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

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