Stretchy Fabric

One of the complaints about crochet fabric that I hear from lots of folks is that it isn’t stretchy enough.

My response is, you need to use the right stitches and stitch patterns (the yarn you choose has a big influence as well).

For solid stitch work that creates a stretchy fabric try my favorite stitch,  the Half Double Crochet – abbreviated “hdc”. That is the US crochet terminology for it, I think that it is called a Half Treble in the UK.

The hdc has been my go-to stitch for hats for years now.  Especially worked in spiral rounds, like the hats I made for my sons this past Christmas.

I just enlarged my Little Bitty Noggin Cap pattern by using worsted weight yarn and adding a few more increase rounds. To create even more visual interest I worked a few rounds in black to make a stripe just above the brim.  When I make a hat with worsted weight yarn I use a Size H (5mm) hook for a denser fabric.

The hdc is very simple to work.

To start the stitch, wrap the yarn once around your hook (just like you do with a Double Crochet), then insert into the space or stitch you are working on.  Wrap the yarn around your hook (YO – yarn over), pull thru a loop.  You now have 3 loops on the shaft of your hook. YO again and pull thru all the loops.

You just made a half double crochet.

Give it a try in your work and see if you like the stretch you get with this stitch.

Finding Colors

I love to play in free form crochet for art projects. One of the questions I get most often from crocheters interested in trying freeform is about choosing the yarns for a project.

But often the real key to a successful freeform project is choosing the colors.  I chose the colors for this piece using the advice of the wonderful Jenny Dowde.  She said that one of the easiest ways to get colors that play nicely with each other was to choose a multi-colored yarn. Then you find solid color yarns that pick up tones in the multi-colored yarn.

I choose some Lion Boucle’ in the Wild Berries colorway for this project. Then picked pink, orange and blue yarns from my stash that matched the Boucle’.

If you want to learn more about Jenny’s approach to FreeForm Fiberarts I recommend getting your hands on her books: Freeform Knitting and Crochet; Freeformations, Designs and Projects in Knitting and Crochet; Surface Works.

Slip Sliding Circles

If you like to make hats from the crown down or amigurumi (toys), knowing how to get a tight circle is a handy skill.

My favorite method for these types of projects is the “adjustable slip knot”. This is a technique I first heard about in a class I took with Dee Stanziano, though it took me a while to play with it. I use it all the time now.

The trick with a slip knot is if the beginning tail or the working yarn tightens it. Generally speaking, the working tail is best for projects like afghans, scarves or garments.  But the beginning tail end is ideal for hats and toys, or anything sculptural where you need a tightly closed ring. I call this slip knot an Adjustable Slip Knot, because you can adjust the size of the loop even after you have worked into it.

To make an adjustable slip knot: Wrap the yarn around 2 or 3 fingers to make an X. The working end of the yarn should be on the bottom and the beginning tail should cross over it. Then use your hook or fingers to reach under the bottom strand to pull up a loop from the top strand.

The best thing about the adjustable slip knot is that you don’t have to fight to make all your stitches into the same spot. If your beginning tail is long enough, you can open the loop as you make stitches. This is loads easier to count your stitches to know if you have the right number in your starting round too.

Once you are finished with the first round, you give a gentle tug to the beginning tail to close the loop. Voila! you have a nice snug first round that did not involve any hair pulling.  Now you can proceed with either concentric rounds or working in the spiral to complete your project.

Give it a try on your next project and see if you don’t love this method as much as I do.

Pi Recipe

For you that know me well, you know that isn’t a spelling error. I’m really not one for cooking or baking, and no one wants a recipe for Pie from me.

But when it comes to recipes for crocheting creativity that are related to applied geometries, that is a whole nuther story.

Some of you may remember that old equation from your school days of  “Pi R square” (and the standing joke was, “No, Pie are Round”).  Pi is literally the secret to understanding circles, and the secret to making hats that fit perfectly.

Baby Doll's New Hat

Pi = 3.14  in reality it is a much longer decimal than that.  But taking the number to 2 decimal points is more than sufficient for our purposes.  In fact, with a little adjustment to our calculations, taking away the decimals all together works too.

I love making hats as gifts and often they are my “go-to” project when I just need some instant gratification crochet. I don’t know that I have ever made a hat from the brim up. I much prefer the ease of working with top down construction.

My favorite thing about working top down is how simple the foundation is. Start with an adjustable slip knot, then chain a couple stitches, work the first round of stitches into the first chain…Voila! You are off and running. Crown down construction also allows for some really simple decorative stitch work for the brim.

There are lots of fabulous hat patterns out there, and you can make sure that your hat fits yourself or your giftee perfectly by using some simple math. 

Baby Doll's Head Circumference Measurement

You are going to need a couple of measurements.  You need the circumference of their head, which means the distance around their head measured at eyebrow level. 

Baby Doll's Hat Depth Measurement

And you’ll need the “depth” measurement, which is referring to the length of the finished hat from middle of the crown to the edge of the brim.  Being I like my ears covered by my hat I measure to the bottom of the earlobe.

Target Diameter Measured

Baby Doll’s head circumference is 17.5 cm and her “depth” measurement is 6.5 cm.  So my calculation for figuring out how big to work my beginning circle is: 17.5 divided by 3.14 = 5.57 cm. Which I round down to 5.5 cm.

If you are making a gift hat and can’t measure the recipient’s head there are a couple of online sites that  have some helpful measurements for averages.  TotToppers, Wooly Wormhead,

Some other things to consider when personalizing a hat are preferences of the wearer: how snug they prefer their hats to be, if they want the hat to cover their ears, if they like extra coverage over their ears.

Typically you want a hat to be a bit smaller than the head circumference.  This is called “negative ease”.  Negative ease depends on the fabric of the finished hat (or garment) to have some stretch to it. The amount of stretch needed is dependant on how much negative ease is planned for.

Target Depth Measured

Once I achieve my target size for the diameter of my circle I will then continue working rounds without increases until I reach the depth (or length) that I want.  If I am just winging the depth, I’ll stop when I think I am nearing the length I want. Then flatten the hat so the center of the crown is halved I measure the length.

Now it’s your turn.  Using a hat pattern you love see if you can make a hat that fits you perfectly. Or try winging a hat using your favorite stitch in the round.

Tempus Fugit

How about that?! Two weeks have flown by so I come back with a bit of Latin.

It’s been a wild August here on the mountain. Between my boys starting back to school on the 15th, 2 very large design projects I’m working on and all the swatching for proposals…..I’ve been wishing I had either a live-in assistant or that I could clone myself.

So I promised some substance for this post.  Let’s take a quick look at WPI.

Worsted Yarn, WPI = 9

WPI – Wraps Per Inch. It’s a measurement used to tell the thickness or weight of a yarn. Spinners use this term a lot. It simply refers to the number of times that a particular yarn can be wrapped around an inch wide length. You don’t want to wrap the yarn tightly as it will distort the yarn and you want each strand of yarn to lay flat next to each other on your measure.

I had never heard of it until I joined Ravelry in 2008. Once I had though, I was amazed that it isn’t used as part of yarn labeling.  It is a fairly accurate measurement and far less subjective than the categorizations of “worsted”, “dk”, “sport” and “fingering” etc that we see. Or the nifty little drawings with the number on a skein.

On that subject, I purchased this ball of yarn at Hobby Lobby ages ago. I liked it because it was a bright-colored light weight yarn. Imagine my surprise that it was labeled as a # 5 “bulky” weight yarn. Seriously?

Now sometimes with a really fluffy mohair kind of yarn that has a thin core I can see a yarn being labeled bulky.  But there is no way this is a bulky yarn.  Being I’m an experienced yarner, this sort of labeling mistake doesn’t bother me, but for your new yarn consumer or those less experienced this can be quite confusing.  Particularly if you are looking to substitute a yarn.

Measuring by placing ruler at 90 degrees on top of ball.

It is easy to measure WPI in a store, especially on many of the larger commercial skeins. You can do it by laying the ruler at a 90 degree angle to the yarn wraps on the ball, or by slipping the ruler under one layer of wraps to see the number of wraps across an inch.

Measuring by slipping the ruler under one layer of yarn.

I’ll talk more about how this all helps when you want to substitute yarns. For now I challenge you to play with measuring WPI on your own. See if you start to get a feel for the WPI of various yarns.

The Dreaded Dratted Fuzzies

I love Novelty yarns.  Anything fuzzy or sparkly tends to draw my eye.  But knitting and crocheting with these yarns can be a challenge.  Particularly  if you have to frog your work when stitching with fuzzy yarns.

Shawl in Universal Yarns Swiss Mohair

A few of my favorite commercially available fuzzy yarns are Lion Brand’s Homespun, Premier Yarn’s Alpaca Dance, KnitPick’s Suri Dream, Caron Yarn’s Dazzleaire and Universal Yarn’s Swiss Mohair. 

Basically what I consider “fuzzy” yarns are any yarns that have a “halo” to them while you are working with them. Generally if there is Mohair or Suri Alpaca in the blend you are going to have some halo to contend with.

With crochet it is easy to twist the fibers of the halo together within a stitch.  Making undoing the stitches, or working into the top of a stitch extra challenging.

So here are some tips for working with and frogging fuzzy yarns without losing your mind:

1 – Don’t work tightly.  Using a small gauge needle or hook with these yarns is almost an engraved invitation to insanity. Most are marked as a bulky or super bulky yarn, and folks, they are not kidding.  When crocheting with most novelty yarns the smallest hook I use is a K (6.5mm).

2 – Working with a very pointed hook can help you get through the stitches without splitting the yarn.

3 – Avoid the grab and yank approach to frogging or even pulling your yarn out of a center pull skein.  Be prepared to be patient with these yarns and make your stitching (un-stitching) speed a bit slower.

4 – Have a small hook or needle on hand to tease apart the fibers if your stitches get stuck when  working.

5 – If you are making a toy or other project that needs tight stitchwork requiring a smaller hook or needle. Work slowly and be prepared with extra yarn in case you run into problems. Generally it is nearly impossible to frog your work when tightly stitching fuzzy yarns.

6 – If your fuzzy yarn gets it’s fuzziness from Mohair, sometimes sticking the project in the freezer for a bit can make it easier to unravel.

Good luck with your next fuzzy project. It’s well worth taking pains with these yarns to create luxurious wraps, scarves, garments and cuddly toys.

New Foundations

As many of you that have worked my designs know, I love simple foundations.  Any pattern that asks me to chain more than 50 to start out tends to make me cranky.  A cranky Andee is not that fun to be around, just ask my family.

My favorite designs begin with what I like to call “small starts”.  Nothing makes me happier than to have the beginning directions in a crochet pattern say, “Chain 2, single crochet in 2nd chain from hook.”  Or a variant of that. Which is one of the many reasons I love the foundation single crochet (FSC) for my designs.

But, I know not everyone has my fondness for the FSC.  In fact, it took me a very long time to become friends with the FSC.  I purchased Doris Chan’s books “Amazing Crocheted Lace” and “Everyday Crochet” years before I felt able to tackle the FSC.

I would drool over her patterns and attempt over and over to do the FSC.  Finally one day it all came together and I have mastered the FSC (or at least have a good handle on it).

Recently, I wanted to do a shawl design that would require a long foundation to work off of.  The idea of starting a pattern with nearly 200 chain stitches made me break out in a cold sweat.

I also knew there were quite a few folks that would not be too happy with me if I started it off with that number of FSC (I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to make a foundation with that many FSC). What to do?

I wanted a foundation that wasn’t a complete pain to work, that would look attractive on its own.  Something that wouldn’t need an additional edging to seem complete.

I started looking at single crochet stitches.  What would happen if I worked a bunch of single crochets one on top of the other, then worked into the side of them for the rest of the garment?

Now, I’m pretty sure some other designer has done this at some time or another, though I can’t recall having seen it.  Happily the resulting foundation is stretchy and attractive. Basically everything I was looking for.

One thing I did observe is that with my style of crochet the foundation made this way seems a bit too loose.  I adjusted for this by working the foundation with a smaller hook than that used for the body of the shawl.  Knitters have been casting on for ages with different size needles than the rest of their project is worked with.  So I was borrowing from that tradition.

It could also work to just be very aware and crochet the foundation stitches a bit tightly with the larger hook, then work with a more relaxed gauge for the remainder of the garment.

Either way, this may become one of my favorite new techniques for foundations.

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.