The Anatomy of Your Stitches

No matter what your crochet skill level it is helpful to understand the anatomy of your stitches. This is especially handy when you are weaving in tails or repairing crochet fabric. It is also very useful when teaching crochet so you can show your students what to look for while working on their projects.

The anatomy of a Chain Stitch

The first stitch most of us learn in crochet is the chain stitch, it is used in many ways in crochet patterns.

Vs on front of Chain Sts

The tops of the stitches are the V that you see in the above photo. They are what the working loop on your hook becomes as you make each stitch.

Back Bumps of Chain Sts

The chain stitch doesn’t have a “post” or “legs”. There is simply the back “bar” or “bump”. You will see either term used in patterns. It will depend on the publication what terminology they chose. This back bump is formed by the working yarn each time you pull thru a new loop with your hook to make a chain stitch.

The anatomy of a Single Crochet Stitch

The single crochet stitch is usually the first regular crochet stitch we learn to make after the chain stitch. The instructions for this stitch are: insert hook in stitch, yarn over, pull up a loop, yarn over, pull thru both loops on hook. But where do all those various loops end up?

Like with the chain stitch, the working loop on your hook is key. When you finish a stitch you have a working loop of yarn on your hook (yellow arrow pointing to it in above photo).  That loop becomes the top of the next stitch you make, no matter what stitch you are crocheting it will still become the top of the stitch.

When looking at your single crochet stitches as you make them (this is the Right Side row) you can see 2 “legs” (vertical yellow lines in above photo), these are the bottom of the loop you pulled up thru the stitch. Looking at the single crochet stitches from the back side (this is the Wrong Side row) you can see the top of that same loop (horizontal yellow lines in above photo) just below the top of the stitch.

If you turn your work over and look at the stitches from the back you can see the path of the working yarn coming into the stitch and out of the stitch (marked with bright pink and arrows in above photo) forming the “post” of the stitch and the new working loop (top of next stitch) on your hook. The aqua and pink line shows the top of the stitch that had been the working loop previously.

The above image shows all the parts of the stitches in 2 rows. The top row is the right-side row being worked and the next row below is the wrong-side row stitches being worked into. Agua lines highlight the tops of stitches, yellow lines show the second loop made for the single crochet stitch, pink lines and arrows show the path of the working yarn and “back legs” of your stitches. If you look closely you can see that the pink back legs are wrapped around the top of the stitches in the third row below.

How do I work into my foundation chain?

Answering and understanding this is one of the most important skills to have in your crochet tool box. The typical start for a crochet project is to chain a length and then work back into the chain. Of course this often leads to the questions  about how to work into the chain. Which loop do you work under and how many of them?

 

Traditional method

One of the first ways I learned to work into a chain was by going into the center of the V on the top of the chain and catching the back bar and top leg of the V in the stitch being made. This is the more traditional way of working into a foundation chain.

 

Trad method free loops

This leaves a single strand at the base of the stitches in your first row. This can work well if you are working pieces of a garment that are going to be seamed together along the base of the foundation rows.

Trad method showing twist

The first row worked into the chain using the traditional method tends to have quite a bit of twist to it before you work additional rows.

Shells worked into chain

It also is more stable when you are starting a stitch pattern that requires multiple stitches worked into some of the chain stitches of your foundation. For example…shell stitches.

Another option is to work under both legs of the V on each chain stitch. I find this to be the most difficult way to work into the chain. It does give you a very stable foundation and the single strand at the base is free for seaming pieces together along the foundation. Working into a chain using this method is easier with a very loosely crocheted foundation chain.

 

The finished row will again have single strands at its base, but they will be a bit more centered. This row will have a lot of twist to it like the traditional method of working into a chain.

 

Sts wrkd in back bump base view
Arrow points to foundation chain’s loose Vs when stitches are worked into back bar.

If a pattern doesn’t specify which loop of the chain to use, I tend to use the back bar (or back bump). I like the way the finished foundation looks as it echoes the top of the stitches on the last row of the project. When putting an edging all the way around the finished project I find the base of this foundation easier and neater looking to work into.

Unless a pattern specifies a particular way of working into the chain you can do whatever works best for you. You only need to be consistent for the stitches of your foundation.

 

Chain w larger hook

If you find that your chain foundation stitches seem to always be tighter than the rest of your crochet fabric it can help to use a hook one size larger for the foundation chain, then switch down to the next hook size when you are ready to begin your first row of stitches into the chains. 

Finding the top of the stitch

Now you have an idea of where to spot the tops of your stitches in a chain, but how do you tell where the top of a regular stitch is?

The simple answer, just like for our chain stitch, the top of the stitch looks like a V.  If you stop and hold your work so the Vs appear stacked they are easier to identify. As long as you don’t remove your hook from your working loop you can manipulate your fabric without losing any stitches.

Am I working in the right direction?

Once you can identify the top of your stitch it becomes a lot easier to tell if you are working in the right direction.

Vs pointing away

If your pattern tells you to turn at the end or beginning of a row, then the Vs of the stitch tops of the row you are working into, should be pointing away from your hook.

Working in the Round

If you are working in the round without turning at the end of each round, then the Vs of the stitch tops of the round you are working into, should be pointing at your hook.

Where do I insert my hook in the stitch?

Insert hook under 2 legs

For your standard crochet pattern you are going to insert your hook under the 2 legs of the V in the top of your stitch.

Gap to Insert Hook thru

To avoid splitting your yarn look for the little gap on the side of your stitch just under that V.

Some patterns will give you special instructions about where to insert your hook to create different textures in your fabric.

Back loop

If your pattern instructs you to work in the back loop of your stitch.  This is generally referring to the back leg of the Vs after you’ve turned your work to begin your new row.

Front loop

The same is true for working in the front loop of your stitch. You would be inserting your hook under the front leg of the Vs after you’ve turned your work to begin your new row.

 

What if you need to work more than one stitch in the same stitch?

This can be tricky when you are new to crochet. Especially once you work the first stitch the V top of the stitch is obscured. My favorite trick involves manipulating the fabric.

Pulling up to find stitch

If you gently pull up on the stitch just made it becomes easy to see where the base of that stitch goes into the previous row. This hole is where you will insert your hook for your next stitches if the pattern tells you to work multiple stitches into a particular stitch.

Now you have a better understanding of your stitch anatomy time to experiment with some crochet swatches.

Chain 15, then work single crochets back along the chain (using whichever method you like) starting with the second chain from the hook.

Chain 1 and turn to work back along the first row of stitches working a single crochet in each stitch to the end of the row.

Right-side view of blue row
Wrong-side view of blue row.

If you change colors for each row of single crochet stitches you can see more clearly how the stitches fit together.

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Beginner’s Mind

The further along the journey of life we travel the less patience we often have with ourselves regarding learning a new skill. I have often met people that say, “Oh I always wanted to learn to crochet, but I’m too old now.”

???!

No way! You are never too old to learn a new skill. In fact it has been proven that learning a new skill in our later years is a great way to increase the agility of our mental faculties. You just have to treat yourself with compassion and patience as you learn a new skill.

This is what is referred to as “beginner’s mind”. In many eastern teachings it is about beginning a new experience without expectation.  To just be in the moment.

I am often reminded of what that looks like when I am teaching young children. Whether it is crafts or math, teaching youngsters can be so engaging. They have no expectation of knowing how to do the task, they are completely in the moment of learning something entirely new or unexpected.

Sadly, children outgrow this most of the time about 8-10 years of age. Like the adults they will grow up to be, they have an expectation of how they should learn, instead of just being in the learning.

For me, one of the things I love the most about crochet is 40+ years after I first made my first stitches with a  hook I’m still learning new things. Sometimes these are things I learn from the teachers in my life, other crochet friends or students in my classes. There are so many things to discover and explore with crochet I’m never bored.

Even though National Crochet Month is over it is never too late to learn to crochet (or tackle a new craft). Just be kind to yourself and allow the new experience to happen without self-judgment. Have fun with being a beginner again.

If you are feeling like starting your crochet journey visit my “Getting Started with Crochet” blog post for some pointers. There are illustrations for both Left handed and Right handed crocheters on holding the yarn and hook.

 

I Love Yarn Day

Head and Heart full of Yarn
Head and Heart full of Yarn

Saturday October 17th is “I Love Yarn Day”. This is a day that is very aptly named for the life I lead. Of course, that is sort of my day everyday, since a love of all things yarn is what put my feet on this journey as a designer and teacher.

ILYD-2015_instagram1_200x200

I was thrilled that the theme this year is “Stitch it Forward”, which is all about teaching others how to craft with yarn.

Playing and Crocheting w Andee

Very appropriate as I want to introduce you to my latest teaching tool. My YouTube Channel. I’ll be doing a series of videos titled “Playing and Crocheting with Andee”. The first 2 videos are now available and I plan to be adding to them frequently. I’ll be announcing here on the blog (and on my Facebook page and Twitter feed) whenever I have a new video up. Next month you will also be able to find a directory of my videos and the links to them on my “YouTube Channel” page here on the blog.

The first video is a tutorial on working the Adjustable Slip Knot.

The second video is a tutorial on making the Foundation Single Crochet.

I hope you have a wonderful “I Love Yarn Day” and hopefully an opportunity to teach someone else the love of yarn.

Flowers, Flowers, Flowers

Summer Flowers

Yes, I like flowers. One might even say I Love flowers.  Up here on the mountain the growing season for having flowers outdoors is very short. This summer I didn’t even attempt to grow any since we were still having freezing temperatures well into the middle of June.

What to do though, when you can’t grow flowers? Well, crochet them of course.

A couple of years ago I created a class on crocheting flowers for my local yarn store: Longmont Yarn Shop.  The class is really about taking all different shapes of flower motifs and working them in a variety of yarns: chunky to fingering weights. Then you can stack them, add buttons or beads and have all sorts of fun.

Flower Projects

They make wonderful embellishments for commercial items like hats, gloves, scarves or bags. Or even better add them to dress up your crochet projects. You can even turn all those flowers into fabric, or add a pin back to make a brooch.

In just a few short weeks I’ll be teaching my “Flowers, Flowers, Flowers” class at the Scotts Bluff Valley Fiber Arts Fair. The fair is September 11 and 12 in Mitchell, Nebraska.

In this class I teach working in the round, Puff and Cluster stitches, invisible joins, reading simple stitch diagrams, tips and tricks for working with novelty yarns, and two methods of adding beads to yarn, as well as a chain mesh join for turning your flowers into fabric.

Elegant Garden Mitt 2 4web

I’ll also be teaching my “Crocheting Wristers” and “Don’t Let Your Hobby Hurt” classes. If you are in the area come on up and join the fun. The Scotts Bluff National Monument is right there and the landscape is beautiful. You can find out more information and enroll for classes at the website: NebraskaFiberFair.com.

Scotts Bluff Fiber Arts Fair

Scotts Bluff Fiber Arts Fair logo

Just because I’m too excited about this to wait until the weekend to let my lovely visitors know. I’m going to be teaching this September at the Scotts Bluff Fiber Arts Fair in Mitchell, Nebraska.

Crocheting Wristers

Flowers Flowers Flowers

Classes will be offered on Friday, September 11th all day long. I’ll be teaching my “Crocheting Wristers” and “Flowers, Flowers, Flowers” classes that day.

Dont let your Hobby Hurt

Then Saturday all the action moves to the Event Center at the Scotts Bluff County Fair Grounds, where I will be teaching my “Don’t Let your Hobby Hurt” class. This class is all about how to prevent injury (especially Repetitive Stress Injuries) while we practice our crafts.

There will be fiber bearing critters to meet, all sorts of fiber art demonstrations and vendors of the many things all us fiber loving folks enjoy. There will even be an opportunity to sign up for tours of the Brown Sheep Yarn Company (who are a sponsor of this fair). You can find out more about the Fair by visiting their website at nebraskafiberfair.com

September 12th is also International Crochet Day. What a perfect way to celebrate this day of crochet! Class registration will be opening in early June, but don’t worry, I’ll be posting when it is live. Hoping this gives some of my readers a chance to come join me for a class or two, or at least get to say “hi” in person.

Always Learning

Education is on my brain big time lately.

I took 4 awesome classes at the conference this year. 2 with the amazing Vashti Braha; “Tunisian Eyelet Meshes” and “Tunisian Filet Lace”.  My other classes were knitting and knooking. The knitting class was “Russian Style Continental Knitting” with Galina Khmeleva. My Saturday morning class was the eponymously named “Knooking” with my good friend and enthusiastic teacher, Karen Whooley. I’ll be posting more about all the great stuff I learnt in these wonderful classes soon.

The main reason education is on my brain right now is that in less than 2 weeks I will be on the adventure of having a middle-school student. This also means either my husband or myself will be driving the boys down to Boulder every school day. That is anywhere from a 35 minute to hour-long drive. Just found out yesterday that my youngest’s school day will start at 7:50 a.m. Ouch! This means we will have to be on the road by 6:50 a.m. every morning.

Now to some of you that might not seem such a big deal. Clearly you are morning people. I can not be described as such and neither can my oldest son. Himself and the youngest do a little better with mornings, but even they enjoy a later start to the day.  This means I am giving a great deal of thought to the best ways to organize myself. The goal being to make mornings the least painful for all involved.

Boys BTS supplies

There is a fun bit to all this back-to-school madness though. Going shopping for school supplies. We’ve acquired pretty much everything on the lists provided by the boys’ schools. I’m thinking I might need a trolley to convey it all to the schools on the first day.

Mom's Goodies BTS

As always when the back-to-school sales are happening I acquire a few supplies for myself. I especially like to get small scissors that I can take with me when I’m out and about and especially for air travel.

My Favorite Fiskars
My Favorite Fiskars

Then if TSA decides to take my scissors I won’t weep because they are my favorite Fiskars.

I will be learning a great deal along with my boys. Both of their new schools are going to be a huge change for them as well as me. Afterall, going from a school with a total enrollment of 25 students (at its largest) to one with anywhere between 500 – 650 students is going to be an adjustment.

I’m hopeful that having this more regulated schedule will contribute to me being more productive. One of the benefits of being down off the mountain so frequently; I will be able to spend more time at my favorite local yarn store, Longmont Yarn Shoppe. I’m planning on being there most Wednesdays during the school year from 10a – 2p. I’ll be teaching some classes on Wednesday’s as well as facilitating the daytime CGOA Chapter meetings on the 4th Wednesday of each month.

More information about the classes available at Longmont Yarn Shoppe can be found at the website: LongmontYarn.com.  I’ll be teaching 4 classes, 2 will be offered on Wednesdays and 2 will be offered on Saturdays.

Class Project Cuff

Saturday, September 13th; 1p-4p:  Crochet Wrister

Purple Hat on Table Model small-1

Saturday, October 11th; 12p-3p: Perfect Fit Crocheted Hat

Shawlette cropped photo small

Wednesdays, November 5 & 12; 10a-12p: Eleonora Shawlette

Lace Border Class Promo shot 3

Wednesday, November 19; 10a-1p: Lovely Crocheted Lace Border

So if you are local to the area, come join me for some fun classes or just stop by Longmont Yarn Shoppe. And if you aren’t local but want to take a class with me, plan a trip out to Colorful Colorado and have some crochet fun while enjoying my beautiful state.