Monday, November 17

Ultimate Foundation Crochet Stitch Class!

It turns out that the most popular post of this blog is "Which Foundation Stitch? And Why?" If you were reading that post just now, then you're probably here because you want to learn even more about foundation stitches. I can't imagine a better way than to take this class—no matter how much crochet experience you have.

Doesn't this look like fun?
Marty Miller created an online seven-lesson class on foundation crochet stitches. Craftsy produced it. If you've already taken a Craftsy class, you know that you can interact with the instructor and view it at your own pace multiple times. You can also leave bookmarks and notes to yourself along the way, and download class materials.


I learned a lot from Marty's class, even though I already use foundation stitches in my crochet! While taking this class I was also in the midst of comparing methods for extreme increasing in Tunisian crochet lace. (See the resulting newsletter issue #64.) 
Test of 3 different end increases for
Warm Aeroette Tunisian Filet Scarf.
See this DesigningVashti stitch how-to.

Increasing whole groups of lacy stitches at the end of a Tunisian forward pass can be a tricky, tricky thing. To add an infinite number of stitches this way, what you really need to do is add foundation stitches. Specifically, lacy ones. It takes a bit of engineering and I just hadn't thought of it this way at first. 

Blocks of lacy Tunisian crochet
stitches added to both edges. (Part of a
stitch how-to for Warm Aeroette.
Marty's class is mostly about regular crochet, but it can be applied to other kinds of crochet too. One of the valuable things Marty does in her class is explain how to make a lacy foundation row that's based on a lacy stitch pattern.

Mastering Foundation Crochet Stitches is full of Marty's original material, distilled from her years of teaching classes on foundation stitches, *plus* her class on extended stitches too! In fact, Marty teaches how to crochet extended stitches in Lesson One. It's an ingenious move to use extended stitches as a way to introduce foundation stitches.

She has a patient, step by step teaching style, and speaks with a calming, knowledgeable voice. Her personality, teaching skills, crochet love, and special tips show. 

Marty's Craftsy class is a bargain. Turns out Tammy came to the same conclusion! Have a look at Tammy Hildebrand's review, swatch, and description of each lesson.

See Laurinda Reddig's review and her fun range of swatches.

Friday, October 31

Blocking Crochet: Five Methods

Five Crochet Blocking Methods to Know About

One of the methods below could be the perfect finishing touch for your next crochet project, depending on your yarn and project type. It also depends on your own preferences. Each crocheter has a favorite method.

Special considerations for a specific stitch, technique, or project follow.

Five Crochet Blocking Methods –from least to most aggressive:

This is how love knots crocheted in wire look at first.

Same love knots, "dry blocked(method #1; 
I used the crochet hook to help open them up)
  1. Dry block, a.k.a. hand iron. Every crocheter has done this without even knowing that it has a name. Stretch, spread out, and flatten your crochet piece on something flat. One's knee always seems to be nearby! Using one's knee or upper leg is not too bad for a small item, especially if you're wearing jeans or other fabric that provides a bit of friction. (Don't use it for measuring a gauge swatch though!) If your surface is hard and flat, such as a table, you can also press it, i.e. "hand-iron" it. Personally I almost never use this method. 
  2. Damp block a.k.a. spray block, and block with mist. Spritz liberally with water, especially the edges, then spread out on a toweled surface to dry. This method is my personal favorite. I blogged about it back in 2010. I also combine with methods 3 or 4 below, but only when I must: damp block while crocheting, then a final wet block when the project is completed. I prefer damp blocking partly because it's the most portable, and partly because it's fast. For most of the year here in humid Florida, wet things simply take too long to dry. Use a bath towel on a flat surface; the towel will provide some friction that I find in most cases replaces the need for pins.
  3. Wet block: Fully immersed in water. You can soak plant fibers like cotton, linen, hemp, rayon in warm or cool water a bit. This is Doris' favorite method. For wools, immerse briefly in cool water to avoid fulling (felting), then remove excess water gently before spreading out on a toweled surface to dry. I like to add a little hair conditioner to the water if the yarn is wool or silk. ShamWow super absorbent microfiber cloths are really helpful for speeding up the drying. I use them instead of, or on top of a bath towel on a table.
  4. Steam block acrylic yarns. This method can really pay off if you carefully test first. Steam blocking is an art that can bring out extra softness and luster in some silk, camel, and llama fibers too.
  5. Pin or stretch on blocking wires while wet or steamed. Personally and non-professionally, I have only ever pinned crocheted snowflakes. The most important thing about pinning is to use rust proof pins. I don't own blocking wires, but I sure admire the knitted lace wraps that have been blocked with them.

Blocking is actually an art, and you might enjoy this newsletter issue about that. 

Here are some special blocking considerations:


Picots 

Tug and pinch each picot to round it out and make it visible, adding more water to them than the rest of the stitches, if necessary. 

Love Knots

Most love knots are intended to be plump, like a semi-inflated balloon. If yours are, spritz lightly with mist and smooth gently in a way that doesn't flatten the love knots, nor weigh them down with too much water. You might feel like it's not worth blocking them at all, but I tested this in my love knot classes and people could tell the difference.
Tunisian filet-style crochet swatches UNBLOCKED

Mixed colors and other yarn issues

If the yarns you used might give off some excess dye, avoid wet blocking. Use light spray blocking instead. Maybe combine light mist with heavy #1 and/or #5.

Lace, especially Tunisian crochet lace and filet crochet 

Same Tunisian crochet swatches, wet blocked (method #3.)
These respond great to wet blocking. Also very careful steam blocking if you used acrylic yarn. Aim for squared filet eyelets. For Tunisian crochet lace, tug on the return pass lines to straighten evenly. Tug vertically on extended Tunisian stitches to fully extend them, if you used them. 

Garments

Wet blocking is the method here for a stylish fit, silhouette, and an elegantly flowing, breezy movement. See Doris Chan's blog post. If you used acrylic yarn, steam blocking can bring out all the fashion drape and gleam, as if you used silk! Be sure to block the accessories that need to drape stylishly, such as wraps, scarves, collars, and even necklaces. Steaming some animal fibers will soften them enough to wear against the neck.

Home Decor

Especially doilies, snowflakes, and afghan squares; also flowers and other appliques: These are the projects I have the least amount of experience blocking by any method. The most notable thing about them is that they usually need to be as perfectly flat and square, or round, as possible. Wet blocking with pins or wires is common. Sometimes starch is added (especially for snowflakes). 

And finally...for all blocked items by all methods:

Let air dry completely, then admire your work and bask in the compliments!

Sunday, August 31

Crocheting Into Love Knots: Special Tweaks

This is the third and last post of a three-day series about crocheting Love Knots (a.k.a. Solomon's Knot, Lover's Knots, or Knot Stitch). The earlier two posts are: 
- How to Crochet a Love Knot.
- Three Ways to Crochet Into Love Knots.
This mini-series presumes that you already know how to make a slip knot, and how to crochet chain stitches and single crochets (UK: double crochet). To learn how to crochet a Love Knot, see the first post in this series (above). The abbreviation "sc" means single crochet stitch in the US; in the UK it's "dc."
Electra Wrap

-:-------:-

Today's post is about two small stitch modifications ("tweaks") that bring out the best in one's Love Knots. I use these the most to keep a Love Knot from loosening up over time. Several things can cause the stitch to do this: the yarn type, a loose gauge, and the weight of the rest of the stitches pulling on each other. Also, the weight of beads, if you use them.

Tweaks abound in crochet and that's something I love about it! Tweaks are what get shared at crochet conferences and you're lucky to be there when they surface. To me, our real crochet culture is in these unofficial, off-road modifications crocheters are actually doing.

If you have your own favorite Love Knot tweak, please share it in the comments.


I. Lock It Down With a Tight Chain Stitch

Zuma Skirt by Doris Chan
Photo © 2013 Interweave Press.
Here's how: You've made a long loose chain, then knotted it with a sc to complete your Love Knot (see Part 1 for a refresher). Now chain 1 tightly. You can even yank it tight. You've added a padlock to that knotted love, baby.

It's easy, fast, and it seems to melt away from view. I've not found it to change drape or stretch. I do not crochet into it in the next row. I just ignore it.

Sweetberry Clasped Love
This was Doris' strategy of choice when she designed the Zuma skirt (shown at left). Skirts need to be able to hold up to real wear, and Doris didn't want the Love Knots loosening and looking sloppy over time.

It was a crucial tweak for me when I used metallic embroidery floss and beads for Sweetberry (shown at right). That floss was so slippery and wiry that it would start uncrocheting itself as soon as I finished each stitch! Not only that, the weight of the beads encouraged this misbehavior and just looked like a mess. A yanked-tight chain stitch fixed this.


II. Compress the Sc Knot

This tweak is so important to me that it's what caused me to do this three-part series. It's difficult to describe in patterns, so I created a photo tutorial for it, and then I wanted to share it!

Basically, when you crochet into the sc of a Love Knot, crochet into three loops of the sc, not just two. But which three?
The yellow-tinted loop is the 3rd loop that I use to compress the knot.
You can see with the gold needle on the left that it has all three loops on it.
If I don't do this, that's the loop that tends to loosen and drop down.

So while you're crocheting the next row, the backs of the sc you crochet into will be facing you. Insert your hook into the top two loops as usual, and tilt the top of the stitch toward you and down a bit to see that third loop at the bottom of the sc (as shown in the photo).

Compare these two images, one with the tweak, the other without it:
With the tweak (3 sc loops crocheted into, not just 2).
Note that the backs of Love Knots are facing.
Standard way, NO tweak: I crocheted into only the top two
loops of the sc. See how the Love Knot loosens? Look at how
the whole row looks uneven and sloppy. The loop that has
dropped down the most is the 3rd one I use in my tweak.  
Note that I tugged on all stitches to simulate wear, and used a looser gauge to help make all loops more visible.

That helpful third loop is actually one of the side loops of a sc, sometimes called one of its "legs" or part of its "post" or "stem." It's the same side strand that is used when making a popular type of picot
Beach day for the Electra Wrap.
Photo © 2013 Interweave Press.

When it comes to Love Knots, however, familiar loops look unfamiliar, and shift around. The side loop of the sc looks like a bottom loop instead when it's part of a Love Knot. This is one of those things about Love Knots that confuses folks! 

Now you know my special tweak for preserving the Electra Wrap's starry charm. 

Expanded PDF version of the Electra pattern is almost ready for purchase in my pattern shop! Subscribe to my newsletter to find out when.

Other posts in this series:
Part 1 of 3: How to Crochet a Love Knot.
Part 2 of 3: Three Ways to Crochet Into Love Knots (a.k.a. Solomons Knot, Lover's Knot)

Saturday, August 30

Three Ways to Crochet Into Love Knots (a.k.a. Solomons Knot, Lover's Knot)

This is the second of a three-day series about crocheting Love Knots (a.k.a. Solomon's Knot, Lover's Knots, or Knot Stitch). This mini-series presumes that you already know how to make a slip knot, and how to crochet chain stitches and single crochets (UK: double crochet). 
Today is about how to crochet your next row into Love Knots. Topics of the other two posts are: 
- How to Crochet a Love Knot.
- Crocheting Into Love Knots: Special Tweaks. 
Top to Bottom:
  Dragonfly Cord, Seagrape Anklet, Sambuca Necklace



Yesterday's post was about crocheting a single string of Love Knots. Depending on your project, it might be called "the foundation row" or "Row One" or, "Hey look, I just made a necklace/eyeglass cord/wrap bracelet/ tie belt!"

Free Love Knot pattern
Buffalo Knot Belt

Things get really interesting when we crochet Love Knots (and other stitches) into Love Knots. Not only do we have fun choices, Love Knots can mess with your mind. Seriously.

A single string of Love Knots is three-dimensional, like a sculpture of bubbles. Crocheters often lose their way when it's time to turn and begin a new row. The risk of accidents (changing the stitch count, adding a twist in the foundation row) can make even a seasoned crocheter twitchy about this stitch.


The first step is to know when your Love Knot is upside down! Let's dissect the loopiness.



Anatomy of a Love Knot


Doesn't the bottom of the single crochet
look weird when it's facing up?
A common mistake is crocheting into upside-down Love Knots when you don't mean to. The top loops of a Love Knot can look weird. The easiest way to identify them is to look for the top two long loops (tinted green), which are always paired. In contrast, the bottom long loop of the Love Knot (tinted yellow, above) is always a singleton.

The top two loops of the single crochet (sc) have more of the familiar chain-link look, like the top two loops almost all crochet stitches have (tinted pink, above).


Unless a crochet pattern states otherwise, plan to crochet your next row into both top loops of either the sc (pink) or the long loops (green).



The Three Ways to Crochet Into Love Knots


Method 1.

The most common nowadays is to single crochet (sc) into the sc "knot" part. (I say "nowadays" because old thread crochet patterns often used the second method, below.)
Insert your hook under the pink loop AND
the other top loop behind it (not showing in this photo.)
An example of sc stitches
crocheted into the sc of Love Knots
(Sister Act Shawl).

This is the method I used for the "Sister Act Shawl and Shrug" published in Interweave Crochet magazine, Summer 2013 issue.

Fish Lips Lace.

Less common variations: You can crochet a different stitch into the Love Knot sc, for example double crochets (dc; UK: tr). That's what I did for the Fish Lips Shrug

When you crochet taller stitches into the Love Knot sc's, special things happens. The Love Knots have more room to expand. I find that Love Knots have a special affinity for dc stitches in terms of scale.



Method 2.

Single crochet before and after the sc "knot." This means one sc into two long top strands of one Love Knot just before the next sc "knot," and a second sc into two long top strands of the next Love Knot just after the sc "knot." 

This traditional method has several merits. It makes even the finest thread easy to crochet with, because the long loops are very easy to see and crochet into with a tiny, tiny crochet hook. It reinforces the places where the rows are linked to each other. The weight-bearing stress is distributed across more threads and stitches. This helps even the largest, most delicate lace pattern support its own weight, with less wear - while also holding open the lacy part of each Love Knot!
Method 2: Emphasis on the knots.

It does take a bit of foresight when planning the foundation row because you'll be adding more stitches in the next row (another sc each time you crochet into the Love Knots). Another factor to consider is that the extra sc can make the knot parts look lumpier in thicker yarns.

Variations: I hope you feel free to try this with other stitches besides a sc, such as the half double (hdc; UK: htr). Crocheters did 100 years ago!


Method 3. 

This is the rarest of the three: crochet into the long strands of only one Love Knot (not two, like in Method 2). In the inset photo below you can see a resulting stitch pattern. In the top two long loop of each Love Knot I crocheted a sc and a Love Knot.

This Marisa Artwalk (in progress) is a free form type of Love Knot pattern. Part of its unusual look is due to using Method 3.
Marisa Artwalk


Did you enjoy this post? I want to hear about it and so do your friends! Please check back for the third installment. 


Part 1 of 3: How to Crochet a Love Knot.

This one will be clickable after it's uploaded the next day:
Part 3 of 3: Crocheting Into Love Knots: Special Tweaks.

Friday, August 29

How to Crochet a Love Knot, Part 1 of 3

This is the first of a three-day series about crocheting Love Knots (a.k.a. Solomon's Knot, Lover's Knots, or Knot Stitch). This mini-series presumes that you already know how to make a slip knot, and how to crochet chain stitches and single crochets (UK: double crochet). 
Today is about how to crochet one stitch. One Love Knot at a time. Topics of the two posts are: 
- Three Ways to Crochet Into Love Knots.
- Crocheting Into Love Knots: Special Tweaks.
 

The Foundation Love Knot

A beautiful, beautiful thing about Love Knots is that you don't need to start with foundation chains. Love Knots can easily serve as their own foundation row.

A foundation row of Love Knots of equal size. This is the front.

As students exclaim in Love Knot classes, "You mean I just make them in the air?" YES. Like magic (or like the chain stitch), you just crochet Love Knots out of thin air.


Step 1, The Loose Chain Stitch 

Use a smooth, light-colored yarn and a crochet hook size that goes with the yarn. Make a slip knot and place a loose loop on your hook. Loose = about an inch long. Now yarn over and pull the yarn through to make a loose chain. 

If you know how to crochet a chain, this is nothing new. Feel free to crochet a few chains first, even tight ones if you like.
Notice loop "A." That's the important 
one for Love Knots.

Know Your ABCs!

Compare the three loops of your loose chain to the A, B, and C loops in the drawing at right. 

Love Knots have a reputation for being tricky. Feeling unsure about which loop of the chain stitch to use is a common hurdle. 
Now you're ready for Step 2.


Step 2, Tie the Knot in That Love with a Single Crochet

The single crochet stitch in progress. 
(Ignore the label "D" which is for 
beading purposes.)
Single crochet in loop A. Insert your hook between Loop A and the other two loops, yarn over (as shown in the next drawing), pull through the loop: 2 loops on your hook. Yarn over and pull through both loops on your hook to complete a normal single crochet.

That's it, you're done, you created a Love Knot out of thin air!


Step 3, One Love Knot, Now What?



Lovebud Vine Charms
gussied-up
Love Knots!
Sparkle Love Knot Lariat
You have one loop on your hook after completing the single crochet. You can now launch right into a second Love Knot, as shown in the photos at the top of the post. 


-:-------:-

Since we're crocheting, there are of course lots of fun Love Knot variations. For example, instead of a single crochet in loop A ("the bump loop") of the chain, try a different stitch, or group of stitches. Instead of loop A, try crocheting into a different loop or loops of the chain. Once you're clear on how to make a classic Love Knot, invent your own variations. Try a wide range of yarns, too - the same Love Knot can look very different in other yarns.

Next posts in this series:
Part 2 of 3: Three Ways to Crochet Into Love Knots.
Part 3 of 3: Crocheting Into Love Knots: Special Tweaks.

You might also like: 



This is what the backs of the Love Knots look like when I
turn to begin a new row. More on that in the next post.