Friday, May 13

Which Foundation Stitch? and Why?

I researched 43 crochet stitch dictionaries and basic crochet how-to books to find out more about crochet foundation stitches (alternatives to starting a crochet project with a foundation chain). For a 2014 update, scroll to the end of this post.


Top to Bottom: Double Chain (dch); "Foundation Slip Stitch" (fslst); Foundation Single Crochet (fsc)
You can read a summary of this research in my Crochet Inspirations Newsletter issue #18, "Deep Crochet Research" (available online for free here. Scroll down to the bottom to sign up for a free subscription.)


Above is a visual comparison of the three slimmest, simplest chainless foundations that I know of. They are all stretchier and easier to work into than foundation chains. (I've omitted fancier decorative ones such as picot foundations.


What follows is a photo tutorial for making each of them: the classic dch, the dark horse fslst, and the popular fsc. By doing it this way I hope to make it very clear how these three overlap yet differ in a few key ways. It's easy to confuse them as being the same thing. This actually keeps us from recognizing that we have more choices in how we start a new crochet project than we thought!


(Below, the step-by-step photos may look a bit jumbled on some people's screens. To view them enlarged in high resolution, and in their original order with full descriptions, you might prefer to see them in this photo set.)


From my research I found that the top/yellow stitch is traditionally called "Double Chain" (occasionally, Double Foundation Chain, Double Chain Stitch, etc.) and is consistently abbreviated "dch". When I say traditionally, I mean that I found this stitch with this name and abbreviation in over half of the 43 books, dating from the 1800's to 2010. (In the rest of the books, I found no alternative to a foundation chain at all.)


The bottom/blue stitch is much newer than the dch and seems to be gaining widespread acceptance, especially on the internet. I found it in a smattering of books from 2005 to the present; it also appeared online in 1998, thanks to Mary Rhodes. This stitch is by now almost always called "Foundation Single Crochet" and abbreviated "fsc." The ultimate source is Marty Miller's article, "Get in the Loop: Foundation Stitches" in the Spring 2007 issue of Interweave Crochet magazine.


The green stitch in the center is my personal favorite of these three choices. I'm not the first to use it, but this exact stitch does not appear in any of the books I have. It simply combines what I think is the best of the dch and the fsc.


I wrestled with what to name it. "Foundation slip stitch" (fslst) has its pros & cons, as do all other names I considered, such as "alt fsc" and "extended slst." I'm going with fslst because in a "family" of foundation stitches like the fsc (and taller versions such as fdc, ftr, and so on), is there a slimmer option than the fsc for times when it's too beefy to substitute for a plain foundation chain, but I still need something stretchy? As you can see in the top photo, the fslst is the slimmest of all. It is without a doubt the one perfect foundation for my Work@Home Vest neckline. 
Step 1


Here are the instructions to go with each step-by-step photo.


Step 1: 
To begin the dch, the fslst, and the fsc, chain 2.


Step 2: 
For dch (left/yellow): insert hook in ONE top loop of 2nd ch from hook.
Step 2
For fslst (center/green): insert hook in TWO loops of 2nd ch from hook.
For fsc (far right/blue): insert hook in TWO loops of 2nd ch from hook.


Step 3: 
Yarn over hook and pull up a loop: 2 loops on hook.
Step 3


Step 4:
For dch: Yarn over and pull through both loops on hook: first dch stitch made.
For fslst: Yarn over and pull through both loops on hook: first fslst stitch made.
Step 4
For fsc: Yarn over and pull through ONE loop on hook: 2 loops remain on hook. This chain stitch forms the base, or foundation, of a single crochet (sc) that will be created next. For crocheters new to the fsc, it helps to pinch this chain just made. Now yarn over and pull through both loops on hook: sc made.


Step 5:
Step 5
To make the next dch: insert hook under the ONE strand along the left side (if you're crocheting right handed) of dch just made, yarn over and pull up a loop.


To make the next fslst: insert hook under the TWO strands along the left side (if you're crocheting right handed) of fslst just made, yarn over and pull up a loop.


To make the next fsc: insert hook under TWO strands of the base chain (that you are hopefully pinching with your fingers) of fsc just made, yarn over and pull up a loop.
Step 6


Step 6: 
To complete the dch: Yarn over and pull through BOTH loops on hook. Avoid "yanking" it tight. Repeat Steps 5 and 6 for desired number of foundation stitches.


To complete the fslst: Yarn over and pull through BOTH loops on hook. Avoid "yanking" it tight. Repeat Steps 5 and 6 for desired number of foundation stitches.


To complete the fsc: Yarn over and pull through ONE loop on hook. Avoid "yanking" it tight. (Pinch this stitch to mark it for yourself that it's where you'll start the next fsc.) Yarn over and pull through both loops on hook to complete the fscRepeat Steps 5 and 6 for desired number of foundation stitches.

Update: 
If you want to learn more about foundation crochet stitches, see my post about Marty Miller's new online crochet class. Great class for all crochet skill levels! 
For Tunisian crochet foundation stitches—and why they're awesome—I blogged a how-to here.

Wednesday, May 11

How to Make A Bead-Stringing Needle (& Why)

My DIY Needle Got These Strung
Some of the prettiest beads have tiny bead holes! What is a bead crocheter to do? A do-it-yourself beading needle worked the best when I wanted to use aquamarine beads for a Trailing Vine Lariat. (The downloadable crochet jewelry pattern is here, and I blogged the story of it here).


Gem chip beads usually have highly irregular bead holes, in size and shape. I wanted to string them onto a strong size #20 crochet thread, and none of my needles were fine enough. My best chance was to make a bead-stringing needle out of the finest (thinnest) piece of wire I had on hand, which was 30 gauge. 

Aquamarine Réclamé Lariat
I wish I'd had even finer wire for this, such as 32ga or 34ga! (Notice that as wire gets finer in diameter, the gauge number gets larger.) This wire needle and my thread size were still a bit too thick for a few of my beads. If I tried to force them, they weakened the thread and needle. I decided it's not worth forcing them, and I learned to set aside those beads. 

A bead reamer might help make some of these beads more cooperative--if one exists for bead holes this small.

How to Save the Day in Two Seconds with a Bead-Stringing Needle 

From bottom to top: Step 1, Step 2, Step 3.
1. Cut a piece of the thinnest wire you can find. Cut it any length you like; approximately 3" (8 cm) long is a comfortable length for me. Sometimes I trim the beading end of it later if it gets bent or kinked.

2. Fold the piece in half; the fold becomes the eye of a beading needle. Leave the eye big if you like, as shown. It will collapse down to a tiny needle eye the first time you use it (as shown).

3. Insert the bead thread into the eye, then twist the two wire ends together as lightly as necessary to form a needle point. If you add too may unnecessary twists, it will thicken the needle. That would defeat the purpose of making your own skinny needle! 

I have two other commonsense suggestions that I learned the hard way LOL.

Label the Spool. Control the Spool.
Control how the wire unspools: I simply tie something through the spool center and around it. (Pictured at right is a "twisty-tie".) Then, when I cut off a piece of wire, I hook the new cut end around it. (You can kind of see this in the photo.) This tie controls the unspooling just enough for a manageable speed.

Be kind to yourself and label the spool with permanent ink, if it isn't already labeled! It's almost impossible to remember the gauge of a wire. A surprising number of spools are labeled only on discardable packaging, not the spool itself.