Friday, April 25, 2014

Yarn Review: Bernat Baby Jacquards

  Do you ever buy yarn on discount or clearance? I do it every chance I get. This skein of Bernat Baby Jacquards was less than half price, so I snagged it.

  This is a 90% acrylic, 10% nylon blend, DK (3) yarn.  It is extremely soft to the touch, lightweight, machine washable and dryer safe. According to the manufacturer's website, it looks like there are eight colors available, including this one.

  Buried at the back of a shelf, with a ripped up label, I almost missed it. Almost. How could you miss this color? Although the color name is Berries 'n' Cream, it reminds me of a pitcher of cold pink lemonade with lemons floating in it on a hot summer day. Beautiful.




  I was surprised with my results once I completed a project with Baby Jacquards. It created a luxurious fabric that is soft, light, and drapes wonderfully.


  I have no complaints about working with this yarn. I do have to admit some unhappiness with my own results, though.
After finishing the Pink Lemonade scarf using this material, I hand washed it, and it came out fine. When I washed it a second time in a machine (gentle cycle), it fuzzed up quite a bit. It didn't ruin my project or anything, it just didn't have that nice smooth look anymore. Perhaps it is best to hand wash it. Has anyone else had this happen?

  I have a second complaint,  but it's not really serious. Hey, Bernat, who says this has to be just for babies? Move over, babies! I want this yarn for myself! In grown-up colors too!

  But seriously, if Bernat had the same product in more adult pleasing colors, I think I would make one of everything out of it. My favorite part of working with Baby Jacquards was watching as the colors unfold from the skein.




  When someone speaks of a yarn using terms like "luxurious" and describes how well it drapes, you probably think of something with natural fibers (and usually a high price); this yarn will challenge that idea. "Baby" yarn or not, I would enjoy making some garments with it. Wouldn't this make a cute pair of socks for a little girl (or for yourself)?

  Making a guess, I think any baby would enjoy being wrapped up in this softness. Go ahead, make a baby blanket with it, then try to tell me that a secret part of you doesn't want one for yourself. You'll see.

Monday, April 21, 2014

How to: Surface Crochet


  When you want to add something special to a crochet project, surface crochet is a great idea. 

  You can use this method to transfer embroidery designs to any piece of crochet or knitting. Surface crochet is a perfect way to add extra color or dimension to a project. The stitches you create can also be used as a new foundation row to work into.

This tutorial will:



  • Help you understand the basics of  surface crochet 
  • Teach you how to create a flat design and how to use surface crochet for three dimensional texture. 
  • Explain how to use different methods to get the design you want.

  Once you're done here, you will be able to add texture, color, shapes and pictures to your crochet. 

Let's begin with the basics.



  You can use whatever yarn and hook you are comfortable with, but if you are learning for a specific project, it may be helpful to use the materials the pattern calls for.
  If you are a beginner, I recommend you to make a practice square to work on. The one I'm using is eight inches (20 cm) for a pattern I'm designing; yours doesn't have to be so large for learning. 



  This may seem tricky to learn for some, but relax if you're having trouble. A few simple things to remember for help:


  • Your working yarn will be coming from behind (or under) your work, so remember, the yarn shouldn't be in the front unless it's on your hook.
  • Do you know your stitches? Every stitch is made the same way, the difference is where the yarn is coming from.
  • The crochet method is still the same. Work from right to left for right-handers, left to right if you're left handed. Rotate your work as your design turns.

Are you ready?
Begin with a slipknot. 



First you will attach the yarn to the post of a stitch on the wrong side of the fabric. Insert hook from front to back to the right of a stitch. From back to front, insert the hook to the left of the post.



Pick up the slipknot.




Pull through.




Secure with a slip stitch.



The loop now needs to be on the other side of the fabric. Drop the loop, turn your work, insert hook from behind, 



and pull loop through.




Let's begin with the slip stitch. Insert hook into the next stitch, pull up a loop,



and pull through the beginning loop. (1 slip stitch made)





I'm going to create a circle. This is for practice, so you can work whatever shapes or designs you choose. 


If you want to follow the tutorial step by step, that's fine too. Ahead I'll show you how to work into these stitches.


If you want to make a circle, you will need to work into the stitch diagonally across. For a shape with corners, you would work into the stitch below.


When you've completed a circle or other shape, you can work up to the beginning stitch, then back under (I'll show you that later), 


or you can join it with a slip stitch.


This has a tendency to look a little strange unless you're breaking off there. I'm doing this purposely for texture in my design.



To tell you the truth, I'm using this tutorial for my guinea pig while designing. You can work however you like, but I'll be working into the stitch behind this one to begin my next circle. 


If you want a smooth transition, you would work into the stitch directly above, or work back under.

Now, let's move on to a single crochet for some added texture. If you try to make a single crochet all in the same stitch, it is difficult to pull the yarn through the loop. Pull up a loop in the current stitch instead.


Pull up a loop in the next stitch, 


pull through both loops on hook. (1 single crochet made)


For this exercise, I'm working in a spiral around my first circle. You'll notice a little gap between them. This is because I'm working into the next stitch over.


If you didn't want this gap, you would work your stitches closer to the beginning round. A great way to get these as close as possible is to turn and work the other direction.


However, you'll notice as I work around, the yarn hides this gap quite well. Here's a great shot of the texture of the different stitches:


You'll see shortly how to add even more texture to these stitches.


This time I don't want to jog for texture, I'm just going to keep working around in a spiral.


Now I want to join these again, because we'll start working into the top of these stitches.


Time to add more texture. I think I want to make some single crochet ruffles. Shall we?


I've chained 1 to make the height of the first single crochet. Insert hook into the stitch, pull up a loop from behind the work.


Yarn over, pull through both loops. Here I've made a few already:


How do you make a ruffle? Increase your stitches. I'm making 2 single crochet in the top of each stitch.


This is just a small ruffle. If I continue working this way, it will have a gentle ripple all the way around.


But I decided I want to make a deeper ruffle, so I began making 3 single crochet in each stitch.



Feel free to play around with stitch placement to get the texture you desire.


For the rest of the stitches, I alternated between one, two, and three single crochet in each stitch, in no particular order.


Here's where we'll work on moving behind the fabric. If you need to move across a large area, it's best to bind off and start again. If you only need to move a short distance, remove you hook, then insert it in the same stitch from back to front.


Pull the loop through. You could just pull enough slack in this loop to reach the designated stitch, but I find the loose yarn pulling to the front of my work when I try this. Here's what to do if you have the same problem: Chain the same number of stitches you will be moving over. I work tightly, so I like to chain one extra, or my work will pull. You may need to do the same. 


Remove your hook again, insert from back to front, pull through the desired stitch.


Here I've worked a random row of slip stitches. These will be my foundation stitches for the next step.


I want to add some major texture by using double crochet worked into these foundation stitches. Normally, it would be easier to bind off and work these from the top later. That would defeat my goal of working the entire design without binding off, so I'm doing it this way.
First you will need to chain 3 in the same stitch to make the height of the next double crochet.


Then yarn over, insert the hook into the next stitch, and pull up a loop from behind.


Working over the top of the stitch, pull up a loop again, then pull through 2 loops on the hook.


Repeat this again to complete the stitch.


Here I've worked a few more. I find it extremely difficult to work more than one double crochet into a stitch this way. The yarn tightens too much around my hook when I yarn over.


Although I have found it possible to work a triple crochet this way, the issue is the same. The angle is awkward and the yarn needs a lot of slack for it to be worked. Alas, I must admit defeat and tell you I couldn't complete a decent looking stitch for a photo for you. You're welcome to try your skills on it, and I wish you better results than mine.

That said, I encourage you to use what you've learned here to develop new methods. As I previously said, the work would normally be bound off and began again in the next place, and you certainly wouldn't use this practice if you were concerned with the back of your work. Why do it this way? The simple answer is: I hate weaving in ends. I love to crochet, but I wish there was a magical yarn that could weave its own ends in. There, I said it. Anybody else with me? 

Have you ever used unconventional methods in crochet to avoid a task you dislike? Do you follow the rules, or do you have secret tricks of your own?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How To: 3 DC Filet Crochet

    I remember the first time I tried to tackle a filet crochet project on my own. It was made in 3 DC filet, was only written using the mesh terms, and the meshes were not explained in the instructions. I thought, "I can do this, every square equals 3 double crochet!". If you know filet crochet, you may be laughing before I explain that after the first row, the pattern wasn't working.
   I let confidence get in my way. My skills are advanced, so I know what I'm doing, right? I grumbled, assuming the pattern was written incorrectly. I moved on to another project, this time a charted pattern with no written instructions, also in 3 DC filet.
  I'd like to invite you to share my memories of that project.

  It was supposed to be an afghan. Sixty dollars in yarn later, hook in hand, I was ready. Over 200 stitches across, beginning chain made, I began.

  The first ten rows of the afghan were all solid mesh, with no color changes. Can you guess what happened? Over 2,000 stitches later, I discovered my stitches were off.
  I stopped to count my stitches. Hmm...I had the correct (so I thought) number, why wouldn't it work?
  With my confidence knocked down a peg, I turned to my collection of crochet books and magazines. I brushed up on the technique, and moved on to smaller, more simple projects. I never had the heart to try the same pattern again, and I don't wish the same mistake on anyone else. 


  With this tutorial, you'll be able to follow just about any pattern or chart using 3 DC filet. You can follow along later to learn a few ways to use each mesh, but let's begin by learning the meshes.

Solid mesh - Creates a solid block of fabric. 




For solid mesh at the beginning of a row: Chain 3, 1 dc in each of next 2 stitches.

For regular solid mesh (over another solid mesh): 1 dc in each of next 2 sts.


For solid mesh over a chain space: 1 double crochet in chain space, 1 dc in next stitch.


Open mesh - Creates an open block equal to the size of a solid mesh.



For beginning open mesh: Chain 4, skip first stitch, 1 double crochet.

For regular open mesh: Chain 1, skip 1, 1 double crochet.



Long mesh - Usually worked over a lacet. (See below.) Creates a double open mesh space. Always worked across 2 squares.


For beginning long mesh: Chain 6, double crochet in last stitch of lacet; or skip next 3 stitches, 1 double crochet.


For regular long mesh: Chain 3, double crochet in last stitch of lacet; or skip next 3 stitches, 1 double crochet.




Lacet - Creates a larger, angled open space suitable for lacy fabric. The word itself translates from French for "lace". Also known as a fancy mesh. Always worked across 2 squares.

For beginning lacet: Chain 5, skip first stitch, 1 single crochet. Chain 2, skip next stitch, 1 double crochet.


For lacet: Chain 2, skip 1, 1 single crochet, chain 2, skip 1, 1 double crochet.

Note - The last double crochet of a lacet will count as the first double crochet of the next mesh.


  Now let's make sure we understand what all that means. Why do you need to make a mesh differently at the beginning of a row?


  The term 3 DC is used because each mesh represents three double crochet. But did you know that after the first mesh in a row, each mesh shares a common stitch? 


  Take a look at the chart used for this tutorial. The first mesh (square) in each row will always be worked over 3 stitches. When you see a solid or open mesh (one square), after the first mesh in a row, it will only consist of two stitches.

  When you see a lacet or long mesh (two squares), it will be worked across five stitches.

The end result of the chart will look like this:





Let's move on to figuring our starting chain. Yeah math! No, no, no, don't run away, it's simple!


Count the number of squares across the chart below. Multiply the number of squares by two (2).


Add one (1) to that number.


Then add three (3) for your turning chain.



This chart is seven squares across, so the starting chain would be:

7 x 2 = 14


14 + 1 = 15


15 + 3 = 18


Beginning chain = 18


  Now let's practice how to make these mesh and a few different ways to place them. Grab whatever yarn and hook you are comfortable with, and get ready to begin 3 DC filet crochet.

How to double crochet

The chart is worked from the bottom left to right, the next row right to left, and so on.

Chain 18.




To make the first solid mesh, make 1 double crochet in the 4th chain from hook and in the next stitch.
 



To make the next open mesh, chain 1, skip 1, double crochet.





The next solid mesh will be 1 double crochet in each of the next 2.





Can you see how the two meshes together make what looks like one block of three stitches? Remember, they share a common stitch together.


Now, see if you can finish the row. Follow the chart and you should get this:





The next row begins with an open mesh.

Chain 4, skip 1, double crochet.




To make the next solid mesh over an open mesh, place 1 double crochet in chain space, double crochet in next double crochet.






Chain 1, skip 1, 1 double crochet over next solid mesh.




Finish the row according to the chart.





Row 3 is a whole row of open mesh for practice. Here's the first mesh if you need help:



  



The next row is all solid mesh. Remember, 1 double crochet in the chain space, 1 in the next double crochet.

  

 Here's the chart again so you don't have to scroll all the way back up.


Begin Row 5 with a solid mesh. Now for the lacet:
Chain 2, skip 1, 1 single crochet.



Chain 2, skip 1, 1 double crochet to complete the lacet.



Finish Row 5. Notice the last double crochet of the lacet is shared with the next mesh, just as the last double crochet of the solid mesh is shared as the first stitch of the next lacet.



Make a solid mesh to begin the next row. For the long mesh, chain 3, 1 double crochet in the last double crochet of the lacet.



See if you can finish this row by yourself. Again you can see how the long mesh shares a stitch with the mesh next to it.



Let's repeat those two rows again. This time, the lacet is going over the long mesh. As before, chain 2, but this time, single crochet in the chain-space. Complete the lacet as before, and finish the row.





The last row is worked the same as before:



You can keep practicing from there if you want. Repeat the chart I provided, or work with your own combination to see what you can do.