Friday, November 30

Slip Stitch Crochet FAQ in My Classes

These are the questions I most often answer in slip stitch crochet classes and by email in response to slip stitch patterns. See also issue #45 of my Crochet Inspirations Newsletter.

Q: “How much more yarn does slip stitching use?”
A: It seems to use LESS! When I’ve used the same yarn and crochet hook size to make the same-sized swatches of all slip stitch in the back loop [Bss], all single crochet in the back loop [blsc], and all slip stitch in the front loop [Fss], the blsc used the most yarn of all. The Fss used the least yarn of all

Q: “Why doesn't my slip stitch ribbing look ribbed?”
A: Some crocheters don’t see the ribs forming until they look along the row edges while stretching them apart. You need at least 10 rows, which will create 5 ribs. Until then, it might seem like nothing’s happening.
Eva's Ribs Scarf free downloadable pattern

The ss rib is so corrugated, or accordion-like, that sometimes students don't see the ribs and valleys even though they're there! (This is what makes it such a great ribbing when you wear it, especially with wool and wool blend yarns.) At rest, the ribbing is even more compressed and springy than sc in the back loop, because sc “bodies” stand independently of each other and make wider ribs than the ss bodies do. Ss bodies mesh together more both in height and in width. 

Q: “Why do my edges look uneven?"A: Usually this is caused by accidentally increasing stitches, or decreasing them, or both. Placing a stitch marker in the first stitch of each new row is the best fix, because by the time you get to the end of each row, the end ss is usually partly covered by strands from the turning ch and is very easy to overlook. The result is a decrease. It can also be tempting to think the turning ch is another ss, but that would result in an increase.Another cause can be the turning chain. Once in awhile a student’s turning chains look loose and kind of messy along the sides of rows. The easy fix is to crochet a tighter turning chain. Some slip stitchers omit the turning chain altogether. If you do this, be sure to use stitch markers to keep the end slip stitch from melting away even more.

Q: “My foundation chain looks loose, and each row is getting tighter. I have the right number of stitches so why does it look like I'm missing some?”
A: Does your swatch feel stiff, and do you struggle to get your hook into the back loop of the next stitch? If so, then the stitches really are too tight. A common problem is when the stitches feel a bit too tight to crochet into, some crocheters reach for a smaller crochet hook to make it easier. This is the worst thing you can do. Instead, focus on making each stitch looser. The two top loops of the stitch should have a large enough space between them to fit the size of the hook you're using. (This is what I call "hook-led gauge" and is an intermediate skill that is worth learning for all kinds of crochet.)
Q: “I’ve tried everything so why are my slip stitches still too tight?”
A: Sometimes a crocheter is careful to make a loose ss, but then after s/he makes the NEXT ss, the previous loose one is tight! When this happens, the yarn is being pulled from the completed stitch while the next ss is being formed. This habit doesn't affect other crochet stitches as much, but ss are closely interlocked, so it's easy to affect nearby stitches.
For some people, making a slip stitch in two steps helps: 1) insert hook in stitch, yarn over and pull loop through stitch; pause, then 2) pull that loop through the other loop on your hook to complete the slip stitch. 
This tip tends to help long term crocheters who are deeply habituated to making their slip stitches (ss) quickly and tightly.

Q: “Why am I having so much trouble knowing which is the back loop?”
A: Slip stitches tilt away from you as you crochet them in rows. This causes their front loops to stick up in the air, tempting you to crochet into them. The back loops fall lower to the back of the row. Some crocheters overcompensate and look too far back for the back loop, and choose a loop from the row below instead. 

Q: “It isn’t stretchy. It doesn’t really seem like ribbing. Am I doing it wrong?”
A: The most common cause is choosing the wrong loop as the back loop. If you're choosing a loop from the row below instead, you'll make a thicker, less stretchy, less ribbed fabric. Understandably, some new slip stitchers accidentally crochet into that tempting front loop sometimes, instead of in the back loop. Rows of Fss are less stretchy and are not ribbed. Occasionally a crocheter mixes some sc in with their Bss or Fss. This tends to happen when crocheting ss with a two-step method (as if crocheting a sc, but without the final yarn over. The pause before completing the ss helps some crocheters keep their ss loose enough.)

Q: “Should I change to a smaller hook? Then I’d be able to crochet into the back loops easier and faster.”
A: No. Resist the temptation! A smaller hook would not solve the problem of crocheting ss tightly. If the back loop of a ss is too tight for the hook you’re using, it means you’re not using the hook size as a guide to how big (loose) your stitches should be. Some crocheters are accustomed to using the yarn instead of the hook size as their guide for how tightly they crochet.

Q: “What happens if you do a row of Bss and then a row of Fss (slip stitch in the front loop)?”
A: Try it! 
Beaded Slip Swoop Loop
Q: “Does it matter if I chain 1 when beginning a new row? Does it matter which way I turn?”
A: Sometimes it matters a lot, or a little, or not much at all. It depends on the crocheter and the project. I teach all slip stitch newbies to chain 1, and to be consistent about turning the same direction each time. Both of these habits help to make the last slip stitch of each row easier to recognize. I personally prefer to turn so that the yarn is at the back of my hook instead of front. 

In designs, I almost always use turning chains because I like the extra drape. See this newsletter issue: "Crochet That Pours". Undaria and Slip Swoop have 2 or 3 turning chains! 

Q: “How would I change the width of the Slip Slope Scarf?”
A: The short answer is that this would require a redesign. Many crocheters could figure out how to do this, using Slip Slope as a guide. The best thing to do is to crochet 2 complete short row “wedges” of Slip Slope. After that, not only will you have a swatch of how wide your scarf would come out if you change nothing as a starting point, you’ll also understand the simple system of short rows, and can then try your own variations. You could simply add or subtract a stitch repeat; or you could also shorten each short row more gradually, or less, to create wedges of different sloping angles.

Q: “Does slip stitch ribbing get any easier/faster?”
A: Yes! It’s a little faster than knitting, it’s as fast, or a bit slower than sc ribbing, depending on the crocheter. Fss is faster than Bss. All tighter ss is slower than all looser ss. 

Some ways to improve speed: 
- Focus on the unique rhythm of slip stitching. 
- Make the ss in ONE step instead of two for a swift, fluid motion. (Make sure your ss are consistently loose first.)
- Use a pointy-headed crochet hook. You may need to customize your crochet hook by filing the head of it.

Some ways to increase fun:
- Use bulky yarn for quick projects
- Listen to audiobooks & podcasts
- Add a pinch of stitch 'spice': change colors; short rows; use a fun or luxe yarn; mix different sts; add beads!