr}.
Seeing it this way has helped me to remember how to do linked stitches. For example, if I wanted to do a linked treble {UK: double treble}, I'd make sure I had 3 loops on my hook instead of 2, as if I had yarned-over twice.
Step 5: Pull up loop in next stitch.

Step 5: Pull up loop in next dc of row. For this purse edge version, the turning chain-3 counts as the first dc of the row, so you skip the very first dc along the edge, and work your linked dc in the next stitch. Therefore, your last dc of each row will be worked into the top of the turning chain.
Step 6: Linked dc almost completed.

Step 6: Yarn over and pull through: just as with regular ol' dc, yarn over your hook and pull loop through two loops on your hook. Two loops remain.
Step 7: The "Beginning Linked Dc" (its official name)
is now complete.

Step 7: Yarn over and pull through last two loops on the hook. Your first dc is linked to the turning chain-3.

You can apply this strategy to any tall stitch. For a row of trebles {UK: double trebles}, chain 4 for the turning chain. Pull up a loop in the second chain and another in the third chain. You'll have *three* loops on your hook, just as if you'd yarned over twice to begin a treble.