Monday, June 27

Crocheting a Triangular Shawl Point-to-Point

Frostflakes: See the straight
 edge, worked even?
I've published two crochet patterns so far of triangular shawls and scarves that are crocheted from one point to the other, and I have at least five more on the way. 

Islander: Its long narrow
corners can be easily tied

I'm a big fan of this way to crochet a "baktus"-style scarf and other triangular wraps. I'm writing this blog post for the crocheters who have never made a shawl this way and who may find it puzzling at first.

The two published designs so far are Islander (Tunisian crochet) and Frostyflakes (regular crochet). When I get questions about these patterns, it's because the look of their set-up rows confuses crocheters, even if they're making them correctly. 

Crocheting point to point is a new experience. It seems to be a less common type of construction. All you have to do is expect your set-up rows to look unfamiliar, and before you know it, the choppy seas will turn calm and it will be smooth sailing. So smooth, in fact, that you'll pick up a lot of speed and keep thinking "just one more row!"

1-skein Frostyflakes
Look closely at the next two photos. Both of them have a long straight side across the top. (In the red one, it is the neck edge.) Now look at each end of this long straight side. These two corners of the triangle are the "points." You start at one point and finish at the other point. Imagine what the first few rows of these scarves might have looked like when I began them. You can see why some crocheters could think they're doing something wrong.

Swatch worked "point to point" (upper corner to upper corner)
The set-up rows for a point-to-point wrap can look odd for two reasons:

1. It's a new experience even for a crocheter who has tried traditional "corner-start" projects. Most of these (often called "Diagonal Stitch") increase on both ends of the rows to create a center point of a symmetrical triangle shape. (After awhile, one decreases instead of increases, and ends up with a square dishcloth or rectangular afghan.)  Point-to-point is a little different because you only increase along one side of the triangle. This can cause the first 5 rows or so to look odd, if you're used to traditional "corner-start" or "corner to corner".

2. It's a new experience even for a crocheter who has made triangular wraps that start along the longest top edge, or grow outward from the center of the top edge, or start at the bottom center point. This is because another way to think of "Point-to-Point" construction is "Side-to-Side." When you wear your finished point-to-point shawl, the rows will run vertically from its top (at your neck) to its bottom edge (near your waist or elbow). 

The self-striping yarn helps to make
the side-to-side rows obvious
If one were to make a rectangular wrap from side to side, one might say it's worked "from one short edge to the other." A "side to side cardigan" means that the foundation row runs vertically along the button band, or along a side seam. The only difference between point-to-point and side-to-side is that with point-to-point you start with almost no foundation row, whereas with side-to-side you start with a longer, more familiar and recognizable foundation row. This is another reason that the first 5 rows or so can look odd, if you're not used to it.

Crocheting point to point is actually easy because you're only ever increasing or decreasing along one edge of your shawl. The opposite edge is worked even. It's easiest of all with Tunisian crochet, because you don't turn your work. I prefer to do increases or decreases along the right edge of my Tunisian rows (the start of the Forward Passes) because Tunisian crochet is naturally suited to this. It's as if Tunisian stitches feel liberated when they are allowed to increase or decrease along the right side!

This is the center bottom corner. All you do to create it is switch
from making increase rows to making decrease rows.
Crocheting point to point is fun because you can close your eyes and pick any yarn from your stash. You don't have to worry about running out of yarn, or finding a yarn with the right thickness. Then, set up your starting corner: these set up rows are also the shortest rows, so they work up quickly. Reward yourself with chocolate if it's your first time, and then you'll be on your way to crocheting at your peak speed. Once your starting corner is set up, it's usually easy to remember the stitch pattern, so you can avoid reading the instructions for each row until you're ready to begin the decrease rows.

When I design a new point-to-point shawl, I'm in complete control of how much yarn I'll need as I go--especially if I edge it as I go too. I simply start decreasing when I've use half of the yarn I wish to, or when the center row is the length I like for the deepest center point of the triangle.

Wide triangle worn as a vest, with
long points tied at the back waist.
Crocheting point to point is versatile. If you wish to try designing your own, it's a great way to create a wide, shallow triangle, which often has a more modern or updated look, and is more flattering on some folks. A bonus of such an oblique angle is that the two points are elongated and skinny and can easily be used as ties (such as for a sarong or head scarf). Because of this feature, I found about seven different ways to wear the Islander Wrap! (For example, see at left.)