Sunday, February 16, 2014

Anatomy of a Crochet Pattern

Have you ever had a pattern for a crochet project that just seemed to be written in an alien language? Oh, it's in English and it uses perfectly acceptable crochet terms, but try as you might, it makes absolutely no sense? Sometimes I give up in frustration and decide to find something else to make. Sometimes the pattern is so intriguing that I REFUSE to give in to confusing instructions. I will follow the pattern exactly one, two, three (and this particular pattern) up to six times! If I can't dissect the stitch instructions into a visual representation of yarn and hook, then I will try to recreate the pattern with my own ideas.

In this case, neither 4 attempts of the original instructions, 2 of my own attempts and a final 2 attempts at the original instructions happened before the light came on and I realized what the crochet stitches were recreating! I should say that when I was fighting to figure out the instructions, I used similar weight / texture yarn, but none of the 'purchased yarn' for the project I committed myself to.

The pattern is called the Victorian Step which creates a bargello pattern like the walls of a castle battlement and was designed by Laura Pavy  exclusively for bobwilson123's blog viewers. This pattern is available as written instructions in a PDF file and as a tutorial on YouTube.

Believe me, I read the instructions -- many times.
I watched the video -- twice
-- and then again with yarn following along.

When the light finally came on, I was nearly ready to apologize profusely to my co-worker, who is the soon-to-be, first-time mother I confidently promised to make a baby blanket from this intriguing crochet pattern before her baby was born. Luckily, the decision to give up removed the blinders I was experiencing from the stress of fighting with the instructions. I suddenly could see how the chains (ch) and double crochets (dc) created the 'merlons' and 'crenels' of the bargello pattern.

Merlons and crenels?
A merlon forms the vertical solid parts of a battlement or crenelated parapet—in Medieval architecture of fortifications for millennia. Merlons are sometimes narrowly pierced by vertical embrasure "slits" to view and fire weapons through. When a wider space is between two merlons it is called a crenel, and a series of many merlon—crenels creates crenelation.
- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
So if this pattern intrigues you as it did me, here are my hints to help you figure out the instructions.

You must start with a chain. This pattern jumps right in to the highs and lows of crenellation. A foundation  row won't work.

Now here's why: you will use 3 chs for the initial rise up the merlon, you will dc in the 2 following chains for the solid portion, and then you will use 3 ch to drop down the merlon and create the open space of the crenel.
Note: here is one of the areas that created confusion for me.
*Ch3, slst in next ch,skip 2 ch’s, dc in next 2ch’s, Skip 2ch’s, slst in next ch, ch3, dc in next 2ch’s Repeat from* to last ch, dc in last ch (last block is 3dc).

Once I realized what these combinations of chains, slipstitches and double crochets formed, it was easier to see how the following row which is repeated throughout the entire baby blanket, created the crenelations.

What is important now in the instructions, is to embrace the anatomy of the crenelation and how it is created using 2 ch, 2 dc, 2 ch for the merlon, and 2 dc for the crenel. The pattern states to use 3 ch, 2 dc, 3 ch, but I found that the merlon was too loose that way. The 2 ch, 2 dc technique creates a nice tight merlon. You will notice that the second 2 ch will slip stitch into the top of previous row's 2 ch, which is exactly the right height to start the 2 dc that will create the 'space' formed for the crenel. At the 2nd dc, you chain 2 which raises the row to the height of the merlon double crochets. (See image below.) The second ch 2 will drop down (slip stitch in top of previous row's 2 ch) to the height of the 2 dc crenels.

I use this visualization of the pattern and the anatomy of the stitches creating the pattern, to get comfortable with the project and then I can crochet away in confidence that the outcome will be exactly as it should.

So my advice is:

Hang in there when you are trying a new look or texture in crochet. 

If you practice a little first following the instructions and see what the stitches are creating, then you will feel confident enough to take on the challenge of interesting patterns and textures, such as cables, popcorn stitch pictures, etc.

Entrelac using Tunisian Simple Stitches

Fisherman's Sweater Pattern

Sunday, April 21, 2013

PI -- A Hat-Maker's Friend!

Π or Pi is a mathematical number that corresponds between diameter and circumference. This is important when creating a hat. If you know a few crochet basics to make a circle, then you really don't need a pattern for your very own hat.

The first important thing to know is the 'Magic Ring' or Adjustable Ring. This creates a wonderful closed circle of stitches and is the perfect base to build your crown. Crochet Me has a great photo tutorial of this stitch and it doesn't take much practice to get it down. Once you have this technique down, creating a perfect circle is just a matter of a simple mathematical formula.

I usually create my hats with a base of single crochet stitches. So I create a 'Magic Ring' and make 6 sc in the ring and then pull it almost tight. I mark the first sc in each round and then work in a spiral. After a few rounds, I will then pull the ring tight.

The second round starts the increases that make your circle larger. In Round 2 you place 2 sc in each sc for a total of 12. Now the math comes in.

For the succeeding rounds, you increase the stitches in the following way:
Round 3: 1 sc in next stitch, 2 sc in next stitch, 1 sc in next stitch, 2 sc in next stitch . . . well, you should get the idea. This row will give you 18 stitches.
Round 4: 1 sc in next 2 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch, 1 sc in next 2 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch, and so on to get 24 stitches.
Round 5: 1 sc in next 3 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch, 1 sc in next 3 stitches, 2 sc in next stitch . . .
As you can see, you are adding a stitch between each increase in each succeeding row. If you look carefully at the completed rows, you can also see that you are adding the additional sc in the first stitch of the increase of your previous row and adding your increase (2 sc) in the second stitch of the increase of the previous row. Being able to recognize the patterns created by your stitches will help you keep the increases in a consistent manner and reduces the anxiety if you lose count.

The next important technique is measuring. If you have a tape measure, you are not tied down to gauge. And this is also where Π comes in.

First, measure around your head -- this is the circumference. Unless you can manipulate your measuring tape around the crocheted circle, finding out if you've made the crown large enough requires some math. Here's how you do it:

First lay your circle on a flat surface and measure across it at the widest point. For those of you who remember your Geometry, this is the diameter. Now, multiply that number, say it's 6.5 , by 3.1415 ( Π ). This will give you a circumference of a little under 20½". By the same token, if you measure your head and come up with 21" and divide by Π, you will see you need closer to 7" across your circle. Amazing!

Once you have the correct size of the crown (or circumference of your head), then you can stop increasing and just continue your rows until you are comfortable with the height or length of your hat. At this point, I often start a pattern, such as crocodile stitches or perhaps a post basket weave.

In this hat, which looks like a type of weave, the pattern is created with a sc / ch combination. Since this doesn't affect the tension (say like a post created basketweave or cables), you can begin using this stitch after creating your base row of stitches in the magic ring. Yes, you do your increases exactly the same. In each successive row, you place your sc in the chain space of the previous row and then chain 1, sc in the next chain space, well, you get the idea. When it comes to the increase, you just sc, chain 1 twice in the appropriate chain space.

I hope I've taken away the fear of making hats, and have encouraged your to dust off your math skills.

With this simple formula for increases and measuring, you should be able to whip out hats in no time. You may even create your own looks by adding different stitch combinations as you create the sides of your hat. In fact, if you get confident enough, you may even become a bonafide crochet hat designer!!!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lacy Hooded Cowl Pattern

I've had numerous requests for the pattern for my Lacy Hooded Cowl that I created for my co-worker, Alice's wedding gift. So here you are!

Lacy Hooded Cowl
By Celeste Dunn
Celestial Designs
Crochet Designs by Celeste

I created the cowl in a half double crochet openwork (one row of half double crochets, one row of half double, chain one, skip next stitch, half double across, then a row of half double crochets again). I created a rectangle 46" long by 20" wide, starting with a foundation half double crochet row (160 stitches), using a size "J" hook. Joining the 2 narrow sides, I created the cowl which hangs nicely down the front. The 20" width allows the lacy cowl to be drawn up as a delicate head covering, yet leave a nice collar on the back of the neck.

2 skeins #2 Fine Lace Yarn - I used Patons Lace (3 oz. / 498 yds) in the colorway of Midas.
Hook size: J
1 tapestry hook (for weaving in ends)

Special Note:
This pattern calls for a foundation chain of hdc. To FHDC, begin by chaining 3, yarn over and insert hook in first chain. Yarn over and draw through. Yarn over and draw through 1 loop (this is the next chain). Yarn over and draw through all 3 loops on hook. Yarn over, insert hook through chain just created. Yarn over and draw through, yarn over and draw through one loop (next chain). Yarn over and draw through 3 remaining loops. (This will now count as the second stitch). Continue across until you reach the correct number of foundation stitches.

Row 1: FHDC 160 stitches. Turn. (Approximately 46" long)

Row 2: Chain 3 (counts as first HDC and one chain). HDC in 3rd stitch from end. *Chain 1, skip next stitch, HDC in next stitch. Repeat from * to end of row. Turn.

Row 3: Chain 2 (counts as first HDC). *HDC in chain 1 space. HDC in next stitch. HDC in next ch 1 space. Continue to end of row ending with HDC in last HDC stitch, HDC in ch 3 space, HDC in 2nd ch from end. Turn.

Repeat Rows 2 and 3 until piece measures 20". Fasten off, but do not cut yarn. Fold cowl in half crosswise, hold open ends togeter. With yarn and working through both sides to join, hdc in stitch row ends. Chain 1 over the chain space ends. HDC in stitch row end. Chain 1 over chain space ends. HDC in stitch row end. Continue to complete the join and fasten off. Weave ends in.

I plan on another one in Porcelain (which is a self-striping blue lace yarn).

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lacy Hooded Cowl

Weddings! I seem to have jumped into the wedding vortex sometime between July and August.

One of my co-workers, Alice announced earlier this year that she will be marrying her American boyfriend in her native Germany (rumor has it a castle will be figuring into the wedding somehow) in early September.

Alice just loves my crochet and was one of the first people I actually made something for (a cancer hat for her mother). So, of course, I wanted to make an extra special gift for her wedding. She has a wonderful sense of fashion and accessorizes often with cowls and scarves. So the logical step was to make a lacy cowl.  While the idea was percolating in my mind, I came across an Annie's crochet catalog and there, in the pattern section was a pretty hooded cowl. Now I honestly didn't want to purchase and have shipped a pattern -- especially since I didn't particularly like the stitch pattern used. But I really liked the look and drape of the cowl, so I made up my mind to create my own.

If you look in one of my previous posts, you will see a crocodile stitched shawl that I made my older sister. I used Patons Lace yarn which is acrylic/wool/mohair and has a nice halo effect. It is a mid-range priced yarn and I actually bought more than I needed, so I had 2 skeins left. The color is called Midas but is actually a self-striping yarn in white, beige, walnut, sage, deep purple colors. Perfect colors for Alice!

Lacy Cowl

I created the cowl in a half double crochet openwork (one row of half double crochets, one row of half double, chain one, skip next stitch, half double across, then a row of half double crochets again). I created a rectangle 46" long by 20" wide, starting with a foundation half double crochet row (160 stitches), using a size "J" hook. Joining the 2 narrow sides, I created the cowl which hangs nicely down the front. The 20" width allows the lacy cowl to be drawn up as a delicate head covering, yet leave a nice collar on the back of the neck. I love the way it turned out. I think Alice will love it, too!

Delicate Lacy Hood

Lacy Hood with Collar

Then a couple of weeks ago, my youngest son and his fiancée announced that they're going to get married this fall -- at our house! OMG! Another wedding gift to prepare (and house to clean and yard to fix . . .)

I loved the look of this stitch pattern and the way it turned out with the Patons Lace, so I decided to make my daughter-in-law a shawl (she doesn't wear hats or cowls). As they are planning an Autumn wedding, complete with pumpkins, cornstalks and hay bales, I chose the Patons Lace Bonfire. But when I went to Joanns to purchase it, alas, they didn't carry this particular color. But what they did have was Patons Lace Sequins in black. PERFECT! My daughter-in-law just loves black! So I purchased 4 skeins and have started the shawl with a half double crochet grid pattern. So far it looks wonderful -- the sequins are very small, so the sparkle is subtle and quite charming. I think she will love this! More later . . .

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Amigurumi Love

This year I will have worked at the same company for 16 years, and what this means is that I've made my co-workers just about everything that I could think of that's easy, quick and everyone would like. So I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what I could crochet for birthdays this year. Then the answer came when I asked my co-worker / best friend Sue (who's birthday is early in the year) what she'd like this year.

I've got a reputation for my beautiful crochet work, so I felt comfortable asking for ideas. Surprisingly, she chose an amigurumi maneki neko (good fortune cat popular in Japan).

Last year, I had brought in the sock monkey I made my granddaughter and a lot people fell in love with the amigurumi concept. So I wasn't daunted, but a little surprised at her choice. But that didn't stop me from locating a free pattern online (My Maneki Neko by Kathy Wishnie of Belgrade, Montana - Mountain Weaver Fiber Art Studio blog) and after getting Sue's approval, set off to make a traditional maneki neko!

First I had to determine which paw should wave (it makes a difference in what you wish for). The right paw waving, summons good fortune. The left paw means wealth. She chose the right paw. That was the only 'customization' I allowed. Luckily, these little  amigurumi don't take up much yarn, so I chose what I had in my stash.

I also find it extremely difficult to embroider faces on amigurumi, so was a little stressed when it came time to put this little guy together. Then I had an inspiration! Fabric pens!!!! I bought a set when I was quilting so that I could make quick labels on my creations. After studying the samples in the pattern, I chose this face and the rest was easy . . .

Of course, on Sue's birthday, everyone went crazy. I got three more orders (which is good because all 3 birthdays fall one right after the other.

First my boss wanted a magician's rabbit in the hat. (Inside joke about our recent web site project and the unorganized project management.) So I found Pull a Rabbit out of your Hat by Linda Green on Ravelry and whipped one up.

Since his birthday closely followed Sue's, I presented "Gompy" to him right away. As I often do, I made quite a few changes to this pattern. Instead of sewing the unstuffed head into the inside brim of the hat, I stuffed the head and sewed a crocheted base on it. then I attached a black yarn thread from the center top of the hat (on the bottom in the photo) and the center of the underside of the head (there's only a head in the hat). That way, the rabbit keeps its shape and the ears sit up beautifully. Also, over-enthusiastic admirers can't separate the bunny from the hat.

"Gompy" has turned into our department mascot. He has a prominent place in our work area. :)

Well, "Gompy" led to the next request from the department director. She lives with 2 floppy eared rabbits: grey and white and black and white. So I set about looking for the floppy eared amigurumi.

This is one reason why I just love Ravelry. They have such creative artists / designers and you can always find a pattern that just speaks to you. So it was with the Floppy Eared Easter Bunny by Jessica Legan. I showed it to Amy and she fell in love.

So here is what she received on her birthday! The grey bunny was the recipient of the fabric pen treatment, but I couldn't draw any color on the black bunny so I had to try my hand at embroidery on crochet. I used a pearly white embroidery floss and I'm not quite as happy with the affect as I am with the pen treatments.

Well, Amy's birthday is immediately followed by Alice's and she requested a monkey (she had fallen in love with the sock monkey last year).

So I once again went on the hunt and found Monkey with Banana by Betsi Brunson (again on Ravelry -- see what I mean?)

Isn't he ADORABLE?

Well, I've put aside my stuffed animal rush for the time being (the next birthday isn't until fall).

But that doesn't mean I don't have a dozen more projects planned and a few more in the works!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

New Beginnings

This week, April 4th, my dearest husband and I became grandparents. My youngest son, Ben and his fiancé Ashly had a son, Owen Benjamin. As you can see, it was a very proud moment for my husband, Steve.

I wanted to make something special for my new grandson and the parents. I remembered seeing free patterns for a car seat blanket. This blanket has strategic holes for the straps and buckles and there were actually 3 different patterns for this project. After going through all three, I decided to take the plunge and re-try my hand at making granny squares.

You see, granny squares and I aren't very compatible with each other. My first major crochet project was a granny square afghan. It was absolutely gorgeous with a royal blue, light blue, green and yellow (at least I think it was green -- I know the center of each granny was yellow!) Anyways, I bought all of the yarn necessary (cost me a bunch of saved money from my chores) and got started. For some reason, squares just bore me to tears and if you're one stitch off, they get all wonky. I rapidly got frustrated and put the whole shabang away. I would take it out ever-so-often and make a couple of more squares, but there were so many to do . . .

My younger sister took the afghan in hand (spare yarn and all) and tried to take over and finish the project. I don't know how she ever did on it. Whether she finished or gave up as well.

But this project intrigued me.

So I grabbed the royal blue yarn (Caron One Pound) I had bought for the blanket. I had some left-over rich chocolate brown (Caron One Pound) from making a hooded cocoon for the newborn. (Forgot to take photos of the finished project, darn! I'll have to hope I can get a photo from my son when they use it.) Anyways, I grabbed the 2 yarns and my crochet hook and attempted to make my first hexagon granny. The end product was so beautiful that I jumped in. What I absolutely love is that there are only 30 hexagons, 4 half-hexagons and 2 triangles to make. It doesn't seem like an impossible number to me -- and that's half the battle.

According to the blanket diagram, the 2 triangle pieces form the opening for the buckle, so I made enough hexagons and the 2 triangles and laid out the central part of the diagram.

I am so excited with this pattern so far -- I can't wait to finish all the hexagons.

I will post the completed blanket.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Do I Really Have to Block?

Trust me, I asked this so often -- and most often told myself, no -- I really don't need to block this finished piece of crochet. And actually, I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong!

Sure, you can skip blocking for afghans and blankets, but blocking is an essential part of crochet, especially for clothing items and lace.

And to be honest, it wasn't the blocking per se that I objected to, it was the fact that I did not have any way to block. I live in a 110 year old farm house with hard wood floors. We live on an extremely tight budget and I couldn't justify the purchase of blocking paraphernalia that is available from craft / yarn / online stores. They were just too darned expensive. Sooooooo, I skipped the traditional forms of blocking and when a pattern really needed that extra step, I fudged. I would stretch and steam on an ironing board (which didn't lend itself very well to even blocking). Or I would enlist my 20-something son to grab an end while I gently pulled a damp   piece to the best shape I could. (Sigh!)

But I've just completed a crocodile stitch shawl for my older sister's birthday and I must say, it really needed to be blocked. That is, dampened and pinned to a surface and allowed to air dry. How the heck could I do that?

Well, the answer came during a visit to Walmart in my weekly grocery shopping. They had a display of foam floor tiles for a workout room. You know the kind, they have the interlocking pieces, so you can snap a bunch together to make a large square or put a bunch in a row for a long mat. Best of all, they were almost half the cost of comparable foam pieces used for crafts. So today, I bit the bullet and bought a package of 6 tiles (under $20) and brought them home.

Here are 2 of the foam blocks snapped together. Luckily, the underside doesn't have any pattern to it, so I flipped them upside down to avoid leaving ridges.

Actually, it became a moot point since I decided to cover the mat (the foam smells AWFUL) with a gridded flannel fabric I've been hanging on to for years.

It will protect my crochet projects (who knows what these blocks are made of) and hopefully, will provide a barrier to the smell getting into the yarn.

So, I bought the foam pieces, snapped 4 of them together and put them on my cutting table, then wrapped the surface with the gridded flannel fabric, pinning the underside with safety pins.

Next, I took the shawl and a wash basin with cold water and Woolite. I gave the shawl a good soak, washed it a bit and then rolled it up in towels and squeezed as much water out as I could. Then it came time to try my new blocking setup.

It took some pinning, unpinning and repinning, but I finally got the piece stretched to the correct size and shape I was hoping for.

Let me explain briefly -- when I completed the crocheting, the shawl (which I call the Calico Crocodile for its lovely colors) was 60" wide and 22" long. This was a little disappointing as I was hoping for a nice wide triangle to cover the shoulders and a long drape in the back.

Well, after stretching and pinning, the finished shawl is now 70" wide and 32" long. After it is thoroughly dried, I will add 6" fringe along the sides. This should make the shawl an elegant addition to my sister's wardrobe. I am absolutely tickled with the way it is turning out.

In this photo, you can see the crocodile scales and the calico colors. As of this evening, the shawl is almost completely dry. In the morning, I will remove it from the blocking and add the fringe. Of course, I will then post the final image below.

Stay tuned . . .

. . . and here it is -- completed!