Saturday, February 27

Two Kinds of Crochet Slip Knots

I knew of only one kind of slip knot when I learned how to crochet at the age of nine. Many years passed before I learned that there are actually two kinds from a crocheter's point of view. I call them adjustable (blue one in photo) versus locking or secure (the red one). It used to be that all of my slip knots were adjustable by accident, now they are all secure on purpose! See video links at the end of this entry.

How to know which kind you make
Tug on the short end of the yarn (a.k.a. the "tail"). If this tightens the loop, you made an adjustable slip knot. If you tug on the long or "ball end" (i.e. the yarn that is attached to the skein) to tighten the loop, it is a locking slip knot.

The locking version is important because there's no chance of it coming undone when under stress, such as when it is part of a purse bottom, or the clasp end of heavy beaded jewelry, or the center of afghan motifs.

The adjustable version can be used for closing up a center hole in one of the many methods of crocheting in the round: If you work all stitches of the first round into one chain, you can then pull on the yarn tail to close up the center hole tightly. Be sure to leave a long enough end (more than four inches/10cm) for weaving in securely so that it won't loosen later.

Video demonstrations of the secure or locking slip knot:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NcOewm7qAA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIUJuYuWfSM

Video demonstrations of the adjustable slip knot:
http://video.about.com/crochet/Crochet-Chain-Stitch.htm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avsiVWVtPYI

If your adjustable slip knots have never loosened, perhaps you have woven in a nice long yarn end to secure it; or used a non-slippery yarn, or a tight stitch gauge.

Friday, February 26

Tips for Crocheting with Wire


Even if you've been crocheting with wire for a long time, your stitches are likely to look loose and irregular. There’s also no way that your stitches can look neat, even, and flat while you’re gripping it to work the stitches. It doesn't matter! When you're done, you can "block" your stitches by poking and pulling individual strands into place with your hook.
Here are some more tips if you're new to wire crochet:
  1. If the wire feels too slippery, try looping it around an additional finger for more tension.
  2. For tighter stitches, use a finer (thinner) gauge of wire if possible; if not, try to make small contained movements as you crochet.
  3. 28 gauge ("28ga") wire is thinner and easier to crochet than 26ga. Crocheting wire uses new muscles that other kinds of crocheting don’t require. It’s more important than usual to avoid hunching your shoulders as you work. If you have trouble with the 28ga at first, start with the next finer size: 30ga.  Any size you use will be beautiful.
  4. If you find that you use one of your fingertips as a backing when trying to poke the hook through a stitch, wear a thimble or band-aid on that finger for cushioned support.
  5. Assume that you can’t rip out mistakes. Sometimes you can without breaking the wire, but you will still be weakening it. It’s best to leave tiny kinks in the wire; trying to remove them stresses the wire. Wire is weird because it’s so strong that you have to manhandle it, but it can snap, so you have to baby it at the same time. If the wire does break, don’t worry. Twist together the broken ends and keep going. With some wire projects you don’t really need to weave in a tail, just try to keep ends from popping up and feeling prickly or snagging things (this is especially important with jewelry items). 
  6. If you love adding little seed beads to stitches, here's your chance. There's nothing easier than stringing them onto wire and crocheting them into stitches as you go!

Tuesday, February 23

Crochet Cords for Pendants: Happy Pairings

Take a striking pendant, crochet a pretty cord, easy instant style, right? Well, it's almost that easy. Pendants and crochet can have compatibility issues. I design a lot of pendant necklaces and lariats and have run into some garden-variety snags. Here is some advice to help ensure that you will be happy with your new necklace.

Crochet jewelry materials, such as pendants, beads, string-like yarns, and crochet threads, vary widely in their availability around the country (US). This means that even though I can specify the exact brands used for the pattern, you may have no choice but to substitute.

 Problem 1: Oops, turns out the pendant is too heavy.
It pulls on the crochet stitchwork so that it looks inelegant or the exquisite details are lost. This happens to me often, partly because I seem unable to resist chunky art glass pendants. They are the heaviest pendants I own. The other reason it happens is that I tend to crochet a new necklace cord first, assuming I'll find a pendant that'll work when I'm done. 

Solution: In both cases, for you it means crocheting the first four or more inches (10cm) of the pattern, then stringing on the pendant to test if you have a good match. (For me it means I just need to plan ahead better. Easy to say, but it means altering my natural way of designing. I now display my pendants pinned to a big flat board so that they are as visible as my yarns and threads.)


Problem 2: The pendant isn't heavy enough!
Part of what makes a jewelry piece successful is its drape and show of weightiness. Light weight pendants abound (such as when they are made of shell or thin beaten metal). Stiffer yarns, tapes, and strings like hemp, metallic braids, and wire are some of the very best for crocheting jewelry (especially many of the Kreinik products). 

Solutions:
  • Test first, like above.
  • Of course, if you're committed to crocheting with a special stiff material, this is when you can feel free to use the heavier pendants. Otherwise, switch to one that works better with the pendant.  
  • A few pendants are just too lightweight for the pattern, no matter what material you use; I try to notify you within the pattern if I think some lighter pendants can't work. 
  • You can supplement the weight of the pendant by adding seed beads to the crochet. (String onto your yarn before crocheting.) This has its own issues: almost no pendant holes are big enough for seed-beaded crochet to pass through (but see below); also, believe it or not, sometimes even beading will not add enough weight!
Problem #3: The Pendant hole is too small :-(
This is always a bummer for me. I've never seen a pendant opening that's too big but many are too small, yet I can't resist buying them anyway. 

Solutions:
  • String the pendant onto the yarn/thread before crocheting. Test: crochet the pattern for a few inches/cm, then crochet the pendant right into the next stitch as if it's a bead. Continue the pattern for a few more inches. If you like how it hangs, begin fresh with pre-strung pendant. At the halfway point of your necklace, crochet the pendant into the next stitch.
  • Add a larger link to the pendant so that it can be strung freely onto the finished cord, using standard metal jewelry findings and tools. Better yet:
  • Crochet your own "link"! Just a thin crocheted ring through the pendant opening will do. (I'll post more about this special option some other time.)
Problem #4: The Pendant turns to the side when it hangs; the hole goes the wrong way.
The pendant opening tunnels either from side to side, or from front to back. Sometimes it doesn't seem to matter much for the pattern, so you need to test. 

Solutions: Try the solutions for Problem #3. Crocheting the pendant into a stitch may change the direction of the pendant opening, depending on the stitch. Adding a crocheted or metal link to the pendant first will change the direction of the pendant opening.

If you have any related issues or solutions I haven't mentioned here, please add them in the Comments below.

Monday, February 22

Tips for Working with Jelly Yarn(tm)

I first wrote these tips for a pattern called "Barbed Wire Belt," which was published in a Straight From Today's Designers design compilation called Crochet Belts From the Hip.

In the meantime, more crochet patterns are coming that also use Jelly Yarn(tm) because I cannot resist its siren song. You can put these tips to use right away if you already have some of this unique yarn at home.
(Pictured: "Flying Jelly Ring, Tambourine Version" from Jelly Yarn: 20 Cool Projects for Girls to Knit and Crochet)

Tip #1: If you can't make the initial slip knot tight enough to stay knotted, add a dab of superglue.

Tip #2: Use a small amount of hand cream or something silicone-based on your crochet hook to really build up stitching speed!

Tip #3: The Jelly Yarn(tm) is a "monofilament," not twisted plies. Like ribbon and tape yarns, it will acquire some twist as you work with it. I ignore it, unless it starts kinking up. Pulling more yarn from the ball helps because it postpones the twist down the line, indefinitely. Sometimes I crochet it standing up and shake the twist down the strand.

Tip #4: Jelly Yarn(tm) seems to stick more or resist me when I'm tired, stressed, or impatient. It's the same if I'm in a hot or stuffy room. Therefore I figure that either Jelly Yarn(tm) has psychic powers, or when I'm stressed I become hot and stuffy too. If this happens to you, just take a break, turn up the A/C, and maybe even place your yarn in an ice chest and work that way! 

Tip #5: If you have kids, guard your jelly stash carefully. If you don’t have kids, other people’s kids will find you and stare soulfully until you make something for them.