Friday, June 17, 2011

Crochet Friday Series 9: Gauge/Understanding Written Patterns

Oh no, here comes the Gauge.
Don't worry, there's nothing to be afraid of when talking about Gauge. Only that I, personally, don't feel too comfortable with it. But that's just my personal point of view. I guess I am not so traditional when it comes to creating stuff. I always have to break the rules, otherwise I'd feel like I'm just following, instead of leading.

But this is not the moment for political insights in the world of crocheting, but the time to explain you what Gauge is about, so you don't fear it the way I do. This is, by the way, a great way of teaching myself to go deeper in the levels of learning my craft of preference. 

The term "gauge" refers to the number of stitches and rows contained in a given width and length of crochet fabric, usually 4" (10 cm) square. 
Everybody has their own personal gauge when working a crochet fabric. It varies from person to person, even when the same yarn and hook size are used. Crochet patterns are written using a specific gauge in mind, and if your gauge differs from the one given, the finished piece could come out either too big or too small. That is why it is important to check your gauge before starting a pattern. 
I found this on a learn-to-crochet book. And I am going to be honest with you. I never ever check on gauge. Bad? Maybe. But I find it very boring to be completely anal retentive when I throw myself to a dreamy comfortable crocheting time. I am not discrediting the use and importance of gauge, it is very important if you're following a pattern for a garment of specific measurements. It is just that I love experimenting more than following a text book. 

Have I made mistakes? Hell yes. Does not checking on the gauge make my creations inconsistent? No, it makes them unique. I have a few Granny Square tote bags that were made with different yarn brands, weights and gauge, and I love how each one of them is so different from the others. But hey, they're not hats or skirts. So, I leave it up to you. If your project requires zero experimentation and you're beginning to learn how to hook the yarn up, ending up with an oversized or too small item can lead you to disappointment and giving up. If this might sound like what happens to you often, dismiss my advice on experimenting and stick to the rules, at least while you pick it up. If you wanna break the rules, you must know first how the system works. Or be able to compensate it with something else. You better be able to justify what you do.

How do you know if you got the right gauge?
Make a test. Using the recommended hook size and yarn, make a crochet piece approx 6-8" (15-20 cm) square, taking to account the number of stitches and rows in the stitch pattern. Fasten off the yarn and then block the gauge sample. Some stitch patterns have the effect of reducing or expanding the crochet widthwise and others have the same effect lengthwise, so it is important that you work the gauge sample in the exact pattern you will use for the main piece.

Don't get confused, this photo shows a gauge testing in a 2" area.

  1. Lay the sample right side up on a flat surface. Using a ruler or tape measure, measure 4" (10 cm) horizontally across a row of stitches. Insert pins exactly 4" (10 cm) apart and count the number of stitches between the pins.
  2. Turn the fabric on its side. Do the same: using a ruler or tape measure, measure 4" (10 cm) horizontally across the rows. Insert pins exactly 4" (10 cm) apart and count the number of rows between the pins.

If the number of stitches, rows, or pattern repeats to 4" (10 cm) match the pattern, you can get started. If you have too many stitches or rows or a smaller pattern repeat to 4" (10 cm), your crochet is too tight. Work another gauge sample using a larger hook, or if the opposite happens, that you end up with a too loose crochet, try a smaller hook. Block and measure the new gauge sample as before. Repeat until your gauge matches your pattern's. 

Easy peasy. But boring. :p Hope this helped you! Happy hooking.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Crochet Friday Series 8: Understanding Written Patterns / Abbreviations and Terms

Hello there! I thought it would be important to include a brief explanation of how to understand written patterns for the Crochet Friday Series of today. Beginners come here to learn from my patterns cause they're easy to understand and I try to explain with real detail everything I'm talking about. But maybe it's still hard to read for someone who is not familiar with crochet? Sure! It was to me when I started to crochet, specially because everybody is publishing patterns in the internet but sometimes they just assume everyone knows what they're saying. Plus, everyone has a different style of teaching and explaining. I will go in parts again, otherwise it would take forever. So here are a few tips on abbreviations and terms that you might find helpful when reading patterns:

Abbreviations and Terms
Most of the abbreviations are easy to figure out. I say most. CH is chain, DC is double crochet, etc. Personally, when I write a pattern I always add abbreviations. (Most patterns have their own, make sure you find them.) It can be messy if you're not familiar with terms when someone switches from calling it stitch to loop. What's the difference? probably nothing. A loop is always where you put the hook and draw yarn through when doing any stitch. So a loop (or two, sometimes differentiated by front or back loop) is always on top of every single stitch. 

A ring is mostly when you make a chain and from the last chain you slip stitch into the first chain to make a ring, where you will be asked some times to make stitches into the ring:

But there are also Magic Rings. These rings are always open and will be cinched until you're done working stitches. See a video here.

Some other times you'll read "YO twice". I couldn't figure this one out for a long time, why do people keep saying YO? well it means Yarn Over, and that means wrap your yarn in your hook. That is an abbreviation used for explaining stitches such as the Treble Crochet, where you need to wrap your yarn twice in your hook before anything (see photo on the right). That's a YO twice.

Parenthesis are used to make repetitions. I use them all the time, for example: Work (1Tr, 1Ch, 1Tr) x 4. And can also be used to group with other purposes, example: Skip (1Ch, 1DC); or (1Sc, 1Ch, 1Sc) for the corners. Meaning you will always have to work what's inside the parenthesis for the corners. Other ways to read repetitions are the stars *, sometimes it will say: *2SC, 2HDC, 2DC in same stitch, 2HDC, 2SC* repeat from * to * 3 times. You know you will have to work what's in between the * 3 times total. 

Rounds or Rows. When repetitions are something crazy like, repeat round 3, 25 times, it means you will have to do the same instruction round or row other 25 times and it is highly recommended to always take notes, or you will get lost. Make notes you can understand. For example, this is how I keep track of stitches when I make my Audio Waves bag:

The arrows at the beginning of each row mean if the long single crochet stitches start in decrease or increase. And every time I start a new bag, I write down the numbers first so I can check them after each row. Really? Yes. I've done this bag several times but I still need this info.

Spaced stitches? Some times you will find a number enclosed in parentheses at the end of a row or round. That tells you the total number of stitches to be worked in that particular row or round. For example, (6 spaced SC) means that you have to work 6 Single Crochet stitches in the round, each one spaced by the number of chains stated in the instructions. Sounds confusing but once you figure out your pattern, easy peasy lemon squeezy. 

That's all for today. Next Friday I will be coming with the GAUGE. I hate GAUGE so maybe explaining it to you will make me hate it less. Have a good weekend y'all!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Crochet Friday Series 7: Make your own recycled belt

Someone asked me on Facebook if I could post a video of how I make my Treasure Belts. So I come here to give you a quick explanation-guide on how to make your own. My camera does not have a good resolution when taking video, besides my computer is so full of running software right now that every time I try to edit video it gets bitchy. So no video, sorry. Instead I'm jotting a few words that might help you find the inspiration on your very own belt.

  1. Get your materials ready: Go to your yarn stash and pick two colors that would look great together. Dark and Bright. If you use the dark for the in-the-middle of the belt (like I did) that will make your bright (my blood orange) pop out and look wider. If you do it the opposite way putting the bright in the middle and dark in the outline, your belt will look narrower. Considering this belt is only 1" wide, I didn't want to make it look narrower, or it'd look like a shoe lace. Find an old belt you don't like anymore and use the buckle. Note: The buckles I like to use have a permanent middle post, not loose. See picture above. I found my buckles in a Treasure Shop online and I keep looking for them in local thrift stores. I used two different weight yarns, a chunky and medium, leaving the chunky for the middle to give it dimension. And it is important that you use the proper hook for each. My case: 6mm for the chunky and 4mm for the medium weight. How do you figure out the weight? well, the yarn is thicker.
  2. If you have been following the Crochet Friday Series, you should be confident making chains and single crochet stitches. If not, go back and practice them
  3. I started with the general rule of making a long chain that runs around my bottom waist. A bit longer than that. In the case of this belt above I did a 130 Chain that measured 45" across, to fit the average waist in women. If it's too long you can fold it and if a bit short it stretches about 7" more. Adapt this to your personal taste. To the total of chain stitches add 1 and in 2nd Chain from hook make 1 Single Crochet on each stitch across and after the last one just fasten off.  With your second color for the outline just start where you began your foundation chain (my case the 130 chain) using the smaller hook (the appropriated one) and single crochet all around the belt with no chains in the corners. Plain single crochet all around, get to the last one and fasten off.
  4. Wave in the loose ends without mixing the colors. Hide the dark in the dark part and the bright in the bright one, if possible. 
  5. Take the side of the belt where you started and wrap it around the middle post of your buckle and with needle and thread (try to match the color) do a few stitches to make sure it won't ever in a lifetime come apart. Sew very tight to the post.
And that's it. I want to add the note that color work is very important. The colors you pick might not look that cool after it's crocheted, if so, before sewing just undo your work and find the appropriate ones. You're using scrap yarn so it's OK to experiment as much as possible. Believe me, a great color may vary in its tone depending on what other color you're putting it against.

I hope this quick tutorial helped you. Now go recycle!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Treasure Belts, Recycle Mode

I have a new obsession!
I'll be making a bunch of these often. I found myself in the need of a magic trick to disappear ridiculous amounts of scrap yarn and what better than finding them a new use, a new life, this way. Really. Do anything. “making do with what you’ve got” - Lisa Sonora.