Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Too Tense or not Too Tense

Well, I've learned a valuable lesson with my latest project. I am crocheting a triangle shawl as a gift, using the crocodile stitch. I just love this stitch and the whole look of the thing.

In fact, I've made a bunch of hats with this stitch for my charitable work.

Anyways, I started this shawl, using an acrylic, wool, mohair blend yarn and was progressing along with the first skein when I noticed that the shawl was very small -- it looked like I would need a lot more yarn than I originally purchased and it was rather expensive. Since we are on a very tight budget, I knew that I couldn't buy any more, so with the second skein, I began loosening my tension.

Now, I've watched the "speed crocheters" on You Tube and even my 26 year old son crochets fast and rather loosely. So I asked him how he does it and after he explained, I began my 'loose' experimentation with the crocodile stitches.What an amazing difference!!! The shawl took on a beautiful lacey look. Not only that, but it was draping better and looking more like the pattern photos. I finished the 2nd skein and was progressing into the third when I suddenly realized -- the shawl looked WONKY!

The early tight rows bowed inward, while the later looser rows created a nice straight edge. I tried to stretch the lower rows -- no good. I tried to ignore it -- everyone else didn't seem to notice (in fact, I have been receiving rave reviews on this shawl). But I DID!

I pride myself on my beautiful stitch work and the professional look of my projects and this was just plain wonky.

So, over the weekend, I decided enough was enough. I began to rip out the shawl to the very beginning and start again.

Let me tell you, frogging out mohair yarn is not easy. It's not a matter of pulling the yarn and the work unravels. The halo strands of mohair tangle and tighten and all around drive one crazy, but I succeeded in stripping the shawl down to the first skein. I've stopped at this point and took one of the frogged skeins to begin again with my new loose technique. I am quite, quite pleased.

The piece on the top is the original and the darker piece on the bottom is my reboot with looser stitches -- what do you think?

Now, you may say, what about gauge? Didn't you test your gauge first? I know, I know -- all professional crocheters tell you that gauge is essential. I just HATE it. Besides, this pattern was open ended when it came to gauge. Since it is a triangle shawl that begins at the point and increases, the idea is to just keep adding rows until you get the size you want. Besides, no matter what I used to do, I could never quite reach the correct gauge. Now I know why -- my tension, though consistent throughout a project -- is just too tight to be adjusted by one hook size or sometimes even two hook sizes.

So the moral of the story here, dear friends, is to keep the loose tension from now on.

Besides, I'm actually becoming one of the speed crocheters now, too! :)