Wednesday, March 30

How to Take Control of Double Crochet Stitch Height & Row Gauge

A Taller Double Crochet has Advantages
The Lovelace Ring Scarf (before seaming)

  1. It could be the solution to matching the row gauge required for a project (a common and pesky problem)
  2. Increases fashionable drape in crocheted clothing; the double crochet stitches look less chunky, more limber, longer-legged, and elegant.
  3. It will match the height of the turning chain-3 better.
  4. Certain stitch patterns such as the popular "V-Stitch" double crochet pattern have a smoother look and more flex (important for crocheting clothing, especially when using bumpy or stiff yarns)
I first saw Advantage #1 addressed by Pauline Turner in her Crocheted Lace book (Martingale, 2003). Pauline explains why even experienced crocheters can have trouble getting a doily to lie flat: their stitch heights might vary from the designer's. Interestingly, she found that crocheters from different parts of the world have different standards for how tall they make one of the most common crochet stitches of all: the double crochet (aka treble crochet in the UK & Australia).

Regarding Advantage #2: I next saw this issue addressed by Dee Stanziano, who distinguishes three types of crocheters: Lifters, Riders, and Yankers. Doris Chan, who knows a thing or two about drape, has a great blog post about it: "Confessions of a Lifter." 

Work at Home Vest

Regarding Advantage #3: The sides of your rows will smooth out and the whole fabric will drape better. It's important for the geometrical look of love knot mesh patterns when they begin and end with dc.

Regarding Advantage #4: I used mostly V-stitch for my Work@Home Vest (see photo above for close up). The Peaches 'n Creme cotton version (at right) is a pleasant surprise: it drapes! It feels soft, flexible, and smooth-textured instead of having hard lumps where the dc's are worked into the spaces between the stitches. 

Stretch Your Dc

Did you know that when beginning a double crochet stitch ("dc" or in UK, "tr"), some crocheters pull their loop up higher than other crocheters do? 

This causes the final stitch height to vary. It means that the row gauge (number of rows per inch) can vary from one crocheter to another, even if they have the same stitch gauge (number of stitches per inch).

If you think of the base of a crochet stitch as having two "feet" anchored in or around a stitch, then pulling up higher while working the stitch creates longer "legs." Longer legs create enough room for stitches to flex and drape, even when anchored around multiple strands of yarn. This is something I'm going to keep in mind when I use other stitch patterns featuring stitches that are worked into the spaces between stitches.

Today I discovered a Crochetville conversation in which Jean Leinhauser describes her "Golden Loop" method for the dc (or UK tr) stitch: 
"YO, insert hook in specified stitch and draw up a loop -- NOW STOP! This is the Golden Loop, and it determines the ultimate height of your stitch. If you need a taller stitch, draw this loop up higher. If your stitch is too tall, don't draw this loop up so high.Now just finish the dc as usual. You may need to practice a few rows with the new height to get it to become automatic. It is this one loop, not the size of the hook, that determines row gauge."
I learned to crochet decades ago from my mother. In Dee's terminology, Mom and I were "Riders." For a long time I wondered why one is supposed to chain 3 to begin a row of dc, instead of 2. This is because my ch-3 was taller than my dc's.

Some simply chain 2 instead. As long as shorter rows of dc won't be a problem for your project, this is a fine fix. 
First Thread Cardigan project 
(needs to be blocked)

In my case, I hit a snag in 1999 when I began my first cardigan made of mainly THREAD....with BEADS. After much crocheting, I just could not match the row gauge even though I could get the stitch gauge. I was baffled and worried that there was something wrong with how I crochet.

If I didn't get the right row gauge, then the armholes would come out too small: yikes! 

The Extended Double Crochet

My fix for it was to change all dc into "extended dc" ("edc"). It's like adding a chain to the stitch's height. Kristine Mullen has a good photo tutorial of how to do this stitch. She also contrasts the height of it with a regular dc and with a regular treble crochet stitch. 

An advantage of using edc in place of dc for the cardigan is that the stitches have a bit more drape. They're slimmed down because a chain is slightly less meaty than the post of a dc. A disadvantage is that an extra step is added to each and every stitch. Combined with the beads I was adding, this was too much extra fuss to be fast and fun. (I still haven't completed it.) 

If I'd known back then about being a "Lifter" instead of a "Rider" I would have learned to make lifted dc instead. I'd rather change my "riding habit" than to add an extra chain to each dc for such a big thread project. 

Nowadays I'm more often a "Lifter" by pulling up a bit on the "Golden Loop," especially when crocheting clothing. My goal is for my dc stitches to be 3 chains tall, my trebles to be 4 chains tall, and so on.