Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Learning to Crochet - II

There are a handful of basic stitches in crochet. Most patterns are a combination of these stitches. To list the main ones.

When starting a project you have to cast stitches using what is called a foundation chain

When making a round motif you start with chain loop or a magic circle. You will need this when making a granny square.

Turning your work and starting a new row also requires a bit of practice. A chart to illustrate how many stitches you should take when turning a row. Also when you turn a row the edges of your work will start to look uneven. You need to handle that correctly. This explains how to get around that. When doing this you need to be careful not to drop or add stitches. If you started with X number of stitches you should have X stitches on every row. If you continue to drop or add a stitch with each row the crochet swatch will not be square but conical in shape.

There is a comprehensive list of tutorials by Ester at It's All In a Nutshell that I found invaluable. She even has her own YouTube channel where she addresses both left and right handed crocheters.

There are a bunch of YouTube videos from American Crochet Association.

If any of these tutorials are not to your liking you can just search on YouTube and hundreds of tutorials by individuals or bloggers will also appear. Take your pick. There is no shortage of online free resources.

So initially you should be ready to practice, practice, practice.

Create swatches of 15-20 stitches and do them over and over again till you get the hang of the process. Things you should aim for:
  • Good ergonomics, your fingers should not ache at the end of two hours of crochet.
  • Even stitches, even tension. Tension is a tough thing to keep steady at first. With practice you will start to get the hang of it. Try to notice if you lean towards taking loose stitches or tight stitches. If your swatch looks all curled up the tension is too tight, use a larger hook. If your swatch looks a bit too holey the tension is too loose, adjust yarn tension using fingers or use a thinner hook.
  • Do not drop or add stitches as you add rows. Try to get even looking edges.
  • Try and establish a rhythm you can stick with.

If the swatch is not to your liking just unravel and start over. 

Once I created a few swatches using acrylic yarn, the practical me was wondering what I would do with them. Keep them, throw them away. This prompted me to switch to another alternative. Wash cloths. For wash cloths you need 100% cotton yarn. Lily's Sugar 'n Cream is a good choice, affordable and at the end you have a stack of wash cloths for use. I must have created at least 20-25 swatches. They were just so fun to make and I got a ton of practice in the process. This exercise also helps determining which stitch you aesthetically prefer over others. I found that moss stitch was my favorite.

I even made a few baskets to store my crochet supplies.

Once you get comfortable with the basic stitches you can try other more complex stitches which are essentially a variation or a combination of basic stitches.

Some of the ones I really like are
Another thing you can practice is changing different colored yarns. Color blocked swatches look great.

Reading patterns:

Being able to read patterns is a complete game changer. At that point there are very few things that are out of reach.
Here is a complete glossary of abbreviations you will see in a pattern.
Sometimes the pattern is represented using symbols.

You can start with an easy pattern and you will be surprised how quickly you catch on. I considered making a beanie or socks which would have been more useful but instead bought a pattern for making crochet flowers from The Hat and I and made a few of those. This really helped me get accustomed to reading a pattern and familiarizing myself with the abbreviations. I made these using a pack of Bonbons. It is a good way to get a sampling of colors in small sizes.

Once I was a bit comfortable with smaller projects I was ready for more of a commitment. I ordered a ball each of Aran weight yarn in rainbow colors from LoveCrochet online store. This store is not for you if you like instant gratification. The yarn takes a while to arrive. Anyway I was in no hurry. Since I really like the look of Moss stitch I decided to make a small afghan using that stitch.

I had exactly one ball of each color but I found that while I worked through the colors I had different lengths of yarn remaining. For some colors I ran short of completing the section and the reason was the tension of my stitches varied. I was not consistent. Some sections were loose and some were tighter. This was apparent once I washed the afghan. For me consistent tension was the hardest part. Also keeping edges straight and neat looking was a challenge. I had to really follow the tutorial I mentioned earlier to get straight clean edges. Now I understand why people add a border, it kind of masks the knotty edges.


Apparently blocking is a must in crochet. Blocking is the act of mildly washing the finished project and drying it flat securing the edges in the shape you want it to dry. Makes a big difference to the final project. Once I blocked the afghan the differences in tension were not as apparent. Also acrylic and wool are a bit forgiving to inconsistent tension issues. The afghan was a perfect rectangle once I blocked it. Blocking is particularly helpful when making wearable items likes socks, sweaters and shawls.

Once I was done with this I decided to make a few more quick blankets with a huge emphasis on keeping consistent tension.

I was happy with the way things turned out and was ready to move to the next project.

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