Going Round and Round

I love to crochet in the round.  Maybe it is because I’m always going in circles anyway.  

 

I have spent many an hour figuring out how to translate a favorite stitch pattern into a design that can be worked in the round.  Whether it is a tube, mobius, or some adaptation of the granny square, I love going in circles  (or sometimes spirals and squares). 

There is a sculptural quality that can be harnessed in crocheting in the round. And  working in the round can change the appearance of stitches in ways that I find texturally interesting.  This technique allows me to make adorable amigurumis, warm hats, various and sturdy bags, or drapey and luxurious wraps and sweaters.  

 

Other things I love about working in the round…  

Eliminating seaming: This has to be my top reason for working in the round.  I have always found seaming crocheted (or knit) fabric by hand to be the most tedious of tasks.  I can do it, can even do a lovely job of it, but I just hate it.  So I often chose to work in the round (and design in the round) to be rid of this task.  

Unique opportunities for pretty edgings: I find the edgings to look much cleaner when one doesn’t have to work into sides of rows.  

A fondness for the tops of stitches: Admit it, don’t you think the tops of stitches look so much prettier than the sides?  Not only do you get a beautiful finish to all edges of your project, you are always working into the tops of stitches or the chain spaces between stitches.  It’s all nice and orderly…which appeals greatly to my inner math geek.  

An economy of Yarn:  When one is winging it creating your own design from a stitch pattern in your favorite dictionary or just doodling with the yarn…it’s very nice to be able to pick an easy stopping point.  I have made many a baby blanket as a gift by grabbing a few skeins of appropriate yarn from the stash and working a round or square flat pattern until I ran out of yarn.  None of my recipients have complained so far.  

The joy of starting small: I’m not that fond of working a lengthy foundation chain to begin a project.  So working in the round generally means I can start small and allow the increases in the stitch pattern to make the item grow to a usable size.  A recent example of this is my Flat Fuzzy Friend pattern in the Summer issue of Crochet Uncut.  Each piece for that pattern starts with chain 2 work in 2nd chain from hook, as small a start as you can get.  

Flat Fuzzy Friend

When working in the round your best friends are stitch markers.  They come in very handy for marking your increase points or at least the end of each round (particularly helpful when working in spiral rounds).  I also like them for helping me to locate the stitch for corners in square shapes.  

Some of my Favorite Stitch Markers

Generally, when doing flat circles in the round there are increase rules that help you keep the circle from cupping or ruffling.  Typical rule of thumb is you increase by the same number of stitches as are in your first round.  For single crochet that is 6, half-double 8, double 12 (US Terminology).   

Another tip to keep in mind when working a flat shape in crochet if your stitches are starting to lean to the right you need an increase.  This is especially helpful if you are mixing up the height of stitches you are using. 

Hopefully these tips will help you feel comfortable crocheting in the round as well.  It isn’t hard once you get the hang of it and you may find working in the round will become your favorite way to crochet too.

Flat Fuzzy Friend

My first published toy design is available in the Summer 2010 issue of Crochet Uncut.

Flat Fuzzy Friend

Everyone needs a cuddly little friend to keep them company.  I was inspired to create this design by my 2 sons.  They love having a toy along on our hikes and this fella fits nicely in their back packs.  He is also washable, a definite plus with my little mud monsters.

This is a quick crochet project that only takes a bit of yarn.  The sample for the pattern has 45 yards of Lion Brand Jiffy (bulky) and 40 yards of Vanna’s Choice (worsted).  Scrap substitution is fine too, though I would recommend double stranding for the body circle if using worsted to sub the bulky weight yarn.

I’m thinking I’m going to be making a bunch of these little guys in the next few months.  With embroidered eyes they would be fabby baby toys and wouldn’t take up a lot of room in a diaper bag.

I hope everyone enjoys making their own Flat Fuzzy Friends and shares photos on Ravelry.

Kid Cuddle Test

Also, if you are looking for a way to make your favorite hook more comfortable I have an article on modifying hooks in this same issue.

Lace Embrace Shawl

So back in January when I ended up in my wrist brace for a time, it was because I was crocheting like a fiend on this project: 

Lace Embrace Shawl

And now the secret is out.  My lovely shawl is just one design in the new line of Debbie Macomber Blossom Street Collection yarns being offered from Universal Yarn.  It is crocheted from 6 balls of “Rosebud” a lovely DK weight superwash fine merino yarn that blocks like a dream. 

If you would like to get in on the action early you can pre-order the  Debbie Macomber Blossom Street Collection – Book 1.

The Breaking Point

Time flies when you are having fun, and even when you are just working hard.  But if you don’t take regular breaks during your work, the fun is likely to be replaced with pain.  Not a good thing in most people’s book.   

When I talk about taking breaks, people who are working on a deadline project just shake their heads at me. Who has time to take a break?  But taking a break doesn’t mean that you always have to have a yoga moment.   

A Simple Hand Stretch

Taking 30 seconds to stretch your hands and breathe deeply every 20-30 minutes can save you hours or days of hand and neck pain.   

Our bodies are designed to move.  Just getting up and doing something different for a moment can make a difference.  Move the laundry into the dryer, take a walk to the bathroom, or get a drink of water.  Doing another task is as much a break as stopping to stretch.   

Ideally, you should take a break every 20 minutes.  It’s easy to get so engrossed in the task at hand that an hour can slip by un-noticed.  Setting a kitchen timer for 20 minutes can be a handy reminder. 

You don’t even have to get up from your seat every time. Just set down your hook (or needles if you’re knitting) and wiggle a bit in place. You can stretch your hands, lift your arms above your head looking up at your hands, then twist from side to side.  That might take all of a full minute, then you are back to working on your project or previous task.  

A wonderful result is you will find yourself feeling more energized and better able to focus.  Keep in mind that the longer you wait to take a break,  the longer and more active the break should be.   

Making breaks a habit while stitching or even working at your computer can help you avoid ever reaching your Breaking Point.  And allow you to enjoy many years of pain-free stitching and typing.

Plarn Experiment #1

Plarn Spring Basket

I had never heard of “Plarn” until I read Amy Swenson’s book “Not your Mama’s Crochet.”  In it was a pattern for a hand bag made with plarn.  I thought the idea was genius.

After all, the number of plastic bags that routinely take over my household pantry is ridiculous.  And this is in a household that uses our own market bags for much of our shopping.

Our newspaper is delivered in green plastic bags most of the time.  We reused them for various things, but I kept thinking that they are a great color for making Plarn.

I gathered a bunch together in my crocheting area, as I knew it takes quite a few to make a significant length of plarn.  Unfortunately, before I could do anything with them, my husband and father-in-law cleaned out the recyclables and tossed my collection.

So I started collecting again. This time I made sure that all my family understood these were being saved for a purpose.  I kept gathering them and placed them all safely in a container in my crafting room.  Then life got a bit busy…our second child arrived,  I found Ravelry, time kept marching forward.

A few months ago I joined the Laughing Purple Goldfish Group on Ravelry.  Sharon Maher , who is Laughing Purple Goldfish Designs, is a wonderful and inspiring voice for designing and encouraging the use of “up-cycled” materials in our fiberwork.  Each month she has been having challenges to get folks to look at non-traditional materials for crafting supplies.

The challenge for May was to create something using the “Ubiquitous Plastic Bag.”  The demo project used a technique for fusing plastic bags (which I plan to try out sometime too), but I decided to finally experiment with Plarn.  I went to my container of plastic bags and picked out a handful of bags to use.

Cutting Plastic Bags for Plarn

To cut the loops I first slit the sealed bottom of each bag.  Then I folded the bag in half, cut at the fold and repeated that until I had a bunch of one inch wide loops.

I then joined the loops together, by overlapping and pulling the bottom loop thru the top loop, then back under itself like so:

After awhile I had a decent sized ball of plarn and began crocheting a circle.

Beginning of Basket

The really fun thing about working on this project was that I could create more plarn as I needed by joining more loops onto the end of the working plarn.

Adding on more Plarn loops

I did find working with the thickness I had a bit difficult and wouldn’t consider plarn to be very hand friendly.  A  wooden crochet hook seemed to be the best tool for the job.  My plastic and metal hooks both “stuck” too much to the plarn.

Finished Plarn part of Basket

I had in mind an idea of making an easter basket using the plarn and adding some scraps of yarn from my stash.  I also added a flower.

Finished Basket

I learnt a number of things working on this project.  I didn’t like working over the knots where the loops joined. And, as the loops were short,  there was a knot to deal with frequently.  Next experiment I will try working with strips of plarn and possibly will cut them thinner too.  I’m too enthralled with the idea to give up quite yet.

Lace Hat

I’m excited to announce that my Lace Hat pattern is now available on the Coats and Clark website.

Lace Hat

I designed this Hat to go with the Crochet Lace Fingerless Mitts.  The great thing is that 2 balls of the Heart & Sole yarn are just the right amount to make both patterns.  You can work the mitts first doing 2 at a time using 1 ball for each mitt, then use the left over amounts to stitch up a matching hat.

The pattern is for a deep hat that can be worn slouchy or pulled down “Cloche” style with the ribbed band providing a bit of extra warmth over your ears.  The open work of the stitch pattern in the crown means that this is a great hat for transitional seasons.  Like Colorado’s unpredictable mountain spring time.

Scan of Hat

Being Invisible

Do you ever get annoyed with that pesky bump that comes from joining the last round of a motif when you are crocheting? Even if you are the only one that sees it, you know it’s there.

I’ve always loved working in the round.  But I went thru all kinds of hoops trying to find a way to join the last stitch of a round to the first without it looking unsightly.  I wanted a join that would hold up to use and yet would not be too obvious.

In fact, what I was really searching for was something invisible.  I happily found some great solutions in Edie Eckman’s book “Beyond the Square; Crochet Motifs” and Suzann Thompson’s book “Crochet Bouquet.”  Like many of the tips you learn in crochet, it was so obvious once I’d learned it.

In Edie’s book she talks about Tidy Joins on page 17 and has lovely clear instructions and illustrations for a couple of different joins that are invisible.  This is also a fabulous book to learn many refining techniques for getting the most out of your crochet, as well as lots of clearly illustrated and charted designs for more motifs than you can imagine.

Later on I acquired Suzann’s book.  On page 14 she shows step-by-step the instructions for doing a Needle Join that has become my favorite join to use, particularly on hats as it is nearly impossible to spot.  This is also a book that will have you itching to make all kinds of crocheted flowers to embellish anything and everything.  My only complaint with this book is it does not have any stitch charts, all the patterns are only text.

If you are looking for an invisible join for ending your crochet work, take a look at either of these books.  Both are great additions to your crochet library.

Getting Stuffy

I love little crocheted toys,  popularly referred to as “amigurumis.”  I have 2 small boys in my household and there are numerous neices, nephews and little friends that need toys too.  But, I hate, hate, hate, to crochet super tightly like lots of amigurumis require.

Finished Bitty Bear

My first solution to this problem was to crochet my amis in feltable yarns.  I use a bigger hook than is usually stated in the pattern, stuff the little bits and sew it all together.  Then give the toy a really hot bath in the kitchen sink.

The little bear pictured above was my first experiment with this.  I thought it would work best if I also stuffed him with wool roving.  Unfortunately, the roving felted more than the bear did!  I ended up taking some stitches thru his neck to snug things up.  His pretty pink bow hid the plastic surgery very nicely though.

Bitty Bear with some Cosmetic Surgery

The lesson I learned from this was to pre-felt the roving I was going to use for stuffing.  My next attempt was a baby turtle for my oldest son.  This time I partly felted the roving and stuffed the turtle very full.  The turtle came out almost too firm, though quite cute.

Little Green Baby Turtle

I have made a number of balls that are felted too.  Experimentation has taught me that using a fiber fill stuffing at the center with layers of roving around it works best.  My other trick for amis is to use fun fur or a fluffy yarn so I don’t need to stitch as tight, yet the fiber fill won’t work it’s way out.   Some examples are my Pocket Monsters.

Pocket Monster
Purple Pocket Monster

So if you’ve avoided trying to make amigurumis because the tight stitching hurts your hands some of these approaches might help you.  Just be sure you have enough yarn for all the “kids” in your life.  Everyone will want one. ;o)

Crochet for Crochet’s Sake

March is National Crochet Month and I’ve been giving some thought to why I love crochet so much?  

FreeForm Doodle Lace

Is it the enjoyment of the action of crocheting itself?  Or is the attraction having a lovely item to wear or use?  Do I crochet for it’s own sake or to create an object? Basically it comes down to a question of Process or Product.  

For me there is added to the concept of process the allure of designing.  Much of my design work is process.  Swatching and experimenting with various yarns, hook sizes and stitch patterns just to see what I get.  I may have absolutely nothing in mind when I start this process, my only goal is exploration.  Often times these experiments add to my knowledge, but that may be the only gain. 

Does that make the process a waste of time?  Personally I don’t view knowledge or entertainment as a waste,  so for me the process stage of design work is very rewarding.  As I like to tell my students in the various art and craft classes I’ve taught, “There is no such thing as Failure, there is only Discovery.”  

The process of crocheting is one that I have always enjoyed as well. 

My return to Crochet as my main hobby came about 12 years ago when I hurt my ankle and was forced to spend a great deal of time off my feet.  I found crocheting and it’s rhythm to be very soothing.  

I was also re-intrigued with the idea of “weaving” with a hook, using a single tool to create fabrics in a variety of dimensions and shaping.  All these years later that fascination is still fresh for me.  To suspend expectation and just revel in what comes off my hook. 

Taking your Yarn for a Walk Fragments
FreeForm fragments from Jenny's Class

Maybe this is one of the reason’s I love to play with FreeForm crochet.  Gathering up a variety of harmonious colored yarns of various textures and weights and then creating “fragments or scrumbles” is very relaxing to me. 

Often I am asked what I am making, or what will those become.  Most of the time I have no idea.  Seems I may be deeply entrenched in the process side of crochet.   Eventually I do make a product with my hours of stitching, but the joy in the process is why I continue to crochet.

If you are curious about FreeForm crochet and have never tried it there is a great CAL/Game going on in the NatCroMo Party group on Ravelry.  It’s not too late to give it a try, and it’s a wonderful introduction to freeforming.  

Or check out some of the beautiful and inspiring books out there.  I recommend, Jenny Dowde, Myra Wood, Prudence Mapstone and Renate Kirkpatrick as great authors to start with.